Duke vs UNC: The NBA Question

Justin CrawfordCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

19 May 1998: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls dunks the ball during a Eastern Conference Finals game against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 104- 98.

It is the great rivalry of college basketball: Duke vs. Carolina.

Nobody forgets Eric Montross’ bloody face, Jeff Capel’s buzzer beater (that only tied the game), and Gerald Henderson’s foul on Tyler Hansbrough.  

This rivalry in college basketball has formed into a debate about which school is better. I want to settle the debate about which one is the best NBA producing school.

Really, the debate is not even close, but we will still entertain the question.

What do I mean by it is not even close? Well, Duke has produced a lot of NBA players, but UNC has produced much more true NBA talent.

Before I go too far, let me first say that Duke had more NBA players last season than did UNC. The numbers were 14 to 11. Let me follow that up by saying that the teams should be tied this season after UNC put four players in the draft (Hansbrough, Lawson, Ellington, Green) to Duke’s one (Henderson).

Now let us take a look at the history of the two programs in the NBA.

Duke’s big NBA star was going to be Grant Hill. He was going to be the next big thing (he drew comparisons to Michael Jordan which should give you a hint there on UNC’s NBA legacy).

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Then he got injured.

Grant Hill has averaged around 18 points per game throughout his career. Those numbers are nothing to laugh about, but as quite possibly Duke’s best NBA player so far, he just does not match up to UNC’s best players.

Two of Duke’s most productive players are still in the game: Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand. Boozer has averaged 16.8 points per game over his career, and Elton Brand has put up 20 points a game.

Brand’s numbers are very good, and I expect by the time his career is over they will be hall of fame type numbers. Yet again, these numbers are still below several of UNC’s players.

Taking a look at some of the greats at Duke they have Danny Ferry, Bobby Hurley, and Christian Laettner; none of which averaged more than 13 points per game in the NBA. That does not bode well for Duke in the debate.

Then there is J.J. Redick. Surprisingly, he started a few games for the Orlando Magic in 2008-2009, but he has performed similarly to what was expected averaging 5.5 points per game for his career. That is definitely not high-profile NBA material.

Now let us take a look at the Heels in the NBA.

We could go way back to Bob McAdoo and Billy Cunningham, but we will not.

We can start in the '80s with James Worthy and still settle the debate. Worthy was an outstanding forward who averaged 17.6 points per game for his career. His numbers were deemed Hall of Fame worthy, and he was thus inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I will save you the time, and not give you the stats for the rest of these players. None of these players averaged less than 17 points per game and most of them averaged well above that: Jerry Stackhouse, Walter Davis, Brad Daugherty, Antawn Jamison, Charlie Scott, and Vince Carter. All of these players have been outstanding basketball players with very good statistics.

Just take a look at these names. These are scary names, and on top of that you can add people like Sam Perkins and Rasheed Wallace, who may not have as good of numbers as the above, yet still have as good of numbers as the Duke players. Absolutely amazing.

If these players alone do not settle this argument; then we will have to mention Air Jordan. Not only did Michael Jordan have amazing stats (30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 5.3 apg), he also won six championships. Adding Jordan to this comparison is not even fair so we will just stop there.

I do not believe the race for best training grounds for the NBA is even close. UNC takes it by a landslide. The numbers cannot be disputed, and one thing is sure: UNC players have some outstanding numbers in the NBA.

For any high school player choosing where to play college basketball they should take these numbers and decide on which school might make them a NBA star. With Roy Williams continuously sending players to the next level the Heels will stay on top even in the NBA.

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