Analyst: Duke basketball star has ‘most to lose’ if season continues

Duke basketball (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) /

One Duke basketball rookie has a fairly high draft stock, but for how long?

With four 2020-21 Duke basketball contests in the books and a discouraging 2-2 record in hand, it’s not out of the question that Jalen Johnson will soon reawaken the 19-point, 19-rebound, perfect-shooting brilliance he exhibited during the home win over Coppin State in the team’s season opener.

Then again, Blue Devil fans must consider the possibility that the 6-foot-9, 220-pound combo forward will be a relatively disappointing weapon against premier opponents. Like it or not, that was pretty much the case for the foul-happy, turnover-prone freshman across losses in Durham to Michigan State and Illinois.

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Most probable, though, is that Johnson’s effectiveness as a scorer will lie somewhere in between his 8-for-8 shooting debut and his 11-for-27 clip ever since.

Yet regardless of what level of performance the former five-star out of Milwaukee displays from here on out, the general consensus among Duke basketball followers is that Johnson will bolt for the NBA after this campaign concludes — no matter how many total games it includes.

The potentially volatile draft outlook for the Duke basketball freshman

Scrolling through a slew of 2021 mock drafts, it seems Jalen Johnson currently sits anywhere between a high lottery pick and the middle of the first round. Therefore, it’s understandable why Dukies see him as a definite one-and-done.

That said, in response to a question about which of the nation’s freshmen has the most to lose this season, Eric Bossi of 247Sports outlined on Sunday why Johnson fits that description better than any of his peers:

“His senior season was a roller coaster after leaving his home state of Wisconsin for IMG Academy in Florida and then returning to put up big numbers to finish his senior season. He sent draft followers into a tizzy during the first week of the season when he opened with a manly 19 points and 19 rebounds against Coppin State. Quickly, he was considered a top 5-10 draft pick next June.”

Bossi continued:

“Truthfully, that wasn’t fair to him or the process of draft prospects positioning themselves, but it is what it is. Since then, Duke has been pretty fairly handled by Big Ten teams Illinois and Michigan State, and Johnson hasn’t been able to recapture that early magic. So, strictly speaking of what knee-jerk reactions projected for him as a draft prospect, he’s got something to lose.”

On the other hand, Bossi pointed out that it’s too early for the Johnson camp to panic or for Duke fanatics to start dreaming of the versatile athlete as a sophomore:

“Speaking realistically, he’s pretty clearly still a legit one-and-done prospect, and exactly how high he should be projected in the first round of the 2021 draft is something that we shouldn’t be stressing just yet.”

Duke is set to begin ACC play at 9 p.m. Wednesday against Notre Dame. The outing will serve as the first road test for the Blue Devils and their only matchup between now and Dec. 29 when they host Pitt.

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