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.
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.
Tony Parker tells French publication he plans to return in January
Back on May 5, Tony Parker has surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon, an injury some thought could be career ending for the 35-year-old point guard.
He plans to be back and is aiming for January, he told the French publication L’Equipe, as transcribed by EuroHoops.net.
“I will play my best basketball when I return in January”, Parker told L’Equipe….
“The first thing that came in when I got injured, was frustration. I was super good and we had the chance to go until the end and get the title,” Parker said.
“The coach’s plan worked like a clock. I was consistent, playing for twenty to twenty-five minutes per game. My series against Memphis was good and I had a good start in the season,” he added.
Paker’s return in January (if he can meet that timeline) will have him coming off the bench, meaning the Spurs will still need a starting point guard and some depth at the position.
No, that doesn’t mean Chris Paul is coming to San Antonio, that was always a long shot as Adrian Wojnarowski noted. It’s not like the Spurs to kick guys like Parker to the curb (Bill Belichick does not run the franchise) nor do the Spurs gut their roster, and that’s what they’d have to do. Beyond that, Paul is president of the players’ union and one of the things he/the union got in the new CBA was to turn the over-36 rule (which restricted how much LeBron could get on his last deal) to the over-38 rule — meaning the Clippers can give 32-year-old Paul one more five-year max deal. You really think he’s walking away from that?
Hopefully, when Parker returns he can give us all glimpses of his old self.
Steve Kerr says he’s not ready to coach in NBA Finals, at least not yet
Steve Kerr has been a regular presence at Warriors practices, he’s traveled with the team to playoff games, he’s been part of the planning/strategizing sessions for the team — basically, he’s been everywhere but the sidelines.
He’s not ready to return there. Yet.
Interim Warriors’ coach Mike Brown was knocked down by the flu on Monday, so Kerr ran the Warriors practice then spoke to the media, but said he still is battling issues from his back surgery and is not ready yet to return to the sidelines. Via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.
Kerr says he has made no final decision about coaching #Warriors in Finals 'but as of right now I will not.'
The Warriors brought in Mike Brown last summer just for this type of situation — he’s a veteran NBA coach who has led a team to the Finals (the Cavaliers, with LeBron James), and the Warriors thought it possible Kerr could miss time. With Luke Walton in Los Angeles, Golden State wanted a veteran on the bench. Brown is that.
He’s not as creative as Kerr is addressing matchups and challenges, but if Kerr is in the film sessions and practices, then his influence is still there. That may be enough for a more talented and more rested Warriors team (than a year ago) heading into the Finals starting Thursday night.
Stephen A. Smith, who has incorrectly predicted last six NBA Finals, picks Warriors
The Warriors cruised into the NBA Finals in historic fashion, going 12-0 in the first three rounds and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game. The Cavaliers (12-1, +13.6) weren’t too far behind.
But, at 24-1, they don’t have the best combined playoff win percentage by NBA Finalists.
In 1957, the Celtics (3-0) and St. Louis Hawks (5-0) were undefeated entering a series Boston won in seven.
The Hawks, Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons all went 34-48 in the regular season to tie for the Eastern Division crown. St. Louis won a tiebreaker against each team and advanced to the Western Division finals, beating Minneapolis, 3-0.
Meanwhile, the Celtics won the Eastern Division outright and received a bye to the divisions finals. They swept the Syracuse Nationals to reach the NBA Finals.
Obviously, three rounds present a much bigger hill to climb than a single series (even with a couple tiebreaker games). Golden State and Cleveland are unmatched in modern times.
Here’s every NBA Finals sorted by combined playoff record entering Finals:
Combined point difference per playoff game really shows how much Golden State and Cleveland overwhelmed their conference foes.
The Warriors and Cavs have averaged a +15.0 point difference per game in the playoffs (averaging both teams’ point difference per game equally, so as not to weigh the lesser team more). In the next-best Finals, 1986, neither the Celtics (+12.4) nor Rockets (+8.1) hit that mark alone – let alone averaged.
Here’s every NBA Finals, sorted by the teams’ average point difference per game in previous playoff games: