The 2018 Champions Classic was loaded with players from our Top 100 NBA draft rankings.
Who stood out in Kentucky-Duke and Kansas-MSU? What are the key takeaways for NBA teams?
We scout Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes and more prospects.
Zion Williamson | Duke
Jonathan Givony: Under the watchful eyes of practically the entire NBA, Williamson looked just as good as advertised, if not substantially better. He played a nearly flawless game, appearing to be every bit the part of the No. 1 pick in the draft, orchestrating an embarrassing blowout of No. 2 Kentucky with an absurd stat line of 28 points and 7 rebounds in just 23 minutes on a sparkling 11-13 shooting from the field.
Responding to the concerns about his jump shot, he canned a 3-pointer, pulled up for an 18-footer and made five of his seven free throws -- not bad considering this is supposed to be the weakest part of his game. After watching him brick or airball jumper after jumper in warmups, it's fair to wonder how likely this is to continue, but for now it's tough to find too much to criticize.
Kentucky started off by putting projected top-20 pick PJ Washington on Williamson, an ideal matchup with his 7-foot-3 wingspan and 230-pound frame. When it became clear he had no chance, the Wildcats tried their most veteran player, fifth-year senior Reid Travis, who was also left in the dust on numerous occasions by Williamson's outrageous combination of strength, quickness and explosiveness. Freshman EJ Montgomery was next, and he too was embarrassed repeatedly. Mike Krzyzewski is giving his 18-year-old freshman incredible freedom to initiate the offense and utilize his playmaking ability as he sees fit, and Williamson rewarded him with big play after big play.
While the highlight reel blocks and finishes were exhilarating, Williamson did just as good of a job showing off his skill level and feel, grabbing and going off the defensive glass, forcing turnovers and feeding teammates unselfishly with creative bounce passes and long outlets. He is ridiculously powerful changing speeds in the open floor and from a standstill in the half-court with potent crossovers. He's also exceptionally difficult to contain in the post, with his polished footwork and body control allowing him to spin off opponents gracefully and violently before elevating off a pogo stick for smooth finishes.
Opposing coaches will likely study the film and try to devise better ways to slow down Williamson than Kentucky was able to do, but when he's playing like this, there is very little that can be done at the college level to contain someone with his talent.
RJ Barrett | Duke
Mike Schmitz: Barrett looked like a potential top pick in his own right, attacking the rim relentlessly while showcasing a tighter, improved catch-and-shoot 3-ball on his way to setting Duke's all-time freshman record for points in a debut, with 33. Barrett was simply too physical for a much smaller Kentucky backcourt, using his combination of strength at 6-foot-7, aggression and slight change of speed to get to his left hand in both the open court and transition. He shot 10-19 from inside the arc, 3-7 from 3 and got to the free throw line eight times. Keldon Johnson made it tough on Barrett for stretches, but the Canadian lefty figures to really thrive with NBA spacing, where he can rely on those big strides.
Barrett should live at the free throw line all season. He even mixed in a couple of right-hand finishes and floaters that we haven't seen a ton of in the past. While he's wired to score, he also made a few nice reads out of quick actions, and he's more than adept as a facilitator. Barrett is still not a dynamic pull-up shooter, and he uses quite a few dribbles to get his offense at times. But this is the kind of dominant performance scouts have become used to with his three-level scoring, confidence and overall star power.
Keldon Johnson | Kentucky
Schmitz: Johnson was Kentucky's lone standout from a prospect perspective, not shying away from the bright lights to turn in a well-rounded 23-point performance with highlights on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-6, 211-pound wing had a number of aggressive downhill drives to the rim, using his excellent frame and extension to finish through contact and over length. He also showed some touch in the paint, dropping in a floater in traffic. While Johnson's shooting has long been a question mark, his stroke looked far from broken, including a smooth catch-and-shoot 3 on the wing and a transition pull-up with his foot on the line. So long as he's making spots, Johnson should be a load for defenses in space as a straight-line driver, even if his struggles changing speeds and direction with the ball showed for brief stretches.
Johnson also competed against Barrett on the defensive end, attempting to match his physicality and forcing him into tough attempts in the paint. Scouts like to see which prospects rise and which ones hide on the grandest of stages, and Johnson most certainly looked like a top-10 pick here.
