Truth hurts: Duke basketball freshman exhibits minimal NBA potential

Maybe the only way for Matthew Hurt to one day enjoy a notable NBA career is for the sharpshooter to shoot for Duke basketball legend status by staying multiple seasons.

At the risk of jinxing Javin DeLaurier, I'm close to retracting some of the harsh words I wrote on Thanksgiving concerning the then-inept play of the Duke basketball senior. Somehow, clutch and competent are the two words to best describe the backup center's performances as of late.

By the same token, I'll gladly poke fun at myself come Sunday for most of the following words in this opinion piece should Matthew Hurt proceed to knock down 10 or so trifectas for No. 2 Duke (14-1, 4-0 ACC) against Wake Forest (8-6, 1-3 ACC) in Durham at 8 p.m. Saturday (ACCN). But without such otherworldly displays at the major-conference level, these nine words about the 6-foot-9, 215-pound stretch-four remain truth:

Hurt's game and frame don't translate to the NBA.

Mock drafts tend to agree. Of the three recent paywall-free ones I found — NBA Draft Room, NBADraft.net, SI.com — despite Hurt averaging 11.6 points and hitting 41.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, the former five-star prep out of Minnesota appears nowhere, not even in the second round (the only consensus first-round pick from the current Duke squad is freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr.)

One look at Hurt's averages as a Blue Devil (3.9 rebounds, 1.6 makes from deep, 1.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 0.6 steals across 22.8 minutes) points to the issues: flat feet, short arms, fragile physique, and limited moves to create his own shot. Try naming a modern NBA forward with a wingspan no greater than his height, a skin-and-bones body, an elephant's vertical leap, and an average Joe's speed.

Also, though his overall 3-ball accuracy is impressive, inconsistency with this top weapon hasn't helped his stock. Prior to Hurt's 9-for-19 clip from beyond the arc across his past three outings, he had come up empty from 3-point land in two straight games. As for scoring in general, against Wake Forest, he has a chance to string together his first four-game stretch in double figures.

On the other hand, in terms of his Duke basketball future, if Hurt's path indeed includes remaining an amateur a few more years, his potential is through the roof (possibly even to the degree of hanging his No. 21 inside Cameron Indoor Stadium if he was to stick around and fuel the hanging of several postseason banners).

In fact, by the time Hurt's eligibility expired, his Duke basketball legacy would surely fall somewhere in between the two former Blue Devils his style resembles most: catch-and-shoot specialist Ryan Kelly, who overachieved toward the end of his days with the program in the early 2010s, and Danny Ferry, whose No. 35 in the rafters commemorates his wealth of accomplishments from his four seasons in the late 1980s.

ALSO READ: The 100 greatest Blue Devils under Coach K

Intelligence, instincts, and intensity (Hurt is no stranger to floor burns) all work in the 19-year-old's favor against NCAA competition. Yet without regular scoreboard-lighting magic shows like those he put on in high school on his way to achieving a No. 12 ranking on the 247Sports 2019 Composite — why folks assume he's a one-and-done — his effortless high-release cannon may never see the light of day beyond the G League.

Truth hurts. That said, truth is that Hurt is a promising player who simply needs to hold off on packing his bags at his present address (where he and DeLaurier have more chances this season to silence this critic).

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, and opinions regarding the 2019-20 Duke basketball team.