WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following Duke’s Elite Eight exit at the hands of Michigan State, there are plenty of question marks facing the Blue Devils.
Building a team on the one-and-done model, Duke is used to having most of its production depart following each season. This year will be no different. Zion Williamson has NBA teams tanking to get into position to draft him, and RJ Barrett will hear his name called soon afterward during this year’s NBA Draft. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to construct a scenario where either returns to Duke.
Cam Reddish is also an almost sure-thing to depart. He entered Duke with the intention of being a one-and-done, and his late-season knee trouble likely underscored the risks of playing for free for another season.
While Reddish’s 13.5 points per game and .333 shooting on 3-pointers this season were both likely lower than he’d hoped, the year doesn’t seem to have dimmed his draft prospects much. The NBA drafts on upside and potential, and teams will see plenty of both.
Currently, most mock drafts have him going with the fifth pick. Only NBA Draft Net has him lower, at eighth, still comfortably in the lottery. If Reddish gets similar feedback from the experts, expect him to leave with his two classmates.
Point guard Tre Jones isn’t quite the open-and-shut case as his three freshmen teammates. Still, it seems unlikely, at best, that he would choose to return to Durham for another year.
Older brother Tyus left after one season and is in his fourth year in the league.
The two Jones brothers have very comparable Duke stat lines:
Jones Brothers: Tyus — Tre
Minutes: 33.9 — 34.2
FG%: .417 — .414
FT%: .889 — .758
3-pt.%: .379 — .262
Rebounds: 3.5 — 3.8
Assists: 5.6 — 5.3
Steals: 1.5 — 1.9
Turnovers: 1.9 — 1.5
Points: 11.8 — 9.4
The biggest difference between the two is in outside shooting, where Tyus has the clear advantage. Tre is an inch taller, however, and has a better assist-to-turnover ratio.
A case can also be made that it will be tough for Tre to impress NBA teams with another year in college. Passing to a new crop of freshmen who likely won’t be anywhere near the finishers that Barrett and Williamson were means his assist numbers might fall.
Jones’ style of play also puts him at risk for injury, as the Syracuse game — where he suffered a hard hit that kept him out two games — showed.
Finally, with his mother battling illness in Minnesota, Jones might want the freedom and flexibility that an NBA schedule and salary offer to get to see her more often.
Most mock drafts have him going in the first round, anywhere from 19 to 29. NBA Draft Net is the only one that has him as a projected second-rounder.
Look for Jones to at least go through the evaluation process before deciding. It’s doubtful that he’ll hear much that convinces him to stay.
Then there’s the doomsday scenario. Who else might leave? How about Marques Bolden? Near 7-footers are always popular in the draft, and so is youth. Bolden, who showed improved movement, particularly on defense, once he got fully healthy, may decide that it’s worth potentially spending some time in the G League rather than risk getting another year older in college.
As usual, Duke has a highly rated freshman class coming in. Duke’s three-man class currently ranks 10th nationally and second in the ACC. Center Vernon Carey is the No. 3 player in the class. Forward Wendell Moore is also in the top 25, and combo guard Boogie Ellis will likely be tasked with replacing Jones, if he leaves.
Duke is also still targeting Minnesota forward Matthew Hurt, a big man with more than 4,000 career points in high school. Carey and Moore were working on convincing Hurt to join them in Durham while they were all at the McDonald’s High School All-American game, as well as Trendon Watford, a 6-foot-9 power forward who has yet to receive a scholarship offer from Duke. Tristan Enaruna, a 6-foot-9 small forward, has also gotten some interest but no offer at this point.
There are rumblings that Mike Krzyzewski may be considering backing off on the one-and-done recruiting, perhaps in preparation for the rule changing in upcoming seasons. The late-cycle recruiting focuses seem to be supporting that approach. While Duke may not have the front-line talent of Williamson-Barrett-Reddish, the class, with an improving Javin DeLaurier, Jordan Goldwire, Alex O’Connell and Jack White, should keep the Blue Devils near the top of the polls again.