Duke Basketball: The Blue Devils' Most Memorable NBA Successes
Although Duke has been a successful college program for a long time, it has been known for not producing a lot of NBA level talent. That has begun to change in the past few years, but they still do not compete with the likes of Kentucky and Kansas when comparing future NBA products.
This article will take a look at two former Blue Devils from each position who had the most success at the professional level and does not really consider players who only played for a few years in the pros, even if they played at a high level.
Point Guards: Johnny Dawkins, Kyrie Irving
This position was the hardest for Duke. They have a history of successful college guards who do not transfer well into the NBA, including Bobby Hurley.
Johnny Dawkins had a solid career as a pro. He played for nine seasons and averaged 11 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds.
His top season included averages of 15.8 points and 7.4 assists, which he did in the 1987-88 season. He was a solid pro for a relatively long career, but is mostly on here because of a lack of other options.
Kyrie Irving is looking like he will be a great NBA player for a long time. He already has a Rookie of the Year award as well as averages of 18.5 points and 5.4 assists in his first season.
As long as a freak injury doesn't derail his career, Irving will likely pass Dawkins and will have the most impressive NBA career of any Duke point guard.
Shooting Guard: Jeff Mullins, Bob Verga
Once again, Duke's poor history of making NBA ready guards made this selection difficult. I had to go far back in history to find these two selections.
Jeff Mullins had a 12-year long career in which he averaged 16 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. His best season came in 1968-69 when he averaged 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for the San Francisco Warriors.
Mullins was consistently a very good player throughout his career and made three All-Star games in his career. Those games he was surrounded by the likes of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Lew Alcindor, which speaks volumes of the talent level he was at.
Bob Verga was a small combo guard who only played for six seasons in both the NBA and ABA. For his career he averaged 21 points, four rebounds and three assists per game. His best season was in 1969-70 with averages of 27.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Verga didn't play enough seasons to justify being Duke's second best shooting guard, but his six seasons were really good, included one All-Star season, and his career was shortened by the difficulties between the NBA and ABA.
Small Forwards: Grant Hill, Jack Marin
Oh the potential Grant Hill had coming out of Duke. He, along with Scottie Pippen, defined the role of the point-forward. He jumped out to a quick start in his first few years in the NBA, getting to the All-Star game in his first year and being a First-Team All-NBA member in his third.
Hill also only missed 25 games in his first six seasons, but that all changed in the 2000-01 season, when he missed all but four games. From there, he only made two All-Star games and his scoring dropped drastically.
Despite that, Hill has managed to re-invent his career as a defender and all around player, even at the age of 39. His career averages are 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. That being said, he had two great seasons which stood out. In 1995-96, he averaged 20 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists. In 1999-00, Hill had his best scoring year with an average of 25.8 points.
Jack Marin was a more difficult decision because of Luol Deng, Corey Maggette and Shane Battier also played for Duke. Marin played for 11 seasons in the NBA, with two All-Star games. He had career averages of 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Marin's best season came in 1971-72, with averages of 22.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
He is put as the second option above Deng for two reasons. First, Deng has yet to peak quite as well as Marin did. Deng also just made his first All-Star game, while Jack made two in his career. That being said, it looks likely that Luol Deng will pass him as a better small forward, he just hasn't quite yet.
Power Forwards: Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer
A lot of long-term Duke fans will have a problem with Christian Laettner not being one of the top power forwards, but his numbers in the NBA do not compare to these two guys.
Elton Brand, although he is currently being released under the amnesty clause, has great numbers for his career. He has averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists over a 12 year NBA career. He also had two all-star years and has averaged over 11 rebounds and 24 points in different seasons.
He has great rebounding statistics for a power forward and has shown he is able to score the ball. Brand has also been able to keep his shooting percentage at over 50% for his career.
Carlos Boozer has played for three less seasons than Brand and averages slightly less points. He has career averages of 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Boozer has been extremely consistent with his scoring, averaging over 20 points per game only twice. He has also shown strong rebounding skills for a power forward, with three seasons over 11 rebounds per game.
Boozer has also made two All-Star games and has a career field goal percentage of 53.7 percent, which is impressive.
Brand and Boozer get the nod over Laettner because he only averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers, especially the rebounding, are not nearly good enough to be remembered well as an NBA player.
Mike Gminski (12-7-1) Randy Denton (12-9-1 ABA)
Mike Gminski isn't a very recognizable name because he simply wasn't that good in the NBA. He was just a consistent big man throughout the 1980's and early '90s. His career averages are a modest 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Gminski had a five-year peak between 1985-89 in which he averaged over 16 points and 7.8 rebounds, with a peak in rebounds at 10.5 per game. Overall Mike was a consistent big man who impressively shot 84.3 percent from the free-throw line throughout his career.
Randy Denton is another ABA player who finished his career in the NBA. He had career averages of 12.3 points and nine rebounds, as well as a peak year of 17 points and 12.4 rebounds in 1972-73.
Denton, like Gminski, did not have a great professional career, but Duke hasn't put out too many great professional centers. Both players' numbers do not compare well at all to former Duke power forwards.
Randy Denton is mainly recognizable for his giant afro. Bleacher Report's very own Jesse Dorsey ranked his fro' as the eighth best of NBA history. Also, According to Remembertheaba.com, he is the real-life inspiration for the hairstyle that Will Farrell wears in Semi-Pro, although there is no substantial proof that that is true.
Also, if Christian Laettner can be considered a center, he would probably be at the top of this list.