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Duke NBA Draft Preview: DJ Steward

At this point, he may be a long shot for the G-League.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Pittsburgh
Jan 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard DJ Steward (2) dribbles the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 79-73. 
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Steward was the third Duke player to leave early. An undersized shooting guard, Steward averaged 13.3 point per game and made the All-ACC Freshman Team.

But his early departure raised some eyebrows and a disastrous performance at the NBA combine kept those eyebrows raised. Simply put the skinny 6-1 Steward has a shooting guard’s game in a point-guard’s body. No one expects him to get drafted and even making a G-League roster isn’t a sure thing.

Ekstrand’s thoughts.

“If you’re as small as he is in the NBA, they really prefer that you be a guy who makes plays for others and in the games in Chicago [combine] and during the season, I think everybody realizes that his first inclination right now is to shoot the basketball, not pass the basketball. If you’re going to shoot the ball primarily as your first impulse all the time, you’d better be really good at it. I think the jury is out on this.”

The G-League?

“There are 50 guys every year who come to the draft and the question is why. What did they prove in their one year that should get an NBA team excited? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because now, you’re undrafted and you’re probably in the G-League and you’re battling for a spot in the G-League with a lot of guys who are just like you. You’re in college for a minute and you didn’t bowl anyone over and now you’re battling for a spot in the G-League, where there are a lot of great players who don’t make the NBA. They play in the G-League for two years, they don’t get the call up and they go to Europe and they’re there for their career.”

Can Steward learn to play point guard in the G-League?

“There’s a chance he can do that. The trouble is the G-League already has a lot of guys who’ve been playing point guard all their lives. The G-League teams are trying to produce 6-8 guys who can play point guard. It’s questionable whether somebody who doesn’t have that point-guard mentality can develop it enough.”

So, there you have it. Pop some corn and settle down for a long night.