Kyrie Is the Exception, Duke Mediocrity is the Rule

If you look at guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations? (Phil Jackson)

There are 19 Duke players currently in the NBA. 18 of them have never been Rookie of the Year. 17 of them have never been an All-Star. Only 2 (Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick) have played in the NBA Finals. Only 5 of the 19, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick, Jayson Tatum and Austin Rivers are starters this season. (Rivers is starting by default because of injury to the Clippers point guard, Patrick Beverley). The rest of the Duke NBA fraternity falls somewhere between getting off the bench to not really memorable. The Duke hype machine can’t help them now. But they were supposed to be special just because Duke means you are privileged.

Of the 19 Duke NBA players (included in this number is Semi Ojeleye who attended Duke and SMU), 17 were drafted, 10 were lottery picks, 3 were second round picks.

What makes Duke a top rated program? The seamelss fit within MIke Krzyzewski’s offense and yet it is that very thing that hurts them in the NBA game which is dependent on versatility, scoring talent, handles and ego, not to mention maturity, work ethic, speed and being on the right team at the right time. And toss in luck.

Number one pick Kyrie Irving is the best Duke NBA talent since Grant Hill and his career may eclipse the often injured Hill who never got an opportuntiy to be in his prime and dominate because he couldn’t stay healthy. Irving’s health has been up and down- in the NBA Finals of 2015 it was way down.  His Duke brethern have less injury issues and more can’t make NBA impact issues.

The Best of The Crew

Seth Curry. 27 years old. Undrafted. The younger brother of you know who. Nice backup scorer for the Mavs but a little bit slow. Not as athletic as his brother. Hasn’t played this year because of left leg issues. His best season was last year. 29 minutes. 42.5% from three. 12.8 points.

Luol Deng. 32 years old. Lottery Pick. Wants out. Lakers want him out. But he is basically untradeable because he makes way too much money and the rest of the league knows how desperate the Lakers are so they have their hands tied behind their back. He has played one game this year, 13 minutes. His best season was five years ago. 16.5 points. 6.3 rebounds. All-Star.

Rodney Hood. 25 years old. 1st Round Pick. Shooting guard with talent but not that special kind of talent like James Harden, Klay Thompson, Bradely Beal, DeMar DeRozan. Gives Utah a nice punch but the star of that team is Donovan Mitchell. His best season is this year. 17.5 points. 40.8% from three.

Brandon Ingram. 20 years oldLottery Pick. Improved from his so-so rookie year. Drives to the rim and finishes. He’s not an explosive leaper, more of a reacher. Has zero jumpshot which makes him easy to defend for teams with size at the rim. Thin body means he still gets pushed around in the paint. He may turn into something special or his ceiling may be a jack of all trades, master of none.  2017: 16.1 points. 5.4 rebounds.

Kyrie Irving. 25 years old. Lottery Pick. NBA Champion who jumped ship and he wasn’t even pushed. He was running away from LeBron James which looked kind of weak. He found himself in the best possible situation. Happy being the star on a team of hard nose competitors who allow Kyrie to be Kyrie. Divorced, he can bask in all the glory without sharing the attention or being compared to the King or having to answer questions about LeBron or the flat earth. His best season was last year. All-Star. 25.2 points. 5.8 assists.

Jahlil Okafor. 22 years old. Lottery Pick. So far, not much to say about Jah. He’s been incredibly immature. In-game, he has been incredibly average. He’s a big who plays small. He’s not explosive around the rim. Primarily an offensive player allergic to defense. Out of shape so he can’t even get into games. His work ethic is marginal. Best season was his rookie year. 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds.

Jabari Parker. 22 years old. Lottery Pick. What we have seen has been nice but two ACL injuries has robbed Parker of the NBA. It’s hard to pencil in the kind of player he is going to be when he has his comeback but maybe a three point specialist instead of finishing at the rim, to save his knees. His best season, last year. 20.1 points. 6.2 rebounds.

J.J. Redick. 33 years old. Lottery Pick. In a way, Redick has been the best story coming out of Duke because no one thought he would be able to stay in the league this long. Redick figured out a way to make his game work. He learned how to defend in spite of his limitations. His catch and shoot jumpers have carved out a career. Now in Philly for a year, he is part scorer, part teacher. His best season is this year. 17.1 points. 33 minutes. 116 Offensive Rating.

Austin Rivers. 25 years old. Lottery Pick. Rivers has a lot of baggage playing for his father and many thinking the only reason he is in the NBA is because of his father. But Austin is having a career year taking Pat Beverley’s place and delivering. He is out with an Achilles injury but he kept the Clippers from drowning when Blake Griffin was in street clothes. By far, this is his best year. 15.8 points. 40.5% from three.

Jayson Tatum. 19 years old. Lottery Pick. He would be a heavy front runner for Rookie of the Year if he was on a bad team. But playing with a defensive oriented team and with Kyrie, he has flourished despite being ignored. He’s not the steal of the 2017 draft but the most ready NBA player. 2017: 14.1 points. 5.6 rebounds. 47.1% three pointers.

Justise Winslow. 21 years old. Lottery Pick. Disappointment. He can’t shoot which was always the book on Winslow but Pat Riley thought he could fix his shot. Wrong. Winslow has also had to deal with injuries. His upside changes his possibilities if he crafts himself into a Bruce Bowen defender who can make the occasional three. He’s not there yet. Best season was his second year. 10.9 points. 5. 4 rebounds.