For the last couple decades, Duke has been the best, most consistent college basketball program in the nation. They have the Final Fours, the NCAA titles to prove it. And they have sent a lot of players on to the NBA.
But Duke players have not thrived at the next level. In fact they have often underwhelmed. There certainly have been good players — Grant Hill and Elton Brand (both especially before they got injured) to name a couple — but Duke has not sent on the percentage of superstar NBA players that other elite programs have. They have had more than their share of bad breaks and flameouts.
Is Cleveland taking a risk drafting a Duke player? Some in Cleveland are wondering.
I say no. They are taking the best player on the board. Which in the end is all a team can do.
But in a decade that may not be the perception. Irving is not expected to be a Derrick Rose or Chris Paul by NBA personnel, but because he is going to go No. 1 — to Cleveland after the loss of LeBron James — there will be a lot of pressure and hopes heaped upon him.
A lot of the perception of Duke’s struggles in the NBA go back to Danny Ferry, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Clippers in 1989, and he then promptly bolted for Italy for a year rather than play for that franchise. He ended up with a 13 year NBA career (10 of it in Cleveland) and he never came close to living up to the hype that followed him into the league.
For fun, let’s look back at some of the other top 20 picks out of Duke (by year they were drafted).
1992: Christian Laettner (No. 3 overall): He played 13 years in the NBA, made one All-Star team and frankly was a good player for much of that. But he also did not live up to the hype coming out of Duke.
1993: Bobby Hurley (No. 7): A car accident ruined his career before it really got started.
1994: Grant Hill (No. 3): Maybe the best NBA player ever to come out of Duke, he was a dynamic pro until ankle injuries did him in. He has bounced back some late in his career.
1995: Cherokee Parks (No. 12): Played parts of nine NBA seasons but was a journeyman. At best.
1999: Elton Brand (No. 1): Duke’s only No. 1 overall (over Steve Francis and Baron Davis). He was the Rookie of the Year for the Bulls, a two-time All-Star and has had a good career that injuries have slowed in recent years.
1999: Trajan Langdon (No. 11): He was out of the league after three years as he struggled to adapt to defenses.
2001: Shane Battier (No. 6): Not a superstar, but he has carved out a very nice career as an NBA role player and one of the best wing defenders in the league.
2002: Jason Williams (No. 2): A motorcycle accident robbed all of us of what may have been a very fun career to watch.
2002: Carlos Boozer (No. 34 overall): We found one Duke player who outperformed his draft status. Nobody was terribly high on Boozer coming out of Duke but the Cavaliers drafted him in the second round and he is a two-time All-Star and a key cog previously in Utah and now in Chicago.
2004: Luol Deng (No. 7): Maybe the vintage example of a Duke player to their critics — incredibly athletic but has had a good-but-not great career for the Bulls.
2006: J.J. Redick (11): To his credit, he is not the star he was in college but he has worked hard to make himself a defender and adapt his game to fit the league. Again, not a superstar but a solid pro.
J.R. Smith (slightly out of context): “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break.”
Raptors guard Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder, but at least he won’t need surgery.
Raptors media relations:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Raptors (11-5), off to a surprisingly strong start, are second in the Eastern Conference. They’ve bought themselves margin for error. All in all, a month-long absence for Wright isn’t so bad.
Wright had been a key part of an excellent all-bench unit that included Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Jakob Poeltl. Two-way player Lorenzo Brown has assumed Wright’s role, and Norman Powell – returning from his own injury – will provide a boost. Toronto can also stagger Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan more.
The chemistry of the bench mob was something to behold, but the Raptors should withstand this.
Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery – never a great sign.
The prognosis is about as bad as could be expected.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This injury isn’t just a setback for this season. It could derail the Clippers’ long-term plan.
They’ve already lost nine straight, and Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic are injured. If they fall further out of playoff position, they could become sellers before the trade deadline, especially with DeAndre Jordan ($24,119,025 player option for next season) and Lou Williams ($7 million salary on expiring contract).
Health was always the major question with this team, and it won’t soften as Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari age through lucrative contracts.
The final year of Beverley’s contract is guaranteed for just $5,027,028 next season, and the 29-year-old will spend most of the summer recovering from this injury. That salary is probably low enough that the Clippers will keep him without hesitation.
Until then, down a couple point guards, the Clippers have no choice but to continue leaning more on Austin Rivers. That also means greater roles for second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s just too many players facing outsized responsibility.
The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Jazz and any other team competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference ought to feel better about their chances. They’re still competing with each other, and it’s doubtful all three make it. But Beverley’s injury helps clear the way.
The Clippers, who didn’t want to take a major step back after Chris Paul‘s departure, must confront an even more uneasy reality.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – one of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.
Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.
Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.
Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.
“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”
The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.
I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.