Where are they now: Duke first-round picks since 2011
Posted April 7
Updated April 10
Durham, N.C. — It’s all but official for Duke, save the decision of Grayson Allen – the Blue Devils will see three players enter their names into the 2017 NBA Draft (and hire agents). Two of the three are freshmen (Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum), and both will almost certainly give Duke their sixth season in the last seven with at least one one-and-done freshman. And of the seven one-and-done freshmen, all but one have been drafted in the top 10. Tatum will continue that streak, certainly, and Giles probably falls outside that but likely is a first-round pick.
And what of Duke’s first round picks since 2011, not just the one-and-done guys (although they’re the majority)? How have they fared in the NBA or elsewhere, if that’s where their path went?
Let’s take a look!
(2016 NO. 2, LOS ANGELES LAKERS)
Ingram, Duke’s latest one-and-done, was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, and there was talk before the draft that he could even go No. 1 overall. The willowy 6-9, 190-pound small forward (at least, as he’s listed) has a lot of upside but he has struggled in his rookie season. He’s played in 75 games so far and has averaged nearly 29 minutes a game but he’s shooting just 40.6 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 9.2 points per game. He’s even shooting just 62.3 percent from the free-throw line. But he does seem to be on the uptick lately, in spite of struggling with tendonitis in his knee, averaging 14.3 points in his last 10 games and shooting 51.9 percent.
Regardless of what he does this year, he is going to be a long-term project. Considering the Lakers stink, they’ll probably shut him down sooner rather than later this season if his knee continues to bother him. He’s not going to win Rookie of the Year or anything, but Ingram’s career will be more about what he does in the next few years anyway. They like where he’s at right now.
Also, Ingram learned to draw while he was at Duke and is cultivating his talent while in Los Angeles, too.
(2015 NO. 3, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS)
Okafor was the first of Duke’s three one-and-done stars from the 2015 national title team to get drafted.
Early in his rookie season, he was pulled over for going over 100 miles an hour on the Ben Franklin Bridge. Weeks later, he was part of a brawl outside a Boston night club and eventually it was revealed he’d been involved in a number of embarrassing incidents – most relatively minor, but still. It got to the point that the team assigned him his own security unit.
His rookie year ended with a small tear to his meniscus, which he had surgery on last March. Yet that supposedly quick recovery wasn’t as knee issues persisted even as this season began. But really, Okafor’s off-court troubles and on-court inability to get going have sort of dogged his time in Philadelphia. The team was rumored heavily to be trying to trade him by the trade deadline this year, but instead moved fellow big man Nerlens Noel. It was…not a popular move for everyone.
He was shut down for the season on March 31 of this year with “knee soreness”, but it was really probably more of a matter of wanting to avoid further injury to him since the season is effectively in full tank mode for the 76ers. Trust The Process. Okafor averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in his sophomore campaign in just 50 games, down from 14.7 and 6.0 in 103 games as a rookie. And he’ll likely find himself on the trade block again this summer, which is probably good news for him in the long run.
(2015 NO. 10, MIAMI HEAT)
Winslow quickly found a major role on the team, averaging 28.6 minutes a game in his rookie season. He struggled some offensively, shooting just 42.2 percent from the floor and 27.6 percent from three on the way to averaging 6.4 points. But he carved out a role for himself on the defensive end, becoming one of the league’s better perimeter defenders even as the third-youngest player in the NBA a year ago.
He looked to really take a step forward this year and was averaging 34.7 minutes and 10.9 points in the 18 games he saw action – he was limited by a wrist injury early on – before suffering a shoulder injury that would require season-ending surgery in January.
Winslow’s shooting numbers reflected the lingering wrist injury, as he shot just 35.7 percent and 20 percent from three. That’s still a big concern for him. But the shoulder surgery was on his right shoulder (he’s left-handed), and he’s been working hard on rehabbing. Of Duke’s three 2015 draft picks, he’s certainly not the best statistically but he’s clearly the most important to his team right now.
(2015 NO. 24, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – RIGHTS TRADED TO MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES)
For Duke’s first two 2015 freshmen to go pro, their decisions were no-brainers. Jones was a little more up in the air, although it’s hard to argue with going out a national champion and the MOP of the Final Four.
