The Blue Zone recaps how some former Blue Devils are doing in the NBA:
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
While top rookies Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball have struggled with their shot, Jayson Tatum hasn’t lost his shooting stroke since joining the Celtics from Duke. He’s shooting 51 percent from long range and 83 percent from the line. With all the headlines about Hack-a-Simmons and Ball’s broken shooting stroke, Tatum has been quietly shooting the ball efficiently. As a result, his scoring has been on the upswing. His 17 points on Monday helped offset Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 40 to beat the Bucks. On the season, he’s averaging 13.9 points and has helped spark the Celtics’ 20-4 start despite the loss of Gordon Hayward.
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Paired with Tatum, Irving and the Celtics have a scary group of shooters. Irving has been an aggressive volume shooter this year, taking nearly 18 shots per game, and it has paid dividends. He exploded for 36 points against Philadelphia Nov. 30 and 32 Monday against the Bucks. So far, his bet on himself in leaving LeBron James has worked out, averaging nearly 24 points and five assists a game.
Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons
Kennard isn’t surprising the NBA like he did Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski last year. Unlike Tatum, Kennard is not the main reason behind Detroit’s surprise start. He has come off the bench for the Pistons, but as of late, he's made an impact while on the floor. In his past five games, he's averaged eight points in just over 18 minutes per game, shooting a hot 53.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Injuries have derailed the Clippers’ season, but not Austin Rivers’. He’s having the best season of his career to date, averaging 14.2 points per game, well above his career average of 8.8. The key for him has been the three ball, establishing himself as one of the Clippers’ biggest three point threats by shooting at a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc. This week, Rivers had two of his best games as a pro: a 25-point game against the Jazz on Thursday, and a 30-point outburst against the Timberwolves on Sunday. Despite his heroics, the Clippers have dropped their last four games.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers:
Brandon Ingram is looking more and more like the player he had the potential to be when he left Duke, despite the fact that the Ball family’s antics have distracted from Ingram’s breakout season. Last Wednesday, Ingram dropped 32 on the Warriors, keeping the 8-12 Lakers in the game until the last minute of overtime. Ingram has improved his stats all across the board, bumping his points per game up from 10.9 to 16. While still shooting a below average 30 percent from three, Ingram has made up for that with his driving ability and ability to make plays off the dribble. Right now, he looks like a skinny Kevin Durant without a good shot. But that’s not a bad comparison when you’re 20 years old.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
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The former third overall pick hasn’t played since he saw three minutes against the Jazz on Nov. 11, and might never play for the Sixers again. Right now, Joel Embiid and Amir Johnson are manning the post for the Sixers. Behind them is Richaun Holmes, a second-round pick who is a favorite of head coach Brett Brown. Until he is (or if he is) traded, don’t expect to hear much from Okafor.