The 2013-14 Duke Men’s Basketball team has yet to play a single game, and yet questions persisted for months on who will turn pro after this season.
There are always a lot of variables in deciding who will go pro such as team’s success (winning a National Championship), how highly rated they are (hard to pass up being a Top 5 pick), threat of career ending/altering injury (especially if they are injured during the season), and who else is declaring for the draft.
Let’s take a look at each member of this year’s squad (underclassmen only obviously) and assess the chances they stay or go pro.
Jabari Parker – Parker came in as one of the Top 3 rated freshmen in this year’s class. Nowadays, if you’re rated that high, the speculation immediately begins if you are a one-and-done, especially when you were touted as the best high school player since LeBron James. Parker has said on numerous occasions that he’s not necessarily a one-and-done. He wants to enjoy college and he wants to get that education. He seems to be level-headed enough to know that the NBA will always be there for him and while the money and fame is nice, the seasons are long. You only have one chance to enjoy college.
Stays or Goes – Stays. Barring injury, the NBA will be there for Parker and he will be a Top 5-10 pick. Provided they commit, the chance to play along side Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, along with wanting to enjoy college as long as he can, will bring Jabari Parker back for his sophomore season when Duke will again be one of the favorites to win the National Championship.
Rodney Hood – Before Hood transferred to Duke, he was already on many NBA team’s radar. In a few NBA Mock Drafts, he was rated as a Top 5 pick. After having to sit out a year, and the influx of quality freshmen, he is likely to slide. In fact, in many early 2014 NBA Mock Drafts, he is either rated as a second round pick, or not being drafted. That will change once they see him on the floor this season and with increased exposure playing for Duke. He did suffer a scare with an achilles injury over the summer, and during the open practice, it seemed as though he strained his back (it’s believed to have been cramps).
Stays or Goes - Goes. The injury over the summer, and having to sit out a year for transferring, will ultimately push Hood to go pro. He would have been a junior this year had he stayed at Mississippi St. In fact one of his former teammates at MSU even said they believed Hood would only play one year at Duke, he is that talented. He showed in the open practice that he has the complete game. He may be undersized (is thin…would need to add about 15-20 lbs of muscle) to play the SF position in the NBA, but there’s no reason he couldn’t make the easy transition to SG and be successful.
Quinn Cook – Cook made major strides from his freshman to his sophomore year, though many were disappointed with his play late last season. Although not voted a captain (that honor went to Tyler Thornton and Rodney Hood), he will be the leader of the offense this year. A lot of Duke’s success this season will be determined by how well Cook plays. He will need to make good decisions and get the offense set early as Duke will look to run often this year. He will need to improve on his defense, even though he was extremely solid last season. His outside shoot looks to have also improved as he did not miss many three pointers during the open practice. This will be a big year for Cook.
Stays or Goes - Stays. The only way Cook goes pro is if Duke wins the National Championship and the point guard class in the 2014 NBA Draft is extremely weak. He would be best served to return for his senior season where he will have a chance to lead Duke to another National Championship. He will also potentially have the chance to go against the top freshmen PGs in the country in Tyus Jones. Even though Jones would be a freshmen, he would challenge Cook every day in practice and help him improve his game even more.
Rasheed Sulaimon – ‘Sheed has been one of the hotter names in regards to who leaves Duke after this season to go pro. He is projected by many to have a breakout year and be a lock as a first round pick. Draft Express currently has him as the 27th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He often draws comparisons to Nolan Smith for his wide array of skills. One concern, as with Smith, is his size. He is listed at 6’4″, but will he be forced to play more PG in the NBA than SG? The ideal height for a SG in today’s NBA is 6’6″-6’7″. Both Nolan Smith and Austin Rivers were forced to play PG when they were drafted into the NBA because of their size.
Stays or Goes - Stays. ‘Sheed has undeniable talent, and this will be a key year for him. He had stretches, as many freshmen do, of poor play last year. It will be critical that he steps up his level of play this season for Duke to be successful. He will be the third or fourth option on the team this year, and may see his minutes cut into by the return of Andre Dawkins. The comparison to Nolan Smith is a valid one, both on the collegiate and pro level, and without being guaranteed as a first round pick, Sulaimon will be back for his junior season at Duke.
