The rise in the occurrence of the one-and-done college basketball player has been a boon for the bluebloods: Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas, to name a few. By nearly every measure, almost every one of these powers perennially pumps out top NBA Draft picks, and in many cases, All-NBA producers.
In the modern era arguably no program has been more successful at the game of reeling in top talent and sending said talent to the league at warp-speed than the Blue Devils. They rank first all-time in No. 1 picks produced (including two in the last decade), third all-time in total first-round selections, and second — behind recruiting rival UK — in one-and-done stars produced. The list looks more impressive when you discover that Duke since 2011 has 12 top-10 picks. That’s more than Kentucky. More than UNC. More than Kansas. More than … everyone else.
Not all one-and-dones are created equal, though. Some are instant stars. (Cough cough, Zion!) Some have their promising college careers derailed by injury. Others simply play like … a college freshman. It happens. But at Duke, it doesn’t happen often. So we’ve gone through the exercise of ranking each one-and-done Blue Devil in the Mike Krzyzewski era, taking into account various factors, stats and overall impact. Behold …
1. Zion Williamson
2018-19 stats: 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 40.8 PER
This is not recency bias; this is reality. Zion Williamson is the top one-and-done player not just at Duke, but arguably in the last two decades of college basketball. From the moment he scored 28 points in an, he was the biggest thing in college basketball. The dunk package alone is enough evidence to have him sitting atop this list for years to come.
2. Marvin Bagley III
2017-18 stats: 21.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 30.6 PER
From a sheer statistical production standpoint, there’s a not-insane case to be made that Marvin Bagley III’s 2017-18 season — between the points, rebounds (and offensive putbacks!) — should warrant a top-two placement on this list. He was a consensus All-American, an ACC Player of the Year, and most astoundingly, he was a freakish pogo stick-type leaper who could hop twice before others could hop once. He ranked seventh in Division I as a freshman in both total rebounds and offensive rebounds while pacing Duke to a 29-win season that ended just shy of a Final Four appearance.
3. Jahlil Okafor
2014-15 stats: 17.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 30.7 PER
While Jahlil Okafor hasn’t (and likely won’t) play up to the level his top-3 selection in 2015 suggested he’d reach, his Duke stardom was brighter than every non-Zion player on this list. And the cherry on top that will keep him in the realm of other Duke legends: he won Krzyzewski a fifth national title in his lone season leading the Blue Devils to a 35-4 campaign. The ring gives him a slight edge over No. 4 on this list, which is … drum roll please …
4. RJ Barrett
2018-19 stats: 22.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.3 APG
Sure, Zion Williamson was the star, but RJ Barrett was more than just a co-star at Duke last season. In fact, the duo both averaged 22.6 points per game, and it was Barrett, not Williamson, who set a new ACC freshman single-season scoring record. You can debate that he was inefficient as a scorer at times (I will not push back), but you can’t argue his overall impact on the most talented Duke team Krzyzewski’s ever had was immense.
5. Jabari Parker
2013-14 stats: 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Mercer‘s massive upset over Jabari Parker’s third-seeded Duke squad will forever live in Blue Devils infamy. Whether you remember that legendary NCAA Tournament moment fondly or curl up into the fetal position reliving it, it’s hard to argue that it was anything but a robbery of what could have been a heat-check-level March Madness showing from Parker. He was a consensus All-American, the ACC Rookie of the Year, and an all-around impact player who — if not for those Mercer Bears! — could potentially have paved the way for Duke to do serious damage in what turned out to be a fairly soft Midwest Regional that was ultimately won by No. 8 seed Kentucky.
6. Luol Deng
2003-04 stats: 15.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Deng, this Duke team was loaded. (Sorry. It was just right there.) Not only was an all-time Duke one-and-done on this team with Luol Deng, but so, too, were these players: J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon and Shelden Williams. The Blue Devils made it to the Final Four before falling 79-78 to eventual national champion UConn. During Duke’s near-flawless NCAA Tournament run, Deng averaged 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and a red-hot 38.9% from long-range that included a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) in Duke’s final outing of the season.
