A lot of people want to compare this Duke team to the one we had the privilege of witnessing last year. There is no Zion on this team, there is no R.J, hell, there isn’t even a Cam Reddish on this team. But that doesn’t mean this team is void of talent. It’s hard to really depict which player from this roster is going to have the most successful NBA career once they get in the league. But we are going to do exactly that. By breaking down Duke’s top talent, we will reveal who is most likely to have the best NBA career.
3. Tre Jones
The undisputed heart and soul of this team. Without Tre Jones, where is Duke this season? Out of the 20 games Duke has played this season, Tre Jones has played in 18 of those games and started in each of those 18 games. He’s currently averaging 14.9 PTS, 6.8 AST, 4.0 REB, and 2.1 STL per game. Tre Jones is one of those players that stats don’t do him justice. He makes plays that the regular fan doesn’t see. The defensive switch, extra pass, whatever is needed for the win, Tre will do it.
Sounds like he would easily be the best suited player on the roster in the NBA right? Not so fast. The NBA is a point guard driven league. There are dominant point guards all throughout the league. Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, and Duke alum Kyrie Irving to name a few. The talent at that point guard position is very high, and Tre doesn’t really compare to the elite guards in the league. He isn’t the greatest shooter, and he’s also not the most athletic. His defensive abilities are going to be his main attraction for teams, but to say Tre Jones will be an All Star is reaching for the stars at this point.
Tre Jones in my eyes will be a very good backup point guard in the NBA, and there is no shame in that. The skills he has developed to this point only scream backup point guard. Now I know there are a few players who averaged similar statlines as Tre Jones and are young stars in the NBA. De’Aaron Fox averaged 16.7 PPG, 4.0 REB, 4.6 AST in his sole year at Kentucky.
The difference between those players is that De’Aaron had elite level athleticism, and Tre is around average. You can even argue that Fox had a better jump shot in college than Jones has right now. Any player with absurd athleticism is going to have a much higher chance at a greater NBA career. Fox also showed flashes of greatness with 39 PTS in the NCAA tournament against Lonzo Ball in a marquee match up. Tre’s career high is 31 but that was against an unranked Georgia State.
Tre is going to have a great career, just not as a superstar.
2. Vernon Carey Jr.
If we were to discuss Duke’s best player on the team right now, Vernon Carey would probably take the award. When it comes to being a great NBA player, Carey has the potential to be one. But if we look at history, it suggests something else.
Vernon Carey is a subject of being born in the wrong era. If this was the 2000s, he would be a top 5 pick hands down. Currently Vernon is averaging 17.8 PPG, 9.0 REB, and 1.1 AST per game. Very respectable numbers for a player in the ACC. If we dig deeper his per 40 minutes stats are ridiculous. Vernon Carey’s per 40 averages are 28.6 PPG, 14.4 REB, and 1.8 AST. In the time he plays, he puts numbers on the board, but he is still a victim of being born in the wrong era.
Vernon Carey reminds me a lot of Jahlil Okafor during his Duke days. A dominant player in college, but found himself lost within a changing NBA. Carey’s lack of a jumpshot will hurt him in the pros. If we look at all the great bigs they can consistently hit shots from deep. Joel Embiid, Karl Anthony-Towns, Nikola Jokic, and Anthony Davis can all hit shots from behind the arc. Vernon Carey can hit that 3 once in a while, but once in a while isn’t good enough. Vernon Carey is shooting over 40% from deep, at exactly 41.7% from outside. Great shooting numbers but he’s only shooting 0.5 3s a game. That’s unacceptable for a modern day big.
Vernon Carey can be a greater version of Jahlil Okafor, as long as he develops an outside jumper. A reason why he’s so low on many mock drafts. I’ve seen him between high lottery projected, all the way to the end of the first round. With the glaring reason being the concern with his jumper in the NBA. In order to exceed expectations Vernon Carey will need to get a consistent 3 point shot.
1. Matthew Hurt
This shouldn’t be surprising, but to a lot of people it will be surprising. Mathew Hurt is an amazing ball player just like the rest of these guys, but there’s something special about him.
Hurt is an excellent shooter, and that already gives him a spot on some team in the league. Shooting is a premium in the NBA, and if you can do that at an elite level, you will make it somewhere in the league. But Hurt has this swagger to him that makes him more intriguing than the regular shooter.
First off his dimensions stand out right away. Matthew Hurt is a 6’9” SG/SF with a 7’5” wingspan, and a 9’5” standing reach. That is an amazing build for a shooter, and will translate well into the NBA. He isn’t averaging the greatest numbers so far with a mere 10.9 PPG, 3.8 REB, 47.5 FG%, and 40% from downtown. But if we look at his per 40 minutes, that’s where the money is. In 40 mins, Hurt would be averaging 20 PPG, 7 REB, on 60% from the field and 40% from 3. Those are crazy efficient numbers, and taking into consideration the usage of Hurt isn’t that high at Duke. Put him on a team that utilizes him more often in the game, and we are looking at monster numbers.
Matthew Hurt reminds me of Tyler Herro the most out of any NBA player (no it is not because they’re both white dudes who can shoot). He just has that swagger and the game that resembles Herro. Someone who can fly under the radar, but put in the right situation by a well run team, will only lead to success. College stats shouldn’t be the basis of determining the potential of an NBA player. Devin Booker also averaged only 10 PPG with Kentucky in college. He now is one of the best scorers in the NBA, able to give you 30 on any given night.
Matthew Hurt is a name everyone should remember. A name that can carry on the Duke legacy in the league.