Four Duke players found out where their NBA careers would begin on Thursday night at the NBA Draft. Let’s take a quick look at each pick and see how they fit with their new teams.
Jayson Tatum: No. 3 overall to the Boston Celtics
Tatum became the consensus pick at No. 3 after the Celtics traded down and gave the No. 1 pick to the Sixers. He gives Brad Stevens another option on the wing to go along with last year’s No. 3 overall pick Jaylon Brown. Tatum fills a definite need for scoring for the Celtics. Boston possesses a plethora of defensive talent, but many of their players have trouble shooting. This pick helps relieve some of the pressure on Isaiah Thomas to carry the offense and places Tatum in a position to play meaningful minutes on a playoff team.
He may be brought along slowly, especially if Boston lands one of their offseason targets like Paul George or Gordon Hayward, which will give him time to further develop his body and his defense to thrive at the NBA level. Tatum will likely be able to step in right away and contribute in the NBA though, so he will be able to carve out a contributing role even on last season’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Luke Kennard: No. 12 overall to the Detroit Pistons
In picking Kennard, Stan Van Gundy made clear his desire to replicate the 2009 Orlando Magic by surrounding Andre Drummond with shooters. This bodes well for Kennard, who will likely see substantial playing time from day one, especially if the Pistons decide to let restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk. Kennard may also be expected to occasionally create his own shot, something he could struggle with at the NBA level due to his level of athleticism.
The former All-American will be one of the best shooters in the NBA from day one, but it will be how the rest of his game develops that will ultimately determine how much he can achieve.
Harry Giles: No. 20 overall to the Sacramento Kings
Giles stands as one of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the NBA draft. If he regains his athleticism from high school, he will be the perfect big man for the modern game. However, he has undergone three knee surgeries since then – including two ACL tears – and looked hobbled for most of his time at Duke. The Kings have several other promising big man prospects like Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere and thus can afford to bring Giles along slowly. He will get every opportunity to showcase his ability for a Sacramento franchise that is in desperate need of star power.
Sacramento is famously one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the league though, which may not bode well for Giles’s injuries. The Winston-Salem native’s entire career will hinge on whether his athleticism has been sapped forever or if it just took a while to come back. At the very least though, he profiles as a high energy player willing to grab rebounds and run the floor.
Frank Jackson: No. 31 overall to the Charlotte Hornets (Traded to the New Orleans Pelicans)
Jackson fell to the second round despite the consensus being that he would be taken at the end of the first. His recent foot surgery may have given teams doubts about his immediate availability, though this drop though may have been a blessing in disguise as he is now a part of a team that is in desperate need of competent guard play. The Pelicans have two of the best big men in the league with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, but have almost no one to pass them the ball. Jrue Holiday is their only competent backcourt player and he may be leaving in free agency.
This leaves a gaping hole for Jackson to fill. He will see major minutes early and often with his athleticism and shot making ability both sorely lacking on the roster currently. His defensive talents will also help shore up a need since the Pelicans were routinely shredded by opposing backcourts last season. In fact, Jackson may be in the best situation of all Duke draftees since he will receive the opportunity to rapidly develop alongside several of the best players the NBA has to offer.
Each Blue Devil went to a place where he should get every opportunity to succeed and display the considerable talents he showcased in Durham. Many players have disappointed after making the leap to the NBA, but this crop possesses the potential to be the best draft class ever coming out of Duke.