Assessing A.J. Griffin, Brady Manek, and Paolo Banchero
February 6th, 2022
By Alan Lu
Yesterday, I decided to watch Duke play against North Carolina in an ACC basketball rivalry game. Duke came in as the heavy favorites, as they have two top 5 prospects in Paolo Banchero and A.J. Griffin, and they also have three other players in Trevor Keels, Mark Williams, and Wendell Moore that could all end up being likely first round picks. Duke dominated as expected, and A.J. Griffin turned in a dominant performance that could put him in the top pick conversation for this year’s draft. For North Carolina, Brady Manek thrived as a shooter and scorer and showed some impressive athleticism at times, but Duke proved to be too much for them. Here are my thoughts on how Griffin, Manek, and other various prospects fared in this game.
A.J. Griffin had a tremendous showing in Duke’s blowout win over North Carolina. He shot the ball really well, especially from downtown, and he threw down a ferocious dunk to highlight his team’s dominance throughout this contest. Griffin did a great job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense. He excelled at making threes both off the catch and dribble, and he was able to make a step-back corner three effortlessly.
He also showed a knack for scoring on mid-range jumpers. He was able to run off of a pin-down to make a mid-range shot from the baseline. He also received the ball from the high post, and then used a series of moves to score on another mid-range jumper. He also utilized a pump fake and drove in to score on a pull-up jumper. The only concern was that he wasn’t able to make the deep threes that were from well beyond the arc, and he may still have to build his range even more so that he can shoot NBA threes in the future.
Also, he showed a good ability to score off the dribble. Griffin would use crossover moves and then score on patient, right-handed drives to the hoop. He also was able to dribble to his left off of a screen, and he took it hard to the rim to score on a magnetic jam. Plus, he also can score on off-ball motion plays, and he was able to score on a backdoor cut early on.
He also showed off fairly average playmaking skills. Griffin is a scorer that can run off pin-downs to get open jumpers, and he can also consistently create his own shot off the dribble. He also would look to find the open man to keep the ball moving, and he was able to pick up an assist. However, he also was a bit turnover prone at times. On a high post drive, he was called for a push off, though that call was questionable at best. He also drove towards the baseline, but carelessly dribbled the ball off his own foot out of bounds. He later telegraphed his entry pass, which ended up getting picked off by a defender.
He also was able to help his team get some rebounds, as he would chase down balls to get his fair share of defensive boards, and he would sometimes push the ball up the court off of them afterwards. Defensively, he looked to be fairly average in this game. Griffin made one really good defensive play, as he ran back to poke a ball off of a cutter out of bounds to get a steal early in the second half. That time, he fought through the play to get a hand on the ball, and he showed good recovery speed, length, and tenacity to be able to force the turnover. Furthermore, that very good play he made serves to illustrate the vast potential he has as a defender at the NBA level. On the downside, he can sometimes struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter. On one play, he was too aggressive on the close out as he also shaded too far to his left, and he ended up getting beat off the dribble, which led his team to allow a pass that set up a score. Another time, he fought too high over the top of the screen, although his teammate didn’t effectively communicate to him that it was coming, but it led to a scramble situation and for his team to allow an opponent to score on a drive to the hoop.
In general, A.J. Griffin is a very athletic, skilled swingman that can really shoot and score the basketball, and there’s a chance that maybe he might be the best player to come out of the 2022 draft. It was really odd that he barely played in the Champions Classic in the season opener, but ever since he’s gotten meaningful playing time, he’s played really well ever since. He’s playing his best basketball right now. Griffin is a very talented swingman that has All-Star potential, and he would be a very good pick in the top 5 of this year’s draft.
Brady Manek also played very well in his team’s double-digit loss to Duke. He especially shot the ball well, especially early on, and he was able to make some impressively athletic plays at times. He was North Carolina’s best player in this game, and he made six three-pointers and scored on an impressive jam in this contest.
Manek did a great job of knocking down his threes in this game. He showed a knack for making quick threes off the catch, and his size proved to be an asset, as he could easily knock down those shots over smaller defenders. He also moved off the ball, which enabled him to make open threes. He also used a quick ball fake to make a three over a smaller defender.
