Chris Duarte is one of the most under-the-radar prospects in the entire 2021 NBA Draft, so let’s cut right into what he brings to the table. Yes, he is old (23, 24 on draft day) for an NBA prospect, but the talent and production from the native of the Dominican Republic are at a level that is too high to ignore.
He is a very real prospect that deserves a bit more buzz than he’s received at this point. The Pac12 Conference is known for breeding “surprise” prospects that go in the late 2nd round or even undrafted year after year, and I think Duarte could wind up being yet another diamond in the rough from *Bill Walton voice* THE conference of champions.
Chris Duarte: G/W, 6’6″, 6’7″ Wingspan (est.), 190 lbs., Oregon Ducks, (23 years old).
There hasn’t been a ton of Duarte chatter in the 1st round to this point likely due to his age, but he’s someone I could see a team liking enough to consider taking him as early as the late 1st and it wouldn’t be all that shocking. Realistically, he’s probably a 2nd rounder at this point due to his age, athletic limitations and uninspiring wingspan, but there is a lot to like about his all-around game and it’s very plausible to view him as a plus rotation player that can make a positive impact on both ends.
He is one of just five players (since 2008) with a BPM of 10 or higher plus a STL and BLK rate of 3 or higher while shooting 40%+ from three point range (min. 25 attempts). The other four? Otto Porter Jr., Danny Green, Gary Clark and Taurean Prince.
Offensive role: Versatile Floor Spacing Wing
Defensive role: Multi-position defender + playmaker
NBA projected role: Rotation player
Swing factor: Adding Burst/Explosiveness
ESPN 2021 Big Board: 62
My Big Board: 46
Duarte is originally a JUCO transfer from Northwest Florida State, where he won JUCO Player of the Year after averaging 19.0 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and over a steal and block per game with an ultra efficient 54/40/80 shooting split as a sophomore. Last year he played a lesser role as a secondary/tertiary option with Payton Pritchard leading the charge in the backcourt and playing alongside Will Richardson leading to less scoring opportunities. With Pritchard on the Celtics and Richardson battling an injury this year, a prime opportunity has broke out for Duarte to take on a larger role for the Ducks and he has certainly excelled in this more featured role to say the least. He is tied for 8th in BPM (13.3) with Corey Kispert in the entire NCAA at this point of the season.
Let’s be clear: his go-to skill is the shooting at this stage, that’s what is going to get him on the court in the NBA. The ancillary skills have improved quite a bit enough to the point where he looks like a very real prospect, as he’s shown some serious flashes of being more than “just a shooter”. He is currently the only player in the NCAA with a BPM of 10 or higher, and a STL & BLK rate of 3 or higher while shooting better than 40 percent from three. Boasting all of that with a True Shooting Percentage of 69.3 is quite impressive. Translation: He is very good at basketball.
Below is his offensive synergy profile:
There is a nice blend of on and off ball equity to Duarte’s game as he’s grown more comfortable shooting off the dribble or attacking closeouts with his crafty finishing ability 65.1% on two-point field goals. He’s shown the ability to operate out of the pick and roll bit and can create for himself when he needs to. This wrinkle to his game as a senior leader should help him in the NBA, as he won’t be a primary or secondary creator, but taking on a larger offensive burden after being strictly a role player his junior season shows he can succeed in multiple roles and team contexts. That is one of the more underrated “skills” a player can have, especially when they are on the older side.
Oregon's Chris Duarte with 27 points last night vs. Colorado, 5th time scoring at least 20. Shoots and hustles, 44.4% 3PT, 2.2 steals, 1.1 blocks for 6'6" SG. Potential 2nd-rounder. pic.twitter.com/lNDa7aOhBR— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) January 8, 2021
There is a lot to like about Duarte’s team-defense and ability to make plays off the ball, as he’s averaging 3.5 stocks per game during his senior season. His lack of explosive athleticism will limit him a bit and he may struggle to keep up with bursty guards or wings, but ultimately his calling card will be as a playmaker off the ball while playing sound team defense. He plays hard and brings the hustle and intangibles on both ends of the court which is exactly what you’d like to see from an unheralded senior.
Passing + Basketball IQ
While he isn’t a playmaking savant or even an above average playmaker, Duarte often times make the “right” pass that leads to hockey assists or open looks for teammates. His assist/turnover ratio (23:23) doesn’t exactly scream court vision, but he also isn’t selfish and understands when to attack and not force the issue. He isn’t going to be someone you can rely on for steady creation (for others) but he can create for himself and makes the right plays, and that’s about all you can ask for in a complimentary rotation wing.
Duarte has shown the ability to play both on and off the ball with his impressive jumper. He can hit catch and shoot attempts at an elite rate whether guarded or unguarded and could thrive as a wing that punishes the defense if they give him too much space in the NBA. Overall this is his calling card as I alluded to earlier, and it’s the ticket that is going to give him a puncher’s chance at cracking a rotation at the next level. His ability to relocate and prepare for quick shots of the catch and shoot makes him a versatile shooter, and his counters to closeouts also give him flexibility that he’ll need to adjust to NBA defenses.
His jumper in both 3 point and free throw percentage this year isn’t much of a shock if you look at his JUCO numbers. Along with that, he has beautiful shooting mechanics and there’s zero reason to believe that his shooting numbers are inflated or a fluke.
Duarte may not be an explosive athlete or have an impressive wingspan, but he is in the right spot more often than not as shown by his ability to get deflections, play the passing lanes and block shots (1.0) well for his size. He’s averaging 2.5 steals per-game and does an excellent job of baiting the offense into making passes they immediately regret by jumping the passing lanes and anticipating passes from across the court. His positioning and court awareness are a major factor when talking about his defensive impact, and I expect him to continue that wherever he ends up next year.
How he translates at the next level
There is no doubt in my mind that he is someone that should be selected in the 2021 NBA Draft due to his combination of size, plus frame and ability to shoot lights out on a high volume. Are there athletic limitations and a red flag due to his age? Yes. Should those concerns scare teams off come the 2nd round? Absolutely not, otherwise they’ll be passing up on a potential valuable rotation piece that can contribute right away. There hasn’t been a ton of buzz on Duarte just yet, but I think NBA GMs and scouts are taking notice of the impressive year the senior sensation is having and he could go higher than expected once the draft roles around.
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