When Kentucky had five players drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2010, Wildcat coaches John Calipari famously called it “the greatest day in the program’s history.”
That didn’t go down well with many Kentucky fans, who were disappointed that their talent-laden team fell short in the NCAA Tournament, losing to West Virginia in the Elite Eight.
“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” said ex-Kentucky star Dan Issel. “If the goal is to be a feeder team for the NBA, maybe that was the greatest day. I thought the goal was to win a national championship.”
Greatest day or not, there’s no question that Calipari ushered in the one-and-done era on that night eight years ago. There had been one-and-done players before – Duke had two in Corey Maggette and Luol Deng – but the 2010 Kentucky team featured four first-round freshmen (plus junior Patrick Patterson).
It’s possible that this June Duke will match Calipari’s feat of putting four freshmen and an upperclassman into the first round of the NBA Draft off an Elite Eight team.
But you can bet that if the Blue Devils do have five first-round picks, Mike Krzyzewski won’t be celebrating the accomplishment as “the greatest day in program history.”
Of course, there’s still a lot to be determined before Duke can start counting its first round picks. So far, freshmen Marvin Bagley and Trevon Duval and senior Grayson Allen are the program’s only first-round candidates. Freshmen Wendell Carter, and Gary Trent have yet to declare for the draft.
It’s worth noting that the official period for players declaring doesn’t open until 11:59 p.m. on April 22. Here are a few other key dates:
April 4: Players can submit their names to the NBA Advisory Committee and get feedback as to their pro potential.
- April 27 – Invitations to the NBA Draft Combine are issued.
- May 15 – NBA Draft Lottery
- May 16-20 – The Combine is held in Chicago
- May 30 – NCAA deadline for withdrawing from draft (5 p.m.)
- June 21 – The NBA Draft
A rule change last year allows players to enter the draft and change their mind as often as they wish without penalty. The NCAA used to allow just one change of heart in a player’s career. That limited the draft entries.
Now, there’s no reason for any player NOT to enter the draft, which is why you see such longshots as Doral Moore, Bryant Crawford, Shelden Mitchell and Marcquise Reed take the gamble. As long as they don’t hire an agent, they can get NBA feedback and return to school without penalty.
Duke fans are obviously waiting on the parade of Blue Devils to follow Allen, Bagley and Duval out the door. Carter is almost certain to follow. Trent is less of a certainty, but based on everything we’ve seen in the one-and-done era, he’s likely to go too. At the very least, he’ll declare without an agent (as Frank Jackson did last year) and get feedback during the NBA Draft Combine.
Duke has had 40 first-round picks in its history – 33 have come in the Krzyzewski era. The pace has accelerated in recent years. Since 2011, Duke has had at least one first-round pick every year and 14 in all. Duke has had 12 freshmen go early – and 11 of them were picked in the first round. The only freshman miss was Frank Jackson, who was the first pick of the second round.
A year ago, the Devils barely missed having four first-round picks. Jayson Tatum went No. 3 to the Boston Celtics, Luke Kennard No. 12 to the Detroit Pistons and Harry Giles No. 20 to the Sacramento Kings. Jackson just missed making it four first rounders..
So, what are the first round chances of Duke’s potential draft entries this year?
- Marvin Bagley: The consensus is that the slender big man will be a top three pick – although there are exceptions (Sports Illustrated’s latest mock draft has him going fifth).
A word about Mock Drafts. Like Joe Lunardi and bracketology, these are not very accurate, especially this far out. Even if they could predict the draft order with any accuracy, the exercise is futile until the Draft Lottery, when the order of the draft is determined.
For instance, that SI mock draft projects DeAndre Ayton as No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns, noting that it an ideal marriage for a team in Arizona (where Ayton played his college ball) that is in dire need of a center. Great, but what if the Suns don’t win the lottery? Is Ayton the No. 1 pick for every team that might win the No. 1 pick?
There is one other problem. Over the years, the Draft Express has been the best of the mock drafts – not perfectly accurate, but the best general projection of the draft. But the site has closed down (its archives are still available, but no new content) since its gurus, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, have moved to ESPN. Perhaps they will do a better job there than Pat Forde used to do. At the moment, the ESPN mock draft projects Bagley third to the Grizzlies.
It’s clear that he’s going to go very early on draft night. He could even go No. 1.
Duke has had three No. 1 picks in its history – Art Heyman to the Knicks in 1963; Elton Brand to the Bulls in 1999; and Kyrie Irving to the Cavaliers in 2011.
That’s tied with Kentucky for the most ever No. 1 picks.
If Bagley goes second, he would become the fifth Duke player taken No. 2 -- Danny Ferry (1989), Jason Williams (2002), Jabari Parker (2014), and Brandon Ingram (2016).
If he goes third, he’ll be the seventh Duke player taken third – Dick Groat (1953), Christian Laettner (1992), Grant Hill (1994), Mike Dunleavy (2002), Jahlil Okafor (2015) and Jayson Tatum (2017).
Oddly, Duke has never had a player taken fourth, although three Duke players were taken No. 5.
- Wendell Carter: The freshman big man is almost certainly a top 10 pick.
The ESPN mock has him at No. 6. So does the Sports Illustrated projections. CBS Sports projects Carter at No. 8 and NBAdraft.net has him at No. 9. The exact number depends on the lottery and the needs of the teams in his range, but he’s very unlikely to fall out of the 5-10 range.
- Trevon Duval: Now it gets tricky. ESPN has him going No. 42 (12 picks into the second round). Sports Illustrated has him at No. 49. But CBS Sports projects him at No. 18, just outside the lottery. NBAdraft.net has him at 23, solidly in the first round.
