Since its first season in 1905, Duke men’s basketball has produced 100 NBA Draft picks, 50 All-Americans and 10 National Players of the Year. That’s a lot of hardware.
Hence, choosing between all that talent is no easy task. But our Shane Smith, Jake Piazza, Glen Morgenstern, Max Rego, Alex Jackson and Evan Kolin decided they were up for the challenge, conducting a six-team, eight-round fantasy draft of every player in Blue Devil history, similar to the one The Athletic did for the Coach K era a year ago.
That means 48 all-time Duke players were selected, and a whole lot more were left off. We even got one of those players left off to give his opinion on the teams we selected. But we don’t want to spoil the draft for you, so we saved that along with our final lineups for the very end.
So without further ado, we present a fantasy draft of every Duke men’s basketball player ever.
- Each participant is attempting to pick a team best suited to win a single-elimination tournament with today’s college basketball rules
- How each player performed relative to their competition in college basketball during the season for which the team selected them (seasons are noted after player names below) is what the team is getting
- Even if a player missed part or most of the season due to injury, the team is still getting the player for how they performed when they did play during that season
- Participants were given no other guidelines
Pick 1 (Smith): Grant Hill, 1993-1994
Pick 2 (Piazza): Zion Williamson, 2018-19
Pick 3 (Morgenstern): JJ Redick, 2005-06
Pick 4 (Rego): Jay Williams, 2000-01
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Pick 5 (Jackson): Christian Laettner, 1991-92
Pick 6 (Kolin): Shane Battier, 2000-01
Smith: Duke missed the NCAA tournament in the 1994-95 season with an unusual 13-18 record, yet it was Grant Hill who willed many of those same pieces to a few possessions away from a national title in 1993-94. With an innate ability to make everyone around him better, Hill is the most complete player in Blue Devil history.
Morgenstern: How fitting that the best long-range shooter in Duke history was taken at No. 3 overall. In his senior year, JJ Redick scored 26.8 points per game on 42.1% shooting from deep. Despite the greatness of Christian Laettner and Shane Battier, there is no greater offensive threat in this draft than Duke’s all-time leading scorer.
Rego: Let me explain why I passed over Laettner before the pitchforks arrive. Williams was a scoring machine during his time in Durham, and his hyper-efficient sophomore season—21.6 points on 47.3% from the field and 42.7% from distance—was a major factor in Duke’s run to a third national championship. I wanted to build my team around backcourt play, so who better than an attacking combo guard who is also willing to spread the wealth.
Pick 7 (Kolin): Elton Brand, 1998-99
Pick 8 (Jackson): Dick Groat, 1951-52
Pick 9 (Rego): Johnny Dawkins, 1985-86
Pick 10 (Morgenstern): Jayson Tatum, 2016-17
Pick 11 (Piazza): Tate Armstrong, 1975-76
Pick 12 (Smith): Bobby Hurley, 1992-93
Jackson: Dick Groat was a revolutionary guard for his time. I cannot put enough emphasis on the “for his time.” Based on the rules of the draft, a guy who averaged 26.0 points and 7.6 assists per game was the obvious choice, despite there being some great newer-era players on the board.
Morgenstern: There was some hometown bias in selecting Jayson Tatum early, but Tatum was underrated here because his team lost early in the NCAA tournament—he was arguably the most talented player in college basketball in his year.
Piazza: I’ll cut right to the chase because I know everyone wants to know why I picked Tate Armstrong over Bobby Hurley, and my answer is quite simple: I wanted a guard who could shoot from outside and pass alongside Williamson. Armstrong averaged 24.2 points on a 52.3% mark from the field, but still averaged 4.4 assists per game, making him the perfect fit.
Pick 13 (Smith): Danny Ferry, 1988-89
Pick 14 (Piazza): Nolan Smith, 2010-11
Pick 15 (Morgenstern): Marvin Bagley III, 2017-18
Pick 16 (Rego): Shelden Williams, 2005-06
Pick 17 (Jackson): RJ Barrett, 2018-19
Pick 18 (Kolin): Kyrie Irving, 2010-11
Rego: For being one of only 13 former Blue Devils with their jersey retired, Shelden Williams is comically underappreciated. During his senior campaign, “The Landlord” owned the paint, grabbing 10.7 boards and rejecting 3.8 shots per contest.
Kolin: I don’t love Kyrie Irving’s playing style for a fantasy draft in which each team will have plenty of scoring options, but at this point in the draft he’s just far and away the most talented player on the board. Not really sure how he fell this far.
