Duke’s Blue Collar Worker… Gary Trent Jr.

By Jack Drapkin

If the Duke Blue Devils were to succeed this year, it was to be on the backs of senior guard Grayson Allen, point guard Trevon Duval and/or the freshman frontcourt tandem of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. Gary Trent Jr., was expected to have a prominent role, however there were no guarantees that he would even start at the beginning of the season. While everyone has had the spotlight at times, Trent Jr. has been bringing his lunch pale to work and getting it done while no one is watching.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was worried about Gary. After a promising exhibition campaign and first two games of the season, Trent Jr. could not buy a bucket from the outside. However, despite his shooting struggles he remained active and engaged on the defensive end of the court. He seems to be okay doing his work out of the spotlight and is comfortable not receiving the credit. Not only does this help tremendously with this Duke team, but it also allows Gary to show NBA teams that he can do the same things for them too.

As a defender, Gary Trent Jr. moves his feet well and has active hands. It’s not as though Gary has had a tremendous number of steals or blocks either. He just is always in the right spots on the court, and that kind of accountability is what a coach is looking for. This is part of the reason why Trent Jr. is averaging over 31 minutes a game for Duke, Coach K can trust him.

On offense, Gary Trent Jr. has a diverse repertoire of moves and can score from all three levels of the court when he has it going. He has a great three-point stroke and will need to knock them down more consistently in ACC play. While not the most explosive athlete, his heady play allows him to find openings in the defense and get a step on defenders, like his game-tying and-one drive against Texas.

Look for Trent Jr. to be wearing his hard hat all season long, doing the dirty work while no one is watching.

 

REPORT: Lakers Would Pass on Lonzo Ball

By John Camera

According to Bleacher Report writer Jordan Schultz, if the NBA Draft was held today, the Los Angeles Lakers would pass on the player many expect them to select, UCLA Point Guard Lonzo Ball. Schultz notes that the Lakers are very concerned with Lonzo’s father, LaVar, and the impact he would have. LaVar has manifested fame through the success of his son and with Lonzo landing in a prime time destination like LA, just down the street from where he played college, LaVar could have an even bigger voice. Along with this, the Lakers’ front office is concerned with Ball’s on-court game, skeptical of whether he can transition to being a true star at the next level.

While his father LaVar is an unknown, who knows how he’ll act when his son is in the place he’s wanted him to be since the beginning of this process, the Lakers concerns with Lonzo’s game are serious and well-warranted.

Ball does has a safety net to fall back on. At the very worst he projects to be a Ricky Rubio type of player who can act as a distributor and play-maker but does little to create for himself. Rubio as a worst case scenario isn’t very bad and the best case prospects for Ball should excite anyone. He could be the second coming of Jason Kidd or Penny Hardaway if he adjusts well to the NBA game. However, there are still deterrents that could prevent him from getting there.

The two biggest negatives to Lonzo’s game are his lack of elite athleticism and his funky, unorthodox shooting motion. Lonzo does not have blazing speed or quickness like some of his contemporaries in this draft class and it could be a factor that may limit him throughout his career; this isn’t a very fixable issue. What is fixable is his lack of great dribble moves that can separate him from defenders, something he will have to work on if he is to create consistent separation at the NBA level.

The other problem Ball will need to clean up to achieve NBA stardom is his shooting motion, which includes a low release point and may limit his dribble jumper at the next level. Ball will need to adjust the shot to get it to work against bigger, stronger, longer defenders or rebuild his mechanics from the ground up. While he should receive credit for being a solid three point and off-ball scorer at UCLA, he will need to do more, such as building a mid-range game, to become an NBA star.

While these are real issues that may hold Lonzo Ball back, it should be noted that he is still the best option for the Lakers if Markelle Fultz is off the board. However, a player to watch for Los Angeles is Kentucky’s lightening-fast De’Aaron Fox. Fox could transform into a John Wall-type player as he fills out and learns to shoot better and turn the ball over less. As is, Fox is a speed demon with good mechanics, basketball IQ, and defending ability. If the Lakers are going to pick between Fox and Ball they have two choices; go with the potential homerun in Fox or take the safe pick and select Ball.

