Evaluating Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels in the 2021 State Farm Champions Classic

November 10th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Yesterday was buzzing with excitement and anticipation, as potential number one overall pick Paolo Banchero made his season debut with Duke against a Kentucky team that featured a couple of first round draft prospects.  Banchero was every bit as good as advertised, and he also went above and beyond the call.  Another player stood out and also turned in a very impressive performance, and that was Duke’s freshman point guard, Trevor Keels.  Banchero and Keels teamed up to dominate throughout the night, as they scored 47 points in total, and they led Duke to get the win over Kentucky.  Here are my thoughts on how they and other various prospects fared in this game.

Duke’s freshman forward, Paolo Banchero scored 22 points and hauled in 7 rebounds in his team’s win over Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic.
(Photo:
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

Paolo Banchero had a terrific game in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He especially thrived as a shot maker and scorer on offense, and he is a very polished player that did just about everything well in this game. Banchero did a great job of scoring in the post.  He was able to use a strong, drop step move to score on a switch of hands layup.  On an elbow isolation play, he used a quick shake, and then managed to score on a crafty, fadeaway baseline jumper.  He possesses really good footwork and shooting touch, and Banchero may be the best pure scorer in this draft.

He also showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  Banchero was able to score on a thunderous dunk off of a cut early on.  He also managed to score on another backdoor cut while drawing a free throw another time.  He also showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  Banchero has a quick spin move that he can utilize to get past defenders, and he also has a solid stutter step move that he can use to throw off his opponents’ timing.  He showed a knack for drawing free throws on strong moves to the hoop, and he also used a crafty ball fake to get to the foul line once.  He did miss on a quick left-handed drive early on, but he was very effective in getting to the hoop to score and get free throws throughout this game.

He also was very effective in scoring on mid-range jumpers.  Banchero was able to use a crossover to make a smooth, pull-up jumper early on. He also used a series of quick, swift dribble moves to score quickly on a long two.  Banchero showed a knack for scoring on pull-up jumpers, and he quickly established himself as a very good mid-range shooter when he was on the floor.  Unfortunately though, he appeared to be much less comfortable in taking threes, and he missed on all of his three-point shots from beyond the arc.  That was the one thing he didn’t do well in this game, but Banchero’s tremendous ability to score when taking two-pointers and also get to the foul line really helped Duke throughout the night.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Banchero played unselfishly, and he also showed that he can comfortably handle the ball, as there were times where he would be the team’s point forward.  He also managed to pass out of a double team when posting up to find an open corner shooter.  He did push off with his left arm on a right-handed drive once, which led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover that time.

Banchero did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active in crashing the defensive glass, and he would chase down balls to help his team get defensive rebounds.  He also would sometimes bring the ball up the floor after getting them.  On the other hand, there was one play where he didn’t box out his man and allowed an opponent to get an offensive rebound in his area.

He also played solid defense in this game.  While Banchero wasn’t really tasked to guard an elite prospect or a key offensive player in this game, and he was often matched up against Obi Toppin’s younger brother, Jacob Toppin, Banchero still defended well against Kentucky.  Banchero was focused and committed to getting steals and stops on this end of the floor.  He was able to intercept a pass to get an early steal, and he also tied up an opponent in the post to force another turnover.  Banchero was active in deflecting passes, and he also would jump on loose balls to help his team get steals.  He also did a good job of actively contesting floaters and mid-range jumpers to force numerous misses.  On the downside, he would sometimes lose track of his man on backdoor cuts.  A couple of times, he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, as he didn’t cut off penetration once, and got beat off the dribble another time that led to a scramble situation.

Overall, Paolo Banchero brought forth a magnificent performance to help Duke defeat Kentucky on this day.  He was very impressive as a shooter and scorer on offense.  He did a great job of making mid-range jumpers off the dribble, and he often would score in the post and on off-ball motion plays.  He showed a knack for making plays when the ball was in his hands, and he tended to make smart, sound plays on both ends of the floor.  Right now, he looks to be a strong contender to be the top pick in the 2022 draft, and he is a very good player that could be a franchise player in the NBA.

