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2023 NBA draft – Five takeaways from the Champions Classic

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The Champions Classic serves as an annual introduction for fans and some NBA executives to the next line of elite prospects competing at college basketball’s most prestigious blue bloods. Few will forget Zion Williamson’s 28-point, seven-rebound performance in just 23 minutes in Duke’s 2018 blowout win over Kentucky or guard Grayson Allen exploding for 37 points in 2017 as the Blue Devils beat Michigan State.

The event can also be fools gold for scouting, too — as fluky hot shooting (Quentin Grimes for Kansas in 2018) or savvy veteran experience (MSU’s Keith Appling’s near triple-double in 2013) can create false impressions that eventually fade. Sometimes those narratives last — Jabari Parker backed up his No. 1 pick hype by starting his season off with a bang (27 points, nine rebounds in the 2013 Champions Classic) and rode that momentum all year, while Kentucky’s Kevin Knox was the best player on the floor in 2017. Both players’ NBA careers ended up fizzling out in disappointing fashion despite hot starts to their college careers.

It’s important to take the Champions Classic with a grain of salt and not overreact to what we saw on one of college basketball’s biggest platforms with more than 100 NBA scouts and executives in the building.

For the first time this season, we’re debuting our top-100 prospects tool which includes detailed scouting observations on most players dating back to 2018. See how our thoughts have evolved over time, and keep checking back as we’ll continue to populate blurbs for all of the top prospects in the 2023 NBA draft class as new players inevitably emerge. This tool can be found in the “best available” tab in the ESPN NBA draft section.

Here’s what we learned on Tuesday night:

Filipowski enrolled at Duke as a projected top-10 pick, but the early reports from NBA scouts out of Durham were far from positive — not all that dissimilar to what we heard about AJ Griffin at the same time last year. Filipowski looked a step behind on both ends of the floor, scouts said, struggling to make good decisions with the ball and getting lit up defensively, inside and out. I attended a Duke practice in October and saw much of the same. Coach Jon Scheyer was driving him to play harder, take the open shots that were presented to him and do a better job crashing the glass and staying in front of his man.

It was obvious why Scheyer was being so hard on him — Duke has very little in the way of reliable shot-creators and needs Filipowski to shoulder a big load offensively, especially with five-star freshman Dariq Whitehead out with a foot injury. If Duke is going to return to the Final Four, they’ll need Filipowski to play a Paolo Banchero-type role as a mismatch power forward pushing off the defensive glass, creating from the mid-post and making shots from the perimeter.



Duke’s Kyle Filipowski gets to the rim for a powerful, two-handed dunk.

Filipowski delivered in a major way against Kansas, posting 17 points, 14 rebounds and mostly holding his own defensively thanks to his size, intensity and smarts. He was all over the glass on both ends of the floor and kept Duke in the game offensively on a night they were only able to muster up 64 points due to ice-cold 3-for-21 shooting from outside.

The results weren’t perfect as Filipowski missed some good looks around the rim (5-for-12 from 2) and went just 1-for-6 from 3, being out of position at times defensively on the perimeter when asked to guard smaller players. Still, we’re talking about a 7-footer who can handle the ball, find the open man and shoot in a variety of ways, who is playing with a big competitive streak on both ends of the floor — something NBA teams scour the globe for. If he continues to produce all season and finds a way to get his good-looking jumper to fall with more regularity, it will be difficult to keep Filipowski out of lottery conversations based on what we saw in Indianapolis.

No freshman had a more impressive season debut than Kansas forward Dick — posting 23 points in 31 minutes in a blowout win over Omaha with several eye-opening dunks, deep 3s off-movement and strong defensive possessions on and off the ball. The Champions Classic would present a much higher level of competition, though, so many scouts were curious to see how that would translate to a tough matchup with Duke.

Translate it did, as Dick was the best player on the court in several stretches, most notably down the stretch where he scored seven consecutive points to ice the game for the Jayhawks.



Kansas’ Gradey Dick goes baseline for a reverse layup

Dick proved to be more than just an outstanding shooter (43% for 3 on the season so far), making several outstanding cuts and acrobatic finishes in this game, hitting a mid-range pull-up jumper attacking a closeout, and leaking out intelligently. in transition for a tough finish through contact.