 

Dennis Smith Roundtable Discussion Transcript

Jack: What’s going on guys, Jack here today discussing Dennis Smith Jr with a little bit of a different style video, a round table discussion. I’m sitting here with John, Jeremy, and Alex. We will be discussing Dennis Smith Jr as he moves into the NBA draft. Alex get us started a little bit on this conversation.

Alex: Alright guys so some questions I have for all of you about Dennis Smith – what about his offense stands out to you since his return from his torn ACL?

Jack: Right, so for me it’s been that his explosion has been there. That’s one thing I’d guess you’d have a concern with, but it’s definitely been there. The athleticism, explosion, the ability to get to the basket and finish through contact, but also finish strong. It has definitely been noticeable for me with Dennis Smith’s ability.

John: So John here guys and what I think I’ve seen which has been a big improvement is for Dennis Smith is just that he looks a lot more comfortable rather than from the beginning of the year. He’s not forcing so many shots now. He’s shooting a lot better. He’s dishing the ball a lot better and I think going forward for an NBA team, I think he’ll do just fine as a backup PG to come off the bench starting off.

Jeremy: Hey what’s up guys, it’s Jeremy here. One thing that really stood out to me is that the first game of the year for him in addition to coming back from injury. Like John said now that he’s comfortable, he’s actually passing the ball, running the point, and he’s looking to be a dominate PG going into ACC play and eventually the NBA draft.

Alex: Alright is he a player any of you guys can see an NBA team building around or is he be a piece an NBA team uses that a star would be being built around?

John: Yeah I think that like I said he is definitely going to be someone who will be a piece of the puzzle, but he’s not going to be a cornerstone player. Could he? He’s shown flashes of maybe being a cornerstone player, but I think so far from what we’ve seen from him I don’t think that potential has been reached just yet.

Jack: I think that Dennis and I’m going to disagree with you to an extent here. I think that Dennis Smith on his own could be a very good player and if he’s the best player on your team I think that team could eventually be a playoff team, but do I think that’s a team that’s going to make it to the Western Conference or Eastern Conference finals? No, I think that he probably needs someone as good as him or someone slightly better than him. Going back a little bit and talking about his adjustment period I think the fact that he enrolled at NC State midway through his senior year and got that semester in at NC State really helped his adjustment period and definitely helped as John was saying, he looks more comfortable on the court and I think it’s definitely been showing in recent weeks where his assist and shooting numbers have increased.

Alex: Will he be a starter or an all-star do you guys think?

Jeremy: I don’t think initially. I think he’s more or less going to be someone that comes off the bench. Possibly if he’s on a better team behind someone like Kyrie or obviously like Lillard. He has someone to follow. I’d say for years to come he’s definitely going to be one of the better rookies.

Jack: Now realistically he won’t get drafted by a team like the Cavs or Warriors.

Jeremy: That’s assuming. We don’t know how he’s going to go yet. Like we have so many (good) people in the NCAA.

Jack: True. It’s a very deep draft class this year. I’d say someone like Dennis Smith is probably going to go in the lottery.

Jeremy: Of course.

John: Probably.

Jack: And so I would say that there are a few teams (that may target him in the lottery) because at the same time Dennis Smith is a very intriguing PG prospect, but there’s also as we’re going to get into in a little bit here, very good other alternatives at the PG spot with Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, and others will get into a few of them later. There also aren’t as many teams that need PGs in the NBA.

John: There’s a lot of talented PGs

Jack: And so the question is for Dennis Smith is there going to be a team that..it’s almost might be a blessing in the sense that he’s going to go to a team that will probably have a PG already in place so, as you guys have been saying he’ll get to come off the bench at least initially, but do I think he can handle starting for a team like the Sixers, Pelicans, or Nets? The Nets won’t have a pick rather.

John: Right.

Jack: Could he start early on as a youngster? Yes, but I think it would be better if he came off the bench for sure.

