Caulton Tudor

Triangle alums again absent from all-NBA team

Posted 11:33 a.m. Friday

FILE - In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) gestures during the second half of Game 5 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, in San Antonio. For Cleveland's LeBron James, there was history. For Houston's James Harden, there was affirmation. James and Harden headlined the All-NBA first team that was unveiled Thursday, May 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

The 2016-17 all-NBA team was announced Thursday and the 1st-team members were plenty predictable.

LeBron James (Cleveland) and James Harden (Houston) were unanimous and joined by Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans).

Also predictable was the absence of a player with a Triangle college background.

Many people across the country see the Triangle as ground zero for college competition, fan interest and NBA incubation through prolific recruiting networks.

In a manner of speaking that’s all very true, of course. But when it comes to producing NBA superstars these days, Wake Forest with Chris Paul and recently retired Tim Duncan and Davidson with Stephen Curry easily have outdistanced UNC, Duke, NC State and various non-ACC smaller colleges in the area.

In fact, the last NBA 1st-team member with a Triangle college connection was Michael Jordan all the way back to 1997-98 and before that, Jordan and Duke’s Grant Hill in 1996-97.

Duke products Kyrie Irving, Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer and UNC’s Vince Carter landed spots on some 2nd and 3rd teams over recent years, but without the overall impact of Duncan and Paul.

The Triangle trend could change reasonably soon, however.

Former Duke one-and-done players Irving (Cleveland), Jabari Parker (Milwaukee) and Justise Winslow (Miami) are emerging as mainstream fixtures.

The upcoming NBA draft should include several Triangle products with high ceilings, and there are some scouts who believe Dennis Smith, one-and-done at State, quickly will surface as the first genuine Wolfpack NBA star since David Thompson.

But the NBA’s personnel pool has changed a great deal since the days of Jordan and Hill. The league’s next big thing – after the 32-year-old James and Curry (29) – very well could be Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (22), a 2013 draft pick from Greece who never played college ball and didn’t seriously consider doing so.

The NBA blueprint has changed drastically. Duke and Carolina still own basketball in February, March and early April. State has a plan to get back to that level of influence. But when it comes to May and June, the headliners are just as likely to come from San Diego State, Davidson or Wake.


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