He also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble. He was able to leverage the threat of his outside shot to get an opponent to bite on a pump fake, and he then drove to his left to score on a powerful dunk. However, on a baseline drive when going to his right, he threw up a tough, contorted running, flip layup that ended up missing completely. He also missed on all of his mid-range jumpers, and he also missed on a tip-in another time.
Also, Manek was able to set a solid screen to help his teammate get an open jump shot once, though he also appeared to get away with setting a moving screen that time. He didn’t commit any turnovers, but sometimes he would struggle to handle the ball when facing significant ball pressure.
He was able to get boards on both sides of the ball to get his fair share of rebounds. On the downside, Manek didn’t dominate on the glass, and there was one play where he didn’t box out his man, and he then committed a lazy reach-in foul on a put back dunk to give up the extra free throw.
Defensively, he generally struggled in this game. For the positives, he was able to break up a lob pass once. He also nearly blocked a shot after rotating to the post, but his teammate was called for a foul earlier. However, he really struggled to guard Griffin in this game, as he had trouble guarding his jumpers or drives. He also tended to sag too far off of shooters, which would lead his team to give up mid-range baskets. He also would sometimes struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and he also had some trouble defending a screen another time.
In summary, Brady Manek is a tall, mobile shooter that shot the ball very well in this game, and he was his team’s lone bright spot throughout the contest. In a game where his team ended up getting blown out, he ended up playing very well, especially on offense. He’ll need to keep shooting the ball well and he’ll need to improve his defense, but Manek’s size, shooting skills, and above average athletic gifts could enable him to make it to the NBA one day, perhaps as early as next season.
Paolo Banchero had his ups and downs in this game in his team’s win over North Carolina. He did a very good job of making his threes, but he didn’t make shots efficiently overall. He also tended to take questionable shots, and he also made his fair share of defensive mistakes in this game. Banchero did a very good job of knocking down his threes to provide some floor spacing for his team on offense. He showed that he can knock down open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he also made one off of a pick-and-pop play. On the downside, he also missed on a couple of pull-up threes after dribbling right off of screens.
He also did an adequate job of scoring off the dribble. Banchero was able to drive hard to the hoop to score on a fadeaway jumper. He also drove the baseline and utilized a pump fake, but had his shot blocked another time. Also, Banchero flashed the ability to score in the post. On one good play, he was able to score on a turnaround, fadeaway jumper from the baseline while posting up. However, he also had another fadeaway jumper blocked. After making a quick rip move another time, he missed a quick layup due to rushing.
On the downside, he didn’t do a very good job of making mid-range jumpers, and he took way too many of them in this game. Banchero was able to make a turnaround, fadeaway jumper smoothly early on. He also went out to the right elbow and made an open, turnaround jumper off the catch another time. However, he tended to miss too often on pull-up jumpers from the mid-range, and it was rather concerning that Banchero had several of his shots blocked overall in this match.
Also, Banchero displayed solid playmaking skills in this game. He did a good job of throwing crisp, accurate interior passes to his teammates, as he was able to consistently find them on the move, and he also managed to get a pair of assists. He also tended to set good screens for his teammates due to having good strength and size, and he would enable them to get open jump shots and driving lanes. On the downside, when handling the ball once, he mishandled the ball and lost it before getting it stolen away by a defender.
Plus, he did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He showed a penchant for hauling in defensive boards especially, and there was one possession where he quickly brought the ball up afterwards to show his ability to handle the ball in the open court. Defensively, he looked to be about average at best. For the positives, Banchero did a good job of poking balls away to nearly get steals for his team. He also would contest a couple of jumpers to force some misses. He didn’t always move his feet well on the defensive end, and he would sometimes get beat quickly off the dribble to allow scores. Another time, he was caught ball watching and wandered too far, as he completely lost track of his man off the ball and allowed him to score on an open corner three. He also didn’t call out a screen to a teammate another time, which led his team to give up another three-point basket. Other times, he would commit reach-in fouls due to over-aggressiveness.
Overall, Paolo Banchero is a very talented prospect that can shoot and score the basketball, but this wasn’t one of his better games this season. He tended to force up too many tough, rushed shots, and he also didn’t show that he can consistently guard shooters or scorers on the defensive end. He’s still one of the most productive players, and he also has All-Star potential, and he could end up being a solid value pick for an NBA team in the top 5 of this year’s draft.