John: I agree. I don’t know if we want to talk about team fit right this second but, I think a team that maybe could use him is maybe the Detroit Pistons and I know they just gave Reggie Jackson a monster deal.

Jack: Mmm. Interesting.

John: I think he’d be great for them coming off the bench and a really solid second option with Drummond there. Ya know Reggie Jackson being the primary scoring options still, but I don’t really believe in him long-term and I think Dennis Smith could be groomed into being that long-term player next to Andre Drummond and make them a playoff team for years to come.

Jeremy: So, uh John, do you think it’s more important for him to go somewhere where he’ll get more minutes and more exposure on the court or better for him to come off the bench to a star that he can learn from because this one and deal he isn’t going to have much time on the court in the NCAA. He’s going straight to NBA.

John: Yeah I think it’ll be better if he comes off the bench, learns a little bit more and he doesn’t have to be the star player. He can be the secondary option there.

Jack: Yeah. Couple more teams I may add since we got into team fit. Maybe the Sacramento Kings, though I wouldn’t want to go into that quagmire of a situation and be involved there. It could be a good fit for him just seeing that they’re in need of a PG. And then also if you look at a team like Orlando who could definitely use the scoring punch and I think that’s something that let’s talk about here a little bit with Dennis Smith- does he do enough besides scoring? Because with Orlando they need scoring and so I think he could be a very good fit there, but in terms of him as an overall player- does he do enough besides the score the ball?

Jeremy: Well yeah like he’s done recently. Ya know, he came straight off the first few games scoring a bunch and then he’d have a few games where he wouldn’t do as well. Now he’s actually learning to score and pass the ball. Like obviously you can’t compare him to Westbrook, but ya know he’s putting up high mid 20s points and he’s getting out almost ten assist. So if he can create offense while getting offense himself then it’s a good fit.

John: Yeah I think Orlando is also an interesting team to talk about as a fit for him because I’m a believer in Elfriid Payton and I think he could be potentially their PG of the future there and they drafted Mario Hezonja. But I don’t know if Dennis Smith would really work there. I don’t know if they’d want to then bring Payton off the bench and start Dennis Smith. Then you would have two offensive heavy PGs.

Jack: I mean Payton is definitely more of a defensive guard and so yeah they have Fournier out there and so it could definitely make sense in terms of him (Smith) starting out on the bench. Dennis Smith if you look at him as a player he has a lot of potential and as Jeremy was just saying he’s been developing the passing elements of his game and I’ve seen him make several nice passes over the last couple weeks it’s going to be important that his development continues into the ACC portion of play here as competition gets more difficult but I think in terms of Dennis Smith as a player he’s a dynamite scorer but, there are other aspects to his game. We haven’t even really discussed the defensive aspects of his game so far which definitely there are some question marks. Whether he can cover 1-on-1. Whether he can cover the oppositions PG. Whether he needs to be kind of hidden on that end of the court on a shooter or not. Dennis Smith’s scoring ability is going to get him drafted in the lottery and make him a productive NBA player. It’s just a question of how high up can he reach with other facets of his game developing, but guys that’s what we think of Dennis Smith. Let us know in the comments below what you think and please remember to subscribe if you want to hear more videos like this one. Thanks for listening.

What’s Wrong with Grayson Allen and Why is Luke Kennard so Good?

By Jack Drapkin

If I were to tell you at the beginning of the season that a returning Duke guard would be leading the team in scoring while shooting at a ridiculously efficient rate, you would have most likely said that’s Grayson Allen. Instead as you’re aware of by now, that player is Luke Kennard who is averaging a cool 18 points a game while shooting (.55/.88/.52), (field goal, free throw, three point percentages). In many ways he looks like a completely different basketball player than he was a season ago. Yes, the shots from deep are now falling but that was always the book on him as a player even if he did struggle from outside as a freshman. Instead however, he is simply a much more confident player, able to attack the rim with better finishing ability this season, and convert from the line when fouled. Kennard has emerged as the go-to scorer the Blue Devils have needed this season with Allen struggling from the field.

