Evaluating Jarrett Culver, Tre Jones, and Zion Williamson

December 31, 2018

by Alan Lu

This time around, I decided to watch Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Duke play against Jarrett Culver and Texas Tech in a December 20th basketball game that was played at the Madison Square Garden.  I wasn’t able to watch the game live, but I had remembered tracking this game on the phone, with the score being much closer for most of the way.   Duke eventually ended up getting the win, but Jarrett Culver shot the ball very well for Texas Tech, and Tre Jones played outstanding defense to help Duke get the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Texas Tech’s 6-5 sophomore guard, Jarrett Culver had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Duke.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer, he has a lot of range on his shot, and he also showed off good all-around skills when he was on the court.  Culver excelled at knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He would make threes off the catch and dribble, and he also was able to use a crossover to knock down a pull-up three from NBA range.  He also can dribble off of screens to get the matchup he wants, which can enable him to make jumpers over the opponent that was switched onto him.  Culver also was able to make a long pull-up two-pointer, but he struggled more to knock down mid-range jumpers, and there was one occasion where he tried to lean into a defender in an unsuccessful bid to draw a foul call that time.

He also showed an adequate ability to score on strong drives to the hoop.  Culver is a patient, crafty player that can use dribble moves to get past his man, and he has a good combination of change of direction skills, ball handling ability, and body control to finish numerous plays at the rim.  He can use either hand to take his man off the dribble, and he was able to glide in to score on emphatic, two-handed dunks.  He also used a subtle pump fake and a stutter step to score off the glass another time while getting an extra free throw, but sometimes, Culver may not have his balance and can go in out of control, which can lead him to miss shots too hard, and other times to get his shots blocked at times.

He also can score on hustle plays.  Culver was able to score on a put back off of an offensive board.  He also managed to draw free throws after getting an opponent to foul him by running off the ball on offense, but he can also tend to rush his shots and go up too strong, which lead him to miss shots around the basket.  Also, Culver showed off decent playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish, patient player that has good court vision, and he can throw sharp interior passes to cutters to set up scores for his teammates.  He also moves well off the ball, which can enable him to get open looks on offense.

However, he like many prospects in this game, was also quite turnover prone in this game.  There were a lot of turnovers, and a lot of offensive fouls were also called, and Culver committed his fair share of them in this contest.  Culver had a tendency to commit turnovers off the dribble, as he would tend to get the ball poked away after exposing the ball to defenders.  He also was called for traveling after using a quick spin move off of a drive, and on that time, the referees waved off the basket that he would have scored.  Culver was also called for committing a charging foul on another drive to the hoop, as the referees also waved that basket off.  He also threw a weak perimeter pass once that ended up getting intercepted by a defender.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Culver was very active at crashing the glass, and he would leap up to haul in plenty of boards on both ends of the floor.  He managed to box out an opponent to get a defensive rebound once, and he also chased down a ball to get another due to possessing good athleticism, motor, and ball location skills.  Culver also played solid defense.   He is a very active help defender that can get numerous steals and blocks to help his team, and he also has good footwork that can enable him to stay in front of his man to force misses.  Culver showed a knack for jumping passes to get steals, and he also managed to get back to block a shot off of a drive in transition out of bounds another time due to possessing good speed, leaping ability and timing.  Also, Culver would contest jumpers to force his man to miss shots.  But sometimes, he can be out of position when defending drives, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

In general, Jarrett Culver put forth a good performance in this game against Duke.  He is a very good shooter that has a lot of range on his shot, and he also can score on smooth drives to the hoop.  He also defended well.  However, he can struggle to create his own shot at times or to finish plays around the basket, and he may be more of a shooter than a shot creator off the dribble.  Still, Culver is a skilled wing player that has been having a very good season, and he could be a likely bet to go in the lottery for the upcoming draft.

Duke’s freshman point guard Tre Jones played very well, as he was terrific on defense to help Duke get the win over Texas Tech.  He is a tenacious defender that will bring heavy ball pressure relentlessly, and he can force his opponents to commit numerous turnovers.  Jones also is a smart basketball player that can reliably run the team, and he really helped himself by having a strong showing in this game.

