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Duke in the NBA: ESPN releases its annual NBA rankings

As evidenced by his No. 19 ranking, expectations are high for Zion Williamson after finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting a season ago.
As evidenced by his No. 19 ranking, expectations are high for Zion Williamson after finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting a season ago.

After a break of just over two months, the NBA is ready to roll, with the first regular season games tipping off Tuesday. As usual, ESPN released its annual player rankings, counting down the top 100. Five former Blue Devils made their way onto the list and the Blue Zone has you covered with a breakdown of what each ranking means for the upcoming season. For the full rankings, click here:

Jayson Tatum: No. 11

After a breakout third year, Tatum seems to be on the climb to superstardom. Last season, the Missouri native averaged an impressive 23.4 points per on 45% from the field and 40.3% from 3-point range, leading Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals in the process. If Tatum can increase his production even more and take the Celtics on another deep playoff run, he will likely make another leap the next time ESPN does this ranking. 

Zion Williamson: No. 19

This ranking sure received a lot of pushback and debate. Williamson is without question one of the most entertaining players in the league, as evidenced by his high-flying dunks and weakside rejections. But top 20 in the entire league is not a distinction that people just hand out to guys that have played in just 24 professional games. Williamson obviously has to live up to this rating by improving on his averages of 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 27.8 minutes per contest that he put up last season. 

Kyrie Irving: No. 25

Expectations are high for Irving and new teammate Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, as the Nets are expected to contend for their first conference championship since 2003. While his co-star missed all of last season while recovering from an Achilles injury, Irving had issues staying on the court himself. From a pure talent perspective, this may be a little low for the New Jersey native. However, Irving has to prove that he can repeat what he did alongside Lebron James in Cleveland and be a consistent Robin with a knack for taking over in crunch time when the postseason rolls around.

Brandon Ingram: No. 28

Ingram’s rise to being named the Most Improved Player in the entire NBA was a result of the former Blue Devil finally putting everything together and utilizing his unique skillset. Ingram filled up the stat sheet last season, putting up 23.8 points—on a 46.3 % mark from the field—6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists. By modern standards, Ingram has all the tools you could want from a wing, specifically versatility, playmaking and sharpshooting. Now, the Pelicans will rely on their fifth-year star to help bring the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. 

Seth Curry: No. 91

For the younger Curry, this ranking marks his initial entry into the ESPN Top 100. When it comes to shooting the basketball, the Charlotte native has been accurate throughout his NBA career. If he can continue to play at the level he displayed last season, when he dropped 12.4 points per contest on 49.5% from the field and 45.2%  from distance, then the Philadelphia 76ers will have gained a much-needed floor spacer to complement Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

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