There was a ton of potential NBA talent on the floor at PNC Arena on Wednesday, January 4th, 2022 and I was fortunate enough to be there. I saw things from the teams that were intriguing but this one is for the players. From the likes of Terquavion Smith, DJ Burns Jr, and Jarkel Joiner for NC State and Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski, Dereck Lively II and Tyrese Proctor for Duke. Regardless of the result (60-84 NC State win), here are some things I saw and learned seeing these guys in person, which is valuable when it comes to evaluating talent for the NBA draft.
My audience has every right to keep scrolling because I talk about Terquavion A LOT. For good reason however. He came into this game in a bit of a slump recently shooting 15-55 (27%) from the field. He finished vs Duke with 24 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and a block. The shooting splits were an improvement upon the slump mentioned above (42% which is his season average currently, 50%, 80%). To make a long story short, he was not afraid of this moment and he was able to get any shot he wanted especially being guarded on ball by Dariq Whitehead. Don’t worry, you will hear about him shortly.
DJ Burns Jr.
Talk about a crowd favorite!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any “DJ Burns” chants on video but I did see a guy who really impressed me. I picked DJ to be the Wolfpack’s breakout player this year (Find out why I did so). This was a showcase of Kevin Keatts ability to realize the kind of mismatch Burns was/is for Dukes inexperienced bigs. Burns being an experienced senior player with great footwork in the post was a masterpiece to watch in the second half. He got any shot he wanted inside of 10 feet and even earlier in the game when Duke was down in the first half, he made them pay for running a 2-3 zone where he is the guy taking the foul line jumper. I don’t currently have DJ as a draft able prospect but he was impressive and its worth noting.
Jarkel deserves a ton of credit for being such a huge difference maker for NC State not vs Duke but also throughout the whole season. He is the teams second leading scorer at 15.7 per game. Jarkel showed how he can be a difference maker with things outside of scoring (even though he had 21 points as well). He crashed the glass well with 6 rebounds. This is impressive from a 6’1 dude against a bunch of bigs for Duke. He had a season high 9 assists. The part of his game I have always liked is despite being 6’1, he knows how to be impactful and in the right place defensively. He has a high basketball IQ and it helps him play the passing lanes well for steals (Joiner had 2 steals in this game). Although I don’t have him as a draft able prospect currently, he provides great effort and has a smooth shot which is two things NBA teams love.
This guy was the biggest reason I went to this game vs NC State. As a Dariq Whitehead believer (currently ranked a #4 in my 2023 Big Board V.1), I had some questions and some of them were answered. The main thing for me I needed to know before leaving was is Whitehead “healthy”? Did he seem to still be playing timid or have a minutes restriction so we couldn’t get a good understanding of his health? To answer the question, yes. I believe he seemed more aggressive, not sagging off on defense and didn’t seem to favor his healthy foot.
Now, for full transparency I was not impressed with what I saw. His on ball defense that I was a big believer in seemed so ineffective against anyone who he was guarding. I can’t recall an instance where he had a meaningful stop or impact on his opponent with the ball. He had 1 steal in this game so nothing jumping off the page. Offensively, he was in the right places whether it was a 3 pointer from the wing or knowing when to drive when the play would break down or when to push the ball on the fast break. His understanding of the game was never a doubt nor was his talent but there are things that need to be focused on as a potential NBA draft pick to provide clarity on what he can excel at the NBA level. As it currently stands unless I see a significant improvement in the remaining weeks of January, Dariq will be one of the first fallers on board.
I was thoroughly impressed with Kyle Filipowski. As an evaluator, I value when a prospect has a presence on the floor without the ball. Whether it is screening well, communicating clearly or effectively or having a skillset that makes defenses think about you constantly. When he was on the floor, you felt his impact on both ends and knew he was there even if you weren’t focused on him (regardless of whether he is 7’0 and 230lbs or not). He showed flashes of his athleticism and speed going coast to coast and dunking the ball at the other end. Where I felt he excelled was as a rebounder and being active with his hands up and around the rim on rebounds and finishes. Defensively, I want to see more of how he learns to adjust to smaller players attacking him in the paint and how he positions himself to disrupt or block their shots at the rim. I am overall pleased with having him in the 20s as it currently stands.
Dereck Lively II
There have been questions on whether or not some of these Duke freshman should stay another year to develop, add weight, or show more at the college level to boost their stock. After leaving Raleigh and reflecting on what I had seen, that was the first thought that crossed my mind for Lively. There is no doubt he is a talented big man prospect with measurables that would make any scout or GM blush. But if he is getting dominated by upperclassmen big men at the college level, what are NBA players going to do to him? Dereck’s tall, lengthy frame was obviously not ideal against DJ Burns but there was never a moment where I feel like Lively had better position or a worthy contest on a play in the post. Lively took 1 field goal attempt in only 12 minutes on the floor so offensively I have no real context to base a strong opinion of other than he communicates well. I have no doubt that I will still fight back and forth with myself this cycle whether or not he is worthy of a 1st round pick because of his raw potential.
But, that begs the question… What if he returned for a sophomore year with more minutes and spent time working on his body?
I enjoyed seeing how Proctor faired against a very good guard rotation for NC State. I was pleased with his poise despite the 4 turnovers he committed in his 21 minutes off the bench. The stats for this game don’t jump out at you and that is okay because I saw a guy when he was on the floor even with Dukes upperclassman guard Jeremy Roach, Proctor was the leader on offense. He understood the tempo of the game very well and has great vision in Pick and Roll/Pop situations. When he was able to get to the rim, his touch is very good and he attacks contact well on drives. Although I think some of this is coaching related, I would like to see more opportunities for Tyrese to display his playmaking ability. I want to understand his decision making process more when he is put in more positions to balance whether he needs to play make or score for his team. I have him currently in the 2nd round and have no qualms with moving him up higher if the tape shows me that is deserved.