Theo Pinson passes

Top 8 NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part 2 — Brown, Allen, Duval and Theo Pinson

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Earlier this week, we published out Top 8 NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part 1. Make sure to check that out. For the weekend crowd, though, we are back for me; once again, Spencer Percy (still in mourning after the UVA upset; sorry, Spence) joins me to analyze four more NBA Draft prospects from the mighty ACC.

Bruce Brown


Bruce Brown returned to Coral Gables hoping to solidify his status as a first round pick. The table was set — partner up with Lonnie Walker, win bunch of games and contend for an ACC title. Well, that plan never really got off the ground.

Of course, there’s the foot injury that cost him large chunks of the season; before that, though, Brown and Miami had issues.

During his freshman season, Brown wasn’t exactly a sniper, but he was a pretty productive shooter. Brown shot 40 percent — 22-of-55 — from beyond the arc in ACC play. He was dangerous off the catch, too; according to Synergy Sports, Brown posted an effective field goal rate of 63.9 percent, which ranked 12th in the ACC.

This season, however, there was slippage. Brown went just 16-of-60 from deep (26.7 3P%), shot just 7-of-29 (36.2 eFG%) off the catch, per Synergy.

This is a small sample, and Brown had to deal with injury concerns, but those numbers certainly don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Despite the shooting woes, and an overall dip in efficiency (PER of 16.8), there’s still a lot to like with Brown. A rangy 6-foot-5, Brown is a terrific athlete at the combo guard position. He’s also a wildly unselfish player that knows how to run a pick-and-roll.

The fulcrum for Jim Larranaga’s ball screen offense, Brown assisted on 21.3 percent of his teammates’ field goals while on the floor this season — good for seven assists per 100 possessions. Both of which are jumps of last season.

When Brown was a passer out of the pick-and-roll this season, Miami scored 1.26 points per possession on 59.7 percent shooting (68.7 eFG%). He had all of it working just before the injury, in a win over NC State in Raleigh back in January — 19 points (on 8 FGA), nine assists and four rebounds.

Brown didn’t shoot great around the basket — just 48 percent on non-post-up attempts, per Synergy — but he still showed some solid explosiveness at times. In 1,053 minutes last season (20.9 USG%), Brown recorded 18 dunks; this season — in only 640 minutes (21.2 USA%) — Brown stuck 14 slams.

Get healthy, showout at the combine, and Brown can hold down his status as a mid-to-late first round pick. Guys like this, that can pass and defend multiple positions, are coveted in the NBA.


Miami sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. very well may be the most exciting player of the four (Allen, Brown, Trent, Walker) wing prospects in the ACC leading into this summer.

Unfortunately for Brown, he suffered an injury to his left foot in January that required surgery. Brown will also be 22 years old by the time the ‘18-19 NBA season begins. He will be healthy enough to workout for teams this summer when the meat of draft prospect evaluation begins, so there’s still time for him to impress, but the two aforementioned factors hurt his stock.

For starters, Brown is an explosive athlete that plays at a ferocious speed. He’s been compared to Russell Westbrook by NBA scouts as recently as this past summer. At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Brown is an excellent rebounding guard that loves to grab-and-go — when he gets a head of steam going downhill, get out of the way.

Brown grabbed 20 percent of available defensive rebounds in his ACC play this season — an exceptionally high mark for a shooting guard. Considering his explosiveness, this is one of the most important traits of Brown’s game.

The sophomore’s stroke is far from broken. He gets good lift on the jumper and has a high release point. The struggles come from failing to consistently square up his body to the target and has a very slight hitch at the top.

It’s a safe bet that Brown will be a shooting-guard on the next level. The potential he brings to the table as a second-side offensive creator could be the most exciting aspect of his game. During Brown’s freshman season, he posted an assist rate of 21.7 percent in ACC play, which ranked 15th in the conference.

Brown is comfortable in the pick-and-roll, understands angles and where his teammates will be. He’s not making extremely complex reads in ball-screens as the ball-handler, but he understands how to deliver the ball effectively and is looking to create.

There’s hope for Brown to be an impact defender, but with his slight frame, there should be some concern he can consistently matchup with 2’s on the next level. Playing in a system that will green light to gamble and get in passing lanes from time-to-time would benefit Brown. During his freshman season, he had an steal rate of 2.71 in the ACC — 7th in that category.

