Could the Oregon Ducks have another first-round pick in the NBA Draft? Believe it.
Ducks guard Chris Duarte has been rising up draft boards due to his stellar, Pac-12 Player of the Year-caliber senior season where he averages 17.4 points on 53.6% from the floor, 44.1% from three, and 80% from the free-throw line.
In fact, two NBA Draft experts agreed he should go in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft: The Athletic's Sam Vecenie and Matt Pennie, Director of Basketball Operations for High Major Sports.
"I don't understand why people don't have [Duarte] higher," said Sam Vecenie on his Game Theory Podcast. "He's really f***ing good at basketball."
"Really good. 54 percent from the field, 44 [percent] from three, 80 [percent] from the free-throw line," agreed Pennie. "[Duarte] has really good size at 6'6". Has a strong frame. He moves well with or without the ball. You don't really need to run stuff for him. He can create his own shot, and when he's away from the ball he knows to go backdoor when the lane's open can dunk. He has this uber confidence to pull up from three. He'll pull up in transition. He's incredibly efficient. He had 22 points against Arizona on 10 shots."
Pennie also thinks he "has instincts defensively, he knows when to jump the lanes" as evident by him averaging 1.9 steals per game with an All-Pac-12 Defensive Team selection on the way.
It's not just draft experts holding Duarte in high opinion, either.
"Yeah, I get it. He's a hooper. I don't understand why he's not higher," a Pac-12 coach told Matt Pennie.
Vecenie agreed, saying everything Duarte does translates to the NBA and he will at least be a solid piece of a rotation at the next level with a floor of a "fourth guard/wing."
"Really efficient as a decision-maker, can score at all three levels but doesn't push it. Just a ridiculous shooter, off-the-dribble, on-the-dribble, whatever you're looking for. He can knock it down off the catch. " said Vecenie.
Vecenie compared Duarte to San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White who was drafted 29th overall in 2017.
"People are just way overthinking things with Chris Duarte in the way that his game translates to the NBA," added Vecenie.
Vecenie had Duarte ranked No. 31 on his latest big board but admitted that's too low, to which Pennie agreed.
"To me, the holdup is people are getting caught up with his age which I get," added Pennie who went on to explain he went to junior college, was named the Junior College Player of the Year, and compared him to Duncan Robinson who was also 24 on draft night.
"If you're drafting 20+, like beyond there, it's okay if you're not swinging for the fences and it's for a rotational guy. I don't know how he doesn't find a spot playing 15 minutes a night [in the NBA], knocking down shots, defending rebounding a little bit.
"To see him in the 40s and the 50s, I just cannot make any sense of it," added Pennie.
It appears Duarte is receiving his well-deserved recognition though with Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman naming Duarte a "late-bloomer prospect on the rise" with a draft ceiling of the late first round, and this was in January.
Expect to hear Duarte's name sooner than some would expect come draft night.