And boy is he struggling…The raw stats are actually quite similar between the two of them. 18ppg/6rpg/3.6apg for Kennard while Allen is at 15ppg/6rpg/3.4apg. The difference becomes quite clear when you look at the way Allen has been shooting. He is now 22-64 from the field and 8-35 from deep. Yuck!

Now Coach K has offered up the excuse that he is only playing at 50% right now and therefore should be given some slack. Now, since I am not in that locker room we’ll have to take the GOAT at his word and I’ll just discuss what can be seen on the court. For one, this is easily the most passive Grayson Allen has ever been. He’s passing in transition, never done that before, on drives to the basket he’s looking for kick outs. Now, I’m not saying he never passed before, it’s just clear that the aggression in his drives and the score first, score second mentality is not there like it used to be.

Hopefully Grayson can find his groove in the non-conference slate, because it is scary to imagine how could this team could be with a good Grayson Allen and the return of the walking wounded.

 

Duke Moves on to Real Test with Kansas

By John Scott

Coach K played everyone last night. Maybe that was Coach J. Or Is it a whole new Coach K.  After two seasons of having so few players to get on the court, Coach K has a bench but  is he determined to learn how to use everyone? Last night yes; this evening no. Again way too early to tell what K is thinking as he needs to integrate the three super freshman and prepare for Kansas on Tuesday. Grand Canyon kept it competitive for most of first half and then Duke slipped it into another gear. Frank Jackson, the remaining super frosh, needs to show he can handle the point.That will keep G Allen at the two. Both can score. Synergy will be interesting especially when you throw in Kennard and Matty Jones. They are certainly hoping Jackson matures this way as there is not an obvious point guard.

Ten minute mark of first half Duke 20-19.  14 minute mark in second half Duke up by 27.  Game finishes with Duke winning by 35. Look for the bursts as Dukies can apply full court pressure and hit lots of three point shooters. Not certain yet how to look at this game. Not great start to this game. But just too much talent and Grand Canyon not enough horses. So early questions. One, who is the point guard in tough games? Two, Did K have to play Kennard and G Allen nearly the whole game? It took a long time to see the bench this evening and it seems he wastes opportunities to learn about other players who have talent. Three, where do the three injured fresh fit in? Good that we can watch real basketball. It is off to the Garden for Tuesday against Kansas. Not to mention Kentucky versus Mich St.

Duke 2-0

Short-Handed Duke Dismantles Marist

By John Scott

Well the real season started tonight.The Dukies…this year’s national champions had their typical easy season opener opponent as they won by about 50 (94-49). But they did it without three lottery picks – Giles, Bolden and Tatum – all injured. Yikes. How good are they?  With a team that has more haters than Trump, it is so much fun to watch them play at this level. Did we learn anything? Maybe, as it is hard to tell without the mighty three playing. So who was the leading scorer? The remaining freshman Frank Jackson with 18. Coach K played everyone, even Pags got in. Best thing of the night Chase Jeter’s points and rebounds. And looking comfortable doing it. Amile “Flex” Jefferson looks like he put on 20 lbs of muscle. This blogger is going to stop here. Tomorrow is another powder puff.  So let’s wait til Tuesday’s matchup against Kansas to see where we are starting from

Duke Lands Trent Jr.!

By Jack Drapkin

Duke has added another commitment in the 2017 class, interestingly enough on the same day as Kentucky no less. Gary Trent Jr., rated as a top-15 player by ESPN is the latest high profile recruit to commit to Duke. Formerly of the same school that produced Tyus Jones, Apple Valley High School, Trent Jr. has transferred to Prolific Prep in an attempt to face more high-quality competition.

This was a big get for Coach K and his staff as the only other commitment until this point was fellow shooting guard Alex O’Connell. Trent Jr. however, is a much more complete and dynamic player and with his size at 6’5″ 205 lbs,  should be entertaining to watch in the college game (most likely one season). His power and defense will be enjoyable for Duke fans to watch even if his jumper is not going down. And anyways, who knows who this guy will be playing with when the ball rolls out at the start of next season!