- Amin Elhassan
ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman gave us a look last week at the best Kentucky draft picks in the John Calipari era, reflecting the factory for NBA-caliber talent Kentucky has been recently. Under Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke Blue Devils have been no strangers to NBA draft success themselves over the years, with players such as Mike Gminski, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and ESPN's own Jay Williams having been top-10 picks.
There is a strong likelihood that the Duke fraternity in the NBA will grow with two more names this June, when freshman phenom Jabari Parker and sophomore Rodney Hood are expected to be selected in the first round of the draft, should they choose to declare. With top-five recruits Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones joining the Blue Devils next season, there will be a steady stream of NBA talent coming from Durham.
Here's a look at the top 10 Duke draft picks since the 1999 NBA draft, in order, who are still active in the league (sorry, Corey Maggette). The criteria for ranking include résumé and scout evaluation since joining the NBA, current production, potential (where applicable) and expectations based on draft position.
This might come as a shock for some of the younger readers, but there was a time when Brand was one of the best young big men in the league. Drafted No. 1 in Chicago's first draft after tearing down their championship dynasty, Brand was an undersized but bruising power forward with extraordinary reach and a great set of hands, which allowed him to devour rebounds and finish over length (not to mention play the role of rim protector himself).
He posted four 20-point, 10-rebound seasons in his first eight years (missing two more by less than a rebound per game) and was the centerpiece to the Clippers' revival in the 2000s, until being severely limited by a ruptured Achilles tendon prior to the 2007-08 season. He's never played for a 50-win team in his career (his closest chance was in 2005-06, when the Clippers won 47), but he was a matchup nightmare for much of his prime, wasted on mismanaged rosters.
Amin Elhassan provides his rankings for the best NBA draft picks who've played at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski since 1999. He leads with Elton Brand, a two-time NBA All-Star.