Dare I say he reminds me of Russell Westbrook? Kidding. He doesn’t. Although, Brown is an impressive athlete and I’m intrigued to see if he can get healthy soon and be ready to show out by the time the NBA combine arrives in May. Get well soon, Bruce.

Grayson Allen


If it feels like this is annual conversation, that’s because it is: we have hit year three of discussing Grayson Allen as potential NBA player.

Say what you will about his on-court behavior, there’s a lot to like about Grayson Allen’s game. Over the last four years, he developed into one of the best attacking guards in college basketball — comfortable to play on the ball and run PNR, or play off and spot-up, operate as a secondary creator.

A key development for Allen over the last two seasons — including an injury-plagued junior year — is his ability to initiate pick-and-roll. In 2016-17, Allen shot 48 percent (62 eFG%) out of the pick-and-roll, per Synergy.

This season, that’s dropped to 38 percent (49 eFG%), but his playmaking has flourished. When Allen has passed to a shooter out of the pick-and-roll, Duke has scored 1.09 points per possession (55 eFG%).

He will need to cut down on some of the turnovers, though. In each of the last two seasons, Allen has recorded a turnover rate around 20 percent, according to Synergy.

Allen is also a dangerous catch-and-shoot player, which should help with the transition to the professional ranks; if you can shoot threes, everything becomes easier. The senior guard has splashed 283 triples during his time in Durham — on 38.3 3P% shooting.

This season, according to Synergy, Allen has absolutely ripped nets from the catch: 53-of-128 FGA, 1.22 points per possessions (60.9 eFG%). The 156 points Allen scored on catch-and-shoots this season is a top-10 number in the ACC, too.

For his career, Allen has scored 595 points on 510 spot-up possessions, per Synergy, which translates to 1.17 points per possessions. That’s really solid.

On an intangible level, I think Allen will benefit by getting away from the microscope of the college basketball universe, and the pressure cooker that is Tobacco Road. This is the best college basketball market in the world; the attention from media and fans is greater in the Triangle, than, say, Coral Gables or Blacksburg.

Allen has existed as one of the biggest fish in this pond for a while now. Moving to the NBA — less nightly scrutiny, more anonymity — could serve him well.

The 6-foot-4 guard won’t back down from any challenge, and he isn’t a bad athlete. However, Allen isn’t exceptionally long or tall, which works against him on the next level. Allen doesn’t have an incredible wingspan, but he has decent timing, and will look to make plays in passing lanes — especially in semi-transition scenarios.

Can he become a solid position/assignment defender — enough so that he can stay on the court, and have an impact offensively? (I tend to think so.) That may be the kicker for Grayson Allen.


Oh boy, where do you start with this guy? It seems only justified to love or hate Allen, but I don’t subscribe to that train of thought. Look, I’m not a fan of his antics, but love watching him hoop. Allen is a fierce competitor that loves to take the big shot.

Allen is a born scorer and that should translate to the NBA. The knocks on Allen will be his average athleticism, average frame and the fact that he turns 23 in October. Oh, and the questions regarding his personality. To his credit, though, Allen should be able to grab some minutes in the right situation during his rookie season. The biggest learning curve is going to come on the defensive end.

Born scorer, remember? Allen has a smooth stroke with a quick release. He can operate as the ball-handler out of the pick-and-roll — hunting his own shot and setting up teammates. Allen also has a knack for getting to the foul line — his free throw rate of 44.5% during his junior season at Duke ranked 13th in ACC play.

That number dropped this season, but so did his usage rate with the arrival of Trevon Duval, Marvin Bagley, Gary Trent Jr., and Wendell Carter.

Allen is a very high IQ player offensively. There are few guards in the ACC as polished on and off the ball as this guy. Coming off of screens and understanding angles is key to creating clean looks for yourself as a shooter. Watch as Allen feels Michigan State’s Josh Langford try to cheat under the screen – fades, quickly rises, bang.

Handling the ball is no issue for Allen. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his understanding of changing speeds with the ball and staying balanced when he gets into the paint against taller players. There’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be able to run some point on the next level.

