Evaluating Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, and Others in a Game Between Duke and Florida

December 7, 2016

By Alan Lu

Recently, some of Duke’s freshman players, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden have just become healthy to make their debut in college basketball.  This game presented an opportunity to see the two potential lottery picks in action, as both of them played in a game against Florida during the Jimmy V Classic.

In the actual game itself, it was close for the early part of the first half, and then Duke started to pull away from Florida to win by double digits.  Generally, Duke seemed to fare much better than the Gators in almost all facets of the game.  Here are my observations on how various prospects fared on this day.

Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward, Jayson Tatum had a solid showing in helping to lead his team to an 84-74 win over Florida.  He is a versatile all-around player that has a wide range of skills.  In this game, Tatum showcased good low post scoring skills.  He displayed solid footwork and shooting touch, as he was able to score on a quick spin move, as well as a fadeaway jumper on the block.  Plus, he also showed a good ability to make mid-range shots.  Tatum shot the ball well from that range, as he was able to knock down a spot up and pull-up jumper from the field.

Also, Tatum is a gifted athlete that excels as a scorer on fast breaks.  Tatum runs the floor very well, and he can beat his man down the court to get easy buckets in the open court.  Plus, he handles the ball like a point forward, as he was able to draw free throws on a drive in transition another time.

He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  Tatum has a quick first step, and he has the strength and body control to draw many free throws off of high post drives.  However, he would tend to force up shots in traffic at times, which would lead to misses in the paint.

One interesting tidbit was that Tatum did not shoot a three against Florida, despite having made 1 of 2 threes in his debut game against Maine.  Tatum was very reluctant to take outside shots, as he would often pass up threes to either look to score off the dribble, or he would pass the ball to a teammate altogether.  

Tatum also displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that handles the ball very well, and he would look to push the ball every time up the floor after getting a defensive rebound.  Tatum also excelled at making quick passes to find the open man in transition, and he also would find open shooters to set up scoring chances for his team.  But, he did commit a couple of turnovers due to carelessness.

He also rebounded the ball very well.  Tatum came away with a couple of tough defensive rebounds in traffic, he also dove on the ground to get another, and he also leapt up to get a one-handed defensive board on a separate occurrence.   Tatum showed great athletic ability, motor, and instincts, as he generally outworked his opponents on the glass in this game.

Tatum also showcased very good defensive skills.  Tatum is long and athletic, and he managed to collect two steals by using his length, quickness, and instincts, as he poked a ball away from an opposing ball handler the first time, and heaped on a loose ball on a separate play.  Plus, he excelled at blocking shots.  Tatum leapt up to block an opponent’s put back attempt, and almost got one earlier in the game as he appeared to cleanly swat a shot from behind, but was called for a foul instead.

However, Tatum did have a couple of miscues.  On one play, Tatum would overplay the shot, and then get beat to allow a score off the dribble.  Another time, he doubled off his man to help on a drive in the paint, but ended up leaving an open shooter to allow a three-point basket.   Every once in a while, Tatum would be called for a foul by aggressively trying to contest the shot to force a miss.  He did have some mistakes, but they were of the aggressive kind on defense.

In general, Jayson Tatum had a solid game, as he scored 22 points, and had 8 rebounds in the victory over Florida.  He seems to have a throwback, retro style, as he is like a point forward from the 1990s or the 2000s.   The only question so far may be, how well can Tatum space the floor at the next level?   But he does have a lot of skills to offer to teams, as he could end up being like a Jabari Parker type of player in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-5 sophomore guard, Luke Kennard put forth a very good performance to help lead his team to a win over Florida.  In this game, he showcased superb shooting and scoring skills, he generally passed the ball well, and he also played adequate defense to get his team the victory.

Kennard did a great job of shooting the basketball.  In the first half, he really excelled at making pull-up jumpers, especially from mid-range.  In the second half, Kennard did a terrific job of knocking down threes, and he also demonstrated a very good ability to make shots after running off of screens.  Plus, he showed a fairly good ability to get scores on half-court and full-court drives to the hoop.  While Kennard lacks an elite first step off the dribble, he is a patient, crafty player that can maneuver his way into the paint to make buckets around the basket.

Kennard also displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  He is a creative player that possesses solid court vision, as he was able to make a slew of sharply thrown interior passes to set up scores for his teammates.  But sometimes, he would try to make a fancy play that would lead to a turnover at times.

He also showcased adequate defensive skills.  He showed solid hands and surprising quickness on this end of the floor, as he had a knack of finding loose balls to collect steals for his team.  However, Kennard also had some trouble defending quicker players at times, especially when he was tasked to guard Kasey Hill, as he would end up committing fouls or allow scores as a result.

