Analyzing Duke men's basketball's rookie NBA class

Banchero earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors for the 2022-23 season, averaging 20 points per game.
Banchero earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors for the 2022-23 season, averaging 20 points per game.

After leading Duke to a Final Four, five Blue Devils heard their names called in the 2022 NBA Draft. The Blue Zone breaks down their rookie seasons at the professional level:

Paolo Banchero

After being selected first overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, Paolo Banchero had considerable expectations surrounding his rookie campaign. Instead of faltering or taking time to adjust, he took the league by storm. Banchero posted top-five averages among rookies in points, rebounds and assists en route to winning NBA Rookie of the Year for the Orlando Magic. As dominant as he was at Duke, scoring 17.2 points per game and leading the Blue Devils to the Final Four, Banchero improved his scoring at the professional level, averaging 20 points and scoring at least 30 six times. Possibly his best performance of the season came in a win against the Boston Celtics Dec. 18, where the Seattle native scored 31 points while shooting 6-of-7 from behind the arc. 

While he still has room to grow into a more efficient scorer — he shot just 42.7% from the field and 29.8% from three — Banchero has a bright future. The Magic finished seven games under .500 and missed out on the playoffs, but the team has a young core in 20-year-old Banchero, 21-year-old Franz Wagner and 24-year-old Wendell Carter Jr, a fellow Duke alum.

AJ Griffin

With two last-second, game-winning shots, AJ Griffin had a memorable rookie campaign himself. Playing for the Atlanta Hawks, the sharpshooter contributed 8.9 points per game while shooting an efficient 39% from three. His standout moment of the season came in an overtime win against the Chicago Bulls, when he scored the last of his 17 points at the buzzer to win the game.

Griffin’s usage was limited at times, as he was on the court just 19.5 minutes per game. He played behind two talented guards in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, who averaged 26.2 and 20.5 points per game, respectively. While the Hawks earned the No. 7-seed in the Eastern Conference, Griffin did not see the court in the playoffs before Atlanta lost to Boston in the first round. However, if the Ossining, N.Y., native can continue to improve behind the arc, he will only see his opportunities increase.

Mark Williams

Mark Williams, remembered at Duke for his dominant post play, continued to make his presence known inside in his first season with the Charlotte Hornets. Although he was hampered by injuries and played in just 43 games, Williams showed signs of the defensive dominance Blue Devils fans came to love. The big man averaged 9.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, and he was a bright spot on a forgettable 27-win season for Charlotte. 

In one of his 11 double-doubles, a Feb. 25 win against the Miami Heat, the Virginia Beach, Va., native scored 18 points and secured a season-high 20 rebounds. And, in a Dec. 29 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 7-foot-1 center scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds off the bench. Williams will be a cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Hornets, and if he can stay healthy moving forward, he has the potential to become a league-dominant center.

Trevor Keels

Former Duke guard Trevor Keels, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks, played the majority of his time with the team’s G League affiliate in Westchester. There, Keels averaged 14.5 points in more than 30 minutes per game. While the 6-foot-5 defensive spark plug played just three games in the NBA, he showed this season that he has what it takes to both score and guard at the professional level. New York, who finished the regular season as the No. 5-seed in the Western Conference, may look to Keels in the future if he is able to further develop his 3-point shot and playmaking ability.

Wendell Moore Jr.

Former Duke captain Wendell Moore Jr. was selected with the 26th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his rookie season, Moore averaged just 5.3 minutes per game, but filled into Minnesota’s starting lineup twice because of injuries. In those two starts, the 6-foot-5 guard showed that he could produce on the offensive end as he combined for 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. If Moore can continue to develop his 3-point shot and defensive skills, he could see an uptick in playing time next season.

Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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