As the NBA season draws closer to the holidays, the Blue Zone takes a look at some former Blue Devils making strides to the next level:
At this point, it would be wrong not to include Jayson Tatum in everyone Dukes in the NBA to blog. At just 24, Tatum is firmly under discussion as an NBA MVP. The Celtics are riding a three-game winning streak and much of the team’s 21-5 record has to do with the former Blue Devil’s game. In those three games, Tatum averaged 28 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Perhaps his most impressive night came on Monday against Toronto. A 31-point record combined with All-Star guard Jaylen Brown’s 22 points was enough to beat a buoyant Raptors team 116-110. Year after year, Tatum’s two-way game increases, even when it seems impossible. For a Boston team with high expectations of returning to the NBA Finals, the former Duke star must continue to excel.
The former No. 1 draft pick, who came to the league with all the hype in the world, has come alive this year and has shown his superstar potential. This week, Williamson has averaged 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his last three games. His best performance was arguably a 30-point, 15-rebound double-double on December 2 in a 117-99 win in San Antonio. However, on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons, Williamson showed his athleticism with several standout plays, including a spinning play and a finish on former Blue Devil forward Marvin Bagley. In a Pelicans team looking to make the leap to a title shot, Williamson will partner with former Duke forward Brandon Ingram as he seeks to keep improving his game and using a weaker Western Conference to his advantage.
Though like most rookies, he’s had a slow start to the season, former Duke forward AJ Griffin has proven himself. After a heavy catch-and-shoot role in the loaded Blue Devil roster last year, Griffin has added to his arsenal, and it was on full display this week. In Atlanta’s 117-109 win over Denver last Friday, the 19-year-old exploded for 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Griffin’s minutes are also starting to increase, having averaged more than 31 minutes per game in a starting role so far this December. As the Hawks try to climb the ranks in a stacked Eastern Conference, Griffin needs to keep climbing as the season progresses.
Despite being a backup to star point guard Ja Morant, Tyus Jones had a fantastic season himself. Averaging 10.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists, the former national champion plays an important role on a Grizzlies team looking to assert themselves. This week, Jones arguably played his best game of the season with a 101-93 win over Miami. Jones totaled 28 points, five rebounds and 10 assists in a fantastic 36-minute performance. While Jones doesn’t have the star power that many former professional Blue Devils do, his performances this year have proven he’s set for a long NBA career.
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