Duke basketball alums in NBA suddenly rival Kentucky crop

Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Any way you slice it, the gap has become negligible between Duke basketball and Kentucky in the NBA.

As predicted on this site 13 months ago, the Duke basketball program has now essentially caught up to Kentucky in terms of active NBA talent. Arguments aside, though, fans of both bluebloods have no choice but to agree on one fact: both put all others to shame.

Duke basketball products account for roughly a third of the former ACC players currently in the league. The same is true for Kentucky in relation to the SEC’s presence. Including former inbound and outbound transfers, 26 Blue Devils and 25 Wildcats have seen at least one minute of NBA action this season (consider that such a count from the entire Big East is 18).

Next on the list? North Carolina with 13. Only four others boast double digits: Kansas, Texas, Arizona, and UCLA.

So to the Kentucky braggarts who still discount the rising threat of #TheBrotherhood at the next level, this article — or just Zion Williamson, who has electrified the NBA while scoring 20 or more points in six of his eight games since his debut — should serve as a final warning.

Duke and Kentucky will each lay claim to two former players in Sunday’s All-Star Game. The former Blue Devils who made the roster are Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram, and the former Wildcats are Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo.

Looking at scoring averages this season, both see three alums exceeding 20 points per game. While Kentucky holds a 9-7 edge in those averaging more than 15, Duke holds a 13-11 edge in those averaging more than 10.

Looking at those who play for a legit title contender and are also one of the team’s two best players, the Blue Devils and Wildcats have one apiece: Tatum for the 37-15 Boston Celtics and Davis for the 39-12 Los Angeles Lakers.

Plus, both NCAA heavyweights can use injuries as an excuse this season for not showing off even more NBA power. Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins haven’t played a single game. Meanwhile, various sprains, tears, breaks, bumps, and bruises have limited Duke’s Zion Williamson, Kyrie Irving, Luke Kennard, Marvin Bagley III, Justise Winslow, and Rodney Hood to appearances in 50 percent or less of the games to date on their respective schedules.

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As for the future, two or three current players from each school appear in the first round of most 2020 mock drafts. Furthermore, the rival recruiting machines own the top two 2020 classes at the moment.

All in all, right now, like it or not, this Duke-Kentucky battle is a draw.

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