While the Duke Blue Devils don’t have the greatest track record in the NBA, things have gotten a little better in recent years. Jayson Tatum has blossomed into a legitimate star. Kyrie Irving, for all his warts, is an incredibly talented player with a championship ring to his name. RJ Barrett has developed into a dependable pro who is currently eclipsing Zion Williamson.
At the risk of predicting the future, the 2022 NBA draft may add to those ranks. Barring last-second auditions, five different Blue Devils – Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore Jr. and Trevor Keels – should hear their names in the two rounds.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at their abilities and where they might end up.
Paolo Banchero looks like a guaranteed top 3 pick
Paolo Banchero is, of course, the first name on the Duke list.
During his time at Durham, the forward displayed legitimate all-around ability. Billing himself as a prototypical NBA winger with impressive size, he boasts of the ability to run across the floor, make a jump shot and hit the dribble. He seemed more comfortable shooting threes in rhythm on the track, but he needs to continue honing that part of his game at a professional level.
Throughout the pre-draft process, most analysts pinned Banchero as headed to Houston, but he could theoretically end up in the top 3 picks anywhere. The Orlando Magic have publicly stated that they are still evaluating all of their options; Without a pure need for position, they might like the Duke Blue Devil more than Jabari Smith Jr. Chet Holmgren could try to make sure he lands with a specific team, which could put Banchero in second overall. Then there’s the scenario where things don’t change and the forward transfers to the Rockets.
Anyway, you should hear Banchro’s name fairly early Thursday night.
AJ Griffin is a pure shooter that looks like a low-end lottery pick
Between Coach K’s last season and Banchero’s sheer notoriety, AJ Griffin fell a little under the radar. The newcomer proved to be a pure shooter, converting 44.7% of his long-range attempts, and he possesses enough height and range (listed at 6-foot-6) to do his business on either end of the ground.
Although teams might want to review his medical history — the guard missed some time at Duke with a knee injury, although the program said there was no structural damage — he looks like a capable Three-and-D player.
Many new mock drafts see him as an 11th pick with the New York Knicks, but there’s a legitimate chance New York will make that pick. With that in mind, Griffin could go anywhere in the second half of lottery picks.
Traditional big men are all but gone, but Mark Williams has shown enough to become a first-round pick
Today, most great NBA men must have the athleticism and ability to stretch the ground. While Mark Williams is more at home in the paint than on the perimeter, he still showed enough at Durham to earn an NBA job.
The center’s attacking numbers just blew no one’s mind during the 2021/22 season – he averaged just over 11 points a game – but Williams proved an all-rounder all the way. He’s able to clean the glass on both ends of the floor (averaging 7.4 rebounds per contest), block shots with his seven-foot frame (2.8 per game), and focus on the pick-and-roll to let in the game. He might not be the most mobile big man you’ve ever seen, but the Virginia Beach native is capable of pounding to the brim on offense, thriving on defense and surviving even when against smaller opponents the periphery is drawn .
At this point, he is expected to end up as the 15th pick with the Charlotte Hornets; Michael Jordan was reportedly unhappy with the team’s defense and adding some real rim protection would help change that. He could also match Houston at 17th, or if he slips further, San Antonio at 20th.
Wendell Moore Jr. and Trevor Keels round out Duke’s draft class
Finally we come to Wendell Moore Jr. and Trevor Keels. While none of the Blue Devils are considered unmissable stars, each brings something to their NBA team.
Moore became an all-around player at Durham, averaging 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists as a junior. He’s tall enough (6ft 5) to navigate the defensive perimeter and has plenty of experience too. The guard might not become a star, but it’s easy to see him profiling himself as a capable NBA pro who can spell out a star or be a solid rotation option.
Keels, listed as 6-foot-4, is an oversized guard capable of using his frame to create mismatches. This shows up mostly on the defensive end of the floor, where he can bully smaller guards, but it hasn’t carried over as cleanly to the offensive side.
The Maryland native showed off his driving skills, though he never really got it all together and eventually lost his starting job to Jeremy Roach. The Athletic’s Brendan Marks also reported that Keels released some less-than-ideal numbers during his pre-draft testing, which could further dent his status.
At this point, any of these Blue Devils could call out their name at any time between the end of the first round and the completion of the draft. Moore has the higher potential and will likely go first, but Keels shouldn’t be too far behind.
Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference
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