Duke Players in the NBA

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For decades, Duke University has been a fertile breeding ground for future NBA players. Especially since coach Mike Krzyzewski took the helm. With 83 of their former athletes getting the chance in the big league, Duke is fourth among all college programs, trailing only Kentucky, UCLA, and North Carolina. Currently, only Kentucky has more active players on 2019-20 NBA rosters.

The allure of working with Coach K, passionate and loyal fanbase, and a solid foundation the program is built on still appeal to the most attractive high-school prospects. So Duke’s presence in the NBA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll take a closer look at the most successful Duke players in the NBA, including current stars and some former legendary ballers.

The Best Active Duke Players in the NBA

Kyrie Irving

While he’s spent a good part of his Duke career sidelined due to the injury, Kyrie has proven his NBA star credentials from the get-go, winning Rookie of the Year award in 2011-12. His Cleveland career reached its culmination in 2016 when he won the NBA title playing next to Lebron James. After an unfortunate year-long stint in Boston, Irving paired up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn making the Nets a real threat in the East and potential perennial contender.

Zion Williamson

Probably the most talked-about Duke player ever, Zion was in the media spotlight since his high school days. His one year at the Duke was enough to prove that he might be one of the most exciting players ever and earned him No. 1 spot in last year’s draft where he was selected by New Orleans Pelicans. An injury during the Summer League delayed his NBA debut, but a handful of games since return have shown he is an All-NBA level talent that will rule the league for years to come.

Jason Tatum

In only his third NBA season and at 21 years of age, Jason Tatum is a No. 1 option on the championship contender. He leads the Celtics in points and minutes and is second in rebounds and steals per game. After being selected third in the 2017 draft, Tatum had a somewhat slow start to his career but burst onto the scene with incredible performances during Boston’s conference finals run later that season. Now, former Blue Devil is the player that the Celtic build their future around.

Brandon Ingram

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Former No. 2 pick had a rough start of his career with the Lakers but since being traded to Pelicans, Ingram exploded and lifted his game enough to earn him his first NBA All-Star appearance. Tall and lanky, he has grown to be one of the most versatile NBA forwards averaging 24.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. And he is yet to realize his full potential, both on offense and defense.

JJ Redick

One of the most hated players in the country during his duke years, JJ Redick has more than made his mark on the NBA courts. At 36 years of age, he’s considered to be one of the greatest shooters to ever play the game. In addition, he developed into the competent defender and is one of the most liked teammates around the league. The only thing missing from his impressive resume is the NBA title, but playing for Pelicans with his fellow Duke alumni Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram may soon rectify that.

Honorable Mentions

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Besides the stars mentioned above, there are plenty of other former Duke players in the NBA making their mark, most notably: RJ Barret, Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr, Rodney Hood, Luke Kennard, Jahlil Okafor, Plumlee brothers, Seth Curry, Justise Winslow, and Cam Redish.

Former NBA Players who Went to Duke

Grant Hill

Once considered an heir to Michael Jordan, Grant Hill had a career marred with injuries, Still, he managed to put together a Hall of Fame career leaving us all to wonder how much would he have achieved if he had better health. Even though he played until the age of 40, former Duke alumni never managed to reach the level of performances from his first couple of years in Detroit. Today, he’s a popular TV personality and a member of the Atlanta Hawks ownership group.

Elton Brand

One of the most dominant big men to play for coach K, Elton Brand’s impeccable game at the post and the relentless defense also made him one of the best NBA power forwards for over a decade. He was drafted by Chicago but soon traded to the Clippers where he was a cornerstone of a team that brought back the respectability to the long-suffering franchise. His high basketball IQ served him well in the post-playing career where he pursued front office career and is currently the General Manager of Philadelphia 76ers.

Christian Laettner

Another Duke player who opposing fans loved to hate, Christian Laettner is probably one of the best players to ever be the part of a coach K’s program. He holds NCAA record for most games won, most games played and the most points scored in addition to winning two titles. Brilliant college career even earned him a place on the original 1992 Dream Team. Unfortunately, his NBA career was ruined by the injuries causing him to never reach the potential he demonstrated in college, although he did have some flashes and even appeared at the All-Star game once.

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Shane Battier

Although a role player for most of his career, the Duke standout Shane Battier’s NBA performance went beyond mere numbers and statistics. He was a two-time All-Defense player and one of the key cogs in Miami Heat teams that won back-to-back titles. A prototypical 3&D wing with high basketball IQ, he had the game that was perhaps more suited to what we see in today’s NBA. Always one of the most outspoken and educated NBA athletes, Battier is now a Vice-President of Basketball and Analytics for the Miami Heat.

Honorable Mentions

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Some of the other Duke players who had respectable NBA careers: Mike Gminski, Danny Ferry, Carlos Boozer, Correy Maggette Dahtay Jones, Chris Duhon, Gerald Henderson, and Mike Dunleavy Jr,

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Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

My name is Aaron and I am the owner of Make Shots. On this site, I discuss the most frequently asked basketball questions and give my opinions. My love for basketball started in 2010 and ever since I have fallen in love with the sport.
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