For all the chatter about how Duke players fall flat on their faces in the NBA, let me point out the list of former Blue Devils that are in the middle of (at the very least) decent pro careers: Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand, Chris Duhon, Shane Battier, Luol Deng and JJ Redick, just to name a few.
Plus, point guard Kyrie Irving went No. 1 overall in this past summer’s NBA draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Expect more Dukies to enter next summer’s draft.
While I’m not sure exactly which of Coach K’s kids will go pro in 2012, I have a pretty good idea of who should.
This choice is a pretty obvious one. Even before enrolling at Duke for his freshman year, Austin Rivers was regarded as one of the top NBA Draft prospects out there.
Despite being fresh out of high school, Rivers’s dribble-drive penetration is relentless. I haven’t seen a Blue Devil attack the rim this effortlessly since the days of Jay Williams. In addition to having a mean first step, Rivers is also a very sound ball-handler, giving him the option to play either the point or shooting guard positions at the next level (although he’s more of a shooting guard).
His outside shooting skills and defensive intensity still leave something to be desired, but scouts believe those attributes will only improve over time.
Given how Rivers is a lock to be a top-three draft pick next summer, I will be absolutely shocked if he returns to Durham for his sophomore season.
For the past two years, we’ve heard how Mason Plumlee has the best pro potential of nearly anyone on the Duke Blue Devils.
While I don’t necessarily agree with that, I do believe that Plumlee is a sure-fire first-round pick should the junior declare for next year’s NBA draft.
Plumlee has the size (6’11”, 235 lbs.) that scouts covet out of a power forward. His post game continues to progress throughout his Duke career and he’s showing signs this year that he’s capable of knocking down those critical mid-range jumpers.
Scouts also salivate over Plumlee’s pure athleticism and solid ball-handling skills in the open floor (not that he’ll be leading fast breaks down NBA courts).
One factor holding Plumlee back is his lack of rebounding. He tends to get lost on the boards when dealing with bigger, more physical frountcourt players.
If Plumlee can show more toughness on the glass, then he’ll be a likely lottery pick next summer.
Don’t be surprised if Seth Curry follows in both his father’s and older brother’s footsteps into the NBA during next summer’s draft. The Duke junior point/shooting guard is gradually showing signs that he’ll be a solid player at the next level.
We already know that Curry is as lethal as they come from beyond the perimeter and at the charity stripe. Now, Curry is using his deadly outside touch to open up more dribble-drive opportunities against opposing defenders.
And now that he’s playing the point more, Curry is able to showcase his ball-handling abilities. He could serve as a nice point guard-shooting guard hybrid in the NBA.
I see Curry as a late first-round pick, and it’s going to be tough for him to turn down the guaranteed contract that accompanies being selected that high.
Call me crazy, but I think Ryan Kelly could be a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki. Now I’m not saying Kelly will ever be a NBA or NBA Finals MVP.
I’m saying that Kelly’s offensive mannerisms are pretty similar to that of the Dallas Mavericks superstar. Kelly is underrated with his methodical way of posting up and getting to the basket.
But Kelly’s bread and butter is still his outside shot, and he has the size (6’11”) and stroke to be a nice mismatch for defenders at the NBA level.
I wouldn’t be surprised if someone late in the first round takes a chance on Kelly in hopes that he can be a lesser version of Nowitzki.
In case you haven’t noticed, the NBA has turned into a point guard-driven league. That’s good news for Duke’s freshman point guard, Quinn Cook.
While he has yet to see significant playing time thus far, that didn’t stop former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving from going number one overall last season.
I don't necessarily believe that Cook is going to be as good as Irving, but as the season progresses, expect the dynamic guard to significantly contribute to the Blue Devils by the time this season is in the books.
And if he does, I fully expect a team to use a first-round pick on Cook, especially if the trend of drafting point guards continues.