Prospect Watch: Duke's Carter, Kentucky's Knox set for lottery despite losses
It was a strange Saturday night in college basketball as six top 25 teams failed to get a win over an unranked opponent, including fourth-ranked Duke, who lost to a St. John's team that was on an 11-game losing skid. That didn't stop big man Wendell Carter Jr. from putting up some impressive numbers, finishing the game with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Kentucky went into Saturday as the 21st-ranked team in the nation. It suffered a similar fate as Duke, falling to Missouri. Kevin Knox - who was a key catalyst in a big win at West Virginia just a week prior - had one of his worst outings on the year, finishing with just five points and three rebounds.
The losses don't hinder the potential of both players, as they've experienced ups and downs throughout the year but are still looking to hit the lottery in the upcoming NBA Draft. Both Carter and Knox have the potential to rise into the top 10 just in time for the NBA Draft.
Player MIN PTS FG 3PT FT REB AST BLK Carter Jr. vs. St. John's 34 14 3-6 0-0 8-8 15 1 4 Knox vs. Missouri 25 5 2-6 0-2 1-3 3 1 0
Player GP MIN PPG FG% 3P% FT% REB AST BLK Carter Jr. 23 26.7 14.4 61.3 46.4 69.4 9.6 1.9 2.1 Knox 23 32.4 15.1 45.7 34.6 75.0 5.7 1.5 0.3
Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke) - Freshman
Few players in college basketball have been overshadowed to the extent Carter has. Through Marvin Bagley III's bid for National Player of the Year, Grayson Allen's veteran presence, and Trevon Duval's leadership running the offense, Carter hasn't had the opportunity to stand out. This, however, hasn't stopped scouts from noticing his potential on both ends of the floor.
Bagley has been oustanding, but Carter's stellar numbers while playing six minutes less per game than a ball-dominant big man shouldn't be undersold. The comparison between the two in their per-40 numbers actually show a much more versatile two-way player with a shooting touch that Bagley hasn't been able to consistently provide.
Stats Per 40 Minutes, Bagley III vs. Carter Jr.
Player PTS FG% 3P% FT% REB AST BLK Bagley III 26.4 59.9 35.4 62.1 13.8 1.9 1.3 Carter Jr. 21.7 61.3 46.4 69.4 14.4 2.8 3.1
Several categories stand out, specifically the rebounding and blocks. Currently, Bagley ranks eighth in the nation with 11.2 boards per game, while Carter is 30th. Carter snagging more boards per minute while playing side-by-side with one of the supposed best in the nation is outstanding.
As for blocks, Bagley is far from a finished product on the defensive end. Carter is relied upon to be the difference maker around the rim, giving the Blue Devils over three blocks per-40, and one of the reasons they've survived on that end.
Carter is a bully. His strength makes up for his relatively average athleticism. He's capable of overpowering his opponents in ways far different than Bagley, who uses his elite athleticism and post-IQ to dominate opponents. Although 6-foot-10 isn't relatively tall for a traditional center, his 260-pound frame has opposing bigs fearing the idea of trying to battle with him around the basket.
Carter's shooting touch has been fantastic, although not too much should be made of his high percentage from three - he's only taken 28 on the season. But, he's shown that he's fully capable of becoming a threat in the NBA. His free-throw percentage proves much of that, especially after hitting all eight of his shots from the line Saturday night.
Over the past couple weeks, Carter has shot up the draft boards, while initially considered a mid-first-round pick, his shooting touch and potential defensive prowess will surely put him in the conversation for top 10 in a deep draft.
Kevin Knox (Kentucky) - Freshman
Inconsistency has plagued Knox throughout his freshman season, but those spurts of great basketball keep scouts coming back for more.
There's a lot of pressure on the 18-year-old, as Kentucky's top six scorers on the season are freshmen. With no true veteran leadership, the John Calipari coached squad hasn't found that true dominating presence that he's been able to recruit in years past. Despite it being hard for the uber-talented Knox to dominate, he's still shown plenty of signs of what he can do.
Through the first two months of the year, Knox scored 15-plus points just seven times in 13 games. In January, he scored over 15 points seven times in nine contests. He's showing far more consistency and his jump shot is becoming something to watch for scouts.
Months GP MPG PPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG Nov/Dec 13 32.9 14.5 43.0 31.7 70.9 5.6 Jan 9 32.7 17.2 50.5 40.5 82.6 6.1
His performance against Missouri was a regression back into what he was in December, which saw him struggle from the field. But with his shooting and athleticism on display, scouts should be curious as to how he'd perform as a stretch power forward in a non-primary scoring role.
Knox is a solid perimeter defender that can challenge three positions with his length and foot movement. He can play above the rim in space and has the speed and athleticism to blow by opponents. Regardless of his limitless potential, he's still being held back by his maturity level and he doesn't always seem ready to play at the professional level (which is perfectly understandable for a teenager).
If Knox decides to take the NBA route, he might be able to crack the top 10, but he should easily be a lottery pick. It's hard to pass up on a stretch four in the modern game. Despite having the tools of a wing, the 6-foot-9 forward stretching out opposing big men and making them keep up with his elite athleticism could make him an integral piece for a team's future.
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