Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver Looked Like A Potential Lottery Pick Against Duke

Getty Image

After three minutes and 23 seconds on Thursday evening, Jarrett Culver and the Texas Tech Red Raiders looked to be in serious trouble. The No. 12 team in the country was facing an uphill battle, at least on paper, against Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and the Duke Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden and, in the early going, Texas Tech’s offense gagged on itself to the tune of an 8-0 deficit and an early timeout.

With haste, though, Culver and the rest of Chris Beard’s team awakened, and the performance was a reminder of something that was already quite clear before tip: Culver, a 19-year-old guard for the Red Raiders, looks the part of a lottery pick when the 2019 NBA Draft arrives in June.

Culver was a part of his team’s early issues, struggling to find his rhythm due to two misses and a turnover in the opening minutes. From there, however, Culver asserted himself on the game, making five of his next six shots (including two threes) and acting as the engine of an impressive 21-6 run to claim the lead over the nation’s most talented team. Texas Tech battled Duke for the majority of the game before relenting on the way to an 11-point win but, before the result was final, Culver did plenty to announce his presence against the best competition he’ll face this season.

The 6’5 sophomore finished with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting (4-for-9 from three) with six rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a blocked shot. Along the way, Culver enjoyed quite a few standout moments, including a deep three that sent the Red Raiders faithful into a frenzy in New York.


Seconds later, Culver pushed back against questions about his perceived athletic limitations with a blow-by and a dunk.


Before the season, many believed Culver might be a first-round pick and, by the end of November, the 19 year old was climbing into the mix with regard to lottery consideration. At this point, however, it might be more of an upset if Culver was not selected by a team that did not make the 2019 NBA Playoffs, and some in the draft-focused world envision a top-five landing spot as a possibility.

With his explosive showing against Duke, Culver now boasts highly impressive season-long numbers. He is averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game as the best player on an impressive college team and, while production isn’t everything when evaluating NBA prospects at the collegiate level, it certainly doesn’t hurt. For good measure, Culver’s efficiency has been off the charts to this point in his second college season, converting 55.8 percent of his field goal attempts and burying 45 percent of his threes.

Of course, everything at this juncture (even with Christmas approaching) has the caveat of being a small sample size but Culver’s showing from his freshman year, combined with what he’s been able to do against high-end competition, answers any question about whether is play his fluky. At 6’5 and with good length, he brings a quality off-the-dribble game to the table and he profiles as, at worst, a competent secondary ball-handler at the NBA level. From there, Culver displays impressive shooting touch and a repeatable motion, and he is a creative finisher when able to get to the rim.

It should be noted that whispers about Culver’s lack of athletic explosion are warranted and, in some circles, he could be dinged from an upside perspective as a result. What he does boast, though, is very good positional size as a shooting guard and, while he is not an elite athlete, Culver makes up for that relative limitation with craft and immense skill. He is also a great playmaker for a player of his size, engineering Texas Tech’s offense on a regular basis, and the full package (including impressive rebounding numbers for a guard) reflects a well-rounded player.

If nothing else, Culver’s ability to both produce and flash upside against a team like Duke (with four first-round picks) should work wonders for his overall profile. Die-hards clearly were well aware of his skill set as a potential lottery pick but, on a Thursday evening in December, Jarrett Culver showed that he can crash the lottery party in June. For the vast majority of a 40-minute basketball game, he outplayed players of similar stature and higher pedigree in Barrett and Cameron Reddish.

In total, that’s not a bad night at the office, even in what ended up being an 11-point loss.