Duke basketball: Why Coach K’s NBA Draft record will last forever

All-time winning isn’t the only safe record for the Duke basketball legend.

Per a tweet this week from the Duke basketball stats department, entering Wednesday’s NBA Draft (8 p.m. on ESPN), the all-time NCAA wins leader has also produced more first-round picks than any other active head coach.

Yes, the 41 first-rounders from Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski — 42 if counting Elliot Williams, who transferred to Memphis in 2009 after one season as a Blue Devil — also stands as the most of any coach, past or present.

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As things currently stand, No. 2 to the 73-year-old Coach K is Kentucky’s 61-year-old John Calipari with 34 first-round picks between his time in Lexington plus his days at UMass and Memphis.

In this regard, the only other conceivable threat to the Hall of Famer in Durham is North Carolina’s 71-year-old Roy Williams with 32 between his tenures in Chapel Hill and at Kansas.

Now, based on all the credible 2020 final mock drafts out there, it’s a safe bet that the Blue Devils, Wildcats, and Tar Heels are each about to add at least one more first-rounder to their respective head coaches’ tallies.

Yet it’s also a fairly safe bet that neither Kentucky nor UNC will see two of its former players among the first 30 off the board this go-round; rather, Tyrese Maxey and Cole Anthony will likely serve as the only Wildcat and Tar Heel, respectively, to hear their names before the second round.

Meanwhile, Duke has a reasonable shot to put two or three of Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., and Cassius Stanley in the first round.

To be fair, though, there is a slight possibility all three Blue Devils will land outside this guaranteed-contract cutoff. On the other hand, as noted above, Coach K’s edge over Calipari and Williams could just as easily grow by one or two this year.

Furthermore, looking ahead to the 2021 NBA Draft, anywhere between one and five 2020-21 Blue Devils could wind up in the first round, with the primary candidates being Jalen Johnson, Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore, DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach, and Mark Williams.

Then looking ahead to 2022, almost all mock drafts currently project both 2021 Duke basketball early signees, Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, to become one-and-done lottery picks; plus, most show several of the six 2020-21 Blue Devils above waiting until 2022 to cash in as first-round talents.

Can Duke basketball as a whole eclipse Kentucky in all-time first-rounders?

Combining the likelihood that the one-and-done rule disappears in the next five years with the emergence of lucrative one-year deals in the G League — not to mention the Duke basketball recruiting team’s continuing prowess — Calipari isn’t likely to snag anywhere close to as many top-shelf five-star recruits as he did across the 2010s.

Therefore, it seems a tad farfetched to think Calipari will make up any significant ground on Krzyzewski’s first-rounders record anytime soon.

Finally, seeing that Coach K has stated no plans of retiring anytime soon and also still enjoys 247Sports Crystal Ball leads for both the No. 1 high school senior in Patrick Baldwin Jr. and No. 16 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite in Trevor Keels, chances are his lead over Calipari and Williams will only continue to grow.

If that is indeed the case, then the Blue Devils could soon snag the record for all-time first-round picks from one school, regardless of the head coach at the time. Right now, Kentucky barely leads the way with 52 to UNC’s 51 and Duke’s 48 (UCLA is next with 39).

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball news and views.