There are a lot of us out there that don’t like watching Duke play our favorite teams on the college basketball schedule. With a large amount of success and an equally large amount of players that were universally hated by non-Duke fans, any sign of failure is relished by a good portion of the population. Unfortunately for Duke haters, there isn’t a lot of non-success while at the college level.
To make you feel a bit better, you can always look at the professional game to see how Duke players hardly step up to the plate and become superstars. In 1999, Duke sent four players into the NBA with the first 14 picks in the draft. Since then, there has been a surprisingly low amount of Duke players drafted.
While there have been some successful Duke Blue Devils in the NBA since 2000 that include Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng and Jabari Parker, there are plenty that haven’t reached that level. Overall, Duke has had 28 players drafted in the new millennium, and a majority have either been total busts or never had much impact. Let’s take a look back at the last 17 years of the NBA Draft, showing you the biggest Duke busts in that time.
As you’ll see on this list, not all of the NBA Draft busts from Duke have been lottery picks. Some have went later in the draft, including Chris Duhon. Duhon was an All-American in 2004 before being drafted by the Bulls with the 38th overall pick. Duhon spent four years with the Bulls before ending his career in five total seasons with the Knicks, Magic and Lakers.
There was only one season where Duhon averaged more than 8.7 points per game, and overall he would average just 6.5 points with 2.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Duhon’s NBA career ended after the 2012-13 season, and he would go into coaching. Shortly after retirement, Duhon took an assistant coaching job with Marshall University before leaving the gig in 2017.
Certainly not a fan favorite from people that didn’t root for Duke, Josh McRoberts played tough defense and was an All-ACC player while at Duke. After averaging 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, McRoberts declared himself to the NBA Draft. In 2007, the Trail Blazers made McRoberts the 37th overall selection early in the second round.
It took just eight games for Portland to send McRoberts to the D-League, and he wouldn’t return to the NBA roster. Instead, he would head to Indiana before spending time with the Lakers, Magic and Hornets before his current run in Miami. McRoberts hasn’t been much of a factor in his career, averaging 5.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Not many of the players on our list have had multiple seasons of scoring in double figures, but you have to consider where Gerald Henderson was drafted compared to others on the list. Henderson was the 12th overall selection in 2009 by Charlotte, and spent six seasons with the franchise. Henderson would have three straight seasons of averaging 14 points per game, but did not have the sustained success for what you expect at the draft position.
Henderson’s scoring has dropped in the past two seasons since playing for Portland and Philadelphia, and it only figures to keep going down now that he enters his age 30 season. Henderson certainly isn’t the worst player on the list, but not being able to maintain his 15 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assist per game slash line for very long has been disappointing.
While there is a focus on the list of players that have already peaked and don’t have a chance at stardom, that’s not necessarily the case for Tyus Jones. Jones helped Duke win the 2015 NCAA title by being the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and was selected 24th overall by Cleveland before getting traded to Minnesota. In his first two seasons, Jones has averaged just 13.9 minutes per game.
Because he just turned 21 years old, Jones has not hit his peak, but the early returns haven’t been all that great. So far, Jones is averaging 3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Those numbers were actually brought down by his second season compared to his rookie year, which you don’t see happen very much.
While Tyus Jones’s slight decline from his rookie season isn’t encouraging, it isn’t as dramatic as Singler’s fall since his first two seasons. Singler, who was another Blue Devil you loved to hate, was the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, Singler would head to Spain instead to play with CB Lucentum Alicante for a season. In 2012, he returned to the United States to play with Detroit.
Singler showed promise with 9.6 points per game in his second season, but has seen his totals (and playing time) drop dramatically since leaving Detroit. 2016-17 was Singler’s worst season, as he averaged just 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. Overall, his numbers have dropped to 6.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in his career.
We go all the way back to 2000 for our next Blue Devil in the form of Chris Carrawell. Carrawell had an outstanding senior season at Duke with 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, winning the title of ACC Player of the Year. Despite winning the top award in the tough conference, Carrawell had to wait to hear his name called. Carrawell slipped down the boards and was the 41st overall selection by San Antonio.
Carrawell opted to head overseas during his rookie season before coming back the next season to play in the D-League’s first season. With aspirations of reaching the NBA, Carrawell never made it and instead went back overseas to multiple countries. Don’t worry too much about Carrawell, though, as he has had a coaching career since 2011. These days, Carrawell is an assistant coach at Marquette University.
We now enter the family section of the list with a pair of brothers that reached the NBA in consecutive years. Starting with Mason Plumlee, who was an All-American and All-ACC player at Duke, Plumlee became the 22nd overall pick in 2013 by Brooklyn. Plumlee showed some promise in his first two seasons with 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and has actually shown a little improvement since then.
After spending the 2016-17 season with both Portland and Denver, Plumlee’s progress hasn’t been as dramatic as teams would have liked. Now at the end of his prime years, it doesn’t appear that Plumlee will reach star status. Overall, he has put up 9.0 rebounds, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. There’s a chance he could fall off this list with some more improvement and more busts from Duke, but not for now.
