Jay Williams was a star when he played ball for the Duke Blue Devils, and he feels his alma mater could beat the Cavs today. People love to compare elite college programs to the pro teams that are scraping the bottom of the barrel these days. Williams took to the airwaves to voice his opinion on why the star studded cast at Duke could challenge Cleveland.
“These guys (Duke players) are just as talented, even though they struggled last night against Auburn,” Williams said on ESPN. “On an NBA court, I think they would have a chance to legitimately beat this current Cleveland Cavs team. They’ve competed against NBA guys for the past four or five years. That’s why they’re at this level, so they wouldn’t be intimidated and they’d be engaged in the game. I think we’re at a different state in the game right now. Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett all individually can compete against the best in the world right now.”
Duke’s top three players may be lottery picks in the 2019 NBA draft. Zion Williamson has the kind of strength and explosiveness that’s unheard of for an athlete his age. RJ Barrett has the kind of size, ball handling and decision-making that could help him make an impact immediately at the next level as one of the point-forwards that have become so common in today’s game. Cam Reddish may fly under the radar at times due to the prominence of his co-stars, but he’s a lengthy wing that is the best shooter of the group. They are all elite talent, but one thing sticks out about Williams’ comments.
Williams said the three-headed monster at Duke could compete against the world’s top talent individually. The NBA is a team sport, and let’s face it, the Cavs bench is superior to the supporting cast of the Blue Devils. NBA games are longer, faster and more physical. If they wanted to have a shot at beating Cleveland, Duke would likely have to play their stars for the entire game. This would be a true test of their conditioning.
Tre Jones hasn’t looked like he could go toe to toe with any NBA starting point guard yet, and Duke’s center Marques Bolden isn’t even projected to be a first-round pick. Duke essentially has three 6-foot-8 swingmen in its starting five, and only one starter has actually shown effectiveness shooting from deep, which is an important part of the NBA game. To make matters worse, they aren’t sure how their shots will translate when they adjust to shooting from NBA range.
Even with the Cavs’ current injuries, their experience and size at every position would likely be too much for the young Blue Devils. Collin Sexton, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson aren’t All-Stars, but they still play at the highest level every day.
This timeless debate will continue to be a recurring narrative in sports, but everyone will have to wait for Duke’s highly touted prospects to step into the world of the pros.