Evaluating Prospects in the Kansas-Duke Game

November 16, 2016

by Alan Lu

After seeing last night’s thriller between Kansas and Duke in which Frank Mason hit the game winner to get his team a 77-75 win last night, here are my observations of various prospects that played in that game.

This was a much better game for Kansas’ 6-8 freshman forward Josh Jackson.  He did have a slow start in the first half due to foul trouble, but he had a very strong 2nd half to help lead Kansas to a come from behind victory over Duke.

Jackson did a very good job of scoring the basketball, as he was able to get plenty of scores off the dribble as well as in transition.  He has a very good first step, and he can knock down pull-up jumpers or go all the way to the basket.   He also made a three, as he has been showing improved range on the floor.

Plus, he showed solid playmaking skills, as he passed and handled the ball very well, and displayed outstanding court vision.   Jackson is like a tall, point forward on the floor, as he would make strong drive and kick passes to set up a wealth of scoring chances for his teammates.  He also made sound rotations defensively, as he would be active in the passing lanes to help his team get a steal.

On the downside, he did end up fouling out as the referees were calling lots of fouls throughout, but plenty of them looked quite questionable at best, as Jackson was called for what seemed like incidental contact a few times on defense.  In general, this was a strong bounce back game for Jackson.  If some were wondering why he is largely considered to be a top 3 pick after the Indiana game, his performance against Duke likely suggested that he has quelled the doubters.

Jackson scored 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting, and also made a countless number of good passes that did not show up in the box score, and this performance may have helped his cause in his quest to be the top pick of the upcoming draft.

Kansas’ senior guard, Frank Mason had another solid game in a win over Duke.  After a slow first half start, he came on strong in the second, as he ended up making the game winner on a pull-up, mid-range jumper to win the game for his team.

Mason struggled with his jump shot in the first half, but really started getting in a groove in the second half.   He drove to the basket relentlessly, as he was able to make one tough score after another.   Mason does a great job of initiating the contact, as his speed, body control, and finishing ability make him a terrific scorer in the paint.

While he struggled with his jump shot for a considerable portion of the game, Mason made one when it counted the most, in crunch time in the final offensive possession for his team.   He hit a big shot as he made a step back, pull-up jumper to get his team the victory, as Mason’s clutch performance surely will help his draft stock.

Junior point guard Devonte’ Graham kept Kansas in the game early, as he would help his team offensively in the early going.  He scored off of cuts, as well as some off the dribble, and Graham also did a good job of getting everyone involved offensively.  Graham also would hit cutters to display solid court vision, and generally he did a good job of running the team at the point in this game.

Duke’s sophomore swingman, Luke Kennard showed strong offensive skills in a loss to Kansas.   In this game, he had 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.  He shot the ball well, as he made 2 threes, and he also made strong nifty drives to the hoop to garner other scores.   Plus, Kennard would make strong drive and kick passes, as he sees the floor well to help get his team assists.

Generally speaking, Luke Kennard had a solid game, as he showed a lot of smarts and skills when he was on the floor.  If he continues to play as well as he did, he could contend to be a first round pick in 2017.

Duke’s redshirt senior forward, Amile Jefferson had a fairly decent game in a loss to Kansas.  Despite being plagued with turnover and foul trouble, Jefferson showed strong scoring skills, as his team played well when he was on the floor.  Jefferson did a good job of finishing plays in the paint.   He displayed a strong ability to score using off-ball movement, and he also was able to get scores off the dribble, as well as in the post.

He also defended well when he was on the floor, as he would make solid rotations, and get his team key stops in the game.   He even was able to body up the much bigger Azubuike in the post to force a miss.  But he did struggle with turnovers, as he had some trouble due to inaccurate passing and footwork, and he also ended up fouling out.

Amile Jefferson scored 12 points on 6 shots, as his scoring output and defense seemed to help Duke stay in the game.  While this game will not likely change his draft stock, Jefferson is a smart player that has shown to be able to help his team in many factors of the game.

