Duke Basketball: Player grades from exhibition win over Virginia Union

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /
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Overall, the play from the Duke basketball team during its first of two exhibition games looked like a high-flying dunk contest, but how did each player perform on a 100-point scale?

If the Duke basketball players had bothered to show the same willingness to play defense as they did offense in the first half of Tuesday night’s 106-64 exhibition win over Virginia Union, the lead at the break might have matched the final margin of victory.

And since the squad so often played the role of spectator on defense before likely getting called out on it by head coach Mike Krzyzewski after the first 20 minutes, when coming up with individual grades, I automatically deducted five points from each Blue Devil who saw action during the first half.

First, find out the numerical marks for the starters on this page — from best to worst — then click “Next” to see how the reserves fared.

Zion Williamson

29 points, 11-of-13 shooting, 7-of-7 foul shots, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Grade: 99

Yes, I did deduct five points from Williamson for the reason explained above; that being said, I have given him some bonus points as a result of his complete performance. First, I’ve never seen anything more emphatic than the dunks and blocks of Williamson. I think I could watch the highlights from his rim-rocking jams from this game alone on a constant loop for the rest of my life and never become bored.

And during the first half, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman swatted a shot that thumped off the backboard so hard that the Duke basketball program will likely have to call in a glass expert to fix the dent that it had to have left.

But it wasn’t just his aerial acts; his post moves looked like those of an all-star power forward in the NBA. And his ability to use his gargantuan arms and athletic prowess to snatch rebounds was simply amazing — as is becoming the norm with the phenom. Plus, his efficiency was more than ideal.

R.J. Barrett

23 points, 10-of-14 shooting, 3-of-7 from three, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Grade: 93

The shooting percentage of Barrett considerably improved from the Blue-White scrimmage and the Duke basketball team’s three-game Canada Tour in August. And the southpaw put on an ambidextrous scoring show. Although it was nice to see his shot from beyond the arc fall almost as often as it missed, his ability to finish in the lane with his right hand was particularly impressive.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Barrett is a true scoring machine.

Cam Reddish

Grade: 92

13 points, 4-of-13 shooting, 3-of-10 from three, 2-of-6 foul shots, 7 assists, 3 rebounds

Smooth is the best word to describe the game of Reddish; it applies to his shot and his moves.

As for his shot, because he gets it off quick from downtown and each attempt looks like it has a chance to go in as soon as it rolls off his fingers — despite his less-than-ideal percentage in this game — the 6-foot-8, 220-pound freshman forward could prove to be the team’s most reliable outside shooter.

In addition to his shooting, though, he showed off his all-around game that many experts praised when he was in high school. If the next guy on this list was not on the floor, Reddish would have been Duke’s top distributor.

Tre Jones

Grade: 90

6 points, 2-of-5 shooting, 2-of-3 from three, 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal

Unselfish is the best word to describe the play of Jones. It appears as if he could care less if he ever scores in double figures. And that is exactly what this talent-loaded Duke basketball team needs from its floor general.

As for the freshman point guard’s defense, while it could have been more intense in the first half — like the rest of the Blue Devils — he was a constant nuisance to the other team’s point guard, which is something the Blue Devils often lacked last season.

Marques Bolden

6 points, 3-of-3 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal

Grade: 80

After drawing the unexpected start, Duke basketball fans were anxious to see how Bolden would respond. Eh. While it is hard to knock a guy who did not miss a shot, he made several mistakes when the ball was in his hands, was not strong with his post moves, and was often outhustled for rebounds. So while he sometimes shows flashes of what he could become, the 6-foot-11 junior is just still not there yet.