Duke Basketball: Breaking Down Blue Devils' Top NBA Hopefuls
The AP No. 4-ranked Duke Blue Devils are in the midst of yet another fine season under legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski despite not possessing the NBA talent that many marquee programs do.
A trio of players do, however, have a shot at being snatched up by an NBA squad in June's draft at Madison Square Garden. Mason Plumlee headlines the bunch as a surefire first-round pick, but Rasheed Sulaimon has a shot at going late in Round 1, and Seth Curry has a chance in the second.
Here is a breakdown of each Blue Devil standout, and how their respective games translate to the professional level.
Rasheed Sulaimon, SG
The sweet-shooting freshman may not be a strong candidate for a one-and-done career, but he does have enough tools to make the leap to the pros in 2013.
Sulaimon is a little bit raw still and struggles with consistency. However, when he is on, Sulaimon has the potential to be among the most explosive scorers in this class. But at just 6'4" and 190 pounds, there is plenty of room for the freshman to add some bulk.
What works in Sulaimon's favor is his deep NBA range from beyond the arc and body control, which helps him effectively square up to the hoop and also finish close to the bucket. He has a knack for penetrating the lane, but again, he could use more size against paint enforcers at the next level.
As would be expected of a hard-working Duke prospect, another strength of Sulaimon's game is his ability to defend on the perimeter due to his agility and lateral quickness.
At best, Sulaimon could project as a late first-round pick and serve as an energy role player off the bench for one of the better franchises in the NBA. However, he'll likely choose to develop more in college and become an eventual savior for a struggling pro team later on.
Seth Curry, SG
There aren't many better sharpshooters than Curry. ESPN's official college basketball Twitter page was mesmerized by his recent display against Florida State in which he drained five three-pointers:
Love watching Seth Curry shoot. So smooth.— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) February 2, 2013
And that outstanding shooting ability isn't even the most attractive asset he brings to the table.
Curry's leadership as a fifth-year senior and inspiring play through what he describes as constant pain should give him high marks as far as intangibles are concerned.
Unfortunately, like his brother, Stephen, who stars for the Golden State Warriors, Seth has been bothered by ankle problems (h/t Duke Chronicle). Injuries are always a cause for a red flag, despite Curry's contention that it doesn't affect his quickness.
Scouts should keep in mind what Curry might be capable of when actually healthy.
He is an extremely heady basketball player with a high IQ and is still getting enough lift on his jumper to be second on the team in scoring, shooting better than 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range.
Anything that Curry lacks in quickness and elite athleticism can be made up for by his awareness on the court. He likely wouldn't go until the late second round of the draft, but he would be a steal at that juncture.
Mason Plumlee, PF
As a senior, Plumlee has stepped up his game and turned into a double-double machine, averaging 17.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest.
Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press noted how Plumlee is squarely in the mix for the Naismith Trophy:
Odds for national POY from Bovada: Trey Burke (Michigan) 7/2; Doug McDermott (Creighton) 9/2; Mason Plumlee (Duke) 7/1— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) February 7, 2013
After a recent stretch in which Plumlee wasn't exactly on his game, he went off in back-to-back conference games against Maryland and Wake Forest. The Terrapins feature potential top-five pick Alex Len, and Plumlee took his counterpart to school in the Blue Devils' 20-point win.
That was followed by a monstrous 32 points and nine rebounds against the Demon Deacons, which had to have cemented Plumlee's status as a lottery pick. He is a very efficient offensive player, shooting over 60 percent from the floor with the ability to knock down the mid-range jumper.
Plumlee is an explosive athlete for his size, and although he lacks the ideal thickness to match up defensively with powerful NBA big men, he still has plenty of room to fill out.
There isn't much not to like about Plumlee's game. It's unlikely that he could start for an NBA team immediately and truly thrive, but he could emerge quickly as a valuable big man first off the bench, then settle in as a starter.
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