Of all of Duke’s first-round picks since 2011, only Miles Plumlee (No. 25) went lower, and Jones is the lowest-drafted one-and-done freshman in that span. It’s scary to imagine the 2015-16 Duke squad with Ingram and Grayson Allen having Jones around too. But Jones felt like he had to maximize his value, and it’s hard to argue with that.
But his rookie campaign was underwhelming. He averaged 4.2 points on 35.9 percent shooting (30.2 percent from three) to go with 2.9 assists in just over 15 minutes a game. He spent some time in the D-League and did very well there before getting called back up by the Timberwolves a few weeks later, which is where he finished the season. He saw action in 37 games.
He was MVP of the 2016 Summer League, averaging 19.4 points and 6.3 assists, which raised a lot of eyebrows. But it took injuries to multiple Timberwolves’ guards before he could really crack the rotation, and his minutes per game this year are actually down from a year ago. He and Kris Dunn are back-up point guards to starter Ricky Rubio, but Dunn seems to be getting more of the minutes (although sometimes Jones and Dunn play together).
So far, he’s averaging 12.7 minutes and shooting better (40 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from three), but his assists have down slightly (2.5 per game) and his points have, too (3.4). It’s just going to take Jones some time, but he could carve out a role for himself on this level yet.
Oh, and keep an eye out as well for Jones’ little brother Tre, who is a point guard in the class of 2018 and – surprising no one – is a Duke target.
(2014 NO. 2, MILWAUKEE BUCKS)
Coming out of Duke, he was considered as sure a thing as sure things can be. And it looked like he was rounding into that his rookie year, but that was over before it began, practically. Parker tore his ACL on December 15, 2014, and just like that, done for the year.
Nearly a year later, the effects still lingered early in his sophomore season but he showed signs of what he could be, playing 76 games and averaging 14.1 points on 49.3 percent shooting to go with 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. It looked like Parker and the rest of his Bucks’ teammates were forming an exciting young core to build from into the future.
And then on February 9, 2017, Parker tore the same ACL again. He was averaging 20.1 points, a career-high, and 6.1 rebounds, also a career-high (as was his 36.5 percent from three). He was having a career year and really breaking out as a star.
Could it be too much for him to overcome? It might.
Parker will be out an entire year. Not the rest of this year, but a full year. There’s no telling what he’ll be upon his return, but it’s just unfortunate it happened right when things were rounding into form. He’s trying to stay optimistic, though.
(2014 NO. 23, UTAH JAZZ)
Hood was often the forgotten man behind Parker, but he’s been having a quietly very solid NBA career so far. He started 21 of the 50 games he played in as a rookie and averaged 8.7 points on 41.4 percent shooting (36.5 percent from three). Last season, he started all 79 of the games he played in for the Jazz and averaged over 32 minutes, 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds.
Lately, he’s been bothered by a bone bruise that kept him out of Utah’s last game and will likely limit him as the regular season wraps up. And he’s been plagued by knee issues throughout the season. But even as that has affected his numbers, he’s averaging 12.9 points and shooting a career-best 38 percent from three on the season.
If he can stay healthy, his NBA career will continue to blossom.
From a personal perspective, he has one son (Rodney Jr.) who was born on January 3, 2016, with his now-wife (and former Duke women’s player) Richa Jackson. He and Jackson were married this past July.
(2013 NO. 22, BROOKLYN NETS)
Plumlee stayed all four years at Duke (gasp!) and won a title before developing into one of the Blue Devils’ best players as a senior on a team that was a game away from a Final Four. The athletic and skilled seven-footer will have a home in the NBA for as long as he wants, likely, because of his size and ability.
He has improved steadily every year, scoring more points and seeing his minutes increase as well as his rebounding. He was traded from Brooklyn to Portland during the 2015 Draft, and was having his best year this year for the Trail Blazers (28.1 minutes, 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, all career highs). And then he was traded to the Denver Nuggets back in February. He wasn’t even in Portland two years but he had already endeared himself to both his teammates and the Portland faithful, which showed in how sad they were to see him go.
Plumlee is still finding a role in Denver, mostly coming off the bench after being a starter in Portland. But he’ll have a place in this league as long as he wants it and as health permits.
(2012 NO. 10, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS)
Rivers’ one-and-done Duke tenure was so long ago that the Pelicans were called the Hornets, and the Hornets were called the Bobcats. And in the 2012-13 season – his rookie year – he really struggled, averaging 6.2 points on 37 percent shooting. He’s been a rotation player rather than a star. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, by the way, and this year he’s having a career year by any standard.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his improvement came with a change of scenery. Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, where his father Doc is the head coach, back in the 2014-15 season. His minutes per game are up to 27.8, a career-high, and he’s averaging 12 points and 2.8 assists – both of which are also career-high marks.
