Vernon Carey Jr. Scouting Report 2020
This past season at Duke, the Blue Devils didn’t have their typical blue-chip prospect to lead the squad. Instead, a trio of NBA draft hopefuls in Vernon Carey, Tre Jones, and Cassius Stanley led the charge as Duke had a 25-6 record prior to the abrupt end of the season. Carey was the leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker for the team as a freshman. He often dominated with his interior scoring and has an impressive arsenal of low-post moves to utilize. His touch around the rim is really smooth and he is very effective in the pick-and-roll game offensively. His combination of physical screening, agile feet, and explosion off the bounce make him a very effective roll man, and he can also run the floor in transition very effectively. Carey’s shooting mechanics surprised me on film as he wasn’t a particularly efficient long-range shooter, but his form and technique are intriguing and suggest a high-upside future as a shooter. Carey’s biggest strength is likely his rebounding as he combines excellent physical skills with anticipation and timing. He also has interesting potential as a face-up scorer with his dribbling and touch around the basket.
It’s pretty easy to see Carey’s future as a high-level scorer in the NBA, but he has some glaring weaknesses in his game. His inability to pass out of the low post or in the short roll game is a real issue as he is way too turnover-prone for the amount he handles the ball. His predictability as a finisher is also a concern as he goes to the left hand way too often. He needs to become more unpredictable as a scorer and passer to allow his low-post game to shine. Carey’s defense is also a real work in progress as his poor footwork and lack of focus often caused him to get beaten in space at Duke. Pick-and-roll defense might be the most important attribute for a big man in the modern NBA, and this is possibly the biggest issue with Carey’s game. He was often benched at Duke for his poor pick-and-roll defense and if he can’t improve in that regard it’s going to be an uphill battle to find playing time. He isn’t a special rim protector and his switchability on defense could be an issue early on. Carey is likely not the type of center teams want to build around in this era, but his scoring and rebounding potential point towards a future as a high-level role player.
Bully in the low post, solid set of moves in the arsenal, great touch around the rim
Very effective in pick-and-roll – physical screener, agile footwork, makes himself available for the pass
Intriguing face-up potential, solid dribbling moves and touch
Great rebounding potential, good physical skills, great timing and anticipation
Runs the floor hard, good straight-line speed for his size, great lob threat in transition
Explosive off the bounce inside, strong dunker off the catch
Shooting form and technique are intriguing, strong mechanics, high-upside shooter
Overly predictable finisher since he’s so left-hand dominant
Court awareness and decision-making on offense need work, must improve in passing out of double teams and making reads in the short roll
Uses spin move too often, leads to charges, travels, and heavily contested shots
Poor free-throw shooter (67%) but improved as the season went on (78.8% in last 10 games)
Struggles defending in space, poor footwork, gets beat off the dribble
Bad pick-and-roll defense, was often benched at Duke due to poor defense
Had moments as a weakside help defender, but his wingspan isn’t anything special
Best Landing Spot
Boston Celtics. The Celtics have three first-round picks this year, at #14, #26, and #30. Carey will likely still be available with their second or third first-round pick and would be a nice high-upside player for them. Boston’s biggest weakness at the moment is at the center position as the trio of Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams hasn’t quite gotten it done. Playing alongside elite wing defenders in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will help mask some of Carey’s defensive weaknesses and the team would love his screen-setting, rebounding, and interior scoring. Brad Stevens has proven himself to be an excellent talent developer and Carey would benefit greatly from being a part of their system.
Worst Landing Spot
Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have the third overall pick in the second round, and depending on what they do with their two first-round picks, they may be looking to grab a center at that spot. However, I don’t anticipate Carey and Karl Anthony-Towns fitting well together as they share some of the same weaknesses. Towns needs to be matched with an elite rim protector and a defender who can help cover up for his defensive limitations. Carey does not fit that profile and he would likely be relegated to a part-time bench role as long as KAT is on the team.
Draft range: late-first, early-second-round pick
Basketball IQ: 6. Carey is a highly frustrating decision-maker at times and his court awareness on both ends could use some serious work. He needs to learn how to better utilize his skillset and minimize his weaknesses to remain on the floor.
Shooting: 6. The shooting profile is all over the place for Carey as he has intriguing potential as a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter and showcased some impressive mechanics at Duke. However, his free-throw rate of 67% is poor and doesn’t indicate a strong shooter long-term.
Passing: 5. Carey’s decision-making alone is enough to enrage any veteran head coach, but his passing is also head-scratching a lot of the time. He struggles to read the floor and will likely never be relied on as any kind of a secondary playmaker. He averaged twice as many turnovers as assists at Duke.
Dribbling: 7. The dribble-drive package for Carey is intriguing and he does a solid job of getting to the rim. The potential to be an effective face-up scorer is a big plus for him, but his limited playmaking is going to hamper his ability to get to the rim in the NBA.
Hustle: 7. Carey got lost in the shuffle a lot of the time on defense and didn’t work hard enough to compensate for his limited speed and athleticism. An improved motor would also help him go from a solid rebounder to an elite one. He had some flashes of great hustle on film, but he needs to be more consistent in this regard.
Rebounding: 8. Rebounding is an important part of any big man’s responsibilities and Carey is going to contribute in this regard right away. He was a beast on the offensive glass at Duke (2.7 offensive rebounds per game) and uses his size effectively to position himself for the rebound.
Defense: 5. Carey’s defense both on-ball and off-ball is a serious issue. He doesn’t have the strength or speed to body up imposing post scorers at the rim and he lacks the foot speed and athleticism to defend in space. His pick-and-roll defense needs a lot of work and his best attribute, rim protection, is only decent.
Leadership: 7. Carey was the leader of the Duke team that went 25-6 during the regular season last year, something that isn’t too out of the ordinary for a freshman at the blue blood program. Carey is a former five-star recruit who handled being benched at times about as well as anyone can. He’s a solid locker room guy.
Athleticism: 6. Carey’s athletic profile isn’t anything special and he lacks the athleticism to be great in several areas. This weakness hurts his scoring efficiency and his defending both on and off-ball. Carey will be more reliant on his skill and technique than athleticism.
Upside: 7. At his peak, I can see Carey becoming a solid role-playing big man who can score in the half-court and in transition, rebound at a high level, and do the little things well. However, there are some clear limitations in his game that will hamper his ability to become a high-level starting center.
Total rating: 64/100
Vernon Carey Jr. NBA Comparison
The first player I thought of when I watched Carey’s tape was Greg Monroe, a former starting center in the NBA who fell out of favor as the league embraced small-ball and pace-and-space offense. Monroe was always an effective interior scorer who could rebound at a high level, but like Carey he was limited in terms of defending, passing, and athleticism. I also see a bit of Zach Randolph in Carey’s game, an old-school power forward who could score in the paint with the best of them. A bit more of a contemporary comparison would be Julius Randle, a player who has carved out a role in the NBA as a scorer and rebounder despite some limitations in his game.
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