He continued to make a strong impression defensively, heating up the ball in the backcourt, coming up with deflections, and drawing an offensive foul locking up Tyrese Proctor one-on-one. While not the strongest, longest or rangiest defender, Dick has a great foundation to build off with the effort level he provides, his anticipation skills off the ball and the toughness he displays.

Dick is displaying a great deal of calmness and confidence you wouldn’t necessarily expect from an 18-year-old, something that bodes well for the role he’s projected to play in the NBA. It’s very early in the season, but there aren’t many teams in the NBA who won’t be interested in adding a 6-7 dead-eye shooter with a strong feel for the game who looks capable of holding his own defensively.

Wallace had a strong showing at the Champions Classic, posting 14 points, eight steals, five rebounds and five assists in Kentucky’s double-overtime loss. Most notable were the steals, showing outstanding physicality, awareness, intensity and instincts in one-on-one situations, jumping passing lanes, and digging down from the weakside, leading to several run-out baskets. Wallace has a knack for anticipating opponents’ passes and pre-rotating to deny the ball or sneaking in for timely swipe-downs to create turnovers. He’s also much stronger than at first glance, being able to absorb blows from bigger players and still contain them off the dribble on the perimeter. He’s an excellent rebounder and had one awesome block rotating to protect the rim and erase a sure-fire dunk.

Offensively, Wallace hit a pair of smooth-looking spot-up 3-pointers and did a nice job of probing with the ball and dishing to open teammates. He’s Kentucky’s most reliable post-entry passer, often tasked with feeding forward Oscar Tshiebwe in the paint and generally doing a good job of getting the ball where it needs to be in the half-court.

His limitations as a creator in the half-court were also evident, as he’s not the most dynamic ball handler or explosive driver and struggles to put pressure on the rim, often being forced to settle for low-percentage floaters and pull-ups from difficult vantage points inside the arc. He ran out of gas late in the game and made some bad decisions when Kentucky desperately needed someone to step up and make a play off the dribble down the stretch. Navigating Kentucky’s lack of spacing will likely be an issue all season with the number of non-shooters and non-passers coach John Calipari has assembled once again, so how Wallace evolves as a half-court creator will likely play a key role in how he’s viewed as a prospect on draft night.

Wallace clearly has a high floor as a prospect with his lockdown defensive prowess, toughness, feel for the game, ability to make open shots and how he impacts winning. Scouts will try to get a better feel for his offensive ceiling as the season moves on.

After missing nearly a month of action with a calf injury that forced him to miss several scrimmages and Duke’s regular season opener, it shouldn’t be a major surprise that Lively didn’t look ready to make an impact against the defending national champions. His only offense came on a pair of well-timed putback dunks. He struggled to be in the right spots defensively — looking a step-slow — particularly guarding pick and roll.

Lively’s thin frame allowed Kansas to screen him out of the action repeatedly and nullify his best attribute, rim-protection prowess. He got scored on around the basket several times even when he was in position to make a play, most glaringly giving up a crucial and-one allowing a non-scoring guard, Dajuan Harris Jr., to catch and finish a bounce pass in rhythm as Lively was showing too high up on a screen. Duke is going to need Lively to get up to speed quickly as they embark on a crucial trip to Portland for the PK-85 next week.

Oscar Tshiebwe is still the best player in college basketball

Tshiebwe surprised no one in posting 22 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in his return from knee surgery before fouling out, as the consensus National Player of the Year looks primed for another run at all the same awards he won last season.

Tshiebwe’s instincts and historic production as a rebounder are well documented and were on full display again with the way he inhaled every loose ball caroming off the rim on both ends of the floor, even missed free throws. He carved out deep post position at will, knocked down all four of his free throws and had some strong moments protecting the rim with his 7-4 wingspan.

Still, many of the same limitations we saw last year that held back his draft stock were evident again against Michigan State — namely his struggles as a passer (five turnovers), his occasionally poor shot selection (including one baffling turnaround jumper towards the end of regulation) and especially his inability to defend in space which the Spartans fully looked to exploit whenever he was in the game. Tshiebwe’s lack of mobility and awareness are major hindrances projecting to the NBA, as he struggles to navigate screens and is prone to falling asleep and losing his man off the ball, which is how Michigan State tied the game at the end of regulation on an in – bounds play.

Tshiebwe is no doubt en route to another fantastic season from a productivity standpoint, and is sure to find a team that values ​​the incredible energy he brings, likely in the second round.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA Draft expert and the founder and co-owner of, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and International teams.

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