Draft Lead

Evaluating Champions Classic Prospects

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Every year, the State Farm Champions Classic is loaded with NBA talent, and this year was no different. Both games of the doubleheader were incredibly exciting, albeit for very different reasons. Duke destroyed Kentucky with their one and done fire power while Kansas and Michigan State provided an experienced showdown that came down to the last minute. Below, we evaluate the play of the best NBA prospects in this years Champions Classic.

Quentin Grimes – Kansas

Grimes is a 6-foot-5 inch combo guard out of The Woodlands, Texas. Last night, he put up 21 points and four assists. He showed good ball handling skills and decision making, only committing one turnover in his 30 minutes of play. Previously, the biggest question about Grimes was his ability to shoot the ball from long range. In Indianapolis, the Kansas guard seemingly answered them, going 6-10 from three point range. He also played solid defense, showing active hands and grabbing a steal. Grimes played his regular smart game and showed an improved outside shot, solidifying his place as a potential top 10 pick.

Keldon Johnson – Kentucky

Out of all of Kentucky’s NBA prospects, Keldon Johnson played the best. The small forward from Virginia dropped 23 points, four rebounds, and two assists on a very good Duke team. Johnson further displayed his driving ability, consistently finishing through contact and even showing off a little bit of a floater. While Johnson’s jumper did not shine, he also showed an ability to make open shots, which is just what he needs in order to keep defenses on him. While Johnson did not limit RJ Barrett’s scoring, he did go at the Duke wing and force Barrett to make some hard shots. Johnson looks to be one of the leading scorers on this Kentucky team and a lottery pick in June.

RJ Barrett – Duke

The Canadian phenom only helped his draft stock last night by breaking the Duke freshman scoring record with 33 points. Barrett scored at all three levels, using his incredibly long strides to get to the rim and a much improved three point shot. In all, Barrett went 10-19 from inside the arc, 3-7 from three, and 4-8 from the free throw line. His playmaking ability also shined, as RJ picked up six assists to just two turnovers. RJ’s dominant performance on both sides of the ball further solidified his position as the future number one pick.

Zion Williamson – Duke

Zion Williamson is an absolute monster. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound beast put up 28 points and seven  rebounds on 11-13 shooting from the field in just 23 minutes of action. On offense, Zion did a little bit of everything. He glided to the hoop with gravity defying finishes and threw down some of the furious dunks he’s famous for. Zion also answered questions about his shooting, going 1-1 from three and 5-7 from the line. He was able to grab and go off the defensive glass, showing off his elite handle for a big man. Zion forced turnovers and even showed off his playmaking ability with creative passes. Williamson did almost everything right last night and showed the world why he should be in strong contention for the top pick.

Dedric Lawson – Kansas

Dedric Lawson is a polarizing NBA prospect. On Tuesday night he put up 20 points (5/18 FG), 14 rebounds. Lawson also got two blocks and snagged two steals, showing his defensive instincts. He plays smart and gets buckets and is up for a monster season at Kansas. His numbers won’t be enough, however, as Lawson’s lack of elite athleticism really hinders his pro potential. Lawson is going to need to increase his efficiency, proficiency as a shooter, and play well against elite athletes in order to become a surefire prospect.

Cam Reddish – Duke

Cam Reddish put up an effective performance against Kentucky. The freshman dropped 22 points on just 14 shots in 24 minutes. Reddish shot it well from deep and executed powerful drives to the rim. He was able to finish through contact, highlighting a heightened level of effort and aggression that scouts had wanted to see. He also got into the passing lanes, finishing with four steals. Reddish’s role on this Duke team won’t fully display his abilities, but that shouldn’t stop him from becoming a top five pick.

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