NBA Draft 2023: Takaways from top prospects from Champions Classic games

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NBA Draft  Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After a calm first week of college games, the slate has started to ramp up with more high-profile matchups. The Champions Classic is generally a good starting point for the upcoming Feast Week games. As always, the event featured Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke. I was in attendance, so here are my thoughts on the NBA Draft prospects that were notable from Tuesday Night.

Kentucky

Cason Wallace – Kentucky – Combo Guard – 6’4, 193 pounds – November 2003

The more I watched Wallace’s high school tape leading up to the season and the more I had discussions about him with other people, the more interested I became. He lived up to his billing and then some on Tuesday.

The defense will be his immediate calling card. Wallace is one of, if not the best, guard defender I have seen the last few drafts. His motor constantly runs high. His hands are active, he slides well, and he’s got terrific instincts on when to go for steals. It reminds me of Jose Alvarado in the sense that he knows when someone is going to put the ball down to dribble, and he nabs it. He should be able to guard both backcourt spots. The Wildcats had him on 6 ‘7 Malik Hall for stretches.

Wallace isn’t the most consistent shooter yet, but his mechanics looked good in warm-ups and he shot it well in that setting. The Kentucky offense isn’t optimal spacing yet, even with some of the transfer adds, and I’d like to see him get to the rim more and be a little more confident on that end. He fizzled out a tad down the stretch and passed up the last shot in regulation. He did some have nice passing reads and showed his ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes when he did get to the rim.

But we have seen countless examples of guards leaving the Kentucky system and thriving in the NBA. The defense is special, like All-NBA potential and he can play both on and off the ball without needing it to succeed. He can fit in on nearly any team and if the offense clicks, he can easily be an above-average starting guard on a good team. Lottery talent for me with the chance to crack the top five.

Oscar Tshiebwe – Kentucky – Center – 6’9. 260 pounds – November 1999

Tshiebwe was the last person on the floor for warm-ups after missing the first few games of the year. He came off the bench but was clearly the best college player on the floor as soon as the game started. I generally don’t love undersized centers with limited ball skills as prospects, but Tshiebwe’s motor and rebounding is an NBA skill. It’s honestly kind of wild how he attracts rebounds and definitely has a good understanding of where a shot is going to land.

He moves well for his size on defense but isn’t quite a switchable defender. Teams won’t have to worry about rebounding with him on the floor, but without elite physical tools, he isn’t the best rim protector.

Tshiebwe thrives on putbacks and post-ups on offense. I do think his touch has improved over the years, but it isn’t elite. The ball-skills aren’t there and while he hit a late shot-clock jumper, I don’t have much hope for him becoming a real shooter. He had two assists to five turnovers, but both assists were basic reads. He doesn’t scan the floor super well when doubled.

Tshiebwe might get some second-round consideration based on how wildly productive his college career has been. And unlike some other more traditional centers, I don’t think he would get killed on defense at the NBA level. But he’s a fringe roster guy to me right now.

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