Prepare for the up and coming NBA Season with a quick glimpse at each 1st and 2nd year Dukie in the league!
Jahlil Okafor – C – 76ers
Okafor will almost surely begin his NBA career in the starting lineup. Jahlil should be one of the centerpieces of a previously-struggling 76ers offense who finished 29th in the league in ppg. The Sixers are coming off one of the worst seasons in NBA history, finishing with a record of 18-64. Before we start talking about a good season, lets first get to half-decent. Expect Okafor to carry the load offensively and to share duties with Nerlens Noel. Noel is a perfect fit for Okafor, as Noel is an excellent shot-blocker, a skill that Jahlil lacks. Okafor will surely log heavy minutes with Joel Embiid out for the season, and proved his post moves are more than NBA ready in the Summer League.
What’s Brought to the Table: Bullying and Dominance. Okafor has the ability to completely takeover a game when he wants to. His endless tool box of post moves is incredibly effective. There is no doubt Jahlil will bully many defenders in his rookie year.
The Question: Rim Protection. Will Jahlil be able to contain NBA centers defensively? Nobody is worried about Okafor’s offense translating to the league, but his defense was only sub-par for Duke. Will he offer enough rim protection for his new defensive-ailing team?
Justise Winslow – SF – Heat
Justise is, in my opinion, the most NBA ready out of the big three rookies from Duke. He has every skill set necessary to strive at the highest level and I expect a brilliant rookie campaign. Justise’s versatility and sheer athleticism will pay major dividends for the Miami Heat, clearly an aging team. Winslow will not walk into the starting lineup, as he faces stiff competition with veteran forward, Luol Deng (another Dukie). Expect Justise to start the season in a sixth man type role, but I would not be surprised to see him in the starting lineup by the end of the season. Winslow’s impeccable defense and explosive offensive ability will pave a smooth transition into the league for the young one out of Houston.
What’s Brought to the Table: Versatility. Justise brings unusual athleticism and versatility to the table. He is strong enough to play big and quick enough to play on the wing. Wherever Erik Spoelstra decides to put Winslow, he will make an impact, as he is a matchup nightmare.
The Question: Health. Can Justise stay healthy? The NBA season is much more demanding on the body, and Justise has already had problems in the Summer League. The only question mark with Winslow is his ability to stay healthy throughout the year.
Tyus Jones – PG – Timberwolves
Tyus will be an interesting one to watch in the coming season. Expect Tyus to have a fairly limited role on the T-Wolves this year after playing nearly every minute for Duke. He will be behind Ricky Rubio in the starting lineup, and perhaps also combo guard Zach Levine. There will most likely be an adjustment period for Tyus, but his competitive nature will drive him to success sooner or later. It will take time for him to adjust to the quickness and overwhelming size of NBA guards. Tyus is a fairly small guard, at 6′ 1″, but brings incredible court vision to the table. I’d expect somewhere from 12-22 minutes per game, but he may get even more minutes considering he is behind injury-prone Ricky Rubio. For Tyus to be successful he needs to continue to attack the basket and create good looks for his teammates.
What’s Brought to the Table: Cold-Blooded Nature. Along with bringing a unique level of toughness and energy to the table, Tyus also brings confidence down the stretch. I am convinced that Tyus is cold-blooded. In his short time at Duke he proved that he thrives under pressure. Tyus simply defines the meaning of clutchness, which cannot be taught.
The Question: On-Ball Defense. Will Tyus’s on-ball defense hold him back? Jones’s clutch ability to carry a team offensively is not quite matched on the other side of the floor. He will need to improve his quickness and footwork to prevent bigger and faster NBA guards from blowing by him.
Quinn Cook – SG – Cleveland Cavaliers
Quinn had a senior year to remember at Duke, and will try to carry some of that mojo into his NBA career. Cook recently signed a non-guaranteeing contract with the Cavaliers, so he has his work cut out for him to make the roster. I believe that Quinn has the toughness and competitive nature to succeed at any level, but I don’t see him getting more than 5 mpg in his rookie season assuming he makes the roster, which is no guarantee. Although Cook may not play a big role on the court this year for Cleveland, they will definitely get their money’s worth out of him in the locker room. Quinn is a hard worker with incredible leadership skills. I think Quinn will thrive as a three-point specialist, and team leader. He has the potential to be a role player, but don’t expect much from his rookie season.
