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2018 Duke in the NBA Draft Mailbag

With all the Duke NBA announcements complete, Chris Summerville (@DukeOfHoops) sat down with our own Zion Olojede (@DukeNBA) to get his thoughts on this year’s draft class for the Blue Devils.

CS: Where do you expect each of the five Blue Devils to be drafted?

ZO: Marvin Bagley III is a no-brainer and obviously a lock in the top five. Although a lot of draft analysts have slotted Bagley in the four spot behind DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, and Jaren Jackson, I expect Bagley to go No. 3 as of right now with a solid chance to No. 2 after team workouts.

Wendell Carter Jr. can go anywhere from six to 11. People forget that before Bagley reclassified, Carter was the star of Duke’s recruiting class and the No. 3 player in the high school. Carter wasn’t as skilled in the post as Jahlil Okafor was but he’s definitely a better pro prospect as he’s much more active and aware defensively in addition to more versatility on offense.

I still think Grayson Allen should’ve left after his sophomore year if he wanted to maximize his pro potential and his final two years in college pretty much validates that. He had his bright spots but overall, he struggled to reach the consistency we expected of him. I still think Allen has a solid chance of landing in the first round but I expect him to land in the early second round in June.

Gary Trent Jr. is a interesting prospect because I believe he’s first round talent but his role at Duke was limited due to the talent around. He’s projected as a late second rounder as of right now by Draft Express but I wouldn’t be surprised if he boosts his stock dramatically in the draft process like former Duke guard Frank Jackson did last year. I think people are quick to label Trent as just a shooter but in my opinion, this dude is a pure scorer. I’ll say by the end of the pre draft process, Trent will land in the early second round or late first round of the draft. It’s hard to formulate an argument for the large disparity in draft spots for Allen and Trent, which Draft Express projects. They should be around the same area in draft selections and Trent actually may be the better prospect because of the age difference.

Trevon Duval had his ups and downs this year but there’s still a lot of potential in him as a pro. His stock definitely took a hit this season but he’s 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop. Duval was never a great fit with Duke’s roster so his flaws were constantly magnified. I think he’ll end up as a late second round pick.

Which teams would be the best fit for each of them?

Marvin Bagley III- Anywhere. Bagley III is a generational talent and you’ll build around him. It won’t be about him fitting in, it’ll be about fitting pieces around him.

Wendell Carter Jr. – Of the teams that will be in Carter’s range, I believe New York, Dallas and Chicago would be good spots. Carter is versatile big man that can play the five on the next level. Playing next to a Lauri Markkanen or a Kristaps Porzingis can give a franchise a formidable young frontcourt with Carter primarily in the post. Carter, who excels with his back to the basket, would be hard to double alongside a guy like Porzingis and Markkanen. Dallas might be the best spot of the three because the imminent hole left by Nerlens Noel and the fact Dirk Nowitzki is nearing retirement. A Dennis Smith Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. duo would be a nice foundation for that franchise.

Grayson Allen – Any veteran team that has a need for shooting or scoring. Grayson Allen is a winner and he’ll be 23 years old by the time he steps on the court officially as an NBA player. There won’t be much growing in his game so if he’s put in a winning environment, where he can contribute immediately and learn from some veterans, you’ll probably see Grayson Allen’s best. A team that comes to mind is the OKC Thunder. They’re one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league and don’t really have great options at the shooting guard position. If they do retain Paul George, Allen would receive his share of open looks with guys like two elite players like George and Westbrook getting the attention on the wing. The Spurs also happened to be one of the worst shooting teams in league this season and will have some room to fill with Ginobili’s imminent retirement.

Gary Trent Jr. – It’s hard to narrow down a team for Trent Jr. because a lot of the teams in the league need scorers at the wing. I’ll pick Atlanta because that roster is severely depleted and needs any help it can get behind in the backcourt behind Bazemore and Schroder. The Hawks will likely go with a big man with their first pick so it’s possible we’ll see them go after a wing player with their next pick.

Trevon Duval – The Spurs look to be set with their future point guard with Dejounte Murray but Trevon Duval would benefit the most from landing in the Spurs system. The Spurs have the best player developmental system in the league and Duval’s jumper could get to where it needs to be working with former Dukie Chip Engelland. If Duval develops a consistent jumper, he has star potential on the next level. We already know he can get to the rim at will and his physical attributes are up to par with NBA point guards. It’s not really about where Duval would fit in. It’s about where he would grow the most. Duval is a project.

While Bagley and Carter look to be guaranteed Top 10 picks, are Duval and Trent Jr. making a mistake by not coming back for their sophomore seasons?

Neither of them are making mistakes if you project their situation next year. Duval would’ve came back to a team with a lot more guys who can handle the ball and create. He would’ve been moved to the bench behind Tre Jones and would’ve been on an even shorter leash than last year every time he made a mistake. Trent was the only player I thought had a serious chance of returning but I don’t think he made a bad decision to leave. Duke is very wing-heavy right now and his return could’ve caused some conflict because it would essentially mean that a top-five high school player is coming off the bench and it would’ve been between Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish. Trent would have taken a larger role in leadership but with so much wing skill next to him and a pure point guard, most of his touches probably still would’ve come as a spot up shooter.

Whose game translates best to the NBA?

I think the obvious answer here is Bagley. He’s a 6’11 athletic freak with guard-like skills. He fits the criteria of the modern day unicorn-like big man as we’ve seen with guys like Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Karl Anthony-Towns and more. The defensive aspect will improve as he has all the tools to compete on that end.

Which one will have the best professional career?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Marvin Bagley III will have the best professional group of this career.

Looking ahead to next season’s squad, who do you think will declare for the NBA Draft?

Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett and Marques Bolden. I think Tre Jones will be at least a two-year player, maybe longer.

Where do you think they will be drafted?

It’s way too early to tell. Obviously, we can assume the freshmen will go in the lottery as of right now but there’s so much that can happen between today and next year as we’ve seen with guys like Duval who were once projected to go top 12 in this year’s draft. Plus, we aren’t sure of who’s returning to school or not. Bolden, if he remains at Duke, could probably play himself into a second rounder but it’s not a very deep draft class for frontcourt players so he could benefit from that.