Duke’s offseason began much earlier than the team and their fans hoped for. Going into the season, fans knew that there was a chance there could be a mass exodus of players to leave simply because of the amount of talent on the team.
The Blue Devils had one of the top recruiting classes with Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier, and Jack White. Before the season began it was assumed at least Tatum and Giles would go pro after one season. Depending on how his season went, it was also possible that Bolden would enter the NBA Draft as well.
Duke also had returning seniors Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, along with Luke Kennard and preseason NPOY candidate Grayson Allen. There was the potential of losing at least six players from this year’s squad to either graduation or the NBA Draft.
While he showed flashes of his potential last season, no one saw the breakout season from Luke Kennard coming. With early season injuries to Tatum, Giles, Bolden and Allen, he was given the opportunity to show what he could do. He put in a season worthy of ACC POY consideration, was named First Team All-ACC, and either First or Second-Team All American for numerous publications. He also cemented himself as a first round pick as he is currently projected to be drafted #25 overall according to DraftExpress.com.
Luke’s outstanding season meant Duke potentially could lose another player. That’s seven players Duke could lose to graduation or the NBA Draft. That’s not taking into consideration any transfers which could take place.
So where does Duke stand with its roster currently? Let’s take a look:
- Jayson Tatum – Jay Smooth announced he will be entering the NBA Draft.
- Harry Giles – Giles just announced that like Tatum, he will be entering the NBA Draft.
- Chase Jeter – After an up-and-down two years, Jeter announced he will be transferring at the end of the spring semester.
- Grayson Allen – Allen surprised many people by returning for his junior year. He battled injuries and off the court issues that make you wonder if he would return for his senior season. He was rated a first round pick by many mock drafts last year, but currently is slated as a second round pick. He should graduate this May so his time at Duke may be over but with Allen you just never know. He loves Duke. ***4/18 UPDATE*** GRAYSON’S BACK!
- Luke Kennard – His breakout season has catapulted him into the first round of the NBA Draft. After seeing what happened with Grayson this season he may not want to risk falling out of the first round if he has a subpar junior season. The draft next year is weaker so there is always the chance he could move up even more in the first round like UNC’s Justin Jackson. But is that a risk he is willing to take? ***4/5 UPDATE*** Apparently not as he announced today he is entering the NBA Draft and hiring an agent.
- Javin DeLaurier – He battled injuries during the season and didn’t see much time as a freshmen. He should return and see an expanded role next season as backup at both the 4 and 5 spots.
- Matt Jones – Feels like Matty Ice has been at Duke forever but he will graduate this May. Not sure if the NBA is in his future but he should be able to find a place overseas to continue his basketball career. Would not shock me if one day he is back on the Duke bench as an assistant coach.
- Frank Jackson – Jackson showed a lot of potential during the season and came on late to be one of Duke’s most reliable scorers. It’s always possible he enters his name into the NBA Draft just to get feedback, but he should be back for his sophomore season.
- Marques Bolden – Marques was another one of the talented freshmen who hoped to be one-and-done at the beginning of the season. He suffered a leg injury early on and was never able to find consistent minutes in the rotation. He showed flashes of his potential and why NBA scouts love him, but is that enough for him to enter the Draft? He could submit his name for feedback but it’s doubtful he would come back with a first round grade. The frustration of the season could push him to go ahead and take his chances by submitting his name, or he could look to transfer somewhere else that may guarantee him more playing time like Jeter. ***4/2 UPDATE*** – Not official but 247Sports.com is reporting Marques Bolden will transfer. ***4/3 UPDATE*** Or maybe not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ***OFFICIAL UPDATE*** He’s back.
- Amile Jefferson – Amile suffered an ankle last season that forced him to miss most of what would have been his senior year. He came back as a graduate student this year and provided senior leadership and stability down low that was desperately needed. While Amile may not get drafted, he should definitely get signed to an NBA Summer League squad with a chance to compete for a roster spot in the fall when teams hold their training camps.
- Antonio Vrankovic – Vrank saw very few minutes this year but when he was in, he showed improvement over his freshman year. He should be a valuable asset as a backup at the center spot next season.
- Sean Obi – Obi could never get rid of the injury bug that plagued him throughout his Duke career. He announced he will graduate in May and transfer to continue his basketball career.
- Jack White – White like Javin and Vrank saw few minutes this season. It will probably be another year or so before we really see Jack have a significant role for Duke.
- Nick Pagliuca – Nick will graduate in May. His father is co-owner of the Boston Celtics so there may be a job in the NBA waiting for Nick when he’s ready.
- Justin Robinson – The son of “The Admiral” David Robinson saw few minutes this season. He came to Duke as a walk-on and should continue to be a valuable player in practice.
- Brennan Besser – Besser saw one minute of action this season against Elon, but is a valuable player in practice helping Duke prepare for opponents.
Out of the 16 players on the 2016-17 roster, the Blue Devils could lose up to 10 of them. That is a significant turnover. They aren’t likely to lose all of them, but fans should be prepared for the worst.
Duke is bringing another talented recruiting class in next season. Currently they have signed Wendell Carter (PF, #4 overall recruit according to 247sports.com) Gary Trent Jr. (SG, #10 overall recruit) and Alex O’Connell (SG, #62 overall recruit). Carter and Trent Jr. should immediately step in and help. O’Connell may be a couple of years away from being a significant contributor to the team.
The Blue Devils are also in the running for Mohamed Bamba (PF, #3 overall recruit), Trevon Duval (PG, #5 overall recruit), and Kevin Knox (SF, #8 overall recruit). Duke seems to be leading for Duval and Kevin Knox according to 247Sports Crystal Ball. Kentucky is currently in the lead for Bamba. All three of these recruits would be of significant help to the Blue Devils. They all also considered one-and-dones which could leave Duke in the same position they are in now next season.