Forecast for 2025: Duke basketball players among top four in NBA

Duke basketball forward Zion Williamson (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Zion Williamson (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball names in the NBA might appear even mightier in a few years.

In five years, LeBron James will be 40. Steph Curry? 37. Kevin Durant? 36. Unless the trio of surefire Hall of Famers has plans to purchase the Fountain of Youth together, it makes sense none are on a recent list of the projected top NBA players for 2025. No worries, though, for some Duke basketball stars should be ready to replace them by then.

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Jackson Frank of The Athletic tweeted out this week the 30 he and his colleagues ultimately agreed upon as those who will shine the brightest midway through this decade. They see two past Blue Devils among the top four; behind Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, Zion Williamson ranks No. 3 while Jayson Tatum sits No. 4.

Williamson, a 19-year-old who has averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds through only 19 games as a rookie, seems like a better pick for the top spot. Nevertheless, due to the limited evidence, No. 3 is fair for the otherworldly New Orleans Pelicans power forward out of Duke.

Also fair is the No. 4 position of Tatum, a 22-year-old at small forward who, in just his third year after starring as a Duke basketball rookie, powers the 43-21 Boston Celtics with 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

A surprise, though, is the absence of former one-and-done Blue Devil Brandon Ingram, a small forward who became a first-time All-Star this year at the age of 22 and is averaging 24.3 points for the Pelicans.

But the ranking is kind to have at No. 30 the 21-year-old power forward Wendell Carter Jr., who has career averages of 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Chicago Bulls ever since departing Durham as a freshman in 2018.

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Now, it’s a promising sign that Duke’s lone 2021 commit, five-star small forward AJ Griffin, is No. 16 despite not yet being a high school senior. Speaking of recruiting, two other 2021 five-star forwards who hold offers from Mike Krzyzewski made the cut: Paolo Banchero at No. 26 and Jonathan Kuminga at No. 29.

Other past, current, or potential Dukies who at least deserved consideration (ages five years from now in parentheses) include Kyrie Irving (33), Justise Winslow (29), Luke Kennard (28), RJ Barrett (24), Jalen Johnson (23), and Patrick Baldwin Jr. (22).

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Check back during the 45th season in Durham of the then-78 Coach K to see how many of the 30 the predictors got right. Will Kentucky indeed claim a couple more than Duke? Uhm, maybe. Will North Carolina’s total indeed equal its number of All-Stars since 2008 and the number of teams it finished ahead of in the 2019-20 ACC standings? Mh-hmm, zero sounds about right.

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