Pick 19 (Kolin): Gene Banks, 1980-81
Pick 20 (Jackson): Jabari Parker, 2013-14
Pick 21 (Rego): Mike Gminski, 1979-80
Pick 22 (Morgenstern): Mike Dunleavy Jr., 2001-02
Pick 23 (Piazza): Mike Lewis, 1967-68
Pick 24 (Smith): Art Heyman, 1962-63
Jackson: Jabari Parker was a monster in his time at Duke. I think he was overshadowed in this draft because his professional career hasn’t panned out as expected, but his short time in college was a highlight reel. Parker’s player efficiency rating during the 2013-14 campaign was the fifth highest single-season mark in Duke history.
Piazza: Lewis is the guy with Duke’s second-highest rebounds per game average in a single season, but on top of that he’s giving me 21.7 points per game. I’ll gladly take Lewis in the paint cleaning up on the boards after one of my team’s few missed shots.
Smith: Even if Art Heyman suited up for the Blue Devils almost 60 years ago, it’s almost criminal that the former National Player of the Year could fall to the end of the fourth round. The 1963 No. 1 overall pick was a walking bucket long before the term was coined, averaging over 25 points per game during his college career.
Pick 25 (Smith): Jahlil Okafor, 2014-15
Pick 26 (Piazza): Luol Deng, 2003-04
Pick 27 (Morgenstern): Wendell Carter Jr., 2017-18
Pick 28 (Rego): Kyle Singler, 2009-10
Pick 29 (Jackson): Carlos Boozer, 2001-02
Pick 30 (Kolin): Chris Carrawell, 1999-00
Morgenstern: Wendell Carter Jr. was the steal of the draft. His single-season box plus-minus stands second in Duke history only to Zion Williamson. At 6-foot-10 and nearly 260 pounds, Carter can stop any big man and shoot the long ball at a 41.3% clip.
Kolin: Chris Carrawell is the ultimate swiss army knife. He can line up at the two through four, and can impact the game in a multitude of ways. He’s the perfect kind of player for this draft.
Pick 31 (Kolin): Grayson Allen, 2015-16
Pick 32 (Jackson): Luke Kennard, 2016-17
Pick 33 (Rego): Trajan Langdon, 1998-99
Pick 34 (Morgenstern): Seth Curry, 2012-13
Pick 35 (Piazza): Brandon Ingram, 2015-16
Pick 36 (Smith): Mark Alarie, 1985-86
Morgenstern: Seth Curry shot 43.8% from beyond the arc in his final year at Duke, and his career 3-point percentage is second in Blue Devil history. At pick 34, he’s a budget sniper.
Smith: Mark Alarie was part of the famed class of 1986 that saved Coach K’s job, and he ranks seventh all-time in scoring at Duke for a reason. One of the more underrated players in Blue Devil history, the first team All-ACC selection is a versatile piece to add to any team.
Pick 37 (Smith): Jon Scheyer, 2009-10
Pick 38 (Piazza): Jeff Mullins, 1963-64
Pick 39 (Morgenstern): Mason Plumlee, 2012-13
Pick 40 (Rego): Jim Spanarkel, 1977-78
Pick 41 (Jackson): Tre Jones, 2019-20
Pick 42 (Kolin): Tommy Amaker, 1986-87
Piazza: Mullins is another ACC Player of the Year on my team who can rebound as a forward, and I will gladly have him on the floor when Williamson needs a breather. Mullins shows up when the lights are brightest, as seen by his 43-point NCAA tournament performance in 1964, and having a player with his clutch gene coming off the bench will make my team tough to beat in crunchtime.
Rego: The Blue Devils nearly emerged as national champions in 1978, with Spanarkel a big reason why. The first man to reach 2,000 career points in a Duke uniform, Spanarkel was particularly impressive during his junior year—20.8 points per game on 53% shooting before the introduction of the 3-point line was hard to overlook.
Jackson: Tre Jones was the perfect pick for my bench. I was debating between Jones and Mason Plumlee originally, but after Plumlee was taken a few picks earlier, my decision was easy. Jones was electric in his second year at Duke—he was named ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. A full-court press, lockdown guard is exactly who I need coming off my bench as a defensive replacement down the stretch or once we secure a lead.