Duke’s freshman guard, Trevor Keels scored 25 points and had 3 steals in his team’s win over Kentucky in the 2021 State Farm Champions Classic.
(Photo:
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press, via CBS 17)

Trevor Keels had an excellent showing in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He played a very good, all-around game, and he was especially impressive as a scorer on offense.  He did a great job of scoring off the dribble.  He is a strong, powerful guard that can quickly get to the hoop, and he would often score on strong, right-handed drives to the hoop.  He also changes directions well, and he was able to drive left off of a screen and then go to his right to draw free throws.  He also does a good job of taking on the contact to score and draw fouls.  On the downside, he would sometimes try to be too fancy when trying to score, but he was very effective in taking the ball to the rim to score overall.

Keels also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He did a very good job of running the floor to score in transition.  He also managed to catch a lob pass to score off of an inbounds play while drawing an extra free throw.  Keels is a high-flyer that would often overpower defenders when driving to the hoop.  He also managed to score on a turnaround jumper when posting up another time. He also showed that he can comfortably knock down pull-up jumpers. He didn’t take many threes, but he was able to make a pull-up from way out in this game.

He also displayed satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  Keels did a good job of throwing accurate interior passes to set up scores for roll men on the move.  He also was able to make a drive and kick pass to get the ball to a teammate another time.  On the downside, he would sometimes be careless when handling the ball, as he would be prone to committing ball-handling turnovers every once in a while.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Keels was able to get one defensive board.  He also defended fairly well.  Keels was able to poke a ball away to help his team get a steal.  He also stayed with his opponent and prevented his man from properly executing a dribble handoff play, and he was able to poke the ball away to get a steal.  He also managed to contest a corner three to force a miss.  On the downside, he would sometimes not be in position when defending opponents off he dribble.

Overall, Trevor Keels put forth a fantastic performance in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He is a very athletic combo guard that had a strong, all-around game, and he especially thrived as a scorer when he was on the floor.  He really helped himself by having a strong Champions Classic showing, and he is a very talented prospect that could be a lottery pick in the 2022 draft.

Wendell Moore Jr. played very well in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He did a good job of making plays on both ends of the floor, and he especially was effective as a scorer and facilitator in this game. Moore showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He was able to run the floor to score on the break.  He also ran in to score on a very athletic, tip slam another time.  He also did a good job of scoring off the dribble.  He showed that he can finish plays using either hand, and he also was able to utilize a quick rip move to his right to score on a thunderous dunk once.  He also managed to score on a turnaround jumper from the high post, and he also was effective at knocking down mid-range jumpers.  On the downside, he ended up missing both of the corner threes he took in this game.

He also showcased satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  Moore can throw long, accurate passes to set up scores for his teammates.  He did a good job of finding his teammates on the move, and he generally made good reads on offense.  Sometimes though, he would lose the ball when handling it, and he also threw a low pass that was dropped and intercepted another time.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Moore would deflect passes and poke balls away to help his team on the defensive end.  On the downside, he would sometimes space out can get caught ball watching, which would lead him to stray away too far off his man, and allow opponents to score on open three-point shots.  He also would sometimes struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and he tripped an opponent once that led him to commit the foul.

Overall, Moore had a strong showing in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He excelled at attacking the hoop to score the basketball, and he is a high-flyer that can finish plays above the rim.  He also generally passed the ball well.  He helped himself by turning in a good game in his team’s win over Kentucky, and Moore could end up going in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

Duke’s sophomore center, Mark Williams had a solid showing in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He is an athletic center that primarily excelled as an interior defender in this game.  Williams excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He was able to catch a lob pass to score on a roll to the rim.  He also managed to score on a tip-in.  On the downside, he would sometimes miss on tip-ins, as he would not always look to play under control when he would look to score off of offensive rebounds. Williams also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he also was able to show that he can strong rebounds in this game.  On one play though, he was called for committing an over the back foul when going for an offensive board once.

He also played good defense in this game.  Williams did a great job of blocking shots to help his team protect the paint.  He also would intercept passes and jump on loose balls to help his team get steals.  He was very effective at challenging shots in the post and off the dribble to force misses.  On the downside, there was one play where he bit on a pump fake, and allowed a score in the post.  He also sagged too far off of a mid-range shooter when defending on a switch, and he didn’t contest the shot, as he allowed a score that time.

