Prospect Watch: UCLA vs. Duke


Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) celebrates with Duke Blue Devils forward Rodney Hood (5) after scoring against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils won 80-63. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s UCLA-Duke matchup featured many interesting NBA prospects:

Jabari Parker
23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 7-13 fg 

Parker has now scored 20 or more points in nine of Duke’s 11 games and continues to resemble the best projected offensive talent in next year’s draft. Parker went 4-for-8 from 3-point range, displaying great elevation, excellent mechanics and a quick release. His jump shot looks effortless most of the time. Parker is dangerous in catch and shoot situations and just as effective off the bounce. He moves well without the ball and showed good athleticism on quite a few plays.

Defensively, it’s remains difficult to evaluate Parker. He doesn’t appear to be a huge factor, but often plays the 4 or 5 in Duke’s defensive scheme due to their lack of size. Still, Parker has at least one block in eight games so far, including a six block game against Eastern Carolina. If anything, Parker is at least active and aware defensively.

Parker has the aura of a superstar. He excels on the biggest stage, doesn’t shy away from the attention, and steps up when his team needs him the most. He’s a special offensive talent. Similar players like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant had great freshmen seasons and won a scoring title in the NBA. Parker has that type of talent and ability. While Andrew Wiggins is a more well-rounded talent, it will be very interesting to see how many teams can stomach passing on Parker’s scoring.

Zach LaVine
7 points, 1 rebound, 3-12 fg

LaVine’s hot start to the season and earned a big stock increase on draft boards. He has a valuable combination of elite athleticism, 3-point shooting, and size for either guard position. LaVine didn’t have a great game against Duke. His shot selection was poor, settling for a lot of difficult, low percentage jump shots. He was able to show off his premier athleticism on a few plays, which will definitely catch the attention of a lot of NBA scouts.

Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Zach LaVine (14) drives past Duke Blue Devils guard Andre Dawkins (34) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Duke Blue Devils defeated the UCLA Bruins 80-63. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

LaVine has point guard skills, but doesn’t get to show them much in UCLA’s offense. Talent wise, LaVine is one of the best in this deep freshmen class. However, it’s questionable whether he’ll be able to make an impact right away at the next level.

Kyle Anderson
15 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, 6 turnovers, 7-13 fg

Anderson was the second best player on the floor Thursday night. He is one of the most unique talents who could enter next year’s draft.

At 6’9, Anderson plays point forward for UCLA’s offense. He’s a very good ball handler, passer and displays court vision that elite point guard prospects don’t even possess. Though he had six turnovers, Anderson continued to show high basketball IQ and his height gives him an advantage to see over defenses for his passes.

Anderson finished with 10 rebounds against Duke, the fifth time this season he’s recorded a double digit rebounding game. Anderson is a very good rebounder, averaging 11.1 rebounds per 40 minutes. He frequently crashes the glass, trots dilligently up the floor and looks to run UCLA’s offense or make an immediate play for his teammates.

Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Rodney Hood (5) shoots over UCLA Bruins forward David Wear (12) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson’s biggest improvement this season is his jump shot. Anderson has made ten out of 18 3-point shots this season and seems to have much more confidence in his shot.

Defensively, Anderson can force turnovers and contest shots with his 7’2 wingspan. He has six multiple steal games this season. There’s a lot of value in a 6’9 forward being able to rebound the ball or force a turnover, and create for teammates. Anderson isn’t very athletic or quick, which has earned him the nickname “Slow Mo.” However, he’s a intelligent, versatile player, and has a rare skillset. So far this season, Anderson looks like a legitimate first round talent, possibly even a lottery pick.

Rodney Hood
14 points, 5 rebounds, 6-13 fg 

Hood has a smooth game and has had a very hot start to the season. Hood’s stroke in catch and shoot situations has been good. He complements the play of Parker and Quinn Cook well and seems to have good form on his shot. Off the dribble, Hood isn’t great, but he’s resourceful. He did a good job of using a fake to catch a defender off guard, and take one or two dribbles to get a shot closer to the rim. He doesn’t show a quick first step or any advanced ball handling ability, but he’s effective.

Right now, Hood is playing like a lottery pick. He’s averaging 18.5 points, shooting 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. His free throw shooting is also up to 85 percent. Hood has improved numbers across the board in his first year with Duke. His 3-point shooting cooled off some entering the game and continues to drop after a 2-of-6 outing against UCLA. Hood’s play has been good, but there’s certainly going to be a lot of skepticism as to whether he can sustain it.