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The ACC And The NBA Draft

The nation’s best conference is usually good for a few first-round picks

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina
Mar 9, 2019; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) looks to pass as North Carolina Tar Heels forward Luke Maye (32) and guard Coby White (2) defend in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. 
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The door has closed.

Players seeking to be considered in the June 20 NBA draft have now made themselves available for selection. Among them are 23 freshmen, sophomores and juniors who appeared for at least one season at ACC schools.

Duke leads the way with five. Rising seniors Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier presumably seek an objective analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, while freshmen RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson are certain to be selected.

Rendering early predictions about the 2019-20 college season highly suspect, 11 ACC teams, nearly three-quarters of league members (73.3 percent), potentially could lose at least one prominent player with eligibility remaining – BC (1), Duke (5), FSU (1), Georgia Tech (1), Louisville (3), UNC (2), NC State (1), Syracuse (2), Virginia (4), Virginia Tech (2) and Wake Forest (1).

Players have a little more than a month (until May 29) to decide whether they care to remain members of the NCAA programs they signed with as freshmen. Or they can take their chances on inclusion among the 30 players taken in the first round, where the money is, or choose the more tenuous route of seeking to stick as second-rounders or free agents.

Mock drafts have ACC players populating somewhere in the neighborhood of a third of the opening round of this year’s draft.

Only twice has the ACC provided eight or more first-rounders, seniors included: 8 in 1995, led by a pair of sophomores from North Carolina (Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse, both new head coaches, with the former at Durham’s Jordan High and the latter now head coach at Vanderbilt), and 10 in 2017, a record for the conference. In ‘17 there were three from Duke (Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles) and two from UNC (Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley), numbers likely to be duplicated in ’19.

The ACC supplied at least four first-round picks each year for the past decade, with Blue Devils the most numerous in five of those drafts (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018).

The 32 ACC products selected in the first round of the last five drafts exceeded the total taken between the league’s inaugural season, 1954, and its 23rd year (1976). The ACC’s 59 first-rounders over the past decade equaled the output from 1954 through 1986 (33 years).

Four of the five NBA first rounds populated by the most ACC players – 7 or more – came since 2005.

Only six of the first 33 drafts that occurred subsequent to the ACC’s inception yielded more than a pair of first round picks from the conference; only six of the last 32 drafts failed to include at last a pair of ACC first-rounders.

Note the number of teams in the ACC and NBA grew dramatically over the years, complicating comparisons. The NBA had eight teams until the 1960s and didn’t reach the current 30-franchise configuration until 2006. The ACC had as few as seven teams from 1972 through 1979 and has now ballooned to 15.

ACC First-Round Picks Per NBA Draft
Number Years (Total in Parentheses)
0 (5) 1967, 1969, 1970, 1988
1 (18) 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1985, 2000, 2004, 2008
2 (10) 1956, 1960, 1968, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1996, 1997
3 (5) 1976, 1980, 1989, 2001, 2006
4 (7) 1974, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1998, 2013, 2016
5 (6) 1987, 2002, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2014
6 (9) 1977, 1981, 1986, 1992, 1993, 1999, 2007, 2012, 2018
7 (3) 2005, 2009, 2015
8 (1) 1995
10 (1) 2017

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