A key member of another top-three nationally-ranked recruiting class, Cassius Stanley lit up the highlight reels in his only season at Duke. But the 20-year old out of Sierra Canyon High School in California only provided modest production and now finds himself as a second-round pick in most projections.
As the Blue Devils’ third scoring option behind Vernon Carey and Tre Jones, Stanley averaged 12.6 points per game on 47.4 from the field and 36 percent from three in 29 games. Notably, he did not make any of the three All-ACC teams or even honorable mention.
Stanley can call himself the best leaper in this year’s draft without much argument. In fact, he bested Zion Williamson’s Duke record for best vertical leap. When measured prior to the season, Stanley recorded a 46.5 vertical jump, an inch and a half better than Williamson’s 45-inch mark. When you best Zion in a jumping contest, that’s saying something. That athleticism manifested itself in a number of remarkable alley-oop finishes and transition dunks over the course of his one season in Durham.
Stanley showed solid, but not special, shooting form, making 36 percent of his three-point field goals and well over 70 percent of his free throws last season. The transition to the NBA three-point line will not be a problem. But it’s worth noting that Stanley saw the majority of his shooting success from open looks created by double teams against Carey. Shooting off the dribble remains a work in progress.
When it’s not facilitated for him, Stanley struggles to create offense. He committed nearly twice as many turnovers as assists last season (1.9 turnovers to one assist a game). While Carey’s presence created a number of open perimeter looks, it did not help Stanley’s penetration game. As teams sagged on Carey, Stanley saw his driving lanes diminish and he often dribbled himself into trouble around the paint.
The modern NBA values having one elite skill (shooting, defense, etc.) over a lack of weaknesses and Stanley is the inverse of that. Outside of jumping, there’s nothing he currently does beyond the average-to-good range in the NBA. There are not a lot of obvious holes, but not much to excite an NBA team either.
If Stanley were a standard 19-year old freshman, there’s little doubt he would have returned to Duke for a second season with the hope of improving his stock as arguably the primary scoring option for Mike Krzyzewski. But at age 20 already, Stanley made the leap after one year with the understanding that the NBA values youth over polish in the draft process.
Any team that drafts Stanley would be wise to view him as a developmental project with 3-and-D potential, the type of player you groom to make a difference closer to his third season. The Sixers, however, find themselves in a win-now mode and would be hard pressed to offer Stanley the growth opportunities he will need to be successful in the NBA.
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