Duke basketball: Departed Blue Devil drafted, slides out of lottery

Former Duke basketball freshman Jalen Johnson was selected outside of the draft lottery. 

It was a longer wait than former Duke basketball freshman Jalen Johnson had anticipated at the 2021 NBA Draft as he slid out of the lottery and was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the No. 20 overall pick.

Johnson had an interesting few months in Durham, to say the least, opting out of the season in mid-February as the Blue Devils struggled mightily and Johnson saw his role diminished.

The former five-star recruit did suffer a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines for multiple weeks, but once he made the decision to leave Duke and focus on his draft preparations, the Blue Devils looked substantially better until a positive COVID-19 test ended the season prematurely in the ACC Tournament.

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Johnson also had commitment issues in high school after he transferred from Nicolet (Wis.) to powerhouse IMG Academy (Fla.) but never took the court for IMG and played the second half of his high school senior season back at Nicolet.

The questions surrounding Jalen Johnson’s dedication and commitment surely dropped his draft stock as he was a projected Top-5 pick before his freshman season began.

In his half-season at Duke, the newest member of the Hawks averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 52.3-percent from the floor and 44.4-percent from 3-point range.

Johnson played in just 13 games for Duke, starting eight, and ends a one-year drought of Duke not having a player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Other Duke basketball products still waiting to hear their names called

There were two other draft-eligible Blue Devils alongside Jalen Johnson this year, Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward.

Neither Hurt nor Steward is expected to go in the first round, and it would not be a surprise if neither player was selected on Thursday night.

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Hurt has impressed in team workouts with his shooting prowess, but athletic and defensive issues are hurting his stock. And the young Steward really struggled in the pre-draft process.

The Atlanta Hawks had been shopping former Blue Devil Cam Reddish prior to the draft and will continue to do so if the franchise is unable to trade him during the two-round draft.

Atlanta is coming off a season where it fell to the Milwaukee Bucks, the eventual NBA Champions, in six games during the Eastern Conference Finals.