What’s Brought to the Table: Leadership. Cook demonstrated his extraordinary leadership qualities in his final season at Duke, leading a team full of underclassmen to a national title. Quinn was the lone senior on the roster, and was a vocal captain from day one. There is no doubt that Quinn will find a place whether it be in the NBA or overseas, where he will offer his astonishing maturity and leadership.
The Question: Size. Quinn played most of his senior year as the shooting guard along side true point guard Tyus Jones. Unfortunately, Cook is listed as 6′ 2″ tall, which will pose issues when he is forced to defend other shooting guards in his division such as Khris Middleton (6′ 8″), Jimmy Butler (6′ 7″), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6′ 5″). If Cook could improve his ball-handling skills enough to become a true point guard, there will be more hope for him in the league.
Jabari Parker – SF – Bucks
Last season, a heartbreaking ACL tear abruptly ended a strong rookie campaign for Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker. Parker displayed his unique skill set early in the season averaging 12.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg for the young Bucks, but was unable to compete for Rookie of the Year due to his season ending injury. In the upcoming season with the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the recovery of Jabari Parker, the Bucks should have a very dangerous, dynamic duo that has the potential to take the league by storm. As the attention increases on the Greek Freak, expect Parker’s scoring to go up, as well as rebounding. Barring health concerns, the Bucks have a legitimate opportunity to make a run in the playoffs with the young duo and star point guard Michael Carter-Williams. I’m expecting a big comeback year not only for the sophomore but also for his team.
What’s Brought to the Table: Playmaking Ability. Jabari has the rare ability to get to the rack at will from anywhere on the court. He is a dynamic offensive player with a solid mid range game as well as incredible driving ability. He is explosive at the rim, and can really take over a basketball game on the offensive end. His isolation game is very impressive, from the top of the key to the post.
The Question: Defense. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, Jabari is not a great defender. The place where he needs to work most on his defense is denying the post. At Duke he often made the same mistake of overplaying the post, allowing a good lob to the offensive player to provide a clear lane to the basket. For Jabari to become an NBA All-Star type talent, he needs to defend better.
Rodney Hood – SG – Utah Jazz
Rodney capped off his rookie campaign the right way with 4 double digit performances in his final 5 games. Hood averaged almost 9 ppg, but only 2.3 rpg and 1.7 apg. For Hood to make the next step in the league, he must find other ways to contribute when he struggles from the floor. Hood has loads of talent, with an above average jump shot and great leaping ability at the rim. We definitely saw some bright spots that displayed what Hood could do in the league, one of which was against the Trail Blazers on 4/11 in which Hood posted 21 points and 8 assists. The Jazz finished the year just under .500 and must get more offensive production through assists; they finished 29th in the league in apg averaging only 19.9. Hood should play a big role in this young Jazz team probably playing somewhere around 25 mpg, but will likely start the season off the bench behind shooting guard Alec Burks. If Hood picks up next season how he left off, he has a good shot at claiming the starting spot.
What’s Brought to the Table? Athleticism. Rodney is a very gifted shooting guard with both agility and size, standing at 6′ 7″. Hood is a tough matchup for most shooting guards with his length and ability to shoot the basketball. Rodney also has the ability to finish at the rim explosively, giving him all the tools necessary to be effective against any defender on the court.
The Question: Consistency in three-pointers. If Hood can consistently knock down the three point balls, his offensive package will be complete. He has shown his sniping ability, but lacks consistency throughout the season. He shot an average 36.5% from beyond the arc last season, but as a shooting guard you would love to see that number jump.
Comment your predictions for all of your favorite Dukies in the NBA! Also… who is your pick for NBA Rookie of the Year? I will start my next post with a quick glimpse at the comments!