Evaluating Dennis Smith Jr., Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Others

January 24, 2017

By Alan Lu

Recently, I was able to watch NC State’s upset victory over Duke, as Dennis Smith Jr. put forth a terrific, 32-point, 6 assist performance to lead his team to a road win over their ACC opponent.  It was a riveting game that went back and forth as both teams traded leads, but ultimately NC State made enough plays in the end to get the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how Dennis Smith and other prospects fared in this game, as well as how they rate as prospects for the NBA.

NC State’s freshman point guard, Dennis Smith Jr. put forth an excellent performance, as he led his team to a narrow victory over Duke.  He displayed a terrific ability to shoot and score the basketball, and he also showed off solid playmaking and defensive skills in the win for his team.

Smith really excelled at knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He is a very good shooter that was able to knock down many pull-up threes, as he has a jab step and a step back move that he can use to create separation from defenders, and he was able to make timely shots from beyond the arc.  In addition, he can also draw fouls when taking jumpers to take advantage of defenders overplaying him.

Plus, he showed a magnificent ability to garner scores off the dribble.  Smith has a great first step, and he possesses a terrific combination of having speed, strength, and quickness to get all the way to the hoop.  He frequently was able to do so to garner scores around the basket, and he has the body control and finishing ability to excel as a scorer at the rim.  Plus, he also was able to garner a couple of scores driving to the hoop on fast breaks.

Smith also displayed very good playmaking skills in the victory over Duke.  He is a patient playmaker that plays with terrific poise, as he can change speeds when handling the basketball, and he can throw timely passes to his teammates to set up scores.  He will generally make accurate throws, as he possesses solid court vision.  But sometimes he may make decisions too slowly at times, and he can commit turnovers due to carelessness on occasion.

He also showed a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  Smith was fairly active on the glass, and he would take down long boards to push the pace, as he was able to get a fast break score off of one as a result in this game.  Plus, he also displayed adequate defensive skills, as he was able to jump a pass to get a steal to set up a three-point basket afterwards.

In general, Dennis Smith Jr. put forth an outstanding showing, as he played an excellent game to led his team to a two-point win over Duke.  He looks to be a surefire top 5 pick based on how well he played on this day, as well as how he has fared throughout this season, and he could end up making multiple All-Star teams in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward Jayson Tatum also played fairly well in a loss to NC State.  He generally excelled as a scorer on the floor, and he also showed off a solid set of all-around skills.  He showed a solid ability to garner scores in the paint.  Tatum is a very good low post scorer for a swingman, as he can score on a drop step move, as well as on a fadeaway turnaround jumper due to possessing the footwork and shooting touch to do so.  He also can score on quick put backs off of offensive rebounds.

Plus, he also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  He was able to use a pump fake to throw down a thunderous dunk to score at the rim, and he is a patient player that can score on quick, strong drives to the hoop.  But Tatum also had a tendency to try to overtly force the issue on offense, as he also tended to miss shots wildly around the basket.  He also showed the ability to knock down jumpers in this game.  Tatum was able to make an open three in the corner early on.  However, he struggled to make jumpers consistently as he had trouble making threes against NC State later in the contest.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Tatum showed a solid ability to find shooters off the dribble, and he also was able to make a crisp, accurate pass to a teammate on the roll to notch assists.  However, he also had a tendency to commit turnovers off the dribble, as he committed a traveling violation for his first one, and he ended up dribbling off his foot on his team’s final bid to tie or win the game.

Tatum also did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  He was especially active at hauling in defensive boards as he would frequently leap up to collect them, and he was able to capitalize on his lone offensive rebound to get a score afterwards.  He also displayed decent defensive skills.  For the positives, he showed a solid ability to collect blocks and steals, as he would use his length, athletic ability, and timing to swat shots to prevent opponents from getting easy shots up off the dribble, and he also was able to jump a pass to get a steal for his team.

However, he also had a tendency to commit silly fouls, as he struggled with his position defense on various occasions against NC State.   Tatum fouled a three-point shooter off of a pindown to give the other team three free throws early on, and he then committed a reach-in foul in the backcourt to get his second foul of the first half.  He also bit on a pump fake when defending off the dribble to commit his third foul.  In addition, there was one instance where he didn’t get back in transition, as his team allowed a dunk on a fast break.

In general, Jayson Tatum put forth an adequate showing in his team’s loss to NC State.  He generally excelled as an inside scorer, and he also excelled as a passer, rebounder, and help defender.  But he also struggled to make jumpers consistently, and picked up some bad fouls in this contest.  With his skill set, Tatum projects to be a likely lottery pick as he could end up being a solid player at the next level.

