Scrutinized over the long haul the NBA draft is a good measure of which ACC programs are doing well, at least in recruiting gifted players, and which aren’t. This is a bit of a feedback loop, as players who show well frequently come from teams that do well.
Gather a group of gifted players, afford them quality coaching and support, and chances are a team is going to win. This is no mysterious formula.
And, when a team wins, building a successful tradition, its players attract notice, appreciation and awards. As coaches remind them during their recruitment.
So it is you can gauge the cream of the ACC in a variety of ways, prominent among them the regularity with which players from the same programs are chosen in the annual two-round NBA draft. Even more telling, how many alums (well, itinerant enrollees) go in the NBA’s 30-pick first round indicates players’ value to the pros, meriting upfront investment with guaranteed contracts.
Lately, and in several cases habitually, those ACC programs are Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia. All but FSU have won a national title over the six most recent years the NCAA has hosted a championship tournament. (Forget the ’20 blank.)
Not surprisingly the draft leaders over those years are Duke’s Blue Devils, with nearly as many picks (25) as runners-up North Carolina and Florida State combined (28).
Mike Krzyzewski’s program last was shut out in an NBA draft in 2010, before he began regularly importing one-and-done players.
In six of the past 10 years Duke had at least three players selected.
(By the way, if the ACC seemed a bit down last season, here’s one tangible if limited confirmation: the 2021 NBA draft saw fewer ACC players selected than in any year since 2013.)
Leonard Hamilton’s FSU program has recently become a formidable draft-day presence. Over the past three years only Duke can match its seven draftees. Over the past five years only Duke’s 15 picks surpassed Florida State’s nine.
At the other end of the NBA talent-plucking spectrum, over the last decade Virginia Tech and Clemson supplied two picks each. That still edged the lone draftees provided by Pitt (second-rounder Lamar Patterson in 2014) and Wake Forest (first-round choice John Collins in 2017).
Meanwhile Syracuse, a faded national power, boasts two draft picks over the past half-decade, fewer than six ACC schools. Jim Boeheim, 77 in November, is now entering his 46th season directing the Orange. We hope he recognizes his program is losing steam. Once sons Buddy and Jimmy finish playing this season, perhaps Boeheim will proactively follow his friend Krzyzewski in voluntarily going out with reputation and dignity intact.
NBA Draft Picks From ACC Last Decade, First Round/Second Round