Again, Allen has a wide variety of offensive skills. His most lethal attribute is the ability to rise and fire off the bounce going left. This puts tons of stress on the helping big man in pick-and-roll situations, and opens the floor for the rest of the offense.

Allen can fire off the bounce going right as well, but his preferred route is left.

His assist rate of 21.5% during his junior season and 21.1% this season rank in the top-20 of the ACC both years. In conjunction, Allen never had a turnover rate greater than 17.3% in any season at Duke.

I can’t stress enough how versatile Allen is offensively. There simply isn’t much missing from the toolbox, and that makes him an easy fit for most NBA teams. Imagine Allen getting 10 minutes off the bench for Houston every night. There exist a universe where this guy could be one of the steals of the draft.

The decision making is questionable for Allen from time-to-time. He has a tendency to force tough, contested jumpers. To be fair, he’s had the green light under Coach K for the past two seasons. He won’t have that in the league.

The defense concerns are justified. Allen is inconsistent with the effort on that end of the floor, like most Duke players. He’s played in a 2-3 zone defense system for two season now, which hasn’t helped his development defensively. As a competitor, Allen can certainly improve as an overall defender, but if he continues to take possessions off, the lateral quickness and elite athleticism isn’t present to bail him out.

I still think there’s a good chance a team will spend a late first round pick on Grayson Allen. Tons of questions to answer during the draft evaluation process, but too much on-court potential to pass on.

Trevon Duval


Welcome to one of the biggest mysteries of the 2018 draft board: Duke point guard Trevon Duval.

Watch Duval go through warm-ups at Cameron Indoor Stadium, you will can see why he was ranked as a top-10 recruit entering college — and why he still has appeal to NBA personnel types.

At 6-foot-3, with a Rondo-esque wingspan, Duval is a serious athlete at the point guard position. He explodes off the bounce, and can play above the rim in a way that few other ball handlers can. That’s the unquestionable impact he brings to the games

Duval’s an unselfish player, too — constantly looking for hit-ahead passes in transition and cutting big men when he penetrates. As everyone knows, though, the issues with Duval start with his jump shot.

I wrote about this the other day at the ball looks heavy when Duval shoots from the perimeter. It’s like he’s trying to push in a medicine ball from 23 feet away. Even in games when he hits a few three-pointers, like the win over Iona this week, teams still don’t honor that shot. Some defenses, like Virginia Tech, give him the Andre Roberson treatment — sagging off Duval to create clutter elsewhere.

You want to know how an offense with Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Gary Trent and Grayson can look off at times? This is how: occasionally the Blue Devils play 4-on-5.

Just about every location on the floor is a dead zone for Duval, too. He shot just 27 percent (40.5 eFG%) on catch-and-shoots this season, per Synergy — 0.81 points per possession. There are 59 players in the ACC this season that have recorded at least 50 catch-and-shoot possessions; of that group, Duval ranks 58th in efficiency.

After a strong start this season finishing at the cup, Duval has backtracked in that department, too. According to Synergy, Duval is shooting just 47 percent on attempts at the basket — which is where 39 percent of his field goal attempts originate from.

Duval is a gambler — both offensively and defensively. He has a turnover rate north of 26 percent in transition, per Synergy, and 21 percent out of the pick-and-roll. That takes away from parts of his game that should be strengths. It’s forced Duke to play Grayson Allen as the team’s lead guard this season, which forces Duval to the wing/corner. And when defenders play off of him, that clogs things up.

It may be in Duval’s best interests to return to Duke; however, with Tre Jones coming to town, that complicates matters. A good NCAA Tournament could change things, though. Also: Similar to Harry Giles last season, Duval offers value late in the first round. Some front office exec could think, “This guy was a projected lottery pick before the season. The concerns with the jumper are obvious, but he’s still the same athlete; we’ll get him in our system and make it work. It’s a possible steal if I get him at pick No. 26.”

I think the 2018 NCAA Tournament is the last we will see Trevon Duval in a Duke uniform.


It’s about time for Trevon Duval to seriously consider returning to Duke next season. There is plenty of ability here, but Duval isn’t ready.

Duval was 6th in the ACC this season with an assist rate of 30.3 percent. A solid mark. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he has a prototype for what a point-guard should look like in the 2018 version of the NBA. Duval is an exceptional athlete that can easily go by his defender if crowded.

