Big man value in the draft is at an all-time low and there aren't going to be too many true centers getting legitimate looks in the lottery.
However, with all eyes on wings and guards in the 2020 NBA Draft, a player that might slip through the cracks and outplay his pick position is Duke freshman Vernon Carey Jr.
Dominating the star-studded Atlantic Coast Conference averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds in his lone college season, Carey is a stat stuffer who proved he could contribute consistently.
Teams at the top of the draft will be looking for potential franchise changers and while the star potential might not entirely present with Carey he provides something different-an NBA ready game. He's prepared to step in tomorrow and get a few contested rebounds and finish plays around the rim, and that certainty isn't offered from all players in his draft range.
If a front office is looking to swing for the fences Vernon Carey Jr. might not be their guy but if an organization is looking to hit a single or double and round out their rotation he could be the perfect piece.
One of Carey's biggest strengths is, well, strength.
Standing 6'10" and weighing 270 pounds Carey is a mountain of a man and he makes the most of it. Unlike some similar-sized bigs who want to float to the perimeter Carey knows his role and embraces it, hanging out in the dunker spot ready to receive a drop-off pass before finishing strong.
Carey has a good set of hands which allows him to catch some tough passes and it also provides him the means to finish at the tin. For a player that's going to live on the inside having a variety of finishes around the rim is a necessity and Carey has all the moves to cash in on each paint touch. Baby hooks, scoops, turnaround jumpers-it's all in the arsenal and when Duke dumped it down into him they knew he was going to convert.
What makes his interior scoring intriguing to the modern game is that teams won't be able to constantly switch smaller players onto him. Big men without the ability to score on smaller players on the block has made switching defences so prevalent in today's game but with Carey that won't be the case. He has the ability to punish switches by overpowering his opponent before finishing with grace and that's going to make opponents second-guess how they're going to guard ball screens.
Carey didn't have a lot of three-point attempts in college but when he did let it fly from deep he was effective. Hitting 38 percent of his deep balls teams were forced to respect the jumper and that opened up the floor for his teammates. For Carey to succeed in the NBA he's going to need to be a force offensively and having some stretch to his game will be huge.
Arguably the best pure rebounder in the class Carey is someone willing to do the dirty work to come up with the ball. Not a tremendous leaper who can simply out-jump opponents, Carey is fundamentally sound on the glass and is disciplined when it comes to boxing out. His work on the defensive glass will end possessions and allow his teammates to get out and run and the second chance points he'll get on the offensive glass will bring a smile to his coaching staff.
Even though he's not much of a jumper Carey is a solid rim protector. He accomplishes this by having great anticipation and using verticality to bother offensive players. Carey's frame is so wide and he's so stoutly built that oftentimes drivers would just bounce off of him, and even though Carey wasn't credited with a ton of blocks he was able to deter a lot of layups at the rim.
Perhaps Carey's biggest draw as a prospect is the fact that he is ready to step into an NBA rotation right now. He knows his role and has an NBA-ready body and it's easy to imagine him giving 15-20 good minutes off the bench for a decent team as a rookie. Because he's likely going to be taken after the lottery a team is going to get him on a contract with a low number and having him contribute on that rookie scale deal will be much better value than getting a veteran player to do the same.
Right now Carey's offensive game is largely predicated on bully ball and while he'll still be one of the bigger dudes on the court in the NBA he won't be able to push people around as he did in college.
Teams seeing him wedge opponents out of the paint before finishing will seriously question if he'll be able to do that at the NBA level and if they decide they don't think he will, his value as a scorer really drops.
Carey is a strong positional defender when defending the rim but at 270 pounds he's got heavy feet and that can be a recipe for disaster for perimeter defence. Opponents are going to put Carey in a pick and roll scenarios over and over again and force him to move laterally and at his current weight and flexibility level, he's likely going to struggle.
Another area of concern for Carey is his playmaking or lack thereof. Most of the offensive-minded centers in the NBA are players teams can run their offence through in the high post but Carey doesn't have the passing ability or vision to be that high post quarterback.
Right now Carey is a one-man show on the block looking to post his man up and score and that style isn't going to jive with many NBA offences.
Projected NBA Draft Range: Late first round.
Projected Role: Scoring option off the bench.
NBA Comparison: Ivica Zubac
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.