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Duke in the NBA: Pelicans and Zion continue preseason dominance

Nobody felt up for contesting Zion Williamson's slams in the NBA preseason.
Nobody felt up for contesting Zion Williamson's slams in the NBA preseason.

What happens when you combine Zion Williamson, four other former Blue Devils and the lax defense of preseason basketball? The Blue Zone surveys the former Dukies in the NBA in the leadup to the regular season:

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Jahlil Okafor, J.J. Redick and Frank Jackson, New Orleans Pelicans 

The Pelicans stayed hot this week, picking up three more preseason wins to move to 4-0 behind their new star, Zion Williamson. Their collection of five former Duke players has earned them the nickname “Duke South”, and each of them played contributing roles in those three close games.

Williamson was undoubtably the biggest difference maker on the court. He shot 12-for-13 for 29 points against the Bulls, 9-for-12 for 26 points versus the Jazz and 8-for-11 for 22 points against the Spurs—each performance featuring a couple of ferocious dunks. The number one overall pick is putting together a very early case for Rookie of the Year. He has proven himself to be a matchup nightmare at any position and can even hit the three ball.

Both Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram played poorly this week. Both are making the adjustment to the new-look Pelicans and with each game are putting themselves in position for a breakout season. 

Frank Jackson picked up 12 points against the Jazz. He logged 17 minutes in that game and his role going forward will be an interesting note. J.J. Reddick only appeared in one contest this week, but his ability to shoot the three and his veteran presence on a young squad should prove quite valuable.

R.J. Barrett, SF, New York Knicks 

The Maple Mamba took the court for his second appearance this season. He tallied a lengthy 35 minutes resulting in an average 15-7-1 line during the team’s loss. Barrett was able to flex all parts of his game as a ball-handler, interior scorer, three-point shooter and play maker.  

Cam Reddish, SF, Atlanta Hawks 

It’s a cold start for the Hawks and for the notoriously clutch Cam Reddish. With addition of Reddish to the roster, the young core looked to be on the rise, but following Reddish’s 1-7 shooting night, the team fell to 0-3.   

Marvin Bagley III, C, Sacramento Kings 

As Marvin Bagley III enters his second year, he seems to be primed for a breakout. Even though injuries last season seemed to hold him back from his true potential, he was still able to dominate at his position. This year he has picked up right where he left off.  The former number two overall pick put up a clean 22-point, 11-rebound double-double in his most recent game against the Jazz. After staying out of the FIBA World Cup to prepare for this upcoming season, expectations are high for the young star.

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