Analyzing Marvin Bagley III, Miles Bridges, Kevin Knox, and Others in the Champions Classic

November 15, 2017

by Alan Lu

Yesterday was the highly anticipated Champions Classic that featured numerous top prospects from Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Kentucky.  In the first game, unfortunately Marvin Bagley III ended up getting hurt after he was poked in the eye midway through, and he had to sit out the rest of the contest.  Even still, there were many fun and interesting moments, as other notable players played very well on this day.  Here are my thoughts on what happened in those games.

The Duke-Michigan State game:

Marvin Bagley III only played for about a half of a game, but he rebounded the ball well, was active defensively, and scored some points in the paint.  He was able to score on a put back dunk, as well as on a floater off of a cut another time.  I was surprised that Duke didn’t really run that many plays for him when he was on the floor, and as he missed more than half of this contest, it was hard to get a feel for his overall game, but he did seem to put forth a fairly solid showing when he was on the court.

Duke’s senior guard, Grayson Allen put forth a tremendous performance, as he scored 37 points, and he also made 7 threes to help his team to a seven-point win over Michigan State.  He shot the ball really well, as he made an assortment of three-pointers, including a buzzer beating three to close the first half, as well as a contested pull-up three in a defender’s face that he made late in the game.   Allen also was able to score quick buckets off the dribble, and he also generally made solid passes when he was on the floor.  Allen is an athletic, gritty combo guard that really excelled as a shooter and scorer, and if he keeps this up, he could be a potential lottery pick in 2018.

Michigan State’s 6-8 sophomore forward, Miles Bridges played very well, as he excelled as a shooter, scorer, and defender in his team’s loss to Duke.  He did a great job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He also would take the ball to the basket to score, he played unselfishly to get assists, and he also blocked many shots emphatically to provide strong defense when he was on the floor.  However, Bridges would try to do too much on offense at times, as he would drive in wildly on occasion, which would lead to misses and turnovers.   Overall, Bridges put forth a very good showing, and he looks to be a likely lottery pick for the upcoming draft.

Michigan State’s 6-9 freshman big man, Jaren Jackson Jr. also played well, as he excelled at making spot-up threes, and he also threw down emphatic dunks around the basket.   He also grabbed numerous rebounds and blocked shots ferociously to protect the paint.  However, he struggled to handle the basketball at times as he was turnover prone, and he also would commit touch fouls.  Still, he had a solid showing in the loss, and he looks to be a future lottery pick in 2018.

Trevon Duval put forth a solid showing, as he helped lead Duke to a win over Michigan State.  The very athletic point guard excelled at driving the ball to the basket, as he would get to the free throw line, and he also threw down a high-flying dunk in transition.   Duval also made good passes continually throughout the game to show off his court vision, as he threw a long outlet pass to Grayson Allen to set up a score for him.   He also played solid defense, as he quick leapt up to intercept a pass to get a steal to create a fast break scoring opportunity for himself and his team.  The only thing was that he did not shoot the basketball well, as he had trouble making jumpers or free throws.  In many ways, Duval reminds me of current Sacramento Kings rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox from the previous draft, as Duval is a speedy point guard that plays unselfishly and will compete on both ends, but still needs to improve his jump shot.  Judging from his strong play as Duval was four steals away from a triple-double, Trevon Duval looks to be a solid candidate to go in the lottery in 2018.

Wendell Carter Jr. put forth an uneven performance, as he started slow, but he played better as the game wore on.  Early on, Carter had trouble scoring or defending in the post, as he would at times not show enough lift, and he struggled to make moves over his right shoulder.  However, Carter’s motor stayed on high as he would go on to haul in many rebounds, and he eventually was able to score in the post, and he also blocked Ward’s shot emphatically later on. Though Carter had a double-double in Duke’s win over Michigan State, his play was inconsistent, but he finished the game strong.  Right now, he might be rated too high by NBA scouts and teams, but he could be a good value pick for an NBA team in the first round if he plays more like how he did in the second half of this contest.

Nick Ward generally excelled as a scorer inside the paint for Michigan State, as he would make tough catches, and score in the post as well as around the basket.  He is a strong, physical player that can bang inside, and he can get buckets when he is given some space to finish plays.  However, he had some trouble finishing plays in traffic against longer, quicker athletes at times, and he also committed some touch fouls.  Right now, Ward may be a second round prospect in the mold of a Craig Smith type for the NBA.

Duke’s Gary Trent Jr. was very inconsistent as a shooter and scorer, and he tended to miss a lot of jumpers that he would hoist up.  He will aggressively look for his own shot, but he seems to be willing to take any shot he can get.  He did not shoot the ball well on this day, and his shot selection was spotty at best.  On a really good day, maybe he could end up being like a Jamal Crawford type, but this was certainly a bad game, and judging from this one, Trent did not look like much of a prospect for the NBA.  Right now, the second round would probably be where he would go if it were held today, but he will need to improve his shot selection and the other parts of his game moving forward.

