Coming into the 2013-14 college basketball season, any discussion about a Duke player not named Jabari Parker entering the next NBA draft seemed premature.
Sure, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were both talented, but the holes in their games were very easy to point out. For what it’s worth, Sulaimon’s stock has plummeted from the end of the bench, but Cook has played some of the best offensive basketball of his career and could be a professional option down the road.
However, there was another relatively unknown newcomer who had played a season at Mississippi State before transferring to Mike Krzyzewski’s program that was slated into Duke’s starting lineup 10 games ago. That player was Rodney Hood.
Hood did average double-digit scoring in his one year in the SEC, but to say he was overshadowed by the hype-train that arrived in Durham with Parker would be a rather large understatement. All Hood has done since is dominate the non-conference slate and join Parker in the midst of NBA lottery discussions.
While Hood may not be a legitimate candidate to be National Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft like Parker, he has surpassed expectations by a wide margin. He is posting nightly averages of 18.9 points, five rebounds and two assists behind 56.5 percent shooting from the field, 45.7 percent shooting from downtown and 85 percent shooting from the free-throw stripe.
He scored 30 points against East Carolina, 28 against Florida Atlantic, 21 against now No. 1 Arizona and saved Duke from embarrassment with 22 points and the game-winning play in the final seconds against Vermont.
Hood, along with Parker and Cook, is a primary factor in the Blue Devils’ No. 2 ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. NBA scouts have surely noticed.
Hood shares many of the same traits on the floor that have attracted so many NBA teams to Parker’s game. He is versatile, lengthy, athletic, gets out in transition, finishes at the rim through contact, can beat guys off the dribble, can hit from behind the three-point line with regularity, is a solid rebounder and can post smaller defenders up or shoot over the top of them.
Basically, Hood is the prototype of the stretch forward that can play multiple positions and has taken over at the collegiate and professional level.
The downside of Hood’s game from an NBA perspective is a lack of intensity on the defensive side (can’t the same thing be said about almost every Duke player this year?) and perhaps a need to develop an explosive first step.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish projects Hood as the No. 20 pick in the upcoming draft, Draft Express has him at No. 14 and CBS Sports’ Zach Harper has him at No. 19. Harper broke down Hood’s stock in a bit more detail:
Jabari Parker has overshadowed his Duke teammate and rightfully so. But Hood is having a breakout year and maximizing his talents. He could do a little more playmaking but his scoring has been so efficient that you don't really notice the lack of assists.
It is clear that if Hood wants to test the NBA waters after this season, the market will be there. In all likelihood, he will be a first-round pick and possibly crack the lottery, so it’s almost impossible to fault him for making that decision if he turns professional down the road.
However, the flip side of the coin would be if Hood elected to come back to Duke as the de-facto leader of the 2014-15 team. Parker will almost assuredly be playing in the NBA next year (he could come back, but when decision time rolls around the opportunity to be one of the first picks will be just too much to pass up), which will give scouts the chance to see how Hood looks when he isn’t benefiting from playing alongside arguably the best player in college basketball.
Hood would be playing with loads of talent, including Cook and freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones, and could very well lead the Blue Devils to a national championship. Duke may be the title favorites next year even without Parker and Hood, so throwing Hood’s name into that mix makes the Devils even more formidable.
Ultimately, coming back for another year may be the best route for Hood. Not only will it give him a chance to win a national title at the college level (because it’s not going to happen this season if the Blue Devils continue to rebound and play defense like a Division II program), it also removes him from what is arguably the most talented draft class in more than a decade.
There are just more early slots available in the 2015 draft than there will be in the 2014 version.
Another season of Krzyzewski’s tutelage, a potential national title and a higher spot at the 2015 NBA draft is a fairly compelling case.
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.