Wendell Moore also played well in his team’s blowout win over North Carolina. He thrived at making plays on both ends of the floor, and though he didn’t make a three-point shot in this game, he seemed to do everything else fairly well to help his team get the victory. Moore thrived at scoring on hustle plays. He showed a knack for scoring in transition, off cuts, and off tip-ins. He has solid speed, strength, and body control to regularly finish plays at the rim. He would run the floor hard to beat his man down court, and he was able to score on a crafty, reverse layup.
He also did a decent job of scoring off the dribble. He tended to favor going to his left, and he managed to score on an acrobatic, double-pump, reverse layup once. Another time though, he missed on a reverse layup. He also did a good job of scoring in the post. He was able to utilize a drop step move to draw a foul on his defender to get to the free throw line.
He also showcased very good playmaking skills. Moore threw crisp, accurate interior passes, as he can find his teammates on the move, and he also excelled at throwing entry passes to get them the basketball down low. He was able to throw an accurate lob pass, and he generally passed and handled the ball very well in this game.
Plus, Moore did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he hauled in boards on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he looked to be fairly average at best. For the positives, he was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal, and he also ran in to intercept a pass to get another. He also managed to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss. However, he tended to be too undisciplined defensively, which would get him into trouble on this side of the ball. He tended to over-help in the paint and leave his man open, which would lead to scramble situations. He also would sometimes tend to commit reach-in fouls when defending opponents off the dribble or in the post, and he also bit on a pump fake to give up a long two score another time.
Overall, Wendell Moore excelled as an offensive player and rebounder, and he also was able to get a pair of steals for his team in this game. He’ll need to improve his outside shot and be a more disciplined on-ball defender in games. Currently, he is playing very well this season, and he could end up getting selected in the mid to late first round range in the 2022 draft.
Trevor Keels also played well, especially late in this game to help his team get a blowout win over North Carolina. He is a very athletic, physical point guard that has the ideal, prototypical size for the point guard position at both the collegiate and NBA level, and he also leveraged the threat of his scoring skills off the dribble to be able to be a knock-down three-point shooter in this game.
Keels shot the ball very well, especially from downtown. He showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch. He has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off, and he took advantage of his opponents leaving him open from beyond the arc. He struggled to score from inside the arc, though. He missed on an off-balanced, mid-range jumper from the baseline, as he appeared to kick his legs out to try to knock down the shot early on. He also missed on a contested, fadeaway mid-range jumper another time. He did manage to draw free throws when posting up once, and he is a physical guard that can be a handful in the post, especially for smaller guards who aren’t nearly as strong as he is.
As a playmaker, he looked to be perhaps above average. He passed the ball well, and he showed off solid court vision. He threw a long outlet pass to set up score for a teammate on the break. He also drove to the hoop and made a nifty, drop-off pass to get an assist. However, he took too long to bring the ball up once, which led to a 10-second violation. Another time, he stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive, though he would’ve had his pass intercepted by a defender anyways had that call not made by the officials.
He also did a satisfactory job of rebounding the basketball. He also played adequate defense in this game. Keels is an active help defender that will help his team force turnovers. He was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal, and he deflected a tipped pass to help his team get another. He also stayed with an opposing ball handler and contested a long two to force a miss. Sometimes though, he can tend to have lapses defensively. On one play, he over-helped off his man and then got beat off the dribble, and he ended up giving up on that play as his opponent scored on a mid-range floater. He also was caught ball watching, and he lost track of his man on a cut and didn’t follow his man late in the game to give up the basket. Another time, he was late to get around a screen and gave up too much space to his man, which led him to allow a three-point basket.
Overall, Trevor Keels quietly had a strong showing in his team’s win over North Carolina. He is a very athletic, scoring point guard that has elite physical tools, and he did a lot of things well in this game. He is a high-upside prospect, and he will need to continue to shoot as well or almost as well as he did in this game. He is a talented prospect, and he could be a good value pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range on draft day.
Mark Williams played fairly well in his team’s win over North Carolina. On one hand, he made all of his field goals, and he was very efficient as a scorer despite rarely touching the basketball on offense. He also was very effective as a passer out of the post and screen setter in this game. He also was able to block a couple of shots defensively. However, he tended to struggle in screens situations, as he would not often communicate to his teammates how to properly defend them, and he also would be too aggressive, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.
