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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Vernon Carey Jr.

Does the former 5-star recruit make sense for the Grizzlies?

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Vernon Carey Jr., Center, Duke University

  • 6’10” (7’0” wingspan), 265 lbs., 19 years old, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • 2019-2020 season: 31 games played, 24.9 minutes per game, 17.8 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks per game, 59% field goal percentage (38.1% from three), 67% free throw shooter
  • ACCOLADES: 2019-2020 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2019-2020 ACC All-Freshman Team, First Team All-ACC, NABC Freshman of the Year, USBWA National Freshman of the Year, Consensus second team All American
  • ADVANCED STATS STRENGTHS (per Tankathon): PER (34.1), Off Box +/- (7.9), Win Shares (.290)
  • ADVANCED STATS WEAKNESSES: Def Box +/- (3.4), Ast%/Usage (.26)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: 27th (Tankathon), 45th (The Ringer), 29th (CBS Sports), 32nd (ESPN)

Vernon Carey Jr. is probably one of the more intriguing prospects outside of the lottery.

The former 5-star recruit was highly recruited out of high school and played well in his lone season at Duke before the season was ultimately cut short. Unfortunately for Carey, his style of play doesn’t particularly fit with the direction in which the NBA is going. Carey is an old-school big man, scoring a lot of points with post moves down low.

Most players with Carey’s resume would firmly be in the lottery discussion. Instead, Carey is left looking like a late first rounder or early second rounder due to his old school style of play. There was a time not too long ago that Carey would’ve been a fit in the Grizzlies system, maybe even as a “successor” to Grizzlies Legend Zach Randolph. Instead, the Grizzlies have joined the rest of the NBA with the pace and space style of play led by Ja Morant.

Still, 2nd round picks are a great chance to draft a guy that other teams may overthink on. Though his skills are old school, Carey can still be a solid NBA player.

What he does well

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carey is an excellent player in the post, at least on the offensive end. He has great footwork and patience, which allows him to get good looks at the rim. Carey is also a great rebounder who has a great sense of tracking the trajectory of the ball off the rim. Carey shows a unique patience as a young big man after grabbing offensive boards. Instead of rushing put back shots, Carey does a great job at hesitating and using a pump fake to score. Carey is also great at drawing fouls on shot attempts down low.

Carey also has pretty solid handles for a big man, which can help push the tempo for a team like the Grizzlies. He has good shooting mechanics which led to his 38% shooting from beyond the arc (though just 21 3-point attempts) which in theory could translate to the NBA and help him space the floor.

Where he can improve

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Duke John McCreary-USA TODAY Sports

Carey will need to be a more willing 3-point shooter in the NBA to help space the floor. His percentages are fine from beyond the arc, mostly due to the small sample size, but it’ll be interesting to see what the numbers do once he shoots a more reasonable amount.

Carey can be a frustrating decision-maker, as seen by his time at Duke. On one possession he can make a great read and pass to a wide open man, then the next possession spin into a wall of defenders and turn the ball over. Carey seemed to get overwhelmed and panicked at times at Duke. Carey is a bit short for a traditional center and lacks the explosiveness that is usually needed to help shorter big men.

Carey also shot a putrid 67% from the free throw line. Carey will need to become more consistent at the line in the NBA, especially with how good he is at drawing fouls.

The fit

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies front court is crowded. Jonas Valanciunas and Gorgui Dieng can eat up 48 minutes worth at the 5 by themselves. Throw in the spot minutes that Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr. and even Kyle Anderson can play at the 5 and there isn’t much of a pathway for Carey to earn minutes. As it stands, Carey isn’t a good fit for the Grizzlies. However, should the Grizzlies trade Dieng it would open up an opportunity for Carey to be a bruiser off the bench for the Grizzlies. Even if they hold onto Dieng into the season, Carey could get some good reps down in Southaven with the Memphis Hustle where it’s a bit easier for big men to dominate.

The Verdict

The 40th pick in the draft is a bit tricky. You don’t necessarily have to draft the best available player, but it’s likely that players who would fit better on the Grizzlies are gone by the time the Grizzlies are on the clock. If the better fits are off the board, it would be a steal for the Grizzlies to draft Carey 40th overall. Many people over thought Brandon Clarke’s collegiate production and let him slide to the Grizzlies last year. I’m not so sure that happens a second year in a row.

A team recognizes Carey’s solid production and takes a chance on him before the Grizzlies make their pick at 40th overall.

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