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Tobacco Road: Does North Carolina or Duke Reign Supreme in the NBA?

Rollin YeattsSenior Analyst IIDecember 23, 2016

Tobacco Road: Does North Carolina or Duke Reign Supreme in the NBA?

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    It's been a while since we last took a trip down Tobacco Road for a rivalry piece. This time, we will settle an age-old argument between Duke and North Carolina fans: Do the Tar Heels or Blue Devils reign supreme in the NBA today?

    There is no doubt UNC owns the past with Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter...

    You get the point.

    But now we have folks that like to play the numbers game. Having the most players in the NBA is indeed an honor. However, it doesn't do anything to prove relevance.

    That will be the goal today.

    We will break down the list of former Tar Heels and Blue Devils until we reach a true indication of relevancy. That means we will bury our heads in minutes and stat lines and even toss around some playoff numbers.

    If this doesn't settle the debate, we will at least get a true indication of these fanbases' fanatical tendencies.

     

    All information is from the 2012-13 NBA season.

NBA Player Count for UNC and Duke

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    As of the end of the 2012-13 season, the Duke Blue Devils lead the way with 18 players in the NBA. The North Carolina Tar Heels aren't far behind, though, with a total of 16.

    At one point, there were 17 Tar Heels in the NBA, but Rasheed Wallace retired after 21 days with the New York Knicks. A foot injury kept him from being productive, and now it is unclear whether he will be looking to play again or give coaching a shot.

    Either way, he wasn't on the roster at the end of the season. Therefore, he can't be included on this list.

     

    North Carolina

    Harrison Barnes, Warriors
    Vince Carter, Mavericks
    Ed Davis, Grizzlies
    Wayne Ellington, Cavaliers
    Raymond Felton, Knicks
    Danny Green, Spurs
    Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers
    Brendan Haywood, Bobcats
    John Henson, Bucks
    Antawn Jamison, Lakers
    Ty Lawson, Nuggets
    Kendall Marshall, Suns
    Jerry Stackhouse, Nets
    Marvin Williams, Jazz
    Brandan Wright, Mavericks
    Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers

     

    Duke

    Shane Battier, Heat
    Elton Brand, Mavericks
    Carlos Boozer, Bulls
    Luol Deng, Bulls
    Chris Duhon, Lakers
    Mike Dunleavy, Bucks
    Gerald Henderson, Bobcats
    Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
    Dahntay Jones, Hawks
    Corey Maggette, Pistons
    Josh McRoberts, Bobcats
    Miles Plumlee, Pacers
    Shavlik Randolph, Celtics
    J.J. Redick, Bucks
    Austin Rivers, Pelicans
    Kyle Singler, Pistons
    Nolan Smith, Trail Blazers
    Lance Thomas, Pelicans

     

    Duke 1, UNC 0

Do Blue Devils or Tar Heels Get More Playing Time in NBA?

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    Now we get into the relevance of these rival players, starting with playing time.

    Only seven of the 34 Tar Heels and Blue Devils averaged over 30 minutes per game, which is quite disappointing. Kudos to Duke, though, for making up five of those seven. Luol Deng led all of these players—and the league—with 38.7 minutes per contest.

    But when we look at totals and averages, this category takes a bit of a turn.

    UNC led the way in average playing time with 22.3 minutes per game. Duke fell just short of Carolina in that category at 21.8.

    And despite having fewer players representing the program, former Tar Heels racked up 1,122 games and 517 starts. Blue Devils, on the other hand, tallied just 1,059 games and 484 starts.

    Duke may have more current players at the next level, but it would appear former Tar Heels have bigger roles across the board.

     

    UNC 1, Duke 1

How Do Former Blue Devils and Tar Heels Match Up Statistically?

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    Now we get into the category everyone loves—and what many consider the greatest indicator of relevance.

    Once again, Duke holds a slight edge with the minority. Six Blue Devils averaged double figures in points last season, with Kyrie Irving leading the way at 22.5 points per game. Only four Tar Heels finished with an average of 10 points or higher.

    The Nuggets' Ty Lawson was the head of that group with 16.7 per contest.

    As we dig deeper into the stat column, however, North Carolina gives Duke a nice challenge. Former Tar Heels averaged more rebounds, more blocks and fewer personal fouls. They also have a better field-goal percentage and three-point percentage.

    Duke tied UNC in assists, steals, turnovers and points per game. Other than field-goal, three-point and free-throw attempts and makes per game, the only category the Blue Devils led was free-throw percentage.

    This was a much tighter battle than anticipated, but the edge goes to UNC here. It tied or topped Duke in every one of the major categories except free-throw percentage.

     

    UNC: 8.5 PTS, 3.7 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.5 BLK, 0.6 STL, 1.1 TO, 45.3% FG, 37.8% 3PT, 72.8% FT

    Duke:  8.5 PTS, 3.4 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.4 BLK, 0.6 STL, 1.1 TO, 43.9% FG, 36.7% 3PT, 78.5% FT

     

    UNC 2, Duke 1

Did Blue Devils or Tar Heels Have a Bigger Impact in the NBA Playoffs?

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    Any true NBA fan knows what separates the men from the boys. It's the playoffs, my friends.

    Could Duke redeem itself here?

    Not so much. It wasn't even close, other than the number of players. Both programs had nine players representing them in the 2013 NBA playoffs.

    It's all downhill from here for the Blue Devils—except for Shane Battier's Game 7 performance, which helped to solidify another title for the Miami Heat.

    But Danny Green owned the first five games of the finals, overtaking Ray Allen for the most made threes in a single finals series. Green finished with 27 made three-pointers.

    The Tar Heels started 51 games in the playoffs, which is just four fewer games than former Dukies even played in. Blue Devils only started in 17 playoff games this year.

    Statistically, it wasn't close, either. The Tar Heels owned every category except average rebounds. And the Blue Devils were absolutely torched in three-point percentage. Former Tar Heels shot 39.2 percent from downtown in the playoffs, compared to just 28.7 percent for former Blue Devils.

    There's no toss-up here. The only thing that could possibly give Duke an edge was Battier's Game 7 performance. But considering that's the only time he showed up in the playoffs, that would be a ridiculous argument.

     

    UNC 3, Duke 1

Final Decision: Is Duke or North Carolina More Relevant in the NBA?

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    Well, taking the most unbiased approach possible, it still appears North Carolina reigns supreme in the NBA. The only thing the Blue Devils have on the Tar Heels is the total number of players.

    Feel free to turn a blind eye and continue to use that argument. But the numbers don't lie—and the truth is finally out.

    No matter how you slice it, though, both programs have put their respective stamps on the NBA. And, aside from the playoffs, it's a pretty tight battle. You have to give it up to these two stellar programs for impacting both levels of competition.

    This is just another reason the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina is so special.

    Maybe next year, Dukies.

    But probably not.

     

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