For a program with the ignorant label of being a school that “doesn’t produce NBA talent,” it’s striking to look around the league and see how many Duke players are now an integral part of rotations and have been sought after free agents since the signing period opened for NBA teams.
Between promising young talent and established veterans, the Blue Devils have established a strong presence in the NBA.
Here’s a look at some of the guys who’ve been making news over the past couple months.
The Duke national champion is certainly on the downside of a successful NBA career, but the Lakers are hoping he can be a consistent performer in Los Angeles next season. Boozer was claimed by the Lakers after being amnestied by the Chicago Bulls, and he will need to replace some of the productivity lost with the departure of Pau Gasol and could also mentor many of the younger post players in Los Angeles. While he has his limitations, especially on the defensive end, Boozer is a guy capable of putting up regular double-double numbers.
After finding himself in a miserable situation in Cleveland, Luol Deng is now trading places with LeBron James and will be teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It’s impossible for Deng to replace James, but his addition alongside Wade and Bosh actually gives the Heat a more formidable team than many people realize. Deng is a proven All-Star who plays well on both ends of the court and should be a good fit for Erik Spoelstra.
One of Duke’s all-time great players decided to move on to the next chapter of his life after a terrific NBA career. Shane Battier was a winner at every level of his playing career, which he demonstrated again with every organization he was part of in the NBA, including being part of two championship teams in Miami. Now, we get to see what the future has for the former academic All-American, who is heavily involved with charitable work and will also join the team at ESPN as an analyst. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s just as excited to see what Battier does outside the court compared to what he did on the court.
Many people probably thought Ryan Kelly wouldn’t even earn a regular spot on an NBA roster, but now he’s proven the doubters wrong and earned a two-year deal with the Lakers. Similar to his time at Duke, Kelly provides the Lakers the ability to spread the floor because of his shooting touch from the perimeter and he’s always been an underrated defender. At 6’11”, Kelly’s shooting makes him a unique fit and he’ll likely always have opportunities with second units around the league.
Considering his two-year career at Duke, it might be the biggest surprise that Josh McRoberts was arguably the most sought-after former Blue Devil of this NBA offseason. He was extremely impressive as a valuable role player in Charlotte last season, and the Bobcats/Hornets showed they were very interested in re-signing him. However, the Hornets were outbid by the Miami Heat, who lured the versatile big man to South Beach with a four-year deal, worth over five million per season.
Unlike many of the other guys on this list, Kyrie Irving is staying with his current team. Yet, the former No. 1 pick is still worth mentioning because of all the major changes that have occurred around him and his roster. Not only did Irving sign a new contract with Cleveland that shows he’s committed to being there for the long term, he’ll also now join forces with the greatest player in the game. And with Cleveland still in discussions to make other big offseason moves, Irving will likely start next season playing with LeBron James and either Kevin Love or Andrew Wiggins, which are two other guys whose skill sets should be a perfect complement to Kyrie’s. Irving has established himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA despite being surrounded by essentially no talent. Now, we’ll get to see his brilliance with some of the other best players in the league.
Which former Duke player will have the best season next year? Let me know what you think in the comments section.