Not every young Duke basketball weapon would be better off moving on.
Call it a modern-day Duke basketball rite of spring. Shortly after a season ends, several Blue Devils with eligibility remaining announce their plans to bolt from Durham via an early declaration to the pro ranks or a dive into a transfer portal that no longer requires first-timers to spend a year on the sidelines.
This go-round shall be no different, except that the leftovers could constitute a historic low for returning scholarship players. Yes, it’s within the realm of possibility that new head coach Jon Scheyer will lose every last member of this past team’s primary seven-man rotation within the coming weeks, not to mention a chunk from the deeper end of the bench.
On the other hand, consider that college basketball has graduated from its first year of the NIL era, where some of the nation’s premier talents snagged six-figure deals with their name, image, and likeness. Therefore, stay-or-go decisions should be more complicated for those holding relatively uncertain draft stocks.
Freshman sensation Paolo Banchero is not in that group. No, he’s almost sure to be a top-three pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Judging from all the draft boards out there, fellow Blue Devil rookie AJ Griffin also looks like a probable lottery selection or, at the very least, a surefire first-rounder. The same goes for sophomore 7-footer Mark Williams.
In other words, Banchero, Griffin, and Williams would be wise to leave now if their goal is to secure a guaranteed NBA contract without any further delay or risk.
A few unknowns among Duke basketball reserves
One would think senior Joey Baker, with one year of eligibility remaining due to the NCAA’s gift of an extra year to every 2020-21 participant in the country, might seek a transfer destination where he can contribute regularly. After all, he fell completely out of the rotation in the late stages of this past campaign.
And considering first-year Duke guard Jaylen Blakes never saw truly significant action despite his four-star rating as a prep, it would be understandable in this day and age if he also seeks greener personal pastures elsewhere.
Meanwhile, graduate reserves Theo John and Bates Jones have exhausted their eligibility.
As for Michael Savarino, Keenan Worthington, Spencer Hubbard, and Stanley Borden, well, perhaps they will all come back. However, keep in mind that they either are walk-ons or initially arrived at Duke as walk-ons, and none have yet exhibited enough promise to earn minutes as Blue Devils outside of the garbage-time variety.
That leaves three pivotal pieces we haven’t mentioned here yet. So let’s do that now, one at a time, explaining why it might be in each’s best financial interest to stick around another year and join forces with the program’s six-deep, top-ranked incoming recruiting class…