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Duke in the NBA: Paolo Banchero records historic start, Zion Williamson returns after foot injury

Paolo Banchero is averaging 24.0 points in his first five games.
Paolo Banchero is averaging 24.0 points in his first five games.

The 2022-23 NBA season has begun, and 25 former Blue Devils were featured on opening day rosters. The Blue Zone takes a look at a few of their performances from the first week of games:

Banchero adds name to history books

Fresh off of a Final Four run last year with the Blue Devils, Paolo Banchero is hoping to make his mark on the Magic, who selected him first overall in this year’s NBA draft. He has definitely has made his presence known early on. The rookie has started his career with five consecutive 20-point games, becoming the seventh player in NBA history to accomplish this feat. He is also getting it done in other aspects of the game, averaging 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists to accompany his 24.0 points per contest. This well-rounded skillset has garnered him inclusion with some elite company; the Seattle, Wash., native is the first player to total 120 points, 35 rebounds and 15 assists since Dominique Wilkins in 1982. Unfortunately, Banchero’s efforts have not translated into wins just yet, as the Magic have started 0-5. 

Boston off to 3-1 start as Tatum dominates

After leading the Celtics to an NBA Finals appearance, Jayson Tatum has picked up right where he left off. In Boston's season opener against Philadelphia, the former Blue Devil exploded for 35 points on 13-20 shooting from the field en route to a 126-117 victory. Four days later, he followed up that spectacular performance by putting up 40 in a six-point win against Orlando. Tatum is averaging 32.5 points per game this season, the fourth-most in the NBA. The league has certainly taken notice of Tatum’s hot start, as he was awarded the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor of the season. Tatum and the Celtics are 3-1 and look primed to contend in the Eastern Conference yet again. 

Williamson returns to the court

After breaking his foot last September and missing the entirety of the 2021-22 season, expectations were sky-high for Zion Williamson entering this year. In the season opener against a tough Brooklyn squad, the young star looked like the dominant player that Duke fans became accustomed to in his lone season with the Blue Devils. He impressed in the paint, scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a blowout 130-108 win. Unfortunately, Williamson took a hard fall in his third game of the season and was diagnosed with a posterior hip contusion, which he should return from later this week. The Pelicans have started the season 3-1 and will certainly need Williamson and fellow former Duke stud Brandon Ingram to stay healthy if they want to live up to their billing as a potential sleeper team in the Western Conference.  

Irving continues to produce

One of the older Duke basketball alumni in the league, Kyrie Irving is still producing at a high level. He ranks in the top 15 in the league in scoring with 27.3 points per contest. His best performance yet was against Memphis; he accounted for 37 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Nets have not lived up to their preseason expectations and have started the season 1-3. 

Jones takes over starting role

In his third year with San Antonio, Tre Jones has suddenly been handed the keys as the starting point guard of a young Spurs squad. This comes after star point guard Dejounte Murray was shipped off to the Hawks in the offseason. The former Duke star has performed admirably in his new role, averaging 14.0 points per game while dishing out an average of 4.2 assists. Jones’ excellent play has led the Spurs to a 3-2 start after being touted as one of the worst teams in the NBA before the season. 


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