Clearly, there is a wide variation of opinion about Mr. Duval.
Duval’s spot in the draft is likely going to be determined by his play at the Draft Combine. His measurables are going to be off the charts, but his skill levels are questionable.
Still, last year the Lakers drafted a point guard with less physical ability at No. 2, who proved to be one of the worst shooters in the NBA. There ought to be a place for Duval.
- Gary Trent: Another mystery. Projected at No. 44 by ESPN (two spots below Duval) and out of the first round by Sports Illustrated (No. 42), but he’s also No. 16 by NBAdraft,net, No. 20 by NBA Draft Site and No. 28 by CBS Sports.
Again, his status will probably be determined by his play in the combine.
- Grayson Allen: The senior guard has been projected as a late first round draft pick since after the 2016 season. He’s still in that range – late first round or early second round.
ESPN has him going at No. 33, just outside the first round. He’s No. 44 on Sports Illustrated’s list. But he’s No. 26 – in the first round – by NBAdraft.net and No. 30 – the last man in the first round – by CBS Sports.
It’s going to be close. I’m not sure how much the combine can change perceptions of Allen after four years of college basketball.
If all five make the first round, it would tie Kentucky in 2010 for the most ever. Duke had four first-rounders – indeed, four of the first 15 picks -- in 1999 (Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette and Will Avery).
Just one more note about the draft. One reason that it’s so hard to project the draft is that the NBA teams that are doing the drafting are notoriously inept. When I was checking the list of No. 1 picks, I noticed that West Virginia had two No. 1’s in the 1950s – Mark Wortman and Hot Rod Hundley. Jerry West should have made it three and tied Duke and Kentucky for the most No. 1s. However. West went No. 2 in 1960 (albeit to Oscar Robertson).
But what about Bill Russell, the greatest player in NBA history? He went No. 2 after the immortal Sihugo Green. Michael Jordan, the second greatest player in NBA history, went third, behind Hakeem Olajuwon (who was pretty good) and Sam Bowie (who wasn’t). Chicago once drafted LaRue Martin ahead of Bob McAdoo. Kobe Bryant was the 13th pick in the 1996 (by Charlotte – which promptly traded him to the Lakers for an aging Vlade Divac). The best players in the NBA today – Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephon Curry and the Greek Freak were passed in the draft. LeBron James is just about the only superstar picked No. 1 (well, maybe Anthony Davis and/or Kyrie Irving, if you consider them superstars).
JOINING THE PARTY
Duke is not the only ACC team that will lose players to the draft.
As I am writing this (April 4), the following ACC players have declared for the draft:
- Jerome Robinson, Boston College
- Ky Bowman, Boston College
- Shelton Mitchell, Clemson
- Marcquise Reed, Clemson
- Marvin Bagley, Duke
- Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech
- Deng Adel, Louisville
- Ray Spalding, Louisville
- Bruce Brown, Miami
- Dewan Huell, Miami
- Lonnie Walker, Miami
- Omer Yurtseven, N.C. State
- Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest
- Doral Moore, Wake Forest
Now, many of the players on this list are merely “testing the waters” and will withdraw their names before the deadline.
But Duke’s Bagley and Louisville’s Spalding are hiring agents and will not withdraw. N.C. State’s Yurtseven may or may not stay in the draft, but he’s not returning to State. He says he’ll transfer if he doesn’t go pro – more than likely, he’ll play in Europe if he gets negative feedback from the NBA.
More names will be added to the list in the next few days.
In addition to the three likely Duke players expected to join Bagley, it’s widely regarded as a certainty that Ty Battle of Syracuse and Lonnie Walker of Miami will join the parade (note: Walker put his name in after Al submitted this article). Both are expected to stay in the draft and both are projected as first-round picks.
Indeed, Walker is likely to be the third ACC player drafted (after Bagley and Carter). He’s projected No. 14 by ESPN and No. 17 by Sports Illustrated. CBS has him at No. 13. Battle is more a borderline first round pick, as is Miami’s Bruce Brown.
If I had to guess, I would expect the final list of ACC players in the draft to include the four Duke freshmen, Walker and Brown from Miami, Adel and Spalding from Louisville, Battle from Syracuse (the Orange fans are just hoping that Oshae Brissett doesn’t join him) and Robinson from Boston College. Plus, Yurtseven.
There will probably be a wild card. If I had to guess, I would pick Wake’s Crawford – bad decisions are at the heart of his game.
THE FINAL CONFERENCE RANKINGS
Okay, Villanova’s 2018 NCAA title win is interesting from a conference standpoint. The Big East has now tied the ACC for the most championships this century – seven apiece.
The two conferences have won 14 of the 19 21st Century championships. The SEC has three, while the Big Ten and Big 12 have one each.
At least that’s the count if you measure actual conference membership at the time of the title. Rank by current conference membership and it’s a totally different story:
1. ACC – 8 (Duke 3, UNC 3, Syracuse, Louisville)
2. (tie) American – 3 (UConn 3)
SEC – 3 (Florida 2, Kentucky)
3. (tie) Big East – 2 (Villanova 2) Big Ten – 2 (Michigan State, Maryland)
5. Big 12 – 1 (Kansas)
The ACC loses Maryland’s 2002 title to the Big Ten, but picks up Syracuse’s 2003 title and Louisville’s (vacated) 2013 crown. The Big East has taken the biggest hit with Syracuse, Louisville and UConn leaving – taking five titles with them.
As for this year’s tournament, the ACC and Big 12 tied with 11 tournament wins. The Big 10 got 10 wins. The Big East ended up with nine wins (six from Villanova). The SEC also got nine wins. The Pac 12 was winless.