BROOKLYN — There have never been five Duke basketball players selected in the NBA Draft in the same year.
That looks to change Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
Coming off a run to the Final Four in Mike Krzyzewski’s final season as coach, the Blue Devils could have as many as three — freshmen Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and sophomore Mark Williams — taken as lottery picks and Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels drafted in the late first to early second round.
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Sixty players are selected in the annual NBA Draft, and 12% of them could come from one program.
“Anytime you get that opportunity to have five guys, I played with four (who were drafted), you want them to beat that record,” assistant coach Chris Carrawell said. “It would be a great thing for us and, you know, everyone gets to see that. When I go into a recruit’s home, I get to say, I coached that guy, and you know, that helps.”
F Paolo Banchero
Mock draft high: Round 1 (No. 1 overall) to Orlando Magic
Mock draft low: Round 1 (No. 3 overall) to Houston Rockets
The buzz: Wherever Banchero lands, the 19-year-old Seattle native won’t be sitting in the green room for long. The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Banchero is as NBA-ready as any player in the draft and will be on the shortlist for the NBA Rookie of the Year next season. He was the anchor during Duke’s run to the Final Four, averaging 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists while earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors. Once considered the consensus No. 1 overall pick, Banchero has slipped behind Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren in many mock drafts.
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F AJ Griffin
Mock draft high: Round 1 (No. 8 overall) to Los Angeles Lakers
Mock draft low: Round 1 (No. 11 overall) to New York Knicks
The buzz: Griffin began his freshman season as a highly touted prospect but with plenty of question marks due to two previous years of injuries that had mostly kept him off the basketball court. He emerged as Duke’s best shooter — hitting 45% from 3 — and became a proven shot creator with his 6-6 size and 220-pound frame. There are still dreams about his defensive ability and the possibilities of old injuries slowing him down. He’s still a work in progress, but he has as much potential upside as any other player in the draft.
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C Mark Williams
Mock draft high: Round 1 (No. 9 overall) to San Antonio Spurs
Mock draft low: Round 1 (No. 23 overall) to Philadelphia 76ers
The buzz: Williams is an absurd physical specimen, standing 7-2 with a 9-9 reach and 7-7 wingspan, making him one of the best rim protectors in the draft. He averaged three blocked shots per game during his sophomore season and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Williams was a reliable scorer for the Blue Devils, shooting 72% from the field, almost all from close range. With less value on the center position in the NBA, Williams has the possibility of falling out of a lottery pick, but it would be shocking to see him not selected in the first round.
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F Wendell Moore
Mock draft high: Round 1 (No. 26 overall) to Dallas Mavericks
Mock draft low: Round 2 (No. 37 overall) to Sacramento Kings
The buzz: Moore did a lot to improve his draft stock during his junior season at Duke, where he averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He developed his outside shooting, hitting 41.3% of his 3-point attempts compared to 21.1% as a freshman and 30.1% as a sophomore. He showed off his vertical leap at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and displayed intriguing growth with his defense and passing ability. The 6-5, 217-pound forward could be the fourth Duke player taken in the first round.
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G Trevor Keels
Mock draft high: Round 2 (No. 31 overall) to Indiana Pacers
Mock draft low: Round 2 (No. 36 overall) to Portland Trailblazers
The buzz: Keels was Duke’s final holdout when it came to the NBA Draft, waiting until the final day to decide not to return to Durham for his sophomore season. The reservation about his future may have come from an up-and-down performance at the combine where many scouts and evaluators suggested another year of college basketball would be in his best interest. Keels showed flashes of brilliance at Duke, most notably a 25-point, 10-of-18 shooting performance against Kentucky in a high-profile season opener. Keels, though, topped 20 points only twice in the remaining 34 games and missed three games with a lower leg/calf injury. But with his potential as an NBA starter (eventually), he’s still expected to be a high second-round pick.
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David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.