Cam Reddish | Duke
Schmitz: Reddish turned in an effective performance (22 points on 14 shots in just 24 minutes) that featured three smooth catch-and-shoot 3s and seven free throws drawn by aggressive straight-line drives to the rim. While he did settle for a couple of deep jumpers and a low-percentage fallaway against a switch, Reddish used his size, fluidity and handle to get into the paint, even finishing through contact with his off hand. His willingness to embrace contact was a welcome sign, as that hasn't always been his reputation in the past. Reddish also used his 7-foot wingspan to make plays defensively, finishing with four steals.
Reddish has as much defensive potential as any of Duke's big three, and he showed flashes of that. With Barrett and Williamson figuring to dominate the ball more often than not, it's unknown how much of Reddish's playmaking we'll get to see this season, but he was steady in his role during the blowout win.
Quentin Grimes | Kansas
Schmitz: Kansas' 6-foot-5 combo guard made an excellent impression on NBA scouts, answering questions about his shooting stroke by cashing six of his first eight 3s, some coming from well beyond the NBA arc. Prior to Tuesday, Grimes was shooting a career 85-of-288 (29.5 percent) from 3, according to our database. But with more than a hundred NBA executives on hand, Grimes shot the ball with confidence, displayed tremendous mechanics and footwork, and played his usual smart, mature, mistake-free basketball.
He plays within himself, almost always makes the right read and can moonlight at point guard. (He dropped four assists and just one turnover). On the defensive end, Grimes was rock solid, forcing Josh Langford into long, contested 2s and staying active off the ball. He still has questions to answer about his finishing (1-of-4 inside the arc) and overall upside, but Grimes checks a lot of different boxes.
Dedric Lawson | Kansas
Givony: Lawson showed why he is likely to become one of the more controversial prospects in this class. He shot just 5-18 from the field, doing his best work operating from the center position with his ability to post up and draw fouls in bunches. He also went 10-12 from the free throw line, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out 6 assists, showing the terrific basketball IQ and versatility that make him such a unique prospect at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2½ wingspan.
It's clear that Lawson used his redshirt season to his advantage physically by tightening up his frame. That was imperative considering he lacks much in the way of quickness and explosiveness. He is a short strider who doesn't get up and down the floor very well, struggles to get off the ground for finishes and has quite a bit of trouble stepping outside of the paint defensively -- all major issues for an NBA big man. Lawson's overall feel helps compensate for that to an extent. He can handle the ball effectively, and he was utilized as a playmaker in intriguing 4/5 pick-and-rolls that allowed his court vision to shine. He gravitates to the glass naturally and uses his length to corral rebounds on both ends of the floor. He was impressive getting in the passing lanes and protecting the rim, staying vertical and walling off opponents despite not being much of a leaper.
The biggest key for Lawson will be his evolution as a shooter. He made just 30 percent of his 3s in his first two college seasons and missed both of his attempts from outside Tuesday, but he was on fire during Kansas' two exhibition games. He has promising shooting mechanics and has always been a solid free throw shooter, so there is plenty to be optimistic about long term.
Lawson has long been an analytics darling who is beloved by draft models due to his excellent assist, rebound, steal and block rates, but he was repeatedly given the cold shoulder by NBA teams while at Memphis. Now going into his fourth season of college basketball while still only 21 years old, he appears to be in a much better position to utilize his diverse skill set. He's likely in store for a huge year from a productivity standpoint, though there are still questions about exactly what type of NBA prospect he is.
Devon Dotson | Kansas
Givony: Dotson played a major role in Kansas' win over Michigan State, handling a veteran Spartan backcourt with poise and showing significant potential on both ends of the floor. Dotson is one of the more explosive open-court players you'll find, able to accelerate impressively while turning defensive rebounds into transition opportunities. Even though he's still learning to fully harness his tremendous speed, the fast-paced nature of the NBA game will likely suit him quite well.
On top of that, he seems to be making strides with his jumper, knocking down three of his five attempts from beyond the arc. Showing real confidence with this part of his game bodes well for his ability to develop into the type of complete offensive weapon NBA covets from lead guards. On top of that, he defended his position effectively, fighting over the top of screens with his strong frame, heating up the ball far away from the basket and getting in the passing lanes repeatedly.
Dotson's decision-making skills are clearly a work in progress, as evidenced by his three assists and four turnovers. It's also not a given that his jump shot will be as consistent over the course of the season considering his unconventional mechanics and spotty track record. Nevertheless, his tremendous speed, willingness to defend and strong frame give him definite NBA potential that he will likely be able to tap into after two or three seasons at Kansas.