Duke University is at the center of the draft universe in 2019, with the Blue Devils’ freshman class accounting for three of the top five picks and four first-rounders in the most recent ESPN mock draft. While there is still a lot of season to go and much to be decided, I wanted to weigh in on the group of players that will likely decide the fate of the 2019 draft.
Per 40 minute stats adjusted for pace courtesy of RealGM
Zion Williamson established himself as the consensus #1 pick sometime during his 28-point debut against Kentucky, and the hype over Duke’s epic freshman class has mostly coalesced into Zion Fever. Williamson is one of the most remarkable athletes you will see in any sport; a 6’7″, 285-pound alien aircraft with a quick first step and a 45-inch vertical leap. His athletic superpowers are reflected in the stats, where he is elite in scoring, rebounding, and accruing “stocks”. Skeptics could point to his assist-to-turnover ratio which sits around 1:1, but even that is relatively good for his position and something of a nitpick considering he does stuff like this on the reg.
Zion leads the NCAA in BPM and a host of other advanced metrics as an 18-year-old freshman and his team sits at #2 overall in the KenPom ratings. He is tracking the most impressive freshman season since Anthony Davis in 2012, and he might be the most obvious #1 draft pick since Davis too.
Barrett came into the season sharing top-billing with Zion, but has since taken a back seat to his more talented teammate and drawn some criticism for displaying poor shot-selection and underwhelming defensively. These are valid concerns, however in the context of of a thin 2019 draft class there is only so far you can fade a young freshman wing with plus size and athleticism posting 26.7 PTS/7.5 REB/4.5 AST Per 40 minutes. For the moment I would rank R.J. second overall.
After an on-fire start to the year Reddish has taken a nose dive, as he is now shooting under 35% from 3PT and an even more concerning 41% from inside the arc. His stats are buoyed by a high steals rate, which is likely to regress as his shot comes back and the turnovers (hopefully) subside. I’m not sure Cam still deserves top-five status, but his prototype, age, and top recruit pedigree is enough to bet on in the lottery.
Last but not least is the great Tre Jones. Blessed with pure point guard DNA, Tre is currently sporting a 5.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio with an eye on Monte Morris‘ record mark among recent draft picks (Morris was a huge draft steal, by the way). Jones gives Duke a steady floor general that they have lacked since the Tyus era, and while he is not their best draft prospect, he could be the reason the Blue Devils win it all this season.