Duke basketball: Unfair label haunts draft stock of Vernon Carey Jr.

Duke basketball center Vernon Carey Jr. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball center Vernon Carey Jr. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball one-and-done Vernon Carey Jr. somehow draws costly doubt.

If not for the aggression of Vernon Carey Jr. down low last season, the Duke basketball team might’ve doubled its five losses. Yet for some reason, the 6-foot-10, 270-pound center can’t shake the “uninspired” tag that attached to him before arriving in Durham as the No. 6 prospect on the 247Sports 2019 Composite.

Of the six Blue Devils who’ve snagged any National Freshman of the Year hardware this century — each left Duke after one year — Carey Jr. is sure to fall farthest in a draft. Luol Deng, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Marvin Bagley III, and Zion Williamson went No. 7, No. 2, No. 3, No. 2, and No. 1, respectively.

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At best, Carey Jr. will be a low lottery pick when the 2020 NBA Draft takes place (schedule says June 25, but the chances of it happening before August now seem slim to none in light of world events and recent updates from the league). And his actual flaws do support the notion he shouldn’t go much higher than that:

However, the South Florida native’s worrisome standing on some mock drafts — as low as the second round — is inexplicable to one set of trained eyes. Rivals recruiting insider Eric Bossi, who has watched Carey Jr. stuff stat sheets against five-star peers for years, pointed out in an article this weekend the baffling perpetuity of the big man’s bum rap:

“I’m not saying Vernon Carey needs to go in the top five or anything like that, but I continue to be surprised by how little the mock drafts and some of the NBA teams that have called me to ask background questions seem to think of him. The knock heading into his freshman year at Duke was that he was lazy, but he showed up in tremendous shape and produced every night.”

The Duke basketball product’s production should suit the NBA game just fine

Bossi implied that franchises obsess over this perceived ho-hum body language while undervaluing Carey Jr.’s strengths:

“In today’s game, bigs who can shoot, and Carey can, are valuable. Plus, he’s strong, rebounds, and has a pretty good feel for the game. Sometimes, I feel like if he spent more time fake hollering and chest-bumping to show his ‘passion,’ he wouldn’t be questioned. How little value is being put into 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 57.7 percent shooting (including 38.1 percent from three) at the ACC level while not turning 19 until the end of February is perplexing to me.”

Taking into account the 2019 first-round pay scale and the 10 or so spots Carey Jr.’s unfair label may cost him, he could end up with an average annual salary in his first four years roughly $2 million less than what he deserves. Or if war rooms foolishly let him slide to the second round, he could see no guaranteed money at all. Oy.

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