The year before Mason Plumlee entered the NBA, his brother Miles accomplished the same feat. The former 2010 NCAA Champion was the 26th overall selection in 2012 by the Indiana Pacers, four slots later than Mason. Miles Plumlee never really showed the flashes that we’ve seen from Mason, though, having a very ineffective rookie season. He would score 8.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his second season, but it has been downhill from there.
In the 2016-17 season alone, Plumlee would put up just 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game with Milwaukee and Charlotte. That was able to bring down Plumlee’s career numbers to 5.1 points and 4.7 rebounds, which isn’t a good sign as he gets closer to 30 years old. Though he didn’t have huge expectations, you want more from your first round pick.
Daniel Ewing was a hot commodity coming out of high school after winning the Mr. Basketball title in Texas. Ewing landed at Duke, where he spent all four of his college eligible years. Not many people suspected Ewing of being a potential NBA star, and he proved a lot of the analysts right. Ewing was drafted at the beginning of the second round (32nd overall) in 2005 by the Clippers.
Ewing would spend just two seasons in the NBA (both with Los Angeles) without making much of an impact. Ewing averaged 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in those two years. Instead of sticking around in the NBA, Ewing would head overseas and has played for a multitude of teams around the world. In 2017, Ewing became a member of Neptunas Klaipeda in Lithuania.
At one point, Mike Dunleavy, Jr. was known as “The Natural”. Dunleavy is, of course, the son of former NBA player Mike, Sr. and helped Duke win the 2001 NCAA Championship. After becoming an All-American in 2002, Dunleavy entered the NBA Draft and was drafted third overall by the Golden State Warriors. There were high expectations for the lottery pick, but were never really realized.
Dunleavy put together one good season in 2007-08 with 19.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, but that was a huge outlier compared to the rest of his career. Dunleavy is still playing as a roleplayer, but never reached a single All Star Game. Overall, Dunleavy has put up 11.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. While those aren’t typical “bust” numbers, we have this narrowed down to one college, and those aren’t great numbers for a third overall pick.
Sometimes you’re a bust in professional sports because you just didn’t have the right tools to succeed, and then sometimes you’re a bust because of some dumb luck. Jay Williams falls in the latter category. Williams had been the second overall pick in 2002 by the Bulls after being named the NCAA Player of the Year. He showed potential in his first season with 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists, but it was his only NBA season.
Williams, who did not have a license or helmet, drove a motorcycle in the summer after his rookie season. Williams crashed the motorcycle, injuring himself and violating his contract. After becoming an analyst, Williams attempted to return to the NBA, but never made it past the D-League. Now, Williams is back in the broadcasting game and released his memoirs in 2016 that included the details of his accident.
Shane Battier had his choice of colleges after being named the Prep Player of the Year in 1997, and wound up at Duke where he was named the College Player of the Year in 2001. Battier was an NCAA Champion while at Duke, and was so beloved there that he had his number 31 jersey retired by the school. Because of his college career, Battier was the sixth overall selection by the Grizzlies in 2001.
Battier had a strong rookie season when he put up 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. It looked like Battier would end up being a megastar in the NBA, but his productivity would actually go the down instead of up. Though Battier was a good teammate and put up decent numbers every now and then, he never became what we thought he would be. He finished his NBA career in 2014 with a total of 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
A defensive star at Duke that was named to the All-ACC team in 2003, Dahntay Jones was able to make his way up the draft boards to the 20th overall spot. While there, Jones was selected by the Boston Celtics and then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Over the course of his NBA career, Jones has played for eight different teams, and only had one season as a regular starter.
There was one odd season where Jones averaged 10.2 points per game, but never really had much success outside of that. Overall, Jones has averaged 5.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game in his career. Surprisingly, it’s a career that’s still going for the 36 year old. He is currently a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, though he has played in just two games in the past two seasons.
While we have seen a lot of one-and-done players at Duke in recent years, Nolan Smith was one of those rare players that stuck around for all four seasons. In his senior year, Smith was named as an All-American and the ACC Player of the Year. That allowed Smith to get up to the 21st overall spot where he was selected by Portland. Unfortunately for Smith, his NBA career would last just two seasons.
In a total of 84 games with Portland, Smith averaged 3.3 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. After getting sent down to the D-League, Smith decided to start playing overseas. After 2015, though, Smith decided to leave the court at just 26 years old and instead focused on the sidelines. Now, Smith is back at Duke and working as a special assistant on the basketball staff.
When creating this list, there was really only one player that could have been considered for the number one spot. Shelden Williams was an All-American and college Defensive Player of the Year twice while at Duke, and the Hawks used the fifth overall pick to acquire his services in the NBA. Williams spent just over 100 games with Atlanta before being traded to Sacramento. All in all, Williams played for a total of seven teams.
Williams was expect to be an All-Star someday coming out of college, but it never happened. Instead, he averaged 4.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. He would leave the NBA after the 2011-12 season to play overseas in both Europe and China. Williams, now 33 years old, has not played since 2015 with Tianjin Ronggang and it appears that his playing career is over despite no official retirement.