After the Blue Devils’ Final Four run, the Blue Zone takes a look at what teams Duke’s top players could fit in best at the 2022 NBA Draft:
Paolo Banchero, F: Houston Rockets
While it’s quite possible we could see Banchero selected before Houston’s third overall pick, joining the Rockets could be a very likely outcome and an excellent fit. The Seattle native’s versatility as a 6-foot-10 power forward, three-level scorer and talented playmaker stood out at Duke and suggest elite offensive potential in the league. His dribbling ability is above average for players of his size and position, making him a threat if he is also able to be an effective point forward, an increasingly valuable and common skill set that is becoming more common and valued in the NBA.
Banchero also has the build and athleticism to be a great defender, and could become one of the best power forwards in the league if he realizes his two-way potential. Houston can center its frontcourt around Banchero as the team begins to rebuild, where he could join guard Jalen Green to form an electric duo. As with any rebuilding squad, Rockets fans will hope that they can develop together and bring Houston back to the playoffs. The Rockets still need to fill in the rest of the roster to complement its potential emerging stars, but Banchero would be a great centerpiece.
AJ Griffin, F: New Orleans Pelicans
The 6-foot-6 forward shot a stellar 44.7% from behind the arc and was a crucial part of the Blue Devils’ success last season. Griffin can immediately contribute in the NBA as a 3-and-D player and later to a more well-rounded forward after several years in the league. The Pelicans possess the eighth pick in the first round, and should they select Griffin, he could join Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram to form a talented Duke contingent. In New Orleans, Griffin can contribute off the bench and help space the floor—especially when sharing time with Williamson—to give the Pelicans’ frontcourt room to score and create opportunities in the paint. Furthermore, Griffin would give the Pelicans’ front office flexibility when deciding on team options for expiring contracts, extensions and resigning players, as he will be on a team-friendly rookie contract that should expire well after those of many other players. With the Pelicans, Griffin could well see minutes coming off the bench and an opportunity to develop while contributing to a team that could become a playoff contender within the next few years.
Mark Williams, C: Charlotte Hornets
At 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan, Williams impressed as a rim protector, rebounder and finisher in the paint last season. The Hornets need a center, and Williams could fit in well with their developing young core. If he’s selected by Charlotte with the 13th or 15th pick, Hornets fans should be excited to watch Williams catch lobs from NBA All-Star Lamelo Ball, an excellent playmaker who creates ample scoring opportunities in the paint. Ball and Williams would be dynamic off the pick and roll and in transition, and the latter should improve Charlotte's rebounding right away and further as he continues to develop. If Williams realizes his potential, he could be a reliable starting center for the Hornets for years to come as they work to find postseason success.
Trevor Keels, G: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are a likely destination and a good fit for Keels if he decides to stay in the draft. Oklahoma City has the last pick of the first round and the 34th pick overall, making it possible to select Keels at the end of the first round or early in the second. With his pro-ready frame, athleticism and some additional work on his shooting, Keels could become a good combo guard at the next level and a trustworthy defender at multiple positions. The Thunder are still very early in their rebuild, which could open the door for Keels to get opportunities to play significant minutes early or improve his game in the G league, much like former Duke player Gary Trent Jr. As NBA teams evaluate Keels and new Duke head coach Jon Scheyer plans for next season, his decision on whether to return to Durham or stay in the draft will be both intriguing and ambiguous for fans and organizations alike.
Wendell Moore Jr., F: San Antonio Spurs
After captaining the Blue Devils in legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, Moore might get the opportunity to play for another legendary coach, Gregg Popovich, as his NBA coaching career winds down. Because of the uncertainty regarding Moore’s draft stock before the NBA combine and pre-draft workouts, San Antonio makes sense as a possible destination. The Spurs could acquire him with the 25th pick towards the end of the first round or early in the second round with the 38th pick. Moore would give the team a flexible player to develop over the next few seasons in San Antonio’s hunt for the playoffs and could help the Spurs’ front office flexibility for draft night trades due to its numerous and well-positioned picks over the two rounds. There are a variety of different scenarios that could bring the former Duke captain to San Antonio, and he could thrive there, all while contributing to a developing Spurs team with his well-roundedness and potential to be a useful draft night trade piece.
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