As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to struggle, we’d like to offer you some alternative viewing experiences. The Cavs will almost assuredly be picking at the top of the 2019 NBA Draft, and they will have a pick later in the first round, as well. So, it’ll be important to keep tabs on all of the top prospects this winter. That might be a challenge this year, as the class could have a lot of fluctuation during the season, especially outside of the top five. That can make it difficult to keep track of everyone.
But never fear — we will be here to provide your weekly watch guide to all of the top prospects. Each week, we will break out the best games of the week for NBA Draft interest, including who will be matching up and where to find the week’s top games in college basketball and Europe. With the NBA off until Thursday due to the All-Star Break, our attention will focus in on some fun matchups early in the week — headlined by Wednesday night’s massive North Carolina-Duke tilt.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Virginia: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome; Virginia Tech: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
A high profile game between two prospects who aren’t being used in the most effective manner as offensive initiators. Hunter and Alexander-Walker both look like reasonably talented two-way wings at the NBA level, but we aren’t seeing their ideal offensive roles be used. Hunter only gets simple creation tasks as a ball-handler, while Alexander-Walker, a solid potential pick-and-roll scorer, gets stuck isolating at the free throw line a lot. See if you can see through the offensive sets — and hyper-talented defenses — to see what these two are all about.
Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Vanderbilt: Simi Shittu, Aaron Nesmith; Tennessee: Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield
Williams and Schofield have been significantly better than Shittu and Nesmith and are both better prospects, so we will see if the Vanderbilt guys have any signs of life here.
Indiana vs. Purdue - 7:00 p. m., EST, ESPN2
Indiana: Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan; Purdue: Carsen Edwards
Edwards has had some rough games recently but is still a solid shooting prospect. He’ll be a tough draw on switches for Langford, and that will be interesting to watch.
Nebraska vs. Penn State - 7:00 p.m., EST, Fox Sports One
Nebraska: Isaiah Roby; Penn State: Josh Reaves
Last time these two prospects played, Roby did a good job walling off the rim on a few Reaves drives, and Reaves returned the favor by stoning Roby in the post on switches. Both of these guys are likely at the same level as prospects, and this matchup should be interesting to see if they can counter the other as offensive players.
Mississippi State vs. Georgia - 6:30 p.m., EST, SEC Network
Mississippi State: Aric Holman; Georgia: Nick Claxton
Skill and athleticism face size and energy in Holman vs. Claxton. Two second-round bigs square off in the matinee before the night’s main event.
UNC vs. Duke - 9:00 p.m., EST, ESPN
UNC: Coby White, Nassir Little, Cam Johnson; Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, Jack White
Power ranking the top five matchups in what is once again one of the year’s biggest games:
5. Zion Williamson vs. Luke Maye: Maye has the skill set and talent level of an ACB four, and while he’s not going to compete with Zion athletically, he’ll give him some interesting defensive challenges with his elbow creation and post play. Zion should be able to neutralize him.
4. Cam Reddish vs. Coby White: In lineups where White and Seventh Woods share the floor, Reddish will probably draw White duty. To really grasp how good White’s off-ball abilities are, figuring out how well he can create space on catch-and-shoots against an athletic 6-8 defender is important.
3. R.J. Barrett vs. Cam Johnson: Another chance to see if Barrett can score efficiently against an NBA-type defender, or if he settles for 8-10 midrange jumpers again.
2. Tre Jones vs. Coby White: Probably the two most underrated point guards in the class facing off in a good opportunity to steal some spotlight from the other major prospects.
1. Zion Williamson vs. Nassir Little: The marquee matchup not because Little is going to be particularly challenging for Zion to score against, but because Little gets up for these big showdowns, and has a good shot to prove himself if he can impress athletically against Williamson in matchup opportunities.
Stanford vs. Arizona State: 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Stanford: Kezie Okpala; Arizona State: Luguentz Dort, Zylan Cheatham
Two fringe first round prospects here in Dort and Okpala, who are both strong finishers that struggle to show consistency in other areas of the game. Okpala will likely match up with Cheatham, an excellent athlete, so that will be a good battle to test Okpala’s offense.
Oregon vs. USC - 9:00 p.m. EST
Oregon: Louis King; USC: Kevin Porter Jr., Nikola Rackocevic
King vs. Porter is a good test of King’s defensive potential. Both of these teams are rather disappointing, but this matchup is a bright spot.
Zalgiris vs. Buducnost - 2:00 p.m. EST, Euroleague TV
Zalgiris: Laurynas Birutis; Buducnost: Goga Bitadze
Bitadze continues to rise up boards, so another good chance to see him is valuable. We may also get an appearance from Birutis, a strong rebounder who is auto-eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Penn St vs. Illinois - 12:00 p.m. EST, Big Ten Network
Penn State: Josh Reaves; Illinois: Ayo Dosunmu
Dosunmu has shown good flashes of offensive ability, but hasn’t been consistent. He’ll have to be to score against Reaves.
Tennessee vs. LSU - 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Tennessee: Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield; LSU: Naz Reid, Tremont Waters
A very good test for Naz Reid, who has been prominent on this list in the past couple of weeks because he keeps getting good tests. He struggled against P.J. Washington last week, and Williams is basically a standard deviation better than Washington as the same type of player, so it’ll be interesting to see if Reid can have a better game this time around.
Duke vs. Syracuse - 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, Jack White; Syracuse: Tyus Battle
Saying it louder for everyone that missed it last time:
I told people I. The FTS draft guide: don’t pay any attention to tonight because it’s Syracuse. It’s a situation no one is ever going to face in the NBA. It’s AP calculus the basketball team: boring, repetitive, given way too much value, and not at all applicable to life beyond https://t.co/QAJdIaK1Gm— Giannis Valgiannis (@IllegalScreens) January 15, 2019
Kansas vs. Texas Tech - 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Kansas: Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Ochai Agbaji; Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver
Kansas has been iffy this year, but still has some firepower if Grimes shows up. Texas Tech has also struggled because Culver hasn’t been shooting well. The matchup to watch here is Culver against Agbaji, who has exploded into the draft world with productive play over the past month.
Seton Hall vs. St. Johns - 8:00 p.m. EST, Fox Sports One
Seton Hall: Myles Powell; St. Johns: Shamorie Ponds
If you want to watch two point guards score a ton of points against defenses bent entirely to them, this is the game for you. Neither guy shot well in their first matchup, but both are liable to uncork 30 points at any moment.
BYU vs. Gonzaga - 10:00 p.m. EST, ESPN3
Gonzaga: Killian Tillie, Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell
A good game to check in with the Gonzaga guys. BYU will force Clarke and Hachimura to guard leading scorer Yeoli Childs, so it will be a good chance to see just how big the gulf between the two players truly is.