In general, Luke Kennard played very well in helping his team get a double-digit victory over Florida.  In this game, he scored 29 points, he made 5 threes, and he also had 3 assists, and 2 steals in a win for his team.   Right now, he looks to be a late first to second round prospect for the upcoming draft, as he could end up being a Voshon Lenard type of player in this league.

Duke’s 6-9 senior forward, Amile Jefferson had another terrific game, as he thoroughly dominated Florida in the Jimmy V Classic.  In a win for his team, he scored 24 points, and had 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists, and 1 steal on this day.  Jefferson did a very good job of consistently scoring in the post.  He frequently scored after using the drop step move, and he also was able to quickly catch a ball to throw down an emphatic dunk after using another drop step move on the court.

Plus, he showed a terrific ability to score off of hustle plays.  Jefferson is a smart offensive player that is agile and athletic. He often scored off quick put backs, and he also finished other numerous plays around the basket.   He excelled at scoring on fast breaks as he ran the floor very well, and he also showed a deft ability to score when operating as a roll man in the screen game.

He also displayed good playmaking skills.  Jefferson played unselfishly, as he would find open shooters to set up scores for his team.  His best assist of the game was when he passed the ball to Kennard on a dribble handoff play, and he set a screen to free up his teammate that helped his team make a three against Florida.  But, Jefferson also did commit a couple of turnovers in the post, as one was due to carelessness, and another was due to over-aggressiveness.

Jefferson also rebounded the ball incredibly well.  He was often quicker to the basketball than the opposition, and he would often capitalize on getting offensive boards by scoring on put backs afterwards.  He also is quick, and has strong hands, and he was able to get a one-handed defensive board in this game.

He also played solid defense.  Jefferson did an excellent job of blocking shots, and on one such play, he swatted a shot off of a drive, and managed to keep it inbounds by quickly finding a teammate before falling out of bounds to help his team.  Also, Jefferson excelled at forcing misses around the basket, and he also excelled at defending the post.  Plus, he also drew a charge as this helped show his strong position defense skills on the floor.

However, he did have a couple of defensive miscues, albeit they were minor.  Early in the game, he didn’t hedge on a screen to cut off penetration, as he ended up having to pick up his teammate’s man as his teammate struggled to fight through a screen, which led to his team allowing a score on a drive.  Also, he was called for a foul on another drive as well.

In summary, Amile Jefferson played excellent basketball to help his team get the win, and he also demonstrated great leadership skills in doing so.  Regardless of whether or not if he gets drafted, Jefferson may have the skills to end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Duke’s junior guard, Grayson Allen had a decent game in a win for his team.   Against Florida, he did a terrific job of passing the basketball, as he excelled at finding open shooters, as he would sometimes do so off the dribble, and he would long outlet passes in transition to set up other scores for his team.

Allen passed the ball really well, as he almost collected as many assists as the entire Florida team had on this night.  Plus, he also played decent defense, as he was able to jump a pass to get a steal.  On the other hand, he struggled to shoot or score the basketball very well, as he had trouble finding his rhythm from long distance, and he tended to miss drives wildly around the hoop.

But in general, Allen did a great job of helping Duke get the win on this day.  This game may not have necessarily helped his draft stock much or at all, but he played very unselfishly, and his passing ability combined with his basketball IQ helped his team get the victory over Florida.

Other Notes:

Florida’s 6-8 junior forward, Devin Robinson may have had the best game among all of the players on his team that played against Duke.  Though he had a slow start in the first half, Robinson went on to have a solid second half as the game wore on.  Robinson generally excelled as a finisher around the basket.  He showed a deft ability to score on hustle plays, as he showed a knack for scoring off cuts, put backs, and broken plays.  

He also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble, and he also made a three late in the game from NBA distance, as Robinson probably should have looked to take more threes, especially earlier in the first half when he was not asserting himself on offense against Duke.

Defensively, Robinson seems to have potentially a great deal of potential to develop on this end due to his vast athletic ability.  He has great leaping skills that can allow him to make a chase down block, even though it was called for a goaltend in his attempt to hustle back on defense to prevent a fast break layup.  Robinson also has the length and athletic ability to jump passing lanes to get steals.

On the other hand, Robinson would rely too much on his raw athleticism at times.  Sometimes, he would forget to block out, which would lead to his team to allow put back scores.  Other times, he would try to leap up to get boards, but would commit an over the back foul in doing so.  Also, he was prone to committing touch fouls on defense, despite making a good effort to contest shots and get stops for his team.

In this game, Devin Robinson scored 11 points on 7 shots, made his only three-point attempt,  and he also had 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block in a loss to Duke.  He is a very athletic, energetic forward that could project to be a defensive specialist in the NBA, and if he continues to work on his outside shot, he could perhaps end up being a Jerami Grant type of player in the association.

