This has been a year unlike any other in sports, with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, the delay of the NBA and NHL playoffs, a shortened baseball season, and the threat of COVID-19 hanging over every game on the college and professional football schedule.
But there is at least one constant amid all the turmoil.
Both Duke and North Carolina are expected to have players taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
The Blue Devils have produced at least one first-rounder in every draft since 2009, while at least one Tar Heel has been taken in eight of the past 10 years.
It’s a tradition projected to be carried on by Cole Anthony and Vernon Carey, both of whom are expected to hear their names called early in this week’s long-awaited lottery of amateur basketball talent.
Carey’s Duke teammates Cassius Stanley and Tre Jones are also expected to be selected, though not until the second round, while a potential wildcard could be NC State signee Josh Hall, a Durham native who played at Moravian Prep in Hickory last season.
The draft, which was originally scheduled to be held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in June, will be held via video conference starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday with Minnesota Timberwolves holding the No. 1 pick.
Here is a look at the draft prospects for all of the in-state prospects.
Cole Anthony, UNC, 6-foot-3, point guard
Anthony arrived in Chapel Hill amid great hype as the nation’s top-ranked point guard, considered by many to be a potential top-three draft pick. But his stock has dropped somewhat after a one-and-done season that was interrupted by injury, a balky shooting touch (39.2% overall, 36.2% from 3) and a propensity for committing turnovers (65, compared to 78 assists).
Even so, the son of former NBA player and current Turner Sports analyst Greg Anthony still figures to be the first player with North Carolina ties to come off the board.
“(The scouts) have got to get past our season this year and just take those games where he did show he was Cole Anthony before he got hurt,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. Most mock drafts have Anthony going to either the Boston Celtics at No. 14 or the Orlando Magic at No. 15.
Vernon Carey, Duke, 6-foot-10, center
At 6-foot-10, 247 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, Carey has all the physical attributes NBA teams are looking for. He also has the statistical credentials after averaging 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game in his only season with the Blue Devils.
If there are knocks against him, they are about his aggressiveness and the consistency of his effort — especially on the defensive end. But he’s worked hard on his physical conditioning since the college season was halted in March, and according to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, he’s lost more than 20 pounds. Carey is projected to go toward the middle or late in the first round.
“He came in every day looking to get better, and I know the best is yet to come for him,” Krzyzewski said.
Cassius Stanley, Duke, 6-foot-5, shooting guard
An elite athlete who plays with energy on both ends of the court, Stanley has all the physical tools, including an impressive jumping ability that made him one of the most electrifying dunkers in the college game last season. His perimeter shooting and ballhandling skills still need some polish, which is why he is projected to drop into the second round. But because of his high ceiling, there’s a chance a team could take a flier on him late in the first round.
Tre Jones, Duke, 6-foot-2, point guard
Jones returned to the Blue Devils for his sophomore season in hopes of matching his older brother Tyus’ accomplishment of winning a national championship. But that goal went unfulfilled when the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones is an accomplished playmaker and one of the best on-ball defenders in the draft. But while his 36.1% 3-point percentage was vastly improved over the 26.2% he posted as a freshman, his shooting ability is still an issue. So is the fact that many scouts believe his upside is limited. He is projected as a mid-to-late second-rounder.
Josh Hall, Moravian Prep, 6-foot-9, small forward
Hall is eligible for the draft as a fifth-year prep player who has already turned 19 years old. Although he is an impressive physical specimen with a high ceiling, most predraft projections have him going the same route as Jalen Lecque, another five-star Wolfpack signee who entered the draft without playing a game for coach Kevin Keatts’ team and went unselected. But at least one team, the Brooklyn Nets, has shown an interest in him. So there’s a realistic chance he could find his way into the end of the second round.