Duke sent three more players to the NBA on Wednesday night in a draft where abnormal would be an understatement. The 2020 NBA Draft was about 5 months later than previously scheduled due to the hiatus from March to July and was held virtually, with players sitting in their homes as they waited to hear commissioner Adam Silver call their names. While it wasn’t the same, the draft is so special because it’s a literal dream come true for all of the guys selected. The virtual draft was different, but did not lack in emotion and whole-hearted joy. Congratulations to all of the NBA’s brand new rookies. The Blue Devil picks were as follows: Vernon Carey went 32nd to the Charlotte Hornets, Tre Jones 41st to the San Antonio Spurs, and Cassius Stanley 53rd to the Indiana Pacers.
Going into the draft was as strange as the draft itself mostly because none of us really had a clue what would play out. Especially compared to last year, the draft projections were further off. Outside of the top three (who went Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball), whose order was highly debated, the rest of the draft was a wild card. Teams didn’t have the same access to player metrics, like a formal combine or easily scheduled workouts, as typically.
All of the Duke picks went in the second round. While there’s an expectation of Duke sending several players in the first round, these guys are absolute steals. It’s completely insane to me that the ACC Player of the Year and defensive Player of the Year in Tre Jones went second round, as well as the ACC Freshman of the Year. The NBA values the “ceiling” for these players a lot; execs look at how high the players can go. That’s pretty obvious in this draft. But it’s important to remember that the “floor” is how high they’re already at, and is also vital to NBA success. We know that Vernon and Tre are big-time players and they’ll show that in the next level. Every rookie is a rookie in the NBA and can make their way to the top. Draymond Green of the Warriors went second round. Quinn Cook, Duke’s 2015 championship team leader, went undrafted altogether and just earned his second NBA ring. Tre Jones, Vernon Carey, and Cassius Stanley have limitless potential and have already shown what incredible players and guys they are.
Tre Jones to the Spurs might just be the steal of the draft. At 41st, he’s headed to San Antonio to play under Gregg Popovich. Popovich is arguably the NBA’s Coach K, and similarly to Coach K he values hardworking players who go hard at the gritty details. Tre is a defensive monster (Cole Anthony would know and he was picked just outside of the lottery) and is rock solid in the clutch (Cole Anthony, and the rest of UNC, would know this one too). As a sophomore he was captain and the hands-down leader of the team last year. He knows how to accentuate the talents of NBA stars. As a point guard and a leader, he was the team operator behind the likes of, oh, I don’t know, Zion Williamson? He set up the fantastic plays of guys like Zion, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, Cassius Stanley, and Vernon Carey. He’s experienced and can go even higher from here. Also to note, he’ll join his brother Tyus in the NBA.
Vernon Carey is next up. He was one of the first second-round picks and won’t travel far from Durham. He’s the Hornets’ newest addition. He’ll play with #2 pick, LaMelo Ball (yes, the Ball family is coming to North Carolina). The Hornets are considered one of the biggest winners of this draft and Vernon is part of that. He has a monster frame and is versatile and quick around the rim on either end of the floor. He could see some improvement in FG%, at 57.7%, but that’s still pretty consistent. He can stretch the floor; his 3-point shooting improved over his short college career. The NBA is shifting away from bigger players, but that 3-point shooting will be a huge asset. This is a talented, underrated player.
Finally, we have Cassius Stanley to the Pacers at 54th. If Tre and Vernon are the guys with a high floor, Cassius is the guy whose ceiling is in outer space. As a recruit in high school his athleticism was unparalleled. He’s come even further since then, as his highlight reel from Duke would indicate. He was not the most consistent college player, but that doesn’t discount his potential and he still posted a good 13 points per game average. Cassius could really go places.
These guys will get their first go in the NBA starting around Christmas, at least tentatively. They won’t have the more typical lengthy offseason but they will be as resilient as any class of newcomers we’ve ever seen.
We’ll continue to follow our NBA Blue Devils (Seth Curry is a 76er and Luke Kennard is a Clipper now, by the way) but the new season of college basketball starts in less than one week and we’re beyond thrilled.