Sure, Duke basketball has a loaded roster ready to throw at the ACC this winter.
But with Brandon Ingram, the latest in Duke’s growing line of one-and-done players, set to be picked either first or second in Thursday’s NBA Draft, how great would Duke be if every player stayed all four years?
Remember, Duke’s 1991 and 1992 NCAA title teams included Christian Laettner as a junior and senior and Bobby Hurley as a sophomore and junior. Grant Hill was a freshman in 1991 and stayed around to lead Duke to the Final Four again in 1994 as a senior.
This coming season, instead of counting on freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, Duke would have Jabari Parker as its senior forward with Jahlil Okafor back for his junior year at center. Maybe Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would play Parker at power forward and use Justise Winslow at small forward. Junior Tyus Jones would be Duke’s All-American point guard.
Would Brandon Ingram, who will either go to Philadelphia in the No. 1 overall slot or the Lakers in the No. 2 slot in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, play shooting guard in that lineup?
Imagine playing Parker, Okafor, Winslow, Jones and Ingram — that’s five NBA first-round picks, including four lottery picks.
Three decades ago, that’s how college basketball teams were constructed.
Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson would be Duke’s first two players off the bench. Freshmen like Giles, Tatum and high-scoring guard Frank Jackson would bid their time, making Duke’s practices far more competitive than most of their actual games.
Instead, the second team in our what-if scenario will be Duke’s starting team this season — and it is expected to be ranked No. 1 in many polls when the new season begins.
Parker, Okafor, Winslow, Jones and, very soon, Ingram are all millionaires making their way through their NBA careers.