From an offensive standpoint, he was very good. He performed superbly on offense, as he was incredibly efficient at making plays to help his team on that side of the floor. He thrived at scoring on hustle plays. Williams caught a lob pass off of a roll and then scored on a thunderous, alley-oop dunk. He also managed to score on a magnetic, put back jam while drawing an extra free throw afterwards. He did a satisfactory job of scoring in the post. He used a strong drop step and a pump fake to score while getting fouled at the same time. He also knocked down an open, mid-range jumper in this game to show his ability to develop a consistent jump shot.
He also passed the ball well. He threw good passes out of the post, and he was able to notch a pair of assists. He also set good screens for his teammates, and he would help them score on open jump shots and drives to the hoop. Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball, and he was especially active at crashing the offensive glass. Defensively, Williams looked to be about average at best. For the positives, he did a very good job of blocking shots to help his team protect the paint. He also did a adequate job of defending in the post, as he would hold his ground when defending down low to force misses. He also used his length as he got his hands up to defend a pass, which enabled him to help force a passing turnover.
However, he wouldn’t effectively communicate to his teammates in screen situations, which would lead to scramble situations and his team to give up baskets. Other times, he would not stay between the man and ball, and he would get beat on moves when defending in the post or off the dribble to allow scores. He also would be too aggressive at times, as he would sometimes commit touch fouls when defending in the post. He also bit on a pump fake, which caused him to give up a dunk off of a drive.
Overall, Mark Williams had a decent showing in his team’s win over North Carolina. He was very effective as a scorer, passer, and screen setter, and he also managed to block a couple of shots. However, he and his team really struggled in screen situations, and he didn’t do a great job in communicating to his teammates effectively in how to defend them and where to go. He also tended to be too aggressive at times, and he also would sometimes struggle to defend opponents off the dribble. Still, Williams is a tall, athletic center that can shore up a team’s interior, and he could be a solid value pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the 2022 draft.
Kerwin Walton played well in his team’s loss, and he especially thrived as a shooter and scorer off the bench late in this game. He hasn’t played nearly as much for the new coach, Hubert Davis this year, so his production this season has suffered, but he played well against Duke in this match specifically.
Walton did a good job of shooting the basketball. He is an agile combo guard that moves well off the ball, and he was able to make a quick, open three off of a pindown. He also managed to score on a tough, sideways layup on a backdoor cut, as he made a smart move to the hoop to catch a napping defender off guard. He did miss on an open, mid-range runner, but generally Walton excelled as a shooter and scorer for his team off the bench.
He didn’t look to be too noticeable as a playmaker, but he threw a bad pass that got intercepted once. Walton was able to chase down a defensive board once, and he then pushed the ball quickly up the floor afterwards. He also played satisfactory defense. He would actively contest mid-range shots to force misses, and he also deflected a pass to nearly get a steal. On the other hand, he sagged too far off his man once, which led him to give up a three-point basket.
Overall, Kerwin Walton played very well in this game, and this could be an encouraging sign for him moving forward. He’ll still need to stay in school for at least another year or two, especially since he has not played too well during his sophomore season overall and also hasn’t played much, but his ability to knock down shots could enable him to make his way to the NBA one day.
Leaky Black also had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Duke. He is an athletic forward that did the little things well, and he primarily thrived as a facilitator, rebounder, and defender when he was on the court. Black did a good job of scoring off the dribble. He didn’t take many shots at all, but he thrived at scoring when he would drive hard to the hoop. He utilized a pump fake and drove in to score off the glass. He also drove in to score on a double-pump layup in traffic. Also, Black showed that he can use either hand to finish plays around the basket. On the other hand, he missed on a pull-up, mid-range jumper, and he didn’t take many outside shots in this game. He also missed on a tip-in due to rushing.
He also showed off satisfactory playmaking skills. Black is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw swift interior passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates. He also set an on-ball screen on a dribble handoff to help his teammate score on an open jump shot. He made a cut to the hoop another time, but had the ball poked off of him before it went out of bounds, which led him to commit his lone turnover of the match.
