Probabilities of Duke basketball players leaving: The 99 percent club
- C – Mark Williams (So.)
- F – Paolo Banchero (Fr.)
- F – AJ Griffin (Fr.)
- G – Trevor Keels (Fr.)
Their remaining eligibility is all but a formality.
Paolo Banchero has been everything advertised in his probable lone season as a Blue Devil. He’s averaging 17.0 points per game. The 19-year-old from Seattle has captured ACC Rookie of the Year and landed on the All-ACC First Team.
His touch from the mid-range, ability to handle the ball in transition, prowess in finishing in traffic, and perhaps his best trait, passing, make him about as sure-thing of a top-five pick as Duke has ever produced. Banchero still needs to put in more work with his 3-point shot, plus his tendency to overthink and take ill-advised shots.
But that’s all nothing an NBA staff can’t fix.
I tried to talk myself into the possibility of a Mark Williams return. His sister’s jersey is hanging from the rafters. And if he returned to work on his jumper, he would be the clear-cut favorite for ACC Player of the Year next season.
That all seems like a pipe dream, though, as Williams is getting top-10 draft grades, and it’s never wise to not strike when the iron is hot. His defense can be smothering at times, and the ACC agrees with me, making him the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
You can’t teach his 7-foot-1 height or 7-foot-4 wingspan. Averaging 2.8 blocks per game, Williams offers too much to pass up for those NBA teams looking for a rim protector.
If I had written this article two months ago, I’d have AJ Griffin almost certainly coming back to school. But my, what a difference a conference schedule will make.
Griffin discovered one of the purest shooting strokes ever seen at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and most Duke diehards agree he’s the key to our success. When he scores more than 15 points or so during a game, Duke looks almost unbeatable. Replay the second Virginia game, where the New York native took over late and buried the Cavaliers with dagger after dagger.
He has an NBA-ready body and is an improving defender. That’s probably why most draft experts have Griffin going in the top five this summer.
Meanwhile, Trevor Keels is a mystery to me. As announcers will tell you ad nauseam, he’s got the body of a pro football player. And when he enters “Keel Mode,” he can run teams out of the gym.
But Keels tends to settle for jumpers and sometimes disappear from games. I don’t know if it’s the duty of having to lock up opposing teams’ primary ballhandlers, but it seems like he tends to shrink late in some games.
Perhaps moving Keels off the primary point guard responsibilities and letting him create off the bounce would get things moving. When he gets space and can drive to the rim, he’s the definition of an unstoppable force.
Those shoulders create a brick wall to separate, and he can hold on to the ball better than most running backs. Keels should be averaging more than 11.8 points, but sometimes buckets are hard to come by when playing for such a talented team.
Those numbers aside, talent and strength alone will get Keels drafted this summer, potentially as high as a lottery pick, depending on his play in March Madness. That is great for him, but it’s a shame for the 2022-23 Duke roster, which could use his experience.