Kansas’ freshman center Udoka Azubuike rebounded and defended well.  He was a force in the paint on the defensive side of the ball, as he showed an outstanding knack to grab rebounds, sometimes by plucking balls very quickly before his opponents would get the chance to do so.  He also excelled at blocking shots, as he helped strengthen Kansas’ interior defense by making it tough for Duke’s players to get their shots up in the paint.

Offensively, Azubuike shows some promise, as he finished some nice plays around the basket.  However, his low post game still needs work, as he had some misses, even when matched up against the much skinnier Amile Jefferson.  Still, there is much to like about Azubuike’s chances to be in the NBA in the future.  In this game, he had 6 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 block in 15 minutes off the bench, and he could end up being a Brendan Haywood type of player in this league.

Duke’s freshman combo guard Frank Jackson generally shot the ball well in this game.  He scored 11 points, and made 2 threes in a loss to Kansas.   He also showcased the ability to score off the dribble.   Defensively, he pressured the ball handler quite well, as he shows promise as a position defender.  Right now, Jackson projects to be a microwave type of scorer at the next level, as he could be a first round prospect in future drafts.

Duke’s senior guard Matt Jones generally shot the ball well, as he made 3 spot up threes for Duke, and ended up scoring 12 points overall.  He often knocked down outside shots when opponents would leave him open, and Jones was quite reliable as a shooter from beyond the arc.  Jones may perhaps be a long shot to be drafted, but his outside shot gives him a fair chance to make an NBA team sometime in the near future.

Kansas’ sophomore forward, Carlton Bragg got into foul trouble early, but when he was in the game late in the second half, he hit a couple of key shots, as he made some notable mid-range jumpers.   He also was able to get some shots at the rim to help his team get additional scores.  Bragg only played 16 minutes due to being in foul trouble, but he did score 9 points on 5 shots.  While he did not seem to play as well as he did in the first game, Bragg displayed good offensive skills in this game against Duke.

Also for Kansas, junior swingman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk struggled with his jump shot, but passed the ball well.  Sophomore combo guard, Lagerald Vick struggled with his jump shot, showcased solid athleticism and driving skills as he excelled at scoring in the paint for his team.

Duke’s sophomore forward Chase Jeter had a good opportunity to showcase his skills, and he had a decent game.  He was aggressive as the roll man after setting screens for his team, as he was able to get many free throws afterwards.   Jeter also showcased the ability to score in the post, though he did also end up committing several turnovers.

Defensively, Jeter was very active, as he would use his length, quickness, and timing to block many shots.   He did struggle to rebound the basketball, and ended up in foul trouble, but generally Jeter provided an interior presence for his team.

With Giles and Bolden out, this was a good chance for Jeter to show Duke that he is worthy of getting minutes in their rotation as the year progresses.  Jeter’s defense may be ahead of his offense right now, but generally he seemed to play fairly well, as his shot blocking provided interior defense help for his team.

But it was a bad game for Duke’s junior guard, Grayson Allen.  He struggled with his offense for most of the game, as he had trouble scoring the ball consistently.  Allen actually started off excelling as a passer, as he would attack off the dribble to find open teammates to pick up assists.   But defenders started keying in on his drives, and dared him to take jumpers, which lead Allen forcing up quick jumpers that led to misses.

While every once in a while, Allen would score on a strong drive to the hoop, he would rush up his shots other times that would lead to awkward misses.  Allen could not get much going offensively, as he ended up scoring just 12 points on 15 shots in this game.

Right now, this may not hurt Allen’s stock too much, but there are some questions about his game moving forward.   Though he is a solid scorer off the dribble, Allen can be quite inconsistent as a shooter, and does not always display great court vision on offense.   It is uncertain if he can play the point, and as he is undersized to play the two, he may end up struggling against longer defenders at the next level.

Most likely, Grayson Allen may end up being a late first to second round prospect.  His scoring ability and athleticism will have NBA scouts and teams enticed, but if he continues to struggle with his jump shot, his draft stock could end up taking a hit when we get closer to draft day.

So those were my observations on how the prospects played in last night’s game.  There will be more that will be soon to come later on, and thank you for reading.