It took a while, but the 2020 NBA Draft is finally here, airing Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN. With this likely being the first year since 2013 that Duke won't have a player go in the top-3, it'll surely be a different draft than usual for Blue Devil fans, with projections swinging all over the place for Tre Jones, Cassius Stanley and Vernon Carey Jr.
Three members of The Chronicle's staff share their takes on where each of the this year's three draft-eligible Blue Devils could land.
Vol. 116 Sports Managing Editor
Best-case draft position: Jones would be a candidate for any team looking for a reliable defender and facilitator as its backup point guard. The ACC Player of the Year’s ceiling sits in the early 20s where contenders like Miami, Philadelphia, Denver and Utah could snag a reliable bench piece.
Worst-case draft position: Jones’ defensive prowess, lead guard skills and leadership are worthy of a safe first-round pick, but there is cause for concern if the longer NBA 3-point arc would make him a non-factor offensively. He’s looked good shooting from deep in pre-draft workouts, but it pushes his floor down to the second round in the late 40s.
Best team fit: Many would love to see Jones in a Pelicans uniform, but their cluster of young guards would take up too many minutes. If the Raptors can’t re-sign Fred VanVleet, then I could see Toronto as a perfect fit for Jones. The Raptors’ team defense mentality, versatile bigs and strong veteran leader in Kyle Lowry would be the perfect place for the young guard to start a career.
Prediction: 29th, Toronto Raptors
Best-case draft position: There isn’t a better love story than NBA GMs and potential, and Stanley is oozing with it. The high-flying wing certainly needs to refine his offensive skills moving forward, but his generational type athleticism and strong playmaking instincts should set his ceiling at the end of the first round.
Worst-case draft position: Unfortunately for Stanley, GMs love their youth too, and for silly reasons there is a knock on Stanley already being 21 years old. If teams think the 6-foot-6 guard is too raw for his age or too small, I could see Stanley slip to around pick No. 45 before his potential becomes too enticing to pass on.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Best team fit: Stanley thrives in open space and transition and could end up fitting in nicely with the Mavericks. The former Blue Devil would have room to operate with shooters around him offensively, and Dallas could use a player to push the ball in transition after ranking toward the bottom of the league in fastbreak points. It just depends on if the Mavericks are willing to take him with one of their two first-round picks (18th and 31st).
Prediction: 38th, New York Knicks
Vernon Carey Jr.:
Best-case draft position: For all the flaws in Carey’s game, sometimes you just can’t overlook production. Some NBA team may finally realize that the first team All-ACC selection has a unique blend of size and versatility to be worthy of a first-round selection. His ceiling probably rests around the 25th pick with Oklahoma City.
Worst-case draft position: A one-and-done National Freshman of the Year winner has never slipped past the 8th pick, yet Carey is a lock to do that in 2020 as scouts are concerned with how his mobility and shooting touch will hold up at the next level. Concerns set the big man’s floor toward the mid-to-late-second round.
Best team fit: The Celtics have two strong centers in Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis, though are definitely in the market to add an interior presence with a lot of potential. If Carey were to head to Boston with either the 26th, 30th or 47th pick, he could reach his full potential playing with their talented backcourt.
Prediction: 30th, Boston Celtics
Vol. 116 Blue Zone Editor
Best-case draft position: Those who are bullish on Jones’ draft stock have loved his defense, basketball IQ and improved shooting, and I see the best-case scenario for him at No. 13 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. This is in part thanks to his own skill set and in part because of the chemistry he has already shown with Zion Williamson.
Worst-case draft position: Jones will drop if teams just aren’t looking for the style of play he brings to the table. If GMs are looking for a guard who is going to be able to pull up from 30 feet, Jones could fall to the middle of the second round to the Washington Wizards as a backup for John Wall.
Best team fit: Reuniting Williamson and Jones makes sense for so much more than the Duke connection. The Pelicans have already made it clear that they are fine with their point guards underperforming on offense if they can make up for it on the defensive end, so it all just makes sense.
Prediction: 13th, New Orleans Pelicans
Best-case draft position: The biggest knock on Stanely is that he is 21 years old and only played a year of college basketball. Nevertheless, he is arguably the most athletic player in this entire draft, and showcased that athleticism throughout his freshman season at Duke, which could land him with the Utah Jazz at 23rd overall.
Worst-case draft position: Teams that fixate on Stanley’s developing, but not complete, shooting will be hesitant to pick the 6-foot-6 guard regardless of his athleticism. Still, he won’t fall past the Brooklyn Nets taking him at 55th overall.
