Duke basketball: Cassius Stanley deserves NBA money, not resentment

Duke basketball guard Cassius Stanley (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball guard Cassius Stanley (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Though Cassius Stanley has willingly publicized his pending decision, no Duke basketball supporters should hold that against him should he opt to turn pro — where his game seems to belong.

Not only is last season’s airborne Duke basketball freshman ready for the NBA in terms of on-court abilities, but he’s also in line to receive higher compensation, by way of endorsements, than other non-lottery picks. And despite some rabid-fan sentiment to the contrary, his recent Twitter teases would not be in poor taste should he choose to bolt.

Look, Cassius Stanley exhibited admirable courage by choosing to step into the spotlight in Durham in the first place. It would be childish to fault the 20-year-old for savoring the limelight on social media now that 1) he has earned every lumen of it and 2) he hasn’t much else to do in light of global social-distancing measures.

As far as this writer is concerned, I certainly can’t criticize Stanley for providing the exact type of daily quarantine-entertainment I requested from him two weeks ago.

Looking back, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard from Los Angeles must have known his aerial acts would have to follow the most gravity-defying spectacles the Cameron Crazies have ever witnessed (see: Zion Williamson). With that in mind, Stanley could have garnered more sincerely astonished ooh’s and aah’s had he taken the easier flight path by pointing his wings to one of his pre-Duke-offer finalists: UCLA, Oregon, and Kansas.

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Instead, Stanley picked the pressure-packed route that would display his talents and athleticism to the widest possible audience (see: the multitude of games on ESPN, the unmatched average viewership the Blue Devils draw, and the Duke Men’s Basketball Twitter account’s superior following).

In doing so, and by exceeding the expectations that came with his mere four-star prep rating, Stanley went from generally unlisted on 2020 mock drafts before the season to nowadays a common sight either late in the first round or early in the second.

Furthermore, had center Vernon Carey Jr. not been part of his class, Stanley likely would have averaged several points more than his impressive-as-it-is 12.6 per game and thereby been in the conversation for the national and ACC freshman awards that Carey Jr. amassed. And had questions about his shooting not accompanied him to Duke, he might’ve seen more attempts; nevertheless, he all but put those concerns to bed by draining 36.0 percent of his 86 shots from 3-point distance and 73.3 percent of his 105 free throws.

Also, Stanley proved to be an underrated rebounder and all-around defender. He averaged 4.9 boards — second on the squad only to Carey Jr.’s 8.8 — to along with 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game for a 25-6 team that finished among the top 30 in all of Division I in all three of those categories.

And even though his isolation moves could use a little fine-tuning, any NBA franchise would be lucky to have the chance to help him grow in this regard while watching him soar his way into an important role. Moreover, Duke basketball faithful should remember that Stanley has a longtime agent for a father, Jerome, who is no doubt compiling all the pertinent information right now for his son to make the best possible decision — whether you agree with it or not.

Stanley’s hops make him look more than ready to make the leap. Stanley’s friendly, outgoing demeanor makes him look more than ready to be a respected NBA player in the locker room — not to mention a top-shelf spokesman for both a shoe company and a gives-you-wings energy drink. Stanley’s social interactions with Dukies make him look like a forever-Dukie himself, no matter where he roosts next season.

Sure, let’s cross our fingers that he stays; heck, let’s even beg him to do so. Besides, teammate Joey Baker tweeted such an appeal on Tuesday — just as I was wrapping up this article — which Stanley “liked” and then retweeted with yet another cleverly indecipherable GIF:

But at the same time, let’s treat Cash like the treasure he should always be in our Duke basketball hearts — even if he breaks those hearts.

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