Candid Coaches: Duke has 2 of the top 3 players coaches would want on their team

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent the July evaluation period at NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on players, coaches and issues in the sport. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.

There isn't a single First Team or Second Team AP All-American from last season playing college basketball this season, meaning the sport is missing obvious star power -- especially when you combine the lack of established high-level players with the fact that no incoming freshman is as hyped as Ben Simmons was a year ago.

So what's the best way to predict which players might fill that hole this season?

By asking college coaches the following question:

If you could pick any Division I player and put him on your team for this season, which player would you pick?

  • 1. Grayson Allen (Duke): 13 percent
  • 2. Markelle Fultz (Washington) 12 percent
  • 3. Harry Giles (Duke) 10 percent
  • 4. Melo Trimble (Maryland): 9 percent
  • 5. Josh Hart (Villanova): 8 percent
  • 6. Monte Morris (Iowa State): 6 percent
  • T7. Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin): 5 percent
  • T7. Dillon Brooks (Oregon): 5 percent
  • T7. Josh Jackson (Kansas): 5 percent
  • T7. Jayson Tatum (Duke): 5 percent
  • T7. Kris Jenkins (Villanova): 5 percent
  • 12. Dennis Smith (North Carolina State): 3 percent
  • T13. Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson): 2 percent
  • T13. Devonte Graham (Kansas): 2 percent
  • T13. Ivan Rabb (California): 2 percent
  • T13. Malik Monk (Kentucky) 2 percent
  • Players who received only one vote are not listed

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    FIVE QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT

  • On Grayson Allen: "I think Grayson Allen will be the best scorer in college basketball playing for the best team in the country. He has that attitude similar to Draymond Green. He just doesn't give a crap and plays with a swagger."
  • On Markelle Fultz: "Fultz is a game and program changer. He's like a Swiss Army knife. He can and will do whatever he needs to help his team win on both sides of the court. He's an elite-level passer who has an incredible feel for how to play the game. When you have point guards like him that are also super-humble, it makes everyone else feel two inches taller when they are playing with him."
  • On Harry Giles: "I think Harry Giles is as good of a talent as there has been out of high school in a long time. He will have a Chris Webber/Kevin Garnett type of a career ... if healthy."
  • On Melo Trimble: "Most people would consider last season a poor outing for Melo, but I didn't. Maryland added new players, and he held his own. People said the same things about Yogi Ferrell a year ago and look what did last season. Melo is battle-tested. He's seen every look known to man from opposing defenses, has played in every hostile environment there is, and most of the time he had his team right there at the end with a chance to win it. He excels in all facets to me. He can shoot it with range when he's feeling it, go by you off the bounce, handle it by getting where he wants to go with it, and he can pull up mid-range off pick-and-rolls and put it in the pocket on passes. Bottom line, is I trust him with the ball and my team."
  • On Josh Hart: "I'd take the best player off last season's national champs -- Josh Hart. He scores. He rebounds. He can shoot it even better than he shot it last season. And he leads. Kris Jenkins will always be remembered for that game-winner, and Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) was the captain. But Hart made those guys national champs. I won't be that surprised if he leads them to a repeat this season."

    MY TAKEAWAY

    It's interesting, but unsurprising, that there was not a consensus answer to this question. No player got more than 13 percent of the vote, which is way different from last year, when the votes basically all went to Providence's Kris Dunn (26 percent), LSU's Ben Simmons (21 percent) and Iowa State's Georges Niang (20 percent).

    From talking to coaches, here's what I believe: If not for two torn ACLs, the leading vote getter would've been Duke's Harry Giles. Multiple coaches described him as "the next Chris Webber." But the 6-foot-10 freshman hasn't played since November of last year, and nobody knows how he'll respond to a second major surgery.

    Consequently, Giles' teammate received the most votes.

    And that makes sense for the exact reason lots of coaches said - because Grayson Allen is going to be one of the nation's best scorers for what should be the nation's best team. The 6-5 junior averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. He's a lock for every preseason All-America team and will likely be most people's preseason National Player of the Year.

    So, again, I was not surprised Allen led all vote-getters.

    But the name I actually heard more often than any other is Markelle Fultz. The Washington freshman finished first among coaches I polled but was significantly lower among those Matt Norlander contacted, which led to Fultz finishing slightly behind Allen in the final tally. Still, it's clear, coaches really like Fultz. One coach who worked with the point guard this summer told me he was "by far" the best player on the USA team that won gold at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship last month. Several others predicted he'll be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Just a special, special talent. If Washington is good enough, Fultz will stack hardware in what should be his lone season of college basketball.

    If you're keeping track by school, Duke had three players (Grayson Allen, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum) receive votes, which led all teams. Kentucky (Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo), Villanova (Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins) and Kansas (Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson) each had two players get votes. For what it's worth, those four schools are first, second, third and fourth in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one).

  • CBS Sports Insider

    Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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