Florida’s 6-11 junior center, John Egbunu put forth an uneven performance, as he had his highs and lows throughout the game.  He did not particularly shoot the ball well, but he was very active in crashing the glass, especially on offense, and he also excelled at blocking shots.

Egbunu was active at crashing the offensive glass, and he was able to get plenty of chances to score off of put backs.  He tended to draw many free throws, but he struggled to finish plays consistently in traffic.  He did show great strength and quickness, but sometimes he would rush his shots, and he would not always get great lift to make plays around the basket.  He did generally show an adequate ability to finish other plays around the basket, as he can draw free throws on broken plays, and Egbunu also ran the floor to throw down a dunk on the break.  

But, he struggled to consistently score in the post, despite often getting deep post position on the block.  Egbunu generally missed plenty of jump hooks, as he had trouble finding his shooting touch from the block, even from close range.

Egbunu had some trouble with turnovers, as he made a bad pass once from the post when trapped, and stepped out after catching a pass on another occasion.  Generally, he did a very good job of rebounding the basketball and blocking shots, but Egbunu also had some trouble guarding Jefferson and Duke consistently on the court.

Right now, John Egbunu looks to be a borderline second round candidate.  He has good physical tools, as he has great strength as well as possessing solid quickness, as this enables him to get many rebounds and blocks.  

However, he will need to improve offensively, as he struggled to finish many plays in the paint, and he often had trouble scoring in the post.  If he can improve upon his weaknesses, he could end up being a solid backup center in the NBA.

Florida’s 6-1 senior point guard, Kasey Hill also put forth a fairly good showing, as he scored 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in a loss to Duke.  Hill did a great job of attacking the basket to garner scores off the dribble, as well as in transition.  He has very good speed, strength, and body control to finish plays around the basket.  On the other hand, he struggled to make pull-up, mid-range jumpers, and he did not take any threes in this game.

He also displayed adequate defensive skills.  Hill was able to swat a shot off of a drive to get a block in this game.  However, he also tended to commit reach in fouls, as he would tend to pick up quick fouls at times.

Right now, Hill may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.  But if he keeps playing as well as he did today, he could ascend up draft boards.  Most likely, he will find his way onto an NBA summer league roster, and if things break his way, he could end up being a Carlos Arroyo type of player in this league.

Duke’s 6-3 freshman guard, Frank Jackson did not play nearly as well as he did against Michigan State.  He did make a wide open three off the catch, but he generally struggled to get into a rhythm on offense, nor was he able to create shots off the dribble as well as he did previously.

He was fairly tentative on offense, and he also picked up a couple of fouls in the first half, which may have prevented him from being able to establish anything consistently on offense.  Right now, Jackson is an intriguing prospect, but he just did not play well on this day, and he will need to be a more consistent performer in the future.

Duke’s 6-11 freshman center, Marques Bolden put forth a very disappointing showing against Florida.  He picked up a couple of quick fouls, and he ended up back on the bench only after playing for a couple of minutes in the first half.

The fouls he committed were due to inattentiveness, as he did not block out, and ended up fouling on an opponent’s put back attempt for the first one, and he lost track of a cutter to commit a second one.  Because of this, he sat for what ended up being the remainder of the game, as Duke did not need him to play, as Jefferson and the rest of the team played very well without him having to participate in this match.  He did make one good play, though.  On defense, he helped trap an opposing ball handler to force that player to try a difficult pass from the sidelines, which ended up being intercepted by Duke.

Right now, Bolden may look to be a project player for the time being.  This game is hardly anything to judge him off of, if anything, it speaks volumes of the depth and talent that Duke has on their team.  

Florida’s 6-2 sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen scored 21 points, as he showed a solid ability to score off of drives as well as off of threes.  He did not pass the ball very well though, as he may not have the skills to be a point guard in the NBA just yet.  He may not be on many teams’ draft boards, but his ability to score the basketball could make him a prospect for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Florida’s 6-8 senior forward Justin Leon showed the ability to score off of offensive rebounds, and he also showed some nice range as he made a three from NBA distance in this game.  

Duke’s 6-5 senior guard Matt Jones continued to have another disappointing showing, as he did not score, and picked up some bad fouls as he intentionally fouled a player in the low post, though he was bailed out by the fact that Egbunu later missed both of those free throws.  

Jones did make one good defensive play by staying in front of an opposing point guard as he forced his man to lose the basketball.  He also played unselfishly, as he showed a willingness to share the ball to help his team on offense.  But generally, Jones had an underwhelming game, as he has seemed to be regressing as a player at the moment, as he has had not consistently shot the ball well recently.

So that is all for now.  Thank you for reading.