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McDonald's Nuggets: NBA Draft, Gonzaga, gambling picks, more

Jalen Suggs
Jalen Suggs (Courtesy of Under Armour)

Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition includes some early NBA Draft thoughts, a note on a top available guard in the 2020 class, Gonzaga’s big addition and more gambling picks.

MORE: Prospects boosting their stock this winter

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

WHAT’S ON MY MIND: EARLY NBA Draft thoughts

James Wiseman
James Wiseman (AP Images)

This is going to be a really strange NBA Draft in June. There is a very real chance it takes 30 minutes into the evening before a prospect comes off the board who played in the NCAA Tournament.

LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija, and RJ Hampton are all playing professionally overseas this year. James Wiseman already withdrew from school at Memphis to prepare for the NBA. North Carolina and Iowa State are really struggling right now, which makes it unlikely Cole Anthony or Tyrese Haliburton play deep into March. Anthony Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs need to play well in the SEC for Edwards to have an opportunity to play on the sport’s biggest stage. Those could potentially be the first seven picks in the NBA Draft.

I’ve had a chance to watch a lot more college hoops over the past weeks and I have a few other thoughts to share. Watching Memphis play Georgia: My thoughts on Edwards are well-known if you read this column regularly, but it was Precious Achiuwa who really grew on me in that matchup. I love how hard he fights on the boards and think he could be a really good defender in the NBA. He’s plenty skilled offensively to be a really effective player at the next level.

Isaac Okoro is going to be an interesting one to watch. My hope for him if he declares for the NBA Draft is for him to go a little later in the first round to a winning team. All he’s ever done since his freshman year of high school is win, and it is his intangibles just as much as his game that can help the right franchise from day one. He has a lot of the same qualities that made Jaylen Brown such an intriguing prospect, but the key for Okoro will be improving his shot.

Lastly, I’ve watched a few Washington games lately and absolutely love Isaiah Stewart’s game. He’s pretty much unstoppable at the college level. By all accounts, he’s a really high character kid, too. I’m just really curious to see how that translates at the next level, because he’s only about 6-foot-9 as a center and isn’t much of a rim protector and not going to be great on the perimeter in switch situations. I’ll be especially curious to see where he gets picked and how successful he is.

RECRUITING NOTE: Why I think Eric Gaines should be a high-major priority 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Eric Gaines after the Tournament of Champions in Atlanta during the holidays. To sum it up quickly: he’s a high-major talent that schools all over the country need to be tracking if they are in need of a guard next season.

I first saw Gaines in the summer of 2018. My first look was at Georgia’s team camp in June, where he was really impressive. But it was the Battle For Georgia, with all the top teams in the Peach State in July, where he really grew on me. The game just comes easy for him. He has a smooth-looking shot, elite athleticism and he’s a really good passer that makes good decisions with the ball. When he’s locked in, he’s a terror on the defensive end as well.

At that time, he was only about 6-foot-1 and really thin. Over the past 18 months, he’s shot up to about 6-foot-4 and probably has a 6-foot-7 wingspan. After watching him last month, not only do I think he’s a high-major talent but somebody that needs to be ranked comfortably inside the top 100 in the next update. Before the Early Signing Period, he took official visits to Dayton, Georgia State and Saint Louis. Most recently, Washington State extended an offer to the class of 2020 guard. I’m expecting more schools to jump into the mix very soon.

COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Jalen Suggs to Gonzaga

Life is good for Mark Few. His current team is ranked No. 1 in the polls and his incoming recruiting class is now ranked No. 6 overall. A big reason for the Bulldogs' lofty recruiting ranking is the recent commitment of five-star guard Jalen Suggs, who committed to the Bulldogs last Friday.

Suggs, the No. 11 overall prospect in the 2020 class out of Minnesota, is one of the highest-ranked high school prospects to sign with Gonzaga in the history of the program and he’ll make his impact felt early. He has great size for a guard and can legitimately play both spots in the backcourt. His scoring ability is his best trait, but the star high school quarterback is also great distributor both on the gridiron and the basketball court. Good times will be had in the coming months at The Kennel, and it doesn’t appear they will go away any time soon with additions like Suggs.

GAMBLING PICKS

After a 2-2 start to this season, we came out of last Friday with a 2-3 record. That just means we have to get our money back this week. Let’s start off by taking Maryland (-1.5) at Iowa. The Terps are coming off two double-digit home wins and I expect them to continue playing well against the Hawkeyes. I’m also expecting this to be a higher scoring game, so let’s jump on the OVER of 146.5, with Maryland winning 80-75.

Sticking with road favorites, let’s roll with Butler (-2.5) at Providence. Ed Cooley’s squad is coming off a big road win at Marquette, but I really like and trust this Butler team to take care of business.

I like Buffalo (-1) to bounce back from a couple tough conference losses and steal a road victory at Miami, Ohio. And just like the school they share the city with, I like Canisius (+4) at Monmouth to bounce back from two straight tough conference losses.