Cincinnati/TCU Game Notes: Jizzle James, Aziz Bandaogo, and Emanuel Miller


The Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors were in Fort Worth as Cincinnati visited TCU on Saturday, featuring several low-level prospects that will contend for two-way contracts, exhibit 10s, and G League roster spots. 

The players the two NBA teams were lasered in on included Emanuel Miller from TCU, along with Aziz Bandaogo and Jizzle James from Cincinnati.

Emanuel Miller has quietly been one of the best stock-raisers this season, seeing the game slow down for him and becoming a more efficient scorer and shooter as he has become the primary scoring option for TCU. The team generally consists of 2-3 scorers that can create their own look, or create for others, at a time, and Miller has capitalized both on-ball and off-ball as TCU has played at the fastest pace in the Big 12. Miller has done everything a fifth year senior is asked to do from NBA teams: improve the biggest weakness (shooting), be dominant and under control with limited mistakes (career best turnover rate), and make everyone around him better (career best ORTG and assist numbers). 

Miller finished the game with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 1 turnover on 5-8 shooting with 6-6 from the free throw line. Again, these are the statlines teams want to see from Miller as he is older and more experienced than most of his nightly competition.

Cincinnati guard Jizzle James, who is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Edgerrin James, is a long-term prospect to monitor. While not the ideal size for a guard in today’s NBA at a listed muscular 6’1, his creation ability and overall upside as a ball-handler are high. Whether that upside gets actualized in college or as a pro, seems to be a when, not if scenario.

James is comparable to Isaiah Wong, a slightly undersized shot creator that has a tight handle, pull-up scoring ability, a deep dip in his shot mechanics, and average defense with growing playmaking for others. The separator for James in the two is that his playmaking style allows for passing out of his explosive drives, making rollers and cutters a more visible option.

Defensively, while usually one of the smallest players on the court in terms of height, James can be a pesky on-ball defender because of his muscular frame. However, becoming more aware for the whole possession is a must-improve trait to unlock his best defensive upside. At times, his awareness of what was happening next to/behind him was underwhelming. 

For example below, James has a great defensive possession until the end, when he gladly moves on as the ball moves off of him. While this may be a system preference, I can’t imagine a coach wants an offensive player’s life to be any easier than it needs to be in the final seconds of the shot clock. Instead of strolling in the neighborhood like he was, he needs to be more aware of the clock & situation by blitzing the ball-handler to make it either impossible to get a shot off, force a turnover, or contest a difficult shot.

Another example of bad awareness comes from the game before, against Oklahoma State. He is a second late to move away from the paint, where he stayed too long next to the trailing cutter, and because of that his assignment was left open and led to a made three and ultimately a timeout.

The biggest player in the game, Aziz Bandaogo, had impressive flashes of play, resulting in a statline that undersells his impact: 6 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks on 3-5 shooting. While this statline undersells his value, there were points of emphasis in highlighting his NBA skillset.

While he lacks much upside in the shooting department, the bigger concern is how much that limits his margin for error elsewhere. For a big man without a jump shot to succeed in today’s NBA, he must have the least amount of red flags elsewhere. For Bandaogo, he has bad hands that prevent him from catching lobs and bullet passes, which often leads to leaving free points on the board.

Defense and rebounding will be Bandaogo’s selling points, winning boxouts in a strong manner despite not always being the strongest player down low, like below. This can lead to easy putbacks often, which will help his case as an NBA prospect. On top of rebounding being an area he can win in, especially when he is the biggest player on the floor, Bandaogo has the defensive ability to both protect the rim and defend perimeter drives. The physical tools are yet again going to be the floor for him in those areas, but he still needs to improve timing and technique, which ideally gets resolved and improved in an NBA program.

Bandaogo profiles best as a G League big man while he adapts to this next jump after going from mid-major to Big 12 this year, as well for him to get on an NBA strength & conditioning program to help him properly maximize his frame. As a skinny big man, he will have to prove he can win rebounds, and plays like this help make that case with a strong boxout leading to a putback. How he develops his body at the next level will determine how high his ceiling is as a likely rim-runner and P&R roll-man.