Duke’s 6-11 freshman center Harry Giles also played well in a loss to NC State, especially in the first half, despite receiving limited minutes and rarely getting on the floor in the second half of this match.  Giles showed off solid low post scoring skills.  He showed the ability to score on drop step moves and turnaround jumpers, and he can utilize a pump fake to draw a foul on an opposing defender.  On the downside, he missed both of his free throws when he was at the foul line.

Plus, he showed off a strong ability to finish plays around the basket, as he was able to throw down a thunderous dunk to get a score at the rim.  Also, Giles was able to make a face-up, mid-range jumper on the baseline.  Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills for a player his size.  Giles was able to make a good pass from the post to find an open shooter to set up a scoring chance for his team.  However, he also was caught trying to clear out with his arm when trying to post up off the ball, which led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.

Giles also did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active at crashing the glass, and he was especially active at hauling in numerous defensive boards to help his team on the floor.  Defensively, he may have been average at best.  For the positives, Giles was able to block a shot off of a drive in the first half.  However, he also gave up too much space to allow his opponent to knock down a mid-range jumper, and he committed two quick fouls early in the second half that later led to his benching for stretches.

In this game, Harry Giles played far better than I could have anticipated against NC State, as he showed off why he is being considered a possible lottery pick in 2017.  He showed off solid scoring and rebounding skills, as well as great athletic tools.  But he did have enough defensive lapses that led him to sit for key stretches in the second half.  Still, Giles is an intriguing prospect that could end up being a very good player in the NBA if he can realize his full potential in the league.

Duke’s 6-5 sophomore guard Luke Kennard also had a solid showing in a loss to NC State, as he showed off versatile scoring skills, passed the ball well, and was active defensively in this game.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor.  Kennard excelled at knocking down threes from beyond the arc, and he showed off a solid ability to score off the dribble, as he even made a runner in traffic.   Plus, he showed off very good playmaking skills as he showed a knack to find open shooters to set up scores.  However, he did commit a couple of turnovers, as he got stripped off of a drive, and threw an inaccurate pass that led to another.

He also rebounded the ball well.  Plus, he also was able to collect a couple of steals, as he was able to knock a ball away from an opposing ball handler, and he also was able to get a hand on a pass for another.  However, he showed a penchant for committing touch fouls, as he ended up fouling out of the game.

Overall, Luke Kennard excelled offensively and also managed to grab some rebounds as he consistently made plays for his team in this game.  He did struggle a bit defensively though, as he ended up fouling out.  But in general, he played a solid game, as he could be a good pick in the first round of the upcoming draft.

NC State’s 6-8 junior forward, Abdul-Malik Abu also put forth a solid showing as he helped lead his team to a narrow victory over Duke.  He excelled as a scorer and rebounder in the paint, and his vast athleticism and energy really gave Duke fits throughout the night.

Abu excelled as a finisher around the basket.  He was able to throw down powerful dunks at the rim, and he has very good hands to catch passes.  Also, he was able to throw down emphatic jams off of cuts as well as in transition.  Plus, he also managed to score on a tip in off of an offensive rebound.

In addition to this, he also showed a good ability to score off the dribble, and on one play, he was able to use a pivot move to knock down a fadeaway jumper.  Also, he was able to make a face-up mid-range jumper, though he was not as consistent in knocking those down in this game.

Also, Abu did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He hauled in numerous boards on both ends of the floor, and he was able to score on an offensive rebound when he was on the court.  He also showed off decent defensive skills.  Abu was able to contest a shot on a drive to force a miss.  But another time, he committed a hard foul on a drive on the break, as it looked to be questionable on whether or not if he was making a play for the ball, though it was ultimately ruled so.

In general, Abdul-Malik Abu had a very good game, as his athleticism and energy really gave NC State a boost against Duke.  He was able to throw down many dunks to finish plays around the basket, and he also came away with plenty of rebounds.  He is an interesting player that could potentially excel as a role player in the NBA.

Duke’s freshman combo guard, Frank Jackson also played fairly well in a loss to NC State.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer on the floor, and he also was active on the glass as well as on the defensive end.  Jackson was able to make a three in the corner to show off his shooting skills.  Plus, he really excelled as a scorer on the break, and on one play, he ran the floor to catch a lob pass to score on a magnetic alley-oop dunk in transition.  However, he did commit some turnovers.  Jackson struggled to protect the basketball at times, and he was inaccurate with some of his passes against NC State.

