Duke is on the short list of contenders for the national championship as the 2014-15 college basketball season approaches, but since it is NBA draft time, it is worth looking at the future professional stocks of some of Duke’s best players.
The Blue Devils will be dependent on their freshmen this year, and it is no coincidence that they are the ones on the roster with the brightest NBA futures. A certain trio in particular could all be playing against the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in the 2015-16 NBA season.
Perhaps all you need to know about big man Jahlil Okafor’s NBA prospects is the fact that DraftExpress pegged him as the No. 1 pick in its 2015 mock draft.
Okafor will be an absolute offensive beast on the block for Duke in his freshman season because of his ability to carve out space with his size and overall strength. In addition to his high basketball IQ, which always helps him get in a favorable position, Okafor has an array of post moves in his arsenal.
Okafor can mix in baby hooks, impressive drop steps or simply power his way to the basket, and he will find himself at the free-throw line throughout the year as a result.
On top of his low-post abilities, Okafor can hit from mid-range and stretch the defense. He’s going to lead Duke in scoring and find his way to the NBA based on his offense alone.
He still has room for improvement on the defensive end, but his lengthy wingspan will certainly help him contest shots at the rim. What’s more, he is a terrific rebounder who will put up double-doubles on a nightly basis. Somehow, there will probably be room at the next level for a player like that.
DraftExpress has Okafor’s fellow freshman teammate Justise Winslow going No. 8 in its 2015 mock, so we are talking about another top-10 prospect in Durham.
Who gets drafted first?
Winslow may be the most valuable recruit on the entire roster for the Blue Devils in terms of immediately fixing their biggest weaknesses from a year ago. Winslow will be a lockdown perimeter defender who can contain the opposing point guard, shooting guard or small forward. In fact, he will probably guard the best player on the other team every night unless that opponent is a center.
Winslow is also a formidable rebounder who will help out Okafor on the glass.
On the offensive side, Winslow can hit from behind the three-point line and attack the rim with his athleticism and strength. He is an impressive passer and ball-handler as well, and he can fill in at almost every position if needed.
What’s more, Winslow thrived under some bright lights this offseason, as Duke Athletics and Bret Strelow of The Fayetteville Observer pointed out:
Justise Winslow (20 points, 10 reb), Tyus Jones, Luke Kennard, Stephen Zimmerman help lead U.S. to U18 gold medal: http://t.co/ckBFp9tBij— Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow) June 25, 2014
Between the elite athleticism, the shutdown defense, the James-like versatility and his offensive skill, Winslow was built to play in the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he is a top-five pick in next year’s draft.
DraftExpress pegged Tyus Jones as the No. 13 pick in its 2015 mock draft, so there could very well be a trio of Blue Devils in next year’s lottery.
However, before Jones is dishing out assists to the world’s best players, he gets to play alongside his friend Okafor. The point guard is certainly ready, via Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune:
I'm real excited. It's something we've been looking forward to and wanted to make happen the past couple of years and now it's a couple weeks away.
I think [I'm] just [excited about] getting in the swing of things. Getting down there. I'm in summer school so I'll be taking some classes and I'll start working out and just kind of get in a regular college routine.
Sure, it is easy for Jones to be excited for his future with Okafor, but the Duke big man will benefit greatly with Jones at the helm of the offense. His basketball IQ and overall understanding of the game is off the charts, and he is always looking to set up his teammates with easy looks.
Jones’ best attribute is his ability to control the entire flow of the game with the ball in his hands, but he is more than capable of scoring on his own when needed. Jones can hit from behind the three-point line and attack the basket with his quickness, and he is strong enough to finish through contact when he gets there.
That will certainly be appealing to NBA squads.
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