Duke basketball: The next Blue Devil likely to leave

Duke basketball (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Is another Duke basketball underclassman preparing to make an announcement?

Now that the Duke basketball season is officially over, offseason moves have officially begun. On Wednesday evening, freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefiled announced he would be transferring out of the program.

ALSO READ: Jaemyn Brakefield to transfer in an unsurprising move

That news will likely not be the last to come out of Durham in the coming days, weeks, and months.

The biggest question looming over the start of the offseason is whether or not Matthew Hurt will stay for another year or head to the NBA.

As a sophomore, the sharpshooting forward certainly showed why he was a McDonald’s All-American and consensus five-star player coming out of high school. He led the team in scoring and rebounding. And there were times when Hurt was unstoppable on the offensive end, showing that he can score on all three levels.

Simply put, his ability to knock down contested jump shots and create his own offense made him a lethal option.

NBA readiness of the Duke basketball stretch-four

Over the past 10 years or so, it is has been commonplace for Blue Devils to make the jump to the NBA after a successful season. If you lead a Duke basketball squad in scoring or another major statistical category, then it is almost a guarantee you get drafted come summer.

Matthew Hurt was by far the 2020-21 team’s best player and was even named to the All-ACC First Team after averaging 18.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.4 percent beyond the arc.

However, the Blue Devils, who finished 13-11 overall and 9-9 against ACC foes, had their worst season in recent memory, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years.

The fact that Hurt was part of a group that was underwhelming should not really have much impact on his draft stock, though. Every year, there are multiple players who go high in the draft after playing on non-tournament caliber teams in college. Now more than ever, NBA franchises care less about collegiate records and more about pro potential.

Primary concerns surrounding Matthew Hurt at the next level are his ability to defend, rebound, and keep up athletically. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound native of Minnesota was a target for opposing offenses the last two seasons, even after bulking up considerably following his freshman campaign.

Hurt struggled at times to defend ball screens and switch onto smaller players. That could be an issue for him at the next level.

Also, he improved as a rebounder this past season, but he does not project to be a great rebounder at the next level.

So Hurt could certainly use two more seasons in college to get even stronger, quicker, and more athletic.

Sure, in the NBA, Hurt could certainly carve out a role as a floor spacer and a guy who can be a consistent scoring option. However, it will likely be a few years before he is able to be an effective scorer at the next level. He has the ability to make tough shots, but he definitely will not have the ball in his hands as much as he did this past season.

I do believe that Hurt will enter his name in the NBA Draft, but will likely not immediately hire an agent.

All qualified players should test the waters and work out for NBA teams. Not only will they get feedback on where they stand as a player, but they will also be a better player because of it.

As of right now, I have rarely seen Hurt projected as a first-round pick anywhere, and the most recent aggregate mock draft courtesy of HoopsHype has him at No. 52 overall. That said, I understand we are still a few months away from the draft, so a lot could still change.

If Hurt was to return for his junior season, the 2021-22 Duke basketball roster would include a notably deep and talented frontcourt. The Blue Devils will likely return big man Mark Williams and are also bringing in highly touted freshman power forward Paolo Banchero.

Still, Matthew Hurt would once again be a focal point of the Blue Devils offense if he decides to return.

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The deadline to declare as an early entrant remains undecided as the league has yet to even set a date for the 2021 NBA Draft. But the best guess is that the draft will take place in early August with an early-entry deadline roughly 60 days beforehand, so probably early June.