Jackson did do a decent job on the boards as well as on the defensive end.  He would crash the glass to haul in a couple of defensive rebounds, and on one instance, he would push the pace to set up scoring chances for his team.  Defensively, he played well early on, as he denied Smith the ball on one play, and he appeared to get a deflection due to possessing good length and timing on that possession.

In general, Jackson had a fairly good game, as he showed a glimpse of what he can do in the NBA.  He is a very athletic player that can shoot and score the basketball, and he has the athletic tools to excel defensively.  If he continues to hone his overall game, he could end up excelling at the next level.

Duke’s 6-5 senior guard, Matt Jones had a decent game in a loss to NC State.  He generally excelled as a shooter and passer in this game.  Offensively, he excelled at knocking down quick threes off the catch, and he also was able to score on a put back.

Plus, he made crisp, pinpoint passes, and he even made an accurate lob pass to set up a dunk on the break.  Defensively, he was able to jump passes to get steals, though he did run into some foul trouble.  In summary, Jones may be an intriguing prospect, as he could project to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.

For Duke’s junior guard Grayson Allen, he did not particularly have a great game, though he had his moments at times against NC State.   For the positives, he excelled as a scorer off the dribble, and he was able to make a nifty acrobatic layup in the first half.  Plus, he also passed the ball well, and was able to get a deflection defensively.

But he really struggled to shoot the basketball, as he missed numerous open three-point shots off the catch.  His teammates would get him wide open looks, but Allen was often unable to convert them into baskets for his team.   Also, he ended up committing a couple of turnovers off the dribble, as he would play a bit too out of control at times.

This was not a great game for Grayson Allen, and his shooting slumps may raise questions as to how well he may play in the NBA.  On one hand, he is a very athletic combo guard that can score the basketball, especially off the dribble, and he also is an adequate playmaker and defender that generally plays unselfishly.

On the other, he is a very streaky shooter that can struggle to knock down jumpers for stretches, and his questionable on-court antics have led him to miss some games this season.  Right now, Allen may be a very divisive prospect, but he could thrive in the NBA if he is given the proper circumstances and scenarios to succeed.

Other Notes:

NC State’s 6-8 freshman combination forward, Ted Kapita had a very good game in a win for his team.  He is an athletic, high motor player that plays with great energy, as he excelled as a finisher and rebounder in the paint.  Plus, he also showed a deft ability to make mid-range jumpers, and also score on off-ball motion plays.  He had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and though he fouled out, he may be an interesting player to keep an eye on in the future.

It was the second game back from Duke’s senior big man Amile Jefferson after he missed some time due to injury.  He may not have played as well as hoped, but he still looked to put forth a decent showing.  He was able to excel as a scorer on high post drives, as well as on a roll to the rim.  Jefferson also passed the ball well, and was active as a rebounder.  But defensively he struggled more, as he had a tendency to give up too much space to allow opponents to score on mid-range jumpers.  This game likely won’t affect Jefferson’s draft stock, as he has been a productive role player throughout his collegiate career, and his ability to contribute in many ways could enable him to be a second round pick in 2017.

Duke’s freshman center, Marques Bolden did not stand out nor have a great game, but he did have his moments at times.  While he will still need to improve his low post skills, he was able to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound, despite appearing to be in the lane much longer than three seconds.

He also showed off adequate defensive skills, as he was able to get his hands on a ball to help his team get a steal, but he also committed a touch foul when defending the post.  Right now, Bolden may be a project player that could potentially be an interesting developmental project if he were to declare for the upcoming draft later this year.

NC State’s 7-0 center, Omer Yurtseven did not have a great game, either.  He missed two shots, as he missed a face-up mid-range jumper, and he also missed an awkward looking jump hook in the post.  He also did not rebound the ball well.  Yurtseven did get one defensive board, but he also committed an over the back foul gong after an offensive rebound.  Defensively, he tended to commit fouls as he struggled to move his feet on that side of the ball.

Right now, Yurtseven looks to be a project player, but he also did not appear to be a very good athlete, as he may need to really improve his overall game in order to improve his chances to succeed at the next level.

In summary, the NC State-Duke game was a fascinating one to watch, as it was a fast-paced thriller in which both teams traded leads.  Duke appeared to have the upper hand midway through the game, but freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. did a great job of making shots and distributing the basketball to rally NC State from behind to get a terrific victory for his team.  Smith played really well on this day, as he looks to be a no-doubt top 5 pick based on his tremendous performance here, while most of the other prospects played well also.  As most of the prospects played well here, and both teams played spiritedly and competitively, this was a very fun game to watch.  Thank you for reading.