Best team fit: The Houston Rockets are the perfect fit for Stanley because of his pre-existing relationship with Russell Westbrook. The two play eerily-similar games, and Stanley is going to need to learn how to excel in the NBA without having a lights-out jumper, something that Westbrook has mastered. However, it's likely the Rockets would trade back or for another pick if they were to take Stanley, as their lone current selection sits at 16th overall.
Prediction: 44th, Chicago Bulls
Vernon Carey Jr.:
Best-case draft position: Although this is highly unlikely, the Washington Wizards selecting him with the ninth overall pick is Carey's ceiling. The Wizards have a nice core of Bradley Beal, Wall and Rui Hachimura, but they need a big man that can learn to stretch the floor.
Worst-case draft position: Carey could fall to the Spurs at 41st overall simply because he did not prove in college that he can shoot from the perimeter. The positive for Carey would be that he can learn from LaMarcus Aldridge and prepare to take on the role of floor-spreading big man that Aldridge currently fills.
Best team fit: Carey would benefit most from being on a team with a pass-first player in its starting rotation and a good track record of development. While there are few of these combos, the Miami Heat fit like a glove with their player and coaching personnel if they wish to take him at No. 20 overall.
Prediction: 41st, San Antonio Spurs
Vol. 116 Assistant Blue Zone Editor
Best-case draft position: The best-case scenario for Jones is getting picked 21st by the Philadelphia 76ers. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski recently called the Apple Valley, Minn., native the best point guard in the draft and Jones' all-around talent and leadership makes him a tempting candidate for teams looking for a true point guard.
Worst-case draft position: The worst-case scenario for Jones is around the 45th pick. Despite his lethal pull-up mid-range shot, Jones lacks consistency shooting from beyond the arc. The NBA has become such a 3-point-dominated league that there is some concern about how he will transition.
Best team fit: The Philadelphia 76ers have five picks in this upcoming draft: 21st, 34th, 36th, 49th and 58th overall. Jones’ lockdown defense and ability to direct an offense is perfect for them—he can learn behind Ben Simmons and join a team that emphasizes cut-throat defense. If they don’t take him in the first, I could easily see them grabbing him with either of their early second-rounders, though he may not fall that far.
Prediction: 27th, New York Knicks
Best-case draft position: Cassius Stanley, despite being a fan-favorite at Duke, is the lowest prospect of the three Blue Devils in this draft. His best-case scenario is 30th overall to the Boston Celtics, the last pick in the first round. He is an elite athlete (we’re talking out-jumping Williamson) and capable shooter, but this is a strong shooting guard class, which may nudge him down in the draft.
Worst-case draft position: The 48th overall pick to the Golden State Warriors is probably as low as any team will let Stanley fall. His athleticism is once-in-a-generation, but he hasn’t figured out how to use it to the best of his capabilities on both ends of the floor. He is a little small and an average defender, which may really hold him back in the draft.
Best team fit: It’s hard to say exactly where Stanley will be able to find his groove the best, but the Dallas Mavericks are an intriguing location. They have an exciting, young core led by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, and could use a ferocious dunker to pair up in the backcourt with Doncic. Unfortunately for Stanley, the Mavericks only have two, relatively high picks (18th and 31st overall, respectively) and it is unlikely they will choose the Sierra Canyon product with either.
Prediction: 40th, Memphis Grizzlies
Vernon Carey Jr.:
Best-case draft position: Carey's best-case scenario is getting taken by the Orlando Magic with the 15th overall pick. The team isn’t necessarily the best fit for the All-American, but Carey has the talent to land just outside the lottery if a team likes him enough.
Worst-case draft position: I don’t see Carey falling out of the first round, and thus his worst-case scenario is 29th overall to the Toronto Raptors. The concern surrounding Carey's development is his post-game, with an emphasis on his footwork. The big man was able to overpower and dominate on the interior in college due to his raw strength and athleticism, but many NBA teams don’t want to take a chance on a center with little post experience.
Best team fit: The best fit for Carey may be in “Duke South,” linking up with former standout Blue Devils Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans currently have the 13th, 39th, 42nd and 60th picks, respectively. They lack a true center to play in tandem with Williamson, but unless they trade back, I don’t see them selecting Carey with the 13th, nor him being available in the second round.
Prediction: 25th, Oklahoma City Thunder