Jones is a pesky defender that played outstanding defense against Texas Tech.  He managed to get not one, not two, but rather a whopping eight steals in this game.  He has great feet and instincts to apply heavy ball pressure, and he does a great job of playing passing lanes and poking balls away from opposing ball handlers to force opponents to commit lots of turnovers.  Jones can quickly run in to jump passes, and he can swiftly poke balls away as well.  He also was able to successfully draw a charge when defending a drive, and he also can defend bigger players as he was able to defend in the post to force some misses.  Also, he did a good job of contesting shots on this end of the floor.  But sometimes, he can get the trudge feet, as he was beat off the dribble a couple of times, which led him to allow scores.  Early on, his team was pressing and trapping opponents, but it led his team to scramble as the opponents made successful passes to set up early baskets.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Jones is an accurate passer that sees the floor well, and he also is an unselfish player that will keep the ball moving.  He throws good lob passes that enabled his teammates to score on alley-oop dunks, and he also can swiftly find teammates on the move to rack up assists.  He also did a good job of kicking the ball out to shooters on offense, but there was one time where Jones threw a low entry pass that was dropped by a teammate out of bounds, and another he dropped a pass when on the move that ended up getting intercepted.  Plus, Jones did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active on the glass, as he would go in to collect boards on both ends of the floor, and he also would bring the ball up and push it up the floor afterwards.

He also showed a good ability to score on quick drives in transition.  Jones has good speed and body control, and he was able to score on a reverse layup, and he also can score on the break after getting steals on the defensive end.  Jones also managed to use a quick crossover move to score on a tough leaner on a drive off the glass.  In addition, he also was able to score on a quick cut to the hoop while drawing an extra free throw.  But sometimes he may struggle to finish shots in traffic.  Also, Jones struggled to shoot the basketball from further out, as he also tended to miss on pull-up jumpers.

In summary, Tre Jones played very well, and he is a smart, skilled point guard that may be the best defender at his position for the upcoming draft.  He is a feisty, aggressive defender that can make life difficult for his opponents, as he possesses a superb ability to create havoc with his ball pressure and also does an excellent job of playing passing lanes.  Right now, Jones has a game that may resemble closely to current Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Patrick Beverley, and Jones is a talented playmaker that could be a good value pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range on draft day.

Zion Williamson also had a fairly good showing in his team’s win over Texas Tech.  He struggled with foul trouble in the first half, but he did a great job of attacking the basket and rebounding the basketball in the second half to help Duke get the victory.  Williamson really excelled at scoring on half court drives as well as in transition.  He would frequently draw free throws on quick, strong drives to the rim, and he has a very quick first step that enables him to routinely get past his man.  He also runs the floor really well, and he was able to throw down a couple of nice alley-oop dunks on the break.

Plus, he did a good job of scoring on hustle plays.  Williamson was able to score on a thunderous tip slam, and he also drew free throws on a strong put back, but sometimes, he can rush his shots, which can lead him to miss around the basket on occasion.  Williamson also posted up and used a spin move, but ended up getting his shot blocked on a leaner.  He also struggled to knock down threes, as he missed both times from beyond the arc, and on one time, he threw up an air ball.

However, like a lot of prospects here, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Williamson would occasionally find the open man to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  On the downside, Williamson tended to commit charging fouls off of drives to the hoop, and even had one basket waved off at the end, as the call ended up getting him to foul out.  He also would throw inaccurate passes, one that sailed out of bounds, and another ended up being intercepted.  On top of that, he would sometimes drop inaccurate entry passes out of bounds.

Williamson did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he even tipped a ball to himself to get one offensive rebound.  Plus, he would tend to push the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds to create transition scoring opportunities for his team.  He also showed off decent defensive skills.  Williamson was an active help defender that would get blocks and steals for his team, and also possesses good footwork when defending out on the perimeter.  He was able to rotate to block a shot off of a cut to a teammate, and he also intercepted a lob pass to get a steal another time.  Also, he was able to poke a ball away from an opponent to almost force another turnover.  On top of that, he was able to contest a three to force a miss.

However, he can be over-aggressive defensively, which can lead him to pick up quick fouls, and he also whiffed on a steal attempt when rotating on a drive and ended up getting beat to allow a score.  Another time, he over-helped in the paint, and sagged too far off his man, which led him to allow a corner three basket to his opponent.  On a separate play, he didn’t communicate to a teammate where to defend on a drive off of a screen, as his team ended up allowing the score around the basket.

Overall, Zion Williamson had a pretty good game, and he was able to make some very good plays in the second half at the Madison Square Garden to help his team get the win.  Though he was plagued with foul trouble and some turnovers, Williamson made an impact when it counted.  Moreover, his tremendous athleticism and ability to attack the basket to get scores combined with his ability to create shots for himself and his teammates as a playmaker likely will make him a top 5 pick on draft day.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, R.J. Barrett struggled for most of this game, as he had trouble knocking down shots, but he played very well down the stretch, as his strong ability to attack the basket allowed him to score often to help his team get the win.  Barrett did a good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the basket as well as in transition.  He possesses a very good ability to use his left hand, and he would tend to score on tough floaters inside the paint.  He also managed to score on a couple of fast break drives, and he was able to use an overhead ball fake and a jump stop to score in transition.  He also ran the floor to score on a high-flying jam on the break, but sometimes, Barrett would rush his shots and play a bit too out of control, which would lead him to miss shots off the dribble.

