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.

#4 Duke Takes Down #3 Kansas in Champions’ Classic

Duke opened the season tonight with a bang in the Champions’ Classic as the Blue Devils took out the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 68-66. Though by no means an offensive battle, sophomore captain Tre Jones led Duke, on every end of the court and every aspect of the game, with 15 points alongside 6 assists and 6 rebounds. It was a team effort, however, that won the game: both offenses struggled immensely, but the team defense was triumphant. It was a physical, rough game with ups and downs, and a young team responded on the big stage.

The biggest statistic for the game? 28 turnovers. 28! All on Kansas. Yes, that’s a sloppy game by the Jayhawks (almost the sloppiest ever) but it is undeniable that Duke’s defense played an enormous role in that stat. And while some may say that the margin of victory should have been much larger, the faintest idea that that is even possible is mind-boggling. With improvement and experience gained over the course of the year and that already established, this team is going to be very, very good. The game plan was executed exceptionally, with double teams containing the Jayhawk frontcourt and ballhandlers struggling to get by. Cassius Stanley’s athleticism was on full display, Jack White had numerous huge steals, one to seal the game, and Vernon Carey battled with the biggest of foes down low. It was an exemplary game in terms of strong and composed defensive play.

It’s not difficult to determine that the offensive efficiency for the Blue Devils was unimpressive. Duke managed to scratch out enough points to beat a top 4-ranked team, so I’m not too concerned. Shot selection was not always superb and neither was execution, at 36.5% on field goals. Considering the physicality of the game, though, the Duke offense wasn’t terrible, with some big shots coming from an array of players, eight in total scoring. Matthew Hurt had a huge three-pointer, and Cassius Stanley was magnificent, especially by the end of the game. In a rough offensive game for both sides, our Blue Devils didn’t back down.

One surprise was that Joey Baker, after showing out against Fort Valley State in exhibition, did not take the floor. Perhaps there’s an injury we’re not hearing about, but we’ll expect him to have an impact this season.

Bleed blue. Duke eases up with Colorado State on Friday for the home opener back in the Bull City.

Duke Basketball Returns with Champions’ Classic

The wait is over: college basketball returns tonight, and what way to start it other than a face-off between the premier programs of the NCAA? The Champions’ Classic pits Duke and Kansas against one another this year, both teams sitting atop the polls at #4 and #2, respectively. A young team will begin on a big stage, and it’s time to see how they’ll handle it.

Duke previewed the season with Countdown to Craziness then two exhibition games: Northwest Missouri State and Fort Valley State. NWMSU gave Duke a run for their money, and though they were reigning Division II Champions that doesn’t excuse a near-disaster for the Blue Devils. Duke scratched out a 6-point victory at 69-63. The emotion from the first game, however, seemed to be taken out in the second, unfortunately for FVS. Duke brought down the hammer on them, 126-57.

Duke is facing an experienced Kansas team, something we lack. A major focus will be rebounding, as the Jayhawks bring back a strong frontcourt including very productive big man Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike will provide a sufficient challenge on both ends of the court for Vernon Carey, Jr, the most renowned of Duke’s incoming freshman class and assumably starting center.

You can catch the start of the season tonight on ESPN at 7:00 ET. You won’t want to miss this.

Recruiting: Isaiah Stewart Picks Washington

Unfortunately, Duke has lost yet another recruit for 2020 as Isaiah Stewart has selected the University of Washington. Congratulations to him and we hope for the best in his further endeavors. Duke currently stands with just three recruits, a rather small number in comparison to previous years but as many often overlook, Duke will almost definitely have Joey Baker (redshirt) and possibly even Tre Jones for next year. Vernon Carey, also, is a positionless force and we’re excited to see how he affects the Blue Devils for the incoming year.

As for the undecideds, #7 overall recruit (247Sports) and PF Matthew Hurt is undecided but Duke is a favorable option for him (though he hasn’t cut his list much at all). Duke has been cut from the list of Jaden McDaniels and is not looking likely for Precious Achiuwa.

Bleed blue. Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Duke heads up to Pittsburgh as Coach K meets former Associate Head Coach Jeff Capel on Tuesday at 9pm.

COMMITTED: Vernon Carey Picks Duke

Not much that I can say here other than a great player has picked a great university to play for. Quick profile: at 6’10”, 260, he’s a beast at center and I can’t wait to see him in our Blue and White. Welcome, Vernon Carey, to the Brotherhood. Bleed blue.