Unfortunately, Rivers suffered a hamstring injury recently and will miss the rest of the regular season. He’s aiming to return in time for the Playoffs, which is where his career turnaround began a year ago. But he may not. Either way, good for Rivers for getting it together, even if he still has to deal with the awkwardness of playing for his father.
(2012 NO. 26, INDIANA PACERS)
It wasn’t a shock when Plumlee’s younger brother was drafted in 2013. It WAS a shock when the older Plumlee was drafted, though, and especially in the first round. Miles improved considerably throughout his time at Duke, but he still averaged just 6.7 points (7.1 rebounds, though) as a senior in 2011-12. But his athleticism and upside was enough to impress NBA scouts, even though, like his younger brother, he was a four-year player.
Plumlee spent most of his rookie season in the D-League before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2013. By the beginning of the season, he was NBA starter. During that 2013-14 season, he averaged 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds, starting 79 of the 80 games he played in and averaging nearly 25 minutes.
He started just over half the games he played in in 2014-15, but his minutes went down and he became more or less what he is now – a rotation player. He was traded to Milwaukee in the 2014-15 season, where he played three years before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets in February. He’s averaging just over 10 minutes a game this year.
Regardless of how his career ends up, it’s crazy – and a testament to him – that he was ever in this position at all.
(2011 NO. 1, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS)
It still feels like the entire Triangle got cheated out of Kyrie Irving, who was only on the court for 11 games (eight at the start of the year and three at the end), limited by a toe injury. But he didn’t need us, anyway – he’s become one of the best players in the NBA, if you need him. So he certainly lived up to that No. 1 overall pick (taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Irving joined the best player in the game in LeBron James, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. His talent was evident from the moment he stepped on an NBA court, and he was the Rookie of the Year in the 2011-12 season (by a nearly unanimous vote). He broke his hand in the off-season slapping it against the wall in frustration (seriously) and had surgery on it, and he injured his finger early in the year, but he still managed to make the NBA All-Star game while averaging 22.5 points and 5.9 assists in his sophomore season. That remains his highest scoring average.
He was an All-Star yet again in 2013-14 with 20.8 points and a career-high 6.1 assists per game. And then in 2014-15, the Big Three as we know it came to be with Kevin Love joining James and Irving in Cleveland. It would eventually lead to a title, but not in year 1. It looked like they’d win it all in 2015, but Irving fractured his kneecap in the first game of the NBA Finals series with Golden State.
With him back in 2015-16, he proved to be the difference as the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals – again against Golden State - to storm back and win the NBA title. James was the MVP of the Finals, but it was Irving who hit the go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute to go in Game 7.
And yes, Irving remains one of the best players in the league. He’s played in all 70 games, answering many critics of his supposed injury-proneness, averaging 25 points (a career-high) and shooting 47 percent (also a career-high), adding 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
(2011 NO. 21, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS)
Other than maybe Quinn Cook, Smith was perhaps the most feel-good Duke story in the last decade or so, improving his game steadily each year until he broke out as a senior and averaged 20.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists en route to being named ACC Player of the Year.
He played in 44 games his rookie year for the Trail Blazers and averaged 3.8 points, 1.4 assists, 1.3 rebounds and 12.3 minutes. In his sophomore campaign, he averaged 2.8 points in just 7.2 minutes per game and played in just 40 games. He was a free agent the next year and in spite of a summer league stint with Boston, he couldn’t catch on to an NBA roster.
He played overseas for a few years before signing with the Delaware 87ers of the D-League. And unfortunately for Smith, he tore his ACL and was waived in January 2015, effectively ending his pro career.
But…there’s a happy ending! In February 2016, Smith joined Duke’s staff as a special assistant. He’d been hanging around the team anyway for the previous year rehabbing his injury, so it only made sense. His 2010 teammate Jon Scheyer was a special assistant before being elevated to regular assistant upon Chris Collins’ taking the Northwestern job. So it’s likely only a matter of time for Smith.
Smith is one of the happiest, most upbeat and positive people – not just former Blue Devils – that you will ever meet. And he relates well to the players. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t have a future in coaching, if he wants it.