Duke’s 6-10 freshman big man, Javin DeLaurier put forth a rather impressive performance, as he virtually came out of nowhere to make an impact on this game.  He excelled as a finisher on the break, as he threw down a high-flying dunk once.  He is a gifted athlete that can roam defensively and plays energetically, as he would collect rebounds, steals, and blocks, and he is an unselfish player that would tend to make the right pass.  He was also foul prone, but he played quite well in this game, and he could be a player to keep an eye on in the future.

For Marques Bolden, I did not notice him that much.    He excelled at grabbing rebounds in limited minutes, but he had trouble finishing plays in traffic around the basket, and he would commit fouls on the defensive end.  Right now, he looks far from being a finished product, and he will need to improve significantly on both ends of the floor.

Josh Langford was able to get a few scores on the break early on by taking the ball hard to the basket, and he also made a quick spot-up three.  But he quickly put on a disappearing act later in the game as he later struggled to make more three-pointers, and he did not do much of anything later on.  Langford is an athletic swingman that possesses the ability to shoot and score the basketball, but he wasn’t consistent in doing so, and he will have to play better moving forward in order for his draft stock to rise.

The Kansas-Kentucky game:

It was anticipated that Kansas would run away with the game to get the win considering that Kentucky had only close wins against Utah Valley and Vermont, and though the Jayhawks did get the victory, the game was a lot closer than expected.  Numerous prospects fared quite well, and this turned out to be a good event for many of them that played in this match.

Kentucky’s freshman big man, Kevin Knox excelled as a shooter and scorer on offense, as he showed a solid ability to make threes and mid-range jumpers, and he also threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk on the break.  He also managed to catch a lob pass to score off of a cut.   He is an athletic big man that can shoot the basketball and make high energy plays, and Knox looks to be a solid candidate to go in the lottery for the 2018 NBA Draft.

Kansas’ sophomore center, Udoka Azubuike had a very good game, as he showed off great hands to catch an assortment of passes, and he was able to excel as a low post scorer when he was on the court.  He also would throw down powerful dunks, as he can do so off of drop step moves or off of lob passes, and he showed solid mobility, especially for a player his size.   He made good passes out of the post, and he was quite effective as a rebounder and interior defender.  Azubuike may be one of the more underrated players among prospects for this draft, and he could be a good value pick for an NBA team in the late first round.

Svi Mykhailiuk had a fairly good all-around showing, as he made numerous threes, and he also ran the floor to throw down an emphatic dunk in transition.  He also made a floater off the dribble, and he also threw good entry passes to set up scores for his teammates.  Myhailiuk was streaky with his outside shot in this game, but he made them when they needed him to do so.  Mykhailiuk is a smart, skilled basketball player that will also compete defensively, and he could be a solid pickup for an NBA team in the second round of the upcoming draft.

Hamidou Diallo also had a fairly good performance in this game.   He was aggressive at getting scores off the dribble, as he would drive hard to get scores and get to the free throw line.   He also made a tough runner and drew an extra free throw, and Diallo also managed to catch a lob pass to score on an acrobatic tip alley-oop on the break.  Plus, he also would make the extra pass to collect assists.  Defensively, Diallo would aggressively contest shots to force misses.  On the other hand, Diallo had some trouble making jumpers, especially from beyond the arc.  Overall, he was quite effective as a scorer, facilitator, and defender, and Hamidou Diallo could be a mid first round pick for an NBA team in this draft.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a fairly uneven showing in his team’s loss to Kansas.  He started off well, as he showed the ability to attack the basket to get scores off the dribble, he showed the ability to distribute the basketball, and he would quickly make plays on the ball to collect steals for his team.  He is a tall, athletic combo guard that possesses the ability to be a defensive ace as well as a point forward.  However, Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make jumpers, and he also ended up making some careless turnovers on offense.  He will need to be a more consistent player, but if he continues to hone his overall game, he could be a potential first round pick in the future.

Kentucky’s sophomore big man, Sacha Killeya-Jones played with great energy as he finish plays around the basket, he showed the ability to make mid-range jumpers, and he excelled as a rebounder and shot blocker when he was on the floor.  He also played unselfishly, as he would find the open man to get assists.   This game was a step in the right direction for Killeya-Jones, and he could build off this contest to have a stellar season, which could help him quickly move up draft boards this year.

Lagerald Vick started out fast for Kansas, as he showed the ability to make threes and mid-range jumpers, but he then really struggled with his jump shot later in the game.  He did play well in the other areas, and he continually made solid passes to set up scores for his teammates.

Devonte’ Graham really struggled with his jump shot, but he generally excelled as a game manager, as he would play unselfishly, and get the ball to the open man when he was on the floor.  Malik Newman also struggled to consistently knock down shots, but he showed some impressive athletic tools, as he rebounded well, and he would get after it defensively to get some steals. Meanwhile, neither Nick Richards nor P.J. Washington played very well, as both struggled to make shots on offense, but Washington was able to make solid passes to get a string of assists, as well as to block shots defensively.  But both of the big men had trouble with turnovers and fouls against Kansas.  Quade Green was able to make some solid passes, as he threw a lob pass to Diallo to set up a score, but he didn’t do much of anything else, and he struggled with his jump shot in this game.

Overall, those were my reports on the various prospects I saw in these games.   Since there were a lot of players, I decided to keep this write-up brief and as concise as possible.   Anyways, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this.

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