Sixers’ Draft Preview: Vernon Carey Jr.

The NBA is still stuck in a state of uncertainty, we have no idea if or when the season will resume. In the meantime, let’s have a little fun. We here at PhillySportsNetwork are bringing you a cavalcade of Sixers draft prospects to analyze some of the best fits.

Thanks to the Markelle Fultz trade and the OKC Thunder’s surprise success, the Sixers’ hold a first round pick, albeit not their own. While this pick won’t land them Anthony Edwards, there are plenty of players who can contribute.

You have to value first round picks even if they’re this high. Teams are able to find incredible value in the 20’s almost every year and the Sixers need to add as many assets as possible. Clint Capela, Pascal Siakam, Brandon Clarke, these players show that you don’t need to be a lottery pick . They are just a few recent examples of the high-quality players available in the 20’s.

Typically when you are drafting this late you have a difficult choice: draft based on production, or potential? The Sixers are in the difficult position of needing both. The Sixers need to use these picks to add quality NBA ready players (on the cheap) without sacrificing long term flexibility, that usually shortens the list. One player who fits right into that category though is Duke center Vernon Carey Jr.

VERNON CAREY JR. – Center

Duke University

Strengths: Strength, post offense, rebounding

Weaknesses: Size, defensive motor, lack of polish

2019-20 College Stats: 17.8PTS, 8.8REB, 1.6BLK

Now I know what you’re thinking, “this team needs shooting, not another big”, well you’re wrong, this team absolutely needs another big, in fact, a backup center should be one of this team’s top priority’s whether by draft, free agency or both. It’s not that Joel Embiid can’t be counted on but the team’s production plummets when he is not in the game. The Sixers need to add a center who is a force and can give Embiid a breather. Vernon Carey Jr. is that center.

Even though Carey averaged almost 18 points and nine rebounds as a freshman, he seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the top prospects in this draft. Much of this can be attributed to how raw Carey is as a player. While he is certainly talented, only two parts of his game are NBA ready.

He’s a absolute bull in the paint who through brute strength imposes his will on his opponent. Few at the college level could withstand the strength Carey displayed but the NBA is a different animal. He fights tooth and nail to reach the rim and also uses that physicality to ensure he collects rebounds. Carey won’t be able to bully his way to the basket as easily as he did in college so his game will have to evolve. He has shown the potential for that though.

He may not have taken many, but Carey averaged 38.1% on his attempts from deep, that’s definitely a starting point. If Carey can improve as a shooter he will have a place in the NBA for years.

One thing holding Carey back is his size, he is only 6’10” so he’s a little small to be a traditional center, something that is already a struggle in today’s NBA. Carey though does has a 7’0″ wingspan which helps make up some for some of his defensive limitations. Weighing in at 265 lbs, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for Carey to slim down a bit and commit to conditioning. He would lose some of his power inside but he could add to his speed, quickness, and verticality which would be easily worth it.

What makes you wonder is the lack of motor he shows defensively and in transition. Almost always the last player down the court, Carey limits his impact by jogging instead of sprinting. If his motor weren’t an issue, we’d be talking about Carey as a possible lottery candidate.

Player Comparison

Ceiling – Domantas Sabonis

Vernon Carey Jr. will never be the most athletic player on the court but when it comes to doing what he knows, he’ll fight tooth and nail to get his way. Like Sabonis, Carey will be a talented player in the paint and a tenacious rebounder. He may struggle defensively but he has a chance to succeed at what he does best, score in the paint and rebound. Also like Sabonis, Carey exhibits the potential to add a reliable deep stroke.

Floor – Jahlil Okafor

If Carey cannot realize his potential and if his motor never increases, he will find himself in the same boat as another Duke alum. Jahlil Okafor was similar coming out of school, both bruising centers who probably came to the NBA twenty years too late. Okafor is not capable defensively and has not, as of yet, expanded his game beyond the paint. Both could be good centers on terrible teams.

Conclusion

Carey wouldn’t be perfect from the jump but with the right molding he can become a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. Carey can provide the lift the Sixers need when Embiid is either on the pine or getting the night off. In an ideal situation, the Sixers also sign a center who can help ease Carey into the NBA and teach him how to be a professional (Al Horford doesn’t count).

He may not have the instant impact many fans are looking for, and he certainly isn’t a sniper, but Carey would provide some extremely needed value at the backup center position, a need that for too long has gone untended.

Mandatory Credit – © Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

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