Pick 43 (Kolin): Cherokee Parks, 1994-95
Pick 44 (Jackson): Justise Winslow, 2014-15
Pick 45 (Rego): Gerald Henderson, 2008-09
Pick 46 (Morgenstern): Tyus Jones, 2014-15
Pick 47 (Piazza): Steve Wojciechowski, 1997-98
Pick 48 (Smith): Chris Duhon, 2003-04
Kolin: Why not add another All-ACC honoree in the final round? A 36.5% shooter from deep in his final season with the Blue Devils, Cherokee Parks is the ideal bench piece when Elton Brand needs a breather.
Piazza: I was really happy with my 1-7 picks, but my team needed a guard who could come into the game to spell Armstrong and Smith and be a complete nuisance for my opponents. I didn’t need scoring from this player, so Wojciechowski’s over two steals and 4.7 assists per game were exactly what the doctor ordered.
The case for our teams
Each participant of the draft provides their final team lineup as well as the case for why their team is the best of the bunch.
PG Bobby Hurley, 1992-93
SG Art Heyman, 1962-63
SF Grant Hill, 1993-94
PF Danny Ferry, 1988-89
C Jahlil Okafor, 2014-15
6 Mark Alarie, 1985-86
7 Jon Scheyer, 2009-10
8 Chris Duhon, 2003-04
The case for Team Smith
Is there really more to say than that all eight players on this team were honored as All-Americans, with the entire starting lineup being named consensus first-team All-Americans during their careers?
Heyman and Ferry stand out as two former National Players of the Year, while Hurley, the NCAA’s all-time assist leader, and Duhon hold the top two spots in career assists at Duke and both establish elite perimeter defense. Then good luck finding a trio of scoring big men that stack up with Okafor, Ferry and Alarie.
Oh, and I can’t forget arguably the greatest player in program history to tie the whole team together in Hill.
This team is elite on both sides of the court and can score inside and out. The debate should respectfully end here.
PG Tate Armstrong, 1975-76
SG Nolan Smith, 2010-11
SF Luol Deng 2003-04
PF Zion Williamson 2018-19
C Mike Lewis, 1967-68
6 Brandon Ingram, 2015-16
7 Jeff Mullins, 1963-64
8 Steve Wojciechowski, 1997-98
The case for Team Piazza
Get this. I have the player who had the most dominant single season in Duke men’s basketball history paired with two perimeter-shooting guards each averaging over 20 points per game. Deng will slide in as my 6-foot-9 small forward and Lewis will be there winning the battle of the boards.
I can roll out a small ball lineup with Ingram and Mullins, which would be a nightmare for teams to attempt to keep pace with from a scoring standpoint. My team’s elite shooting and driving abilities will push us past any roster you put on the hardwood against us.
PG Tyus Jones, 2014-15
SG JJ Redick, 2005-06
SF Jayson Tatum, 2016-17
PF Marvin Bagley III, 2017-18
C Wendell Carter Jr., 2017-18
6 Mike Dunleavy, 2001-02
7 Mason Plumlee, 2012-13
8 Seth Curry, 2012-13
The case for Team Morgenstern
This team will have you hearing “For three!” in your sleep. JJ Redick, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Seth Curry make up the deadliest shooting squad ever assembled at the college level. These snipers will destroy opponents who never played with a 3-point line, and all three are adequate perimeter defenders to pair with true point guard Tyus Jones.
The 2017-18 duo of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. can hang with any Duke bigs, but if things get rough, no one can outmuscle Mason Plumlee.
And then there’s Jayson Tatum. One of Duke’s most brilliant playmakers of all time, he’ll shine even brighter with an A-list supporting cast.
PG Jay Williams, 2000-01
SG Johnny Dawkins, 1985-186
SF Kyle Singler, 2009-10
PF Shelden Williams, 2005-06
C Mike Gminski, 1979-80
6 Trajan Langdon, 1998-99
7 Jim Spanarkel, 1977-78
8 Gerald Henderson, 2008-09
The case for Team Rego
Of the eight players on my roster, four have their numbers in the Cameron Indoor Stadium rafters. What truly puts this team over the top, though, is the multitude of lineups that could take the court.
If need be, we could stick to the starting combination that features two of the greatest pure scorers in Duke history in Jay Williams and Johnny Dawkins, along with the unstoppable Twin Towers inside: Shelden Williams and Mike Gminski.
However, some running and gunning could also be in the works. Kyle Singler, Trajan Langdon, Gerald Henderson and Jim Spanarkel were all adept outside shooters, so being able to get out in transition with Jay Williams or Dawkins leading the break, Shelden Williams filling the lane and any of those wings ready to launch would be Showtime 2.0.
