Matt Babcock shares his early-season evaluations of the Duke Blue Devils' top NBA prospects.
On November 5th, I attended the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City to kick off the 2019-20 college basketball season. The first game of the double-header featured the Duke Blue Devils facing off against the Kansas Jayhawks — a matchup that certainly did not disappoint. The game was close and competitive until the very end. Ultimately, Duke was able to walk away with the win as they edged Kansas 68-66.
Since then, Duke has gone on to win two more games, are now ranked second in the nation with an undefeated 3-0 record, and will likely be put into the first slot after Kentucky’s recent loss to Evansville.
Here are my early season evaluations of Duke’s top NBA prospects:
Position: SG | Height: 6’6” | Weight: 193 | Class: Freshman
Through three games, Cassius Stanley is leading the Blue Devils in scoring, averaging 15 points per game. Possessing a terrific scoring prowess, Stanley is effective taking his man off the dribble, with his go-to move being a crossover that he keeps close to his body, allowing him to get by his defender and into the paint to utilize crafty finishes at and around the rim. Although the Cameron Crazies will surely miss Zion Williamson’s high flying dunks from last season, Stanley should be able to supplement that void with his elite explosiveness, as he has already delivered a handful of spectacular tomahawk dunks in transition this year. At this rate, I’d have to say it seems as if Cassius Stanley’s stay at Duke will be short-lived. He looks every bit the part of a first-round pick thus far.
Position: PF | Height: 6’9” | Weight: 214 | Class: Freshman
A McDonald’s All-American in 2019, 6’9” stretch four, Matthew Hurt has lived up to the lofty expectations thus far at Duke, averaging 13 points per game, while shooting 7-14 from three-point range through three games. Although certainly an exceptional shooter, Hurt is not only limited to pick and pop or catch and shoot opportunities. He has the ability to put it on the floor and create his own shot with one or two dribbles, or post up his man utilizing fadeaways or jump hooks to score. He is also a very capable passer with a high basketball IQ. Despite not being overly athletic, Hurt possesses a very translatable skill set which will make him a valuable asset to an NBA team and a likely draft pick come June.
Vernon Carey, Jr.
Position: C | Height: 6’10” | Weight: 270 | Class: Freshman
The highest-ranked player of Duke’s stellar recruiting class, Vernon Carey, Jr. — who was ranked sixth in the class of 2019 by ESPN — has been extremely solid in the first three games for Duke, averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. At 6’10” and 270 lbs., Carey is a force on the block using his physical size and strength to go along with his soft touch to score around the rim. Although he falls into a classification of being a big-bodied five, which many would consider being a dying breed in today’s modern NBA that values spacing and defensive versatility, I personally think Carey still serves value. Also worth noting, in the first game versus Kansas, Carey made two three-pointers, showing the potential of being a big that can stretch the floor, which is important when considering that he is already effective as a low-post scorer, rebounder and rim protector. I am not completely certain of Carey’s draft stock at the moment, but I’m intrigued and I will certainly be watching him closely.
Wendell Moore, Jr.
Position: SF | Height: 6’6” | Weight: 213 | Class: Freshman
Despite the lack of production on the offensive end early in the season, small forward Wendell Moore, Jr. has shown some talent that warrants his inclusion on the list of Blue Devils that could potentially be in the 2020 NBA Draft. At 6’6” with a strong build and 7’0” wingspan, Moore certainly has the physical tools to be an effective defender at the NBA level. I would like to see him show that he is capable of making shots at a reasonable rate and able to contribute some more offensively. I will surely be tracking him.
Position: PG | Height: 6’3” | Weight: 185 | Class: Sophomore
Duke’s top returning player and starting point guard, Tre Jones came into this season as Duke’s leader and floor general. Possessing great defensive hands and instincts, Jones is a hawk on the ball. He is also a terrific playmaker in transition, as he is a willing and able passer. All in all, I love his strengths, but he has a weakness, and it’s a big one: Jones does not shoot the ball well from outside. For a guard to have such a glaring weakness in a day and age in the NBA where outside shooting is often times the key ingredient for offensive success, it certainly holds back his market value. Last season, Jones shot 26.2% from three-point range and through the first three games of this year, he is 1-9 — just not good. Although a great lead guard and defender, his Achilles’ heel will likely prove to hold him back. If he is able to show some more reliability as an outside threat, I could easily see him as a late first-round or as a solid second-round pick. However, that is a big ‘if’.