Overall, Mark Williams is an athletic, high-motor big man that especially excelled as a defender in this game.  He’ll need to expand his game offensively, but his blend of size, athleticism, and defensive skills could enable him to go in the first round of the 2022 draft.

Oscar Tshiebwe had 17 points and 19 rebounds, as he was three points and one rebound away from a 20 point, 20 rebound performance in his team’s loss to Duke.
(Photo:
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press, via LEX18)

Oscar Tshiebwe played very well in his team’s loss to Duke.  He did a very good job of scoring and rebounding in the paint, and he was tremendous on the offensive glass.  12 of his 19 rebounds came on the offensive end, and he consistently outworked opponents on the glass to help his team get extra chances to score on offense. Tshiebwe did a good job of scoring in the post.  He was able to use a pump fake to score down low.  He also managed to score on a powerful dunk another time.  He also used an overhead ball fake and scored on a step-through move while getting an extra free throw.  He was very effective when scoring around the basket in this game.  He also was active in looking to score on hustle plays.  Tshiebwe managed to catch lobs to score on rolls to the rim.  He also managed to score on a couple of put backs.  Sometimes though, he would miss shots around the basket, and he would struggle to score at times when trying to finish through contact and in traffic, especially since it was rare for him to draw fouls in this match.

He also took an open mid-range shot, but missed.  He also attempted to score on a right-handed drive, but he went up too weakly that time and ended up missing the shot instead.  On the downside, Tshiebwe was a bit turnover prone on offense.  He was able to pass the ball to a teammate on a dribble handoff play to notch an assist.  On the other hand, he would sometimes be careless with the ball on offense.  He threw a bad pass when posting up, which got intercepted by a defender.  He also got tied up when posting up another time.  He also dropped a pass as a trailer in transition, which led to a team turnover on a separate possession.

In this game, Tshiebwe did a tremendous job on the boards.  He was excellent as an offensive rebounder against Duke, and he would consistently haul in boards on both ends of the floor.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Tshiebwe was able to block a couple of shots to help his team protect the paint.  He also managed to contest a shot in the post to force a miss.  On the downside, he would sometimes not rotate in time or be too aggressive in trying to contest shots, which would lead his team to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Oscar Tshiebwe had a strong showing in his team’s loss to Duke.  He especially did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he was effective as a low post scorer, especially in the second half.  He’ll need to show NBA teams that he can knock down outside shots and also make plays off the dribble.  Regardless, he played very well in this game.  He could be Kentucky’s best player and go-to scorer this season, and he could end up being a good find for an NBA team in the 2022 draft.

Sahvir Wheeler played fairly well in his team’s loss to Duke.  He was surprisingly effective as an offensive player in the first half and early in the second half.  He is a quick, agile point guard that can get into the lane to score and distribute the basketball.  Wheeler did a good job of scoring on spot-up threes off the catch.  He also showed a knack for scoring on smooth, pull-up jumpers.  He also was able to score on left-handed drives to the hoop.  On the downside, he also would sometimes struggle to score in traffic, especially when going up against taller defenders in the paint, and he had several of his shots blocked.

He also displayed satisfactory playmaking skills.  Wheeler was especially effective as a facilitator off the dribble, and he can make an assortment of passes to set up scores for his teammates.  He also did a good job of throwing lob passes to set up scores for roll men.  On the downside, he would sometimes over-dribble, which would lead to ball-handling turnovers.  He also would throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.

Overall, Sahvir Wheeler had a satisfactory showing in this game.  He was effective as a shot creator on offense, and he also showed that he can shoot the basketball.  He’ll need to improve his ability to finish plays in traffic and show teams that he can defend taller players, but he is a skilled, gritty playmaker that was able to keep his team in this contest for most of the way.

Kellan Grady quietly played well in his team’s loss to Duke.  He excelled as a spot-up shooter, and he particularly was effective in knocking down corner threes to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He was less effective when he would try to create off the dribble, and he missed on a mid-range runner.  Defensively, he was average at best.  He was able to poke a ball away to nearly get a steal.  On the downside, he would tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to allow scores to the opposition.

