Jones, Stanley, and Carey to the NBA

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.

Bleed blue.

Quinn Cook Steps Up Again

Some would think to fill the shoes of multi-year MVP, three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry would be near impossible. Quinn Cook? He’s done it a few times now and done it with excellence. After Curry injured his adductor a few days ago against the Bucks, Cook took things into his own hands, scoring 27 and assisting 5 baskets in last night’s game against the Nets.

Quinn Cook deserves everything he’s worked for. If you remember, he was the leader of the 2015 Duke National Championship team. After going undrafted, he spent a year in the (then) D-League, then bounced around on mostly 10-day contracts. He worked hard working out for different teams across the NBA for about two years. Think you would’ve given up by then? Well, Quinn then came across the Warriors and signed one of the NBA’s new two-way contracts in which he played for a G-League affiliate for most of the season but could be called up to the Warriors in case of an emergency. That emergency came in the form of an injury to star PG Stephen Curry. He was called up to the Warriors on November 13, 2017. He would continue to successfully fill in for Curry and was officially signed to a two-year deal to ensure his ability to play in the playoffs, which the Warriors would win at the end of the season.

Hype Becomes Reality for Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley

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Harry Giles (20) and Marvin Bagle III (35). Source: Sacramento Bee <https://www.sacbee.com/sports/nba/sacramento-kings/article217120605.html&gt;

People were beginning to think that Harry Giles would always be the poor guy who had a bright future but a debilitating knee injury. Not anymore. Harry is balling in his first preseason games in Sacramento. If you looked at his high school highlights, you wouldn’t be too surprised, but it never really happened for him at Duke just because of his knee.

When Harry Giles was a college freshman in Durham, Duke basketball fans kept waiting for him to turn Cameron Indoor Stadium into his personal bounce house. Unfortunately, knee surgeries in 2013, 2015, and 2016 had taken their toll on the spring in the step of the 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward.

–Matt Giles, BallDurham

I just love that “personal bounce house” line. But yeah, it never happened at Duke. However, he is doing really well now in what has been the past few years’ most boring team of the NBA. Now? They look like showtime. For Marvin Bagley: he was a double-double machine at Duke and the #2 pick in the NBA Draft, but didn’t look as hot in summer league and got shut down for pelvic bruising. He’s gone back to his machine-like ways and looks pretty epic. They lost to the LeBron-ified Lakers but there’s no shame in that considering the development that they’ve shown. I’ll let you listen to Marvin Bagley rap while you think about how awesome he’ll be in the NBA this year.

Just had to throw that in there. Bleed blue.

Quinn Cook Does It Again

I found this watching Get Up’s “My Favorite Person on Earth (right this second)” this morning and it just reminded me of what an awesome guy Quinn Cook is. He’s worked for everything he’s got and he deserves every bit of it. Take a look at this:

He’s the best, honestly. Bleed blue.

Jahlil Okafor to New Orleans

Former Duke center and National Champion Jahlil Okafor has agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the New Orleans Pelicans for the next year. There is a team option for 2019-2020, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. After his All-Rookie team debut season with the 76ers, his role in Philly diminished quickly and he was traded to Brooklyn. He became a free agent this summer. The Pelicans lost C DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors through free agency and gained C Julius Randle, former Kentucky standout, from the Lakers.

The featured image on the homepage is courtesy of CBS New York.

Grayson Allen, Donovan Mitchell Go from Rivals to Teammates to Friends

After he played at Louisville, I’ll admit Donovan Mitchell wasn’t my favorite player. He was always getting at it with Grayson. He played for Rick Pitino, for goodness’ sake, whom I most certainly did not care for. I feel bad about that now because as I’ve seen him grow in the NBA, the ESPY award winner (Breakthrough Athlete of the Year) is a really nice guy. Now, that’s been validated by his mutual respect and friendship with new teammate Grayson Allen. Grayson, one of my personal favorite Duke players ever, who’s now gone from college basketball senior veteran to NBA rookie, has a bit to learn this season and Mitchell, who is entering his second season, will be a good mentor.

The Rivalry

Mitchell made most of his impact at Louisville during his breakout sophomore season in 2017 when Grayson was a junior. As you can see in the video above, things got a little scrappy between the two of them, but it all worked out in the end.

There was this incident, among others. Duke and Louisville split their games during that year, one of which was during the 2017 ACC Tournament Quarterfinals at the Barclays Center, a tournament which Duke would go on to win. The quarterfinal game was tight and emotions ran high, so Allen and Mitchell, both central figures for their respective teams, crossed hairs and defended each other at different times during the game. After the 2017 season, Mitchell declared for the NBA Draft while Grayson returned to Duke for his senior season. Mitchell was runner-up for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and lost to only Ben Simmons of the 76ers. He won the ESPYs Award for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year.

The Draft

Despite their college rivalry, Mitchell attended Grayson’s workout for the Jazz and was visibly impressed.

But the one thing about Grayson is I always respected him. When people ask me who the toughest guy I had to go against in college basketball, it’s him. It’s hard when you have all the negative connotations with your name, especially in college. You see it on ESPN and then you’ve got to go to class and you’ve got to walk and see everybody on campus—and you still get 30 points a game? That’s impressive to me. That’s where he got my respect. After that game my sophomore year, I told him how much I respected him.

– Donovan Mitchell

It was later revealed that Mitchell contacted Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey with a text saying “Grayson at 21?”, and was vocal in his support of Grayson. Obviously, the Jazz trusted their star player and selected Grayson at #21.

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A message from @graysonjallen to the fans!

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It was one of the best moments in the draft when Donovan Mitchell surprised Grayson during his interview.

Mentorship

While Grayson is older than Mitchell in age, he does not have any NBA experience. It seems as though Mitchell will be a good mentor for Grayson whilst he adapts into the NBA life. In the big leagues, chemistry is rare. When you have chemistry like this between two very talented players, it can mean something special for a team that already advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year. The Jazz were bounced by the Houston Rockets last year.

He’s just giving me some tips for Summer League, an idea of what to expect with the pace of it, all sorts of stuff. He had a pretty good Summer League last year, so he knows what he’s talking about.

– Grayson Allen on Donovan Mitchell

Bleed blue, Duke fans. I have a LOT of guys on a lot of teams to follow in the NBA this year, but it’s never a burden to see these guys grow and progress.