Also, Black did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was able to push the ball quickly off of a defensive board once. He also played good defense in this game. He did a great job of blocking shots, as he swatted a mid-range jumper, and a shot in the post another time. He also would actively challenge outside shots to force misses. On one play early on, he tried to get back on defense, but ended up fouling an opponent on the break to commit the foul and allow the score that time.
Overall, Leaky Black quietly played well for his team in this game, although he didn’t take many shots overall. He is a solid, low volume role-player at the collegiate level, but his upside may be fairly limited for the NBA. On one hand, he could be a versatile defender and also be a secondary ball mover on offense. On the other hand, he rarely ever shoots the basketball, so he’s not likely to be much of a shooter or a scoring threat in the NBA. Skill wise, his game may bear a resemblance to current New Orleans Pelicans’ swingman, Garrett Temple, and he may have to pattern his game off of him to make it to the league one day. Most likely, Black will need to spend at least a season in the G-League and/or overseas when his collegiate career is over, and if he can develop a reliable jump shot, he could make his way to the NBA one day.
Caleb Love did not play well in his team’s blowout loss to Duke. He is a very athletic combo guard that has been having a good sophomore season, so I was anticipating a fairly good game from him on this day. However, that did not turn out to be the case for him. Against Duke, it was like a tale of two halves for him. In the first half, his performance was absolutely awful, and he did not look like an NBA caliber prospect at all. He took terrible shots, couldn’t make any of them, was incredibly turnover prone, was bad defensively, and he did not look like someone who should be a point guard at North Carolina. In the second half, he was much more poised and composed, as he was able to calmly knock down shots and showed versatile scoring skills, and he also defended better later on. Overall, his decent second half performance was not nearly enough to wash away the truly awful first half showing he had in this contest.
Love flashed the ability to score off the dribble. Love was able to score on a tough, reverse flip layup on a strong drive to the hoop late in this match. He also drew free throws on an aggressive drive another time. However, he also would tend to drive recklessly to the basket, which would lead to some ugly misses, and he also had his shot blocked once.
He also didn’t shoot the ball very well. Love took a lot of quick threes from way out, and he tended to miss often. He really struggled to make spot-up threes off the catch. He was able to make a smooth, pull-up three later on. He also did a satisfactory job of knocking down mid-range jumpers, and he dribbled off of a screen and used an overhead ball fake to knock down a long two-point shot.
However, he was fairly turnover prone on offense. For the positives, Love will sometimes look to find open shooters, and he was able to get his fair share of assists. He also can make passes off the dribble. However, he tended to be prone to rushing, and he committed a handful of ball-handling turnovers early on. The ball slipped out of his hands after getting an offensive rebound early on. He also lost the ball on a crossover move and he also dribbled off of his own foot another time, as he tended to commit too many careless turnovers. He also threw a hasty interior pass into traffic that got intercepted.
Though he didn’t get many boards in this game, Love was able to get a rebound on both sides of the ball. On another play though, he got beat on a cut to the rim and didn’t box out his man, and he ended up allowing his man to score on a tip-in. Defensively, he struggled in this game. For the positives, he would get his hands on passes, as he was able to deflect a pass. He also nearly intercepted a pass, but his opponent stepped out of bounds earlier that time. He also managed to contest a three to force a miss. However, Love tended to take bad gambles defensively. He would bite on pump fakes and wind up out of position to allow scores. He also would get beat off the dribble by opponents who shouldn’t get past him to give up baskets. He also was late to get out to a ball-handler, and then committed a foul by tripping up his man. He also sagged too far off of a shooter, which led his team to give up a three-point basket.
Overall, Caleb Love did not perform well at all, and his first half performance was beyond terrible. It was surprising that they let him at the point for as long as they did, considering that he didn’t seem to do anything particularly well in the first half. That said, he actually played decently in the second half, but by then, it was too little, too late. Love is an athletic combo guard that can score in bunches, but he’s too streaky with his jump shot, and he can tend to take too many questionable shots. He also tends to rush himself too much, which would lead to a slew of misses and turnovers. He’ll need to play more under control on both ends of the floor. Right now, he is a borderline second round candidate whenever he decides to enter the draft, but he could move up draft boards if he can make significant improvements to his game in college basketball.