Duval doesn’t have Dennis Smith Jr. explosiveness, but it’s damn close. He’s quick and will not hesitate to attack the rim if he can get a head of steam going downhill. He was known for his vicious dunks in high school, and although we haven’t seen it as much during his freshman season at Duke, rest assured Duval can finish above the rim.

This is without question his greatest highlight of the season. Split the hard hedge from Pinson, throw the ball out in front, two left hand power dribbles, and the HAMMER!

Duval has the potential to be a good decision-maker, but he hasn’t shown it consistently enough during his freshman season at Duke to be considered a lottery pick. That said, his stock is all over the place right now.

Duval had a turnover rate of 23.6 percent during ACC play this season, which was one of the highest marks among qualified players. The positive is that it doesn’t outweigh his assist rate, but Duval tries to make the homerun play far too often. He has to learn how to simplify the game.

The weakest part of Duval’s offensive game is the jump-shot. It was inconsistent this season at Duke, and the mechanics don’t suggest he’s close to turning a corner. Duval has a slow gather, bows his left elbow, doesn’t get good lift, and shoots on the way down far too often.

Reminds me of Elfrid Payton’s jumper. That’s not a good thing.

Duval shot 29.8 percent (28-94) from behind-the-arc this season and was a putrid 58.3 percent (49-of-84) from the free-throw line. Bad signs. If he doesn’t develop some form of a consistent jump-shot, it will drastically impact his ceiling in the NBA. All that athleticism and explosiveness can be easily neutralized by defenses on the next level.

There isn’t a reason Duval can’t be an impact defensive player in the NBA. His 6-foot-9 wingspan is an elite measurement coupled with a 6-foot-3 frame. His 2.88 steal rate was a top-10 mark in the ACC this season. It’s just tough to evaluate players defensive potential when the system their in is primarily a zone defense scheme. Duval should have plenty of lateral quickness to stay in front of the ball when he does have to make the adjustment to playing man defense, but we’ll have to take the wait and see approach for the time being.

Duval needs to come back to school one more season.

Theo Pinson


Theo Pinson, to me, is such an interesting prospect. He exists at the intersection of where the league is going, and where the league has been.

It would be a challenge to think of a more skilled player in the ACC than Pinson; a ubiquitous talent, the 6-foot-6 native of the Piedmont Triad can guard 1-4 in college, and is a wickedly crafty passer — especially from the pinch post area.

Swiss Army knife, Jack of all trades — whatever the cliche, Pinson can do a lot of things, and he can do them well.

Defensively, he’s not a high steals guys, but he did post block and steal rates above two percent this season. When he gets in a stance, Pinson can blow opponents off the map. The only guy he’s had a lot of trouble with this season in a one-on-one matchup is Marvin Bagley. Even in that situation, Pinson has done well at times fronting the post in an effort to force the lob over the top.

When asked upon, Pinson is also a solid rebounder: according to KenPom, the senior grabbed 17.5 percent of available defensive boards while on the floor this season. After some of those boards, Pinson while snatch the ball, look up and decided, “I’m taking this shit coast-to-coast.” Pinson shot 59 percent on attempts at the basket this season, too, per Synergy.

The jumper has remained a mystery for Pinson. A career 26 percent three-point shooter from the college line, perhaps there’s some hope for Pinson to develop a corner three on the next level; for whatever it’s worth, he did work his way to becoming an excellent free throw shooter — 81.8 percent this season.

Even without a jumper, though, Pinson’s devilish playmaking is something to behold. Surround him with enough shooting, and he will make shit happen — I guarantee that. For two years now, I’ve referred to him as the ACC’s Andre Iguodala. That’s lofty, hyperbolic praise, but considering his positionless defensive acumen, and ability to facilitate offensively, I don’t think it’s baseless. He’s very good at facilitating from the pinch post/elbow area — Draymond Green style.

Watch the Warriors play — those dudes are the same killing machine without the selfless passing of Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Smart or stubborn, those guys hunt great shots — not for themselves but for teammates. Pass, cut, move, repeat.

Pinson plays with that same mentality, and I believe that’s why he has the ability to play in the NBA for a long time. And if he ever figures out the jump shot, I believe he can start for years in (*Dell Curry voice*) the association, too.