Duke basketball’s top four candidates for national awards next season

Duke basketball (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Four members of the 2020-21 Duke basketball team could contend for the country’s major individual trophies, but which one has the best chance to extend the program’s three-year streak of winning at least one?

Duke basketball center Vernon Carey Jr. earned NABC Freshman of the Year this past season. In 2019, Zion Williamson snagged that honor to go along with his consensus Player of the Year distinctions. The previous season saw Marvin Bagley III wear the tag of college hoops’ top newbie.

Before this current run, though, no Duke basketball player or coach had hauled in a major national award — not counting positional honors — since the USBWA named Jahlil Okafor its Freshman of the Year in 2015 (after tabbing Jabari Parker the same in 2014). And outside of rookie hardware, no Blue Devils other than Williamson have enjoyed any of the loftiest Division I recognitions since 2006 when the NABC selected J.J. Redick as Player of the Year and Shelden Williams as Defensive Player of the Year.

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Is another relative dry spell on this front about to begin at Duke? Or will its current national-award streak survive yet another year? These questions, of course, will primarily be up to the four Dukies on this list to answer. Granted, there should be four others in Durham with, if nothing else, a prayer at achieving such validation next season; we’ll mention them at the end.

But the quartet here consists of the most realistic candidates. So without further ado, let’s predictively rank the four as national-award contenders, beginning with the one who does have a shot — albeit a bit of a long shot — to become the 2021 NABC Defensive Player of the Year…