The Duke Blue Devils have the top recruiting class in the nation and they rolled out all potential one-and-done freshmen alongside senior Grayson Allen in their home opener against the Elon Phoenix. As expected, the Blue Devils ran away with a 97-68 win, but we still got an opportunity to make some initial assessments of their young NBA prospects in their first competitive college game.
Marvin Bagley III, PF/C
Marvin Bagley was the most impressive player on the floor in Duke’s opener, which is saying something considering senior Grayson Allen could put together a National Player of the Year campaign this season. The 6-foot-11 big man finished with a double-double on 12-of-18 shooting.
Bagley displayed impressive athleticism — see the dunk below for an example — with a quick second jump and the ability to elevate in traffic that combined with an always running motor should allow him to be a productive college player as he develops his overall skill level. For example, he was consistently active on the boards at both ends of the floor and finished with 10 rebounds.
Bagley also collected a Duke freshman record 25 points as he scored in a variety of ways. There were certainly plenty of baskets created by others, but Bagley showed off a nice left-handed hook in the post and was active on the offensive glass. On the block, he’s a quick mover, which can be a challenge for defenders if they’re not ready. It also allows Bagley to beat double teams before they arrive. If there’s a criticism of his play in the post it’s this: Bagley goes to his left hand on nearly every shot attempt, even transitioning back to it on one play after turning over his left shoulder.
Bagley is clearly still developing his perimeter offense. He wasn’t able to attack off of face-ups from the 3-point line in this one despite occasionally being presented with those opportunities. His jumper also wasn’t falling. Bagley finished 0-for-2 from behind the arc and hit just one of his four free throw attempts. Although I’m not a shot doctor, it’s clear from the varying arcs that Bagley’s stroke isn’t repetitive with his jumper occasionally featuring a high arc or looking like it was pushed towards the basket.
Going forward, it’ll be interesting to track how head coach Mike Krzyzewski uses Bagley on offense. Krzyzewski has a history of letting his best players go to work in isolation against mismatches and if Bagley develops his perimeter game, we could see some more of that as the season rolls on. There were a few hints those plays will be coming. At one point in the first half, the Blue Devils ran a ball screen with Bagley as the ball-handler and Allen as the screener.
Defensively, Bagley had a few question marks. At times, his higher hips prevent him from getting down into a stance and he can get beat off the bounce. It’s not immediately clear how much of Bagley’s defensive woes on the perimeter were the result of a lack of mobility, a lack of fundamentals or part of Duke’s defensive scheme, which emphasizes disrupting passing lanes. Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of rim protection. Bagley finished with zero blocks, although he spent much of the game guarding Elon’s stretch 4.
Bagley’s athleticism and motor create an interesting baseline for a player with his size. Whether or not he can challenge Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic for the No. 1 pick, though, will hinge on his skill development over the course of this season.
Trevon Duval, PG
Trevon Duval delivered as advertised. The 6-foot-3 point guard finished with 8 points and 8 assists in 24 minutes. Duval was clearly in facilitation mode as he took just seven field goal attempts and didn’t get to the foul line.
Most notably, Duval showed off the ability to use his quickness to get into the teeth of the defense and find open teammates. He’s an excellent ball-handler in tight spaces in large part because he can get his shoulders lower than his defender and beat them off the bounce. His feel for the game was on full display at the end of the first half when he slipped into the lane after turning down a ball screen and dumped a behind the back pass to Bagley who finished with an athletic two-handed slam:
Duval’s jump shot is clearly not there yet and it’s something that will limit his ceiling unless he can clean it up. Duval finished 0-for-3 on shots outside of the paint as he often seemed unwilling to take open looks when the defense went under ball screens. At worst, the freshman guard needs to develop the ability to knock down open mid-range looks when the big sags off.
Defensively, Duval was decent. He occasionally used his length to disrupt passing lanes or swipe at ball-handlers challenge him with penetration. His 6-foot-10 wingspan will make the Blue Devils more comfortable switching 1 through 5 this season.
Wendell Carter, PF/C
Of the four potential one-and-done prospects, Carter had probably the most uninteresting opener. He committed three fouls early in the first half, which limited him to just 16 minutes in the contest. However, he finished with eight points and six boards in limited action.
Carter often looked like he was trying to figure out where he fits in offensively as he was probably the player most affected by the teams decision to play with two more traditional bigs. Carter has the potential to be a potent post scorer, but without much room to operate, it’s difficult.
The 6-foot-10 big man may ultimately be at his best on this roster as a garbage man around the rim, cleaning up misses and finishing with powerful dunks like this one:
Gary Trent Jr., SG
Whether or not Trent will be a one-and-done prospect is up for debate, but the 6-foot-6 shooting guard certainly has a defined NBA skill. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field while knocking down four of his five 3-point attempts. Trent didn’t do a ton of shooting on the move as most of his looks came on spot up catch-and-shoot opportunities. Still, he showed deep range on his jumper, at one point hitting from well behind the arc in the second half.
Trent did display some other interesting skills. He grabbed 6 rebounds, regularly crashing down from the perimeter to clean up the defensive boards, in particular. Trent also occasionally got involved as the ball-handler at pick-and-roll where he showed an ability to make simple reads to the corners. His ability to score out of those sets remains a question mark.