Amile Jefferson – This season Jefferson will be playing a very important role for the Blue Devils. He (along with Marshall Plumlee) will be manning the middle. Jefferson, at 6’9″ a better fit for the SF/PF role, will be a tad undersized, but with length and added bulk, should help the team on both ends of the floor. He will not be asked to score as much on this team, as his main focus will be rebounding and defense. One key for Jefferson this season is to be smart with this fouls. He would often times pick up cheap or quick fouls last season. With a full year under his belt, he should have confidence in himself not to reach or foul an opponent as often.
Stays or Goes - Stays. This is a no-brainer. Amile will be a four year player for Duke. He will one day have the chance to play in the NBA, but it will be after he has graduated.
Marshall Plumlee – Plumlee, much like Brian Zoubek, has had to battle with injuries during his Duke career which has limited his playing time as well as his self-confidence. He seems to be recovered from off-season surgery (he was not limited in the open practice). He was referred to last year, before his injury, as Duke’s sixth best player. Most were not sure if Coach K was being honest, or trying to instill confidence in his young big man. Many Duke fans are still waiting for him to break out, especially since he is the Blue Devils lone true big man. As with Amile Jefferson, MP3 will be called upon for rebounding and defense this season.
Stays or Goes - Stays. Another obvious decision. Plumlee was billed as being the brother that had a true back-to-the-basket game out of the PlumThree. He has yet to show that effectively. He hesitates on the offensive end instead of going straight up with the ball, something each of the Plumlees dealt with during the majority of their Duke careers. If Plumlee can stay healthy and develop into the center the Blue Devils envisioned getting when they recruited him, he could have a chance to play in the NBA after he graduates.
Alex Murphy – Murphy entered Duke and was hailed as the second coming of Kyle Singler. Lofty expectations for a freshman. He didn’t play his first season due to a concussion. During his next season many Duke fans felt he would be one of the starters and help lead the Blue Devils to the National Championship. His season got off to a rocky start as he barely played and seemed to be in Coach K’s doghouse. Murphy’s main problem has always been in his head. He has the talent to compete and play with anyone, but he overthinks and worries too much, instead of letting the game come to him and just going out and playing. The day that finally happens watch out Duke opponents, you will have wished it never came.
Stays or Goes - Stays. Murphy, like Jefferson and Plumlee, will be at Duke for his entire career. He does have the chance to play in the NBA if he can ever put it all together. One may worry about the fans putting too much pressure on him, but honestly he already has a ton a pressure that he puts on himself to be the player he knows he can be. Miles Plumlee went through this his entire Duke career, and while he was a first round pick in the NBA Draft, he still never put it all together at Duke. The hope is the same doesn’t happen to Murphy.
Matt Jones – The first to commit to Duke out of this freshmen class, not much is being expected of Jones with Sulaimon and Dawkins ahead of him at SG, and Cook and Thornton ahead of him at PG. But after watching the open practice, Jones does have the opportunity to earn playing time this season, especially if Duke runs as much as they say they want to. He’s not a natural PG but has a good handle of the ball, he can hit the outside shot (has been compared to Ray Allen), and seems to do well on the defensive end (held his own against Duke’s upperclassmen).
Stays or Goes - Stays. He has too many people ahead of him to really make a huge impact this season. He will be another four year player who, like Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry, will have a good shot at making an NBA roster thanks to being able to handle the ball and shoot from three.
Semi Ojeyele – While Ojeyele looks like he could be a pro football player right this instant, he’s a long ways away from entering the NBA. He has a ton of athleticism, but it will take time to adjust to the speed and nuances of the college game. He won’t be a factor this season, but around his junior and senior year he will be on the NBA’s radar.
Stays or Goes - Stays. He is another player who has several ahead of him right now for playing time and it would not surprise me if he redshirts this season. He will benefit greatly from having a few years to learn under Coach K and go against some of the top talent in the country every day in practice. Duke fans will need to be patient with him, because in two to three years he will be paying huge dividends.
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