Though Duke Blue Devils basketball has a rabid fan base, New York Knicks president and Hall of Famer Phil Jackson doesn’t appear to be one of them. In an ESPN series about Jackson written by Charley Rose, Jackson was quoted as saying that players from that program have generally failed to live up to expectations on the professional level, with few exceptions.
His time with the Bulls seems so long ago now, with the Knicks closer to picking at top of the draft than the top of the standings.
At best, the Knicks would get the first pick and tab center Jahlil Okafor, although Jackson thinks he might not be aggressive enough. “Also, if you look at the guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations?”
Though that may sound harsh, Jackson’s comments are not far off. In the five NBA drafts leading up to this year’s, a total of nine Blue Devils players were selected. Of that group, only one has reached superstar status so far: Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.
On top of that, there definitely is a pattern of Duke players getting to the NBA and struggling to adjust to playing at a slower pace after spending time in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fast-paced offense. It also may explain why Jackson opted to draft Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick this year instead of a more established player in Justise Winslow, who slipped to the Miami Heat at No. 10.
Considering how Winslow struggled in this year’s NBA Summer League, averaging nine points per game on just 34 percent shooting, Jackson’s words suddenly hold more water. In fact, since Grant Hill was drafted back in 1994, only four Blue Devils drafted into the NBA have made All-Star teams. Those four are Irving, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Luol Deng. Of that group, only Irving and Deng are under contract for next season.
Thus, while Duke fans may not appreciate Jackson’s comments, it’s hard to disagree with the man after going back through history.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports