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Duke men's basketball eyes historic night at NBA Draft

Paolo Banchero headlines Duke's five-man group of NBA hopefuls Thursday.
Paolo Banchero headlines Duke's five-man group of NBA hopefuls Thursday.

This could be a historic draft for Duke.

Should all five Blue Devils who declared for the 2022 NBA Draft be selected Thursday night, Duke will become part of an exclusive list of programs that have had five or more players taken in one draft. All bets are on that this will happen, too, with each player bringing an impressive resume to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In advance of the night that these Duke products have surely been waiting for their entire lives, The Chronicle takes a look at where each stands coming in. 

Paolo Banchero

The Seattle native has been projected as a lottery pick since before he started college. Now, after finishing his year with the Blue Devils after having led them to a Final Four and picking up ACC Freshman of the Year and NCAA West Region Most Outstanding Player honors along the way, Banchero is exactly where everyone expected him to be—a projected top-three pick. 

Most mock drafts have Banchero going third overall to the Houston Rockets, after Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, but his odds to go first overall have gone from +2500 to +225, per Fox Sports. Those odds surpass Holmgren’s but still trail Smith’s by a significant margin.

However, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said on The Lowe Post that Banchero has repeatedly pushed back his workout with the Orlando Magic, who possess the draft's top pick. Meanwhile, Banchero is the only one of himself, Smith and Holmgren to have visited with the Rockets.

This is one of the tightest races for the top pick in recent memory, but associate head coach Chris Carrawell said in a media availability Friday that he would take Banchero first. 

Banchero responded in his availability, “Well, that's one of my main men for sure, one of my favorite coaches…. Of course I agree with him. I feel like I am the best player in the draft, and I feel like I showed that throughout the year.” 

Still, if Banchero ends up in Houston, he had high praise for the young core of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., both of whom he knows from previous encounters. “Both, to me, are exciting. So, if they were to add me to that, I think it would elevate them more, elevate myself, elevate the team.”

AJ Griffin

Griffin comes into the draft as arguably the best shooter available. He finished his freshman season with a 3-point percentage of 44.7%, complemented by a 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame at just 18 years old, and he’s widely projected to be a lottery pick. 

In his pre-draft availability Monday, Griffin confirmed that he had worked out with Indiana (No. 6), Portland (No. 7), New Orleans (No. 8), San Antonio (No. 9) and New York (No. 11). A highly coveted wing, Griffin should be able to immediately play a role on any of these teams, but the prospect of him going to the Knicks has been gaining traction.

While rumors of the Knicks trading up or out of the first round haven’t completely dissipated, New York was Griffin’s final workout, and many experts predict that other prospects that the team has shown interest in—Jaden Ivey and Johnny Davis, for example—will be off the board. 

With that in mind, Griffin said in his availability that playing for the Knicks would be a “dream come true.” 

Hailing from Ossining, N.Y., Griffin added, “I know the place, I know most of the players, and so it would be really, really, really good…. I just know it'd be exciting.”

Being selected by the Knicks would also unite Griffin with fellow Duke product RJ Barrett, of whom Griffin said, “I feel like we would really complement each other's games.”

Mark Williams

The 2022 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist is somewhat of a dark-horse lottery candidate. However, his physical assets and versatility have caught the attention of NBA teams all over, and he could surprise on draft day. 

At the draft combine, Williams measured 7-foot-2 in shoes with a 7-foot-7 wingspan, the largest at the combine, and posted a 9-foot-9 standing reach, which would be the second-tallest ever recorded by an NBA player. Beyond his measurements, Williams has turned heads with his shot-blocking and defensive abilities, as well as his inside scoring.

In his pre-draft media availability Monday, Williams said that he’d worked out with the Knicks (No. 11) and the Charlotte Hornets (Nos. 13 and 15), and noted that Oklahoma City (No. 12) came to Miami to talk to him and watch him work out. He has also worked out for Washington (No. 10). 

The Virginia Beach, Va., native has been commonly projected to land with the Hornets with either the 13th or 15th pick. Williams himself said, “I've heard people want me in Charlotte, and I just try to control what I can control, see where I land Thursday, but I definitely wouldn't be opposed to it.” 

He also said that he “think[s] [he] did pretty well” in his workout with the Hornets, and joked that, “the Duke-Carolina beef would always be there” between him and Michael Jordan, an owner of the team and former North Carolina player, among other accomplishments. 

Wendell Moore Jr.

Once thought to be a one-and-done possibility, Moore took time to find his footing in college ball, but once he did, he really did. In winning the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year award in his junior season, in which he also captained the Blue Devils to a Final Four, Moore at once created an admirable collegiate legacy while also significantly improving his draft stock. 

Moore is ranked 29th on CBS Sports' big board and 38th on The Ringer's. This means Moore is likely to go in the late first round to early second round. 

It seems that the Charlotte native has worked out with the Hornets (Nos. 13, 15 and 45), the Denver Nuggets (No. 21), the Atlanta Hawks (Nos. 16 and 44), the Memphis Grizzlies (No. 29) and the San Antonio Spurs (Nos. 20 and 25). Where he made the biggest splash, however, was at the draft combine, where he impressed with his athleticism, poise, versatility and over 7-foot wingspan. 

In his Friday availability, Carrawell said, “GMs and scouts are hitting me like ‘yo, this guy, he’s good.’” While the 20-year-old could end up in many places, with no team emerging as a clear-cut contender, it’s clear that he has the chance to carve out a spot for himself in the league. 

Trevor Keels

The freshman out of Clinton, Md., had perhaps the rockiest road to the draft of any of these Blue Devils. After an inconsistent season, Keels’ delayed his decision to remain in the draft until the last possible moment. Over the course of his season at Duke, he battled an injury and a high degree of variability in his nightly performances, ultimately making him a candidate to return for his sophomore season. 

However, Keels ultimately elected to stay in the draft. He’s been on the workout trail ever since, working out with the Pacers (No. 31), Hornets (Nos. 13, 15 and 45) and Hawks (Nos. 16 and 44). The Athletic’s Zach Harper reported Wednesday that the Dallas Mavericks are interested in Keels if they can trade their way into the first round. 

Keels overall projects similarly to Moore, usually clustered around him on big boards and likely to go in the late first to early second rounds. If those two go in the first round, along with Banchero, Griffin and Williams, Duke will tie Kentucky for the most players taken in the first round of a single NBA Draft. 

Still, there has been plenty made about the concerns around Keels. However, Carrawell was quick to point out that Keels has a lot of upside, especially with a 6-foot-5, 221-pound frame at 18 years old. After all, not everyone can score 25 points against Kentucky

“​​In three, four years, you can have a player who, with his body type, he gets in great condition, improves in those areas, you’ve got a really good player by the time he’s 22 years old,” Carrawell said. 

Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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