Overall, Grady shot the ball well, and he did a good job as a floor spacer on offense.  He didn’t seem to take enough shots on offense, and he didn’t stand out in the non-shooting or scoring-related elements of this game.  He tended to make smart, sound plays offensively, and he is a borderline second round candidate that could be a versatile, offensive-minded guard in a team’s rotation in the NBA someday.

For Keion Brooks, his performance in this game was a mixed bag.  He was inconsistent in knocking down shots, but he did show the ability to score off the dribble and make spot-up jumpers.  He also managed to score on a powerful tip slam after leaping up to get an offensive rebound.  He played adequate defense, as he was able to intercept a pass to get a steal, but he also was prone to committing reach-in fouls.  Overall, he had his ups and downs, but he’ll need to be a more consistent performer to help his team more in the future.

Tyty Washington was a massive disappointment in his team’s loss to Duke.  Advertised as a speedy point guard that can ably shoot, score, and make plays for himself and others, he just did not play well at all. He often would miss on pull-up jumpers both from mid-range and from beyond the arc. He was at his best when driving to his right to score, as he was able to make a mid-range floater and a layup, and he also pulled up to score just outside the right elbow. On the downside, he tended to miss tough, contested shots in traffic, and he had trouble scoring against the length and size of Duke’s defenders.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills. Washington showed that he can make solid passes off the dribble to notch assists, but he didn’t pass the ball nearly enough in this game. He also would throw weak passes that would get intercepted, and he also dropped the ball on a dribble handoff that went out of bounds another time. He also struggled defensively. He had trouble guarding taller, stronger opponents, and he would sometimes get caught and stuck on screens, which would put his team in scramble situations and lead them to allowing scores at the rim. Overall, Tyty Washington had a poor showing in this game. He is an athletic point guard, but he struggled to make plays, and he didn’t shoot the ball very well in his team’s loss to Duke. Hopefully, he will play much better, and Kentucky will need him to bounce back this season.

Duke’s 6-9 fifth-year senior big man, Theo John played well, and he was effective in his role in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He excelled as a scorer on rolls to the rim, and he would score powerfully to finish plays around the basket.  He also managed to score on a dunk on a roll to the hoop.  He missed on a left-handed drive, though, and he didn’t look to take jumpers from outside the paint area.  He set good screens for his team on offense, and John was able to set a firm screen to help his teammate score on an open jump shot once.

He also was active at crashing the glass to help his team get some rebounds, but he also committed a loose ball foul when going for an offensive rebound another time.  John played solid defense in this game.  He excelled at blocking shots off the dribble to help his team protect the paint.  Overall, John is a strong, mobile big man that made solid team plays on both ends of the floor, and he provided his team with good minutes to help them get the win in this game.

Duke’s freshman forward, A.J. Griffin didn’t play very much in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He was barely noticeable in the first half, but he managed to see some extended playing time in the second half.  He struggled to knock down his jumpers, but he was able to score on a strong backdoor cut in traffic. He played decent defense in this game.  He was active in contesting outside shots to force misses, and he showed good feet to guard opponents out on the perimeter.  He struggled to defend a drive in the first half, as his team allowed a score.  He also committed an aggressive, over the back foul when going for an offensive rebound another time.

Overall, A.J. Griffin didn’t do much in this game, but he is an athletic forward that can make hustle plays.  He’ll need to show NBA teams that he can shoot, create off the dribble, and facilitate.  He’ll have to work his way into the team’s rotation, and if he can play up to his potential, Duke could have a really potent and formidable team this season.

I didn’t really notice Daimion Collins at all in this game.  He played briefly, and he committed an unmemorable foul and a turnover in his team’s loss to Duke.  He did not stand out whatsoever, but hopefully he can get more playing time in the future.  Otherwise, his draft stock could see a precipitous drop if he doesn’t play much this season.

Curiously, Dontaie Allen didn’t play in this game.  I was looking forward to watching him play.  I have not seen him play in a live basketball game, but he did score 23 points and make 7 threes in his team’s double OT win over Mississippi State last season.  Theoretically, Allen would’ve given Kentucky another shooter out on the perimeter, but head coach John Calipari did not play him in his team’s loss to Duke.

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