However, he really had trouble trying to knock down jumpers against Texas Tech.  Barrett was ice cold from outside of the paint area, and he missed all of his threes off the catch or dribble from beyond the arc.  He also missed on mid-range jumpers when he would elect to hoist them up.  Also, Barrett was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Barrett was able to make some nice passes, and he can quickly kick the ball out to shooters to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  He tended to throw inaccurate passes, as plenty of them would be off-target, and he had a couple of them be intercepted by defenders.  Other times, he would tend to commit charging fouls on aggressive drives to the hoop.  On a separate occasion, he was called for traveling as he shuffled his feet after catching a pass mid-court.

In this game, Barrett didn’t grab many rebounds, but he was able to leap up to get several defensive boards, and he also managed to push the ball up the floor on one occasion.  But there was one play where he didn’t block out his man, which led his team to allow a put back score.  Another time, he appeared to get a defensive board, but instead was called for pushing an opponent in the back, which led him to commit a foul.

Barrett also played solid defense.  He is an active help defender that can get his hands on balls, and he also will contest jumpers to force misses.  He excelled at playing passing lanes, as he can intercept and tip passes to help his team get steals in games.  He also was able to rotate to deflect a pass from a post player out of bounds due to possessing very good leaping ability and timing.  But sometimes, he can overplay his man when defending out on the perimeter, and he can end up out of position, which can lead him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.  Another time, he was called for committing a foul when guarding his man off the ball.

Overall, R.J. Barrett did not have his best game, but he played well down the stretch when the game was on the line.  He really struggled with his jump shot, but he did a good job of driving to the hoop, running the floor to get scores in transition, and he also played solid defense.  He is a very talented player that will likely be a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, as he could end up being a similar player to that of Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward, Andrew Wiggins in the league.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman Cam Reddish did not play very well overall against Texas Tech, but he had some good moments late in this contest to help Duke get the win on this day.  Reddish tended to miss on jumpers, as he had trouble knocking down threes or mid-range shots on offense.  Though he did make an open corner three, Reddish often would miss open three-point shots from beyond the arc in this game.  He did not look to score often off the dribble, but he actually showed a good ability to score on drives to the hoop when he would look to do so, as he can draw numerous free throws on his opponents, but sometimes, he would have trouble getting all the way to the hoop when looking to create his own shot, as he may not have a great first step off the dribble.

On the downside, Reddish was very turnover prone in this game.  The referees were quite gung-ho in calling lots of offensive fouls, which would allow defenders to often successfully draw charges when defending opponents off the dribble.  Even still, Reddish did not seem to make enough good passes, and tended to be too mistake prone on offense.  For the positives, he was able to throw a behind the back pass after driving the ball up the court to a teammate late in this game, and he also can bring the ball up the floor.  However, Reddish tended to commit charging fouls off of drives, and his passes also tended to get intercepted.  Another time, he tried a fancy spin move off the dribble, but ended up losing the ball to an opponent.

He also did a decent job of grabbing rebounds for his team.  Reddish was able to haul in several defensive boards, and sometimes he would bring the ball up, and push it up the floor afterwards.  Another time, he tried to chase down a ball to get a defensive rebound, but ended up stepping out of bounds on that occasion.  Also, Reddish played decent defense.  He is an active help defender that can make numerous plays on the ball, and he did a very good job of playing passing lanes to get steals for his team.  Also, he was able to run in to poke a ball away to force another turnover.  He also almost blocked a pull-up mid-range jumper due to possessing good length, timing, and footwork, but the opponent was called for a traveling violation earlier on the play.

However, Reddish can tend to have lapses defensively, and sometimes he may go the wrong way, which would lead his team to allow scores.  On one play, he sagged in the paint, and switched onto a different opponent randomly without telling a teammate, which led his team to allow a wide-open three-point basket to an opponent.  Another time, he defended the drive the wrong way, which allowed a drive and kick pass to set up a corner three score.  Sometimes, Reddish may bite on pump fakes and whiff on steal attempts, and other times, he may make incorrect rotations, which lead opponents to get scores in the paint.

Overall, Cam Reddish did not have a great game, and he has hit something of a rookie wall in college basketball right now.  He has been in a shooting slump, and sometimes he can be too undisciplined defensively.  On the other hand, he plays well when he operates under control, and shows promise as a defender at times.  Right now, his draft stock may be a bit too high, but Reddish is a skilled player that could end up being a reliable role player in the NBA, as a strong second half of the season could justify him being a lottery pick on draft day.