PG Dick Groat, 1951-52
SG RJ Barrett, 2018-19
SF Jabari Parker, 2013-14
PF Carlos Boozer, 2001-02
C Christian Laettner, 1991-92
6 Luke Kennard, 2016-17
7 Tre Jones, 2019-20
8 Justise Winslow, 2014-15
The case for Team Jackson
The best two-way team you’ll ever meet. This team boasts an elite combination of offensive efficiency and defensive grit that derives from the mix of raw, one-and-done talent and bonafide Duke legends.
Dick Groat and RJ Barrett are my elite scoring guards, but it would be a crime to keep the ball in only their hands. No one is scoring against me on the interior—Christian Laettner and Carlos Boozer are a lockdown duo in the paint.
We can attack the basket from anywhere on the floor and my bench brings the perfect compliment and change of pace to my lineup.
PG Kyrie Irving, 2010-11
SG Grayson Allen, 2015-16
SF Chris Carrawell, 1999-00
PF Shane Battier, 2000-01
C Elton Brand, 1998-99
6 Gene Banks, 1980-81
7 Tommy Amaker, 1986-87
8 Cherokee Parks, 1994-95
The case for Team Kolin
I simply didn’t miss with any single one of my selections.
Shane Battier is unquestionably the greatest leader in Duke history and is one of the best two-way Blue Devils ever along with Grant Hill. Kyrie Irving is one of the most gifted scorers in Duke history. And Elton Brand will punish anyone and everyone inside.
Combine that with a Swiss Army knife like Chris Carrawell and an athletic sniper like Grayson Allen, and you have the most complete starting five of any of these squads.
Oh, and don’t forget Gene Banks coming off my bench along with National Defensive Player of the Year Tommy Amaker and second-team All-ACC selection Cherokee Parks.
This team checks off every box imaginable.
Jay Bilas’ take
Former Blue Devil and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas gives his take on which team he thinks is best along with which former Duke standouts went underappreciated in our draft.
This is a really cool exercise, and a ton of fun to consider. The thing that stands out is all of the great players that have played at Duke, and it is no wonder that Duke has had such hardwood success with so many truly great players. You asked me to provide my considered judgment on players that were drafted too low, and the best team selected. Let’s start with players drafted too low. There was one egregious omission, one that is unconscionable. Jay Bilas should have been chosen among the first few picks, unless you are hung up on points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals, ignoring the intangibles that truly make a player great, such as screen setting, blocking out, and the occasional slapping of the floor. Yet, despite that horrifying omission, we move on.
Johnny Dawkins was selected too low, and was a bargain at No. 9 overall. Dawkins is the Founding Father of the Coach K era and Duke as a perennial contender and champion. The only player better, in my view, is Grant Hill. Hill is the best player in Duke history. Bobby Hurley and Trajan Langdon should have gone higher, as should have Mark Alarie. Alarie is perhaps the most underappreciated great player in Duke history, having graduated as Duke’s third all-time leading scorer while playing every single minute alongside Duke’s all-time leading scorer in Johnny Dawkins.
The best team is Team Smith, by a large margin. To have Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Danny Ferry and Mark Alarie, all of whom are among Duke’s all-time Top 10, in my view, is a nearly unbeatable team. Team Rego would give Team Smith the toughest time, but Team Smith is the best team. How much fun it would be to see these teams Duke it out on the floor of Cameron. Thank you for the walk down Duke’s memory lane, one that is dotted with banners and Player of the Year trophies.
Your take: best team tournament
Thanks to Twitter including a maximum of four answers in its polls, we’ll be conducting a three-round Twitter tournament to decide which team our readers and followers think is the best. In each poll, you’ll vote which team of the two you believe is better, with Team Smith and Team Rego receiving first-round byes thanks to Jay Bilas’ praise above. Make sure to recall the guidelines listed at the beginning of the article.
Team Kolin vs. Team Jackson
Team Piazza vs. Team Morgenstern
Team Smith vs. Team Morgenstern
Team Jackson vs. Team Rego
Team Morgenstern vs. Team Jackson
Your take: superlatives
Here, you can provide your take on a number of superlatives related to the draft, such as who you’d take No. 1 overall, who was the biggest steal of the draft and more.
No. 1 overall pick
Best undrafted player
Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Duke has had 71 NBA Draft picks, 36 All-Americans and 11 National Players of the Year. The Chronicle regrets the error.