In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we examine Duke freshman Cassius Stanley.
Cassius Stanley is one of the older freshman prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. By the time of the draft, there is a pretty good chance that Stanley will be 21 years old already, with the youngster’s birthday arriving on Aug. 18. That, paired with some other less-than-impressive trends, makes him a potential candidate to fall down the board more than one might expect, even if his freshman season actually went quite well.
Stanley came to Duke fresh off of back-to-back high school state championships with Sierra Canyon in California. Stanley was a big part of those teams, averaging nearly 18 points per game in his senior season of high school. Coming in as a top-40 national recruit, Stanley saw the floor often during his freshman campaign, garnering over 27 minutes of playing time per game over 29 contests. In his one season with the Blue Devils, he averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and an assist per game on his way to ACC All-Freshman honors.
Stanley’s measurements are pretty normal for a shooting guard, as he comes in at 6-foot-6-inches and 193 pounds. Stanley is best known for his high-level athleticism, especially so when it comes to his ability to fly through the air as a leaper. Naturally, it was a perfect marriage for Stanley at Duke since Coach K and his staff have traditionally enjoyed running an up-tempo pace which generates a great showcase for top-notch flyers.
These plus-plus athletic skills allow Stanley to excel in two departments. First, he is a very good rebounder for his position. Stanley shows the ability to get down into the paint and rebound offensively like no one else at his size. As mentioned before, he averaged nearly five rebounds per game in a rather tough ACC conference.
The second part of his game that is encouraging is his ability in the open court. Stanley plays above the rim as often as he can and shows good promise of combining his two best skills (rebounding and transition) together to be a force. Below is some footage of his top ten dunks as a Blue Devil so far. Stanley is really thrilling to watch with a full head of steam.
Aside from his athleticism, Stanley is pretty raw at most every other point in his game right now. He has the beginnings of a repeatable jump shot and did well from three point range this season, knocking down 36 percent on three attempts per game. There are also some encouraging signs from his defensive ability, and he was tasked with difficult assignments throughout the season. With that said, he will often get himself into foul trouble when asked to defend ball-handling guards. Offensively, his passing is a pretty considerable minus to his game at this stage, and Stanley really struggles with creating for himself or his teammates.
With Stanley being almost 21 years old already, and also still being this raw in his development, it might have been prudent to return to Duke for a sophomore season. However, Stanley shows enough promise to not be destructive to a team in contention as a rookie and perfect for a team trying to rebuild and find diamonds in the rough. He rarely takes bad shots from distance and Stanley always seems to be seeking out the best way to score before making a decision. So, there will probably be a team in the very late first or early second round that will likely take a flyer on him as a developmental prospect.
Stanley could end up having an important decision after the draft as well. We do not yet know how COVID-19 will affect the rules (or timeline) in place regarding collegiate players being able to return to their college if the player so chooses, but Stanley very well could be a player that might choose to return to Duke if he projects to fall pretty deep into the second round. More exposure at a big-time college and more time to develop could net him a mid-to-early first round selection down the road, though there is always risk that his stock could fade.
Stanley is certainly an exciting prospect with some skills that still have plenty of room to grow, and it will be interesting to see how excited teams get about his projection. With a second round pick at No. 52, the Atlanta Hawks may not be in the equation here, at least if many draft projections are to be believed. Even if he slips, though, Atlanta could end up selling that pick or using it as a draft-and-stash slot, which would keep with recent tradition of second-round deployment.