7. Tyus Jones
2014-15 stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.6 APG
When you’re the leading assist man on a title team, you automatically get a bump into the top-10. Regardless of how average his overall production looks on paper, Tyus Jones was an irreplaceable part of Duke’s title team, evidence being his timely 23-point outing against Wisconsin when it mattered most: in the national title game.
8. Jayson Tatum
2016-17 stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1 APG
Many fans measure their favorite players’ success based on how they fared against their rival. And if that’s how Blue Devils fans should choose to remember Jayson Tatum, then whooo boy is he a legend forever for this alone:
On a Duke team that had Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson, Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles — all who are on NBA rosters — Tatum was a standout who held his own. Early returns on his NBA career suggest his flash-in-the-pan Duke season was foreshadowing of future greatness.
9. Brandon Ingram
2015-16 stats: 17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 41 3FG%
Grayson Allen’s biggest college season came in Brandon Ingram’s only one, but he was still a huge presence as a freshman averaging 17.3 points and shooting 41% from the 3-point line. He never had a moment at Duke where he officially arrived, but his 69 points, 19 rebounds and six 3-pointers in three NCAA Tournament games was a perfect sendoff for him into the NBA. where he became the No. 2 pick just months later.
10. Justise Winslow
2014-15 stats: 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 APG
One of the more versatile Duke players to ever come through Krzyzewski’s program, Justise Winslow rounds out our top 10 because of his dynamic two-way capabilities and — of course — the fact that he was part of that 2015 title team. He averaged 16 points over the course of his final five games that culminated with Duke’s most recent championship.
11. Austin Rivers
2011-12 stats: 15.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.1 APG
If we’re judging Austin Rivers’ career at Duke on the Jayson Tatum What You Did Against UNC Scale ™, then he’s forever revered as a Dukie for this gem. 29 points, one epic buzzer-beater to stun the UNC faithful on their home turf.
12. Wendell Carter Jr.
2017-18 stats: 13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Analytics nuts loved Wendell Carter Jr.’s time at Duke because he was efficiently brilliant in the shadows while Marvin Bagley III had his stellar, ACC Player of the Year season. He nearly averaged a double-double during the 2017-18 season while pacing the team in blocks and ranking second among qualified players in 3-point percentage.
13. Kyrie Irving
2010-2011 stats: 17.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.4 RPG, 32.5 PER
Despite playing in only 11 games due to injury, which is the sole reason he’s outside the top 10 of this list, Kyrie Irving was so good he became the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft months later. Remember when he dropped 31 on Draymond Green’s Michigan State Spartans?
14. Cam Reddish
2018-19 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG
A blue-chip resume carried into college didn’t play out in the way many expected for Reddish, who struggled to consistently produce alongside stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett last season. But he’ll always have this moment:
15. Trevon Duval
2017-18 stats: 10.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, 1.5 SPG
‘‘ was a mixtape gawd who earned a five-star high school recruiting ranking, but his herky-jerk, flashy style only got him so far at the collegiate level. His sub-30 percent 3-point accuracy and 59.6 hit rate from the charity stripe were both worst among Duke’s regular starting rotation.
16. Corey Maggette
1998-99 stats: 10.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 APG
Maggette was just a bit player on this Duke team, which in hindsight seems like a massive feat considering the other players on this roster also included Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon and William Avery. Is it any wonder Duke finished as the national runner-up with that roster? These days, he’s starring — and sometimes Shaqtin’ — in the BIG3.
17. Frank Jackson
2016-17 stats: 10.9 PPG, 1.7 APG, 39.5 3FG%
Duke used both Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson as rotation starters at point guard, and both had different strengths. But Frank Jackson’s pure scoring ability really stood out for the 28-win Duke team in this year, and he had some impressive moments despite not serving in a star role.
18. Gary Trent Jr.
2017-18 stats: 14.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG
Being the third fiddle in an offense can be a good things, it turns out, when the top two scorers are Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen-good. Gary Trent was a tremendous third-wheel who shot the ball better than 40% from 3-point range and made his mark in some big names, including a 30-burger outing against Miami in the opening month of 2018.
19. Harry Giles
2016-17 stats: 3.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.7 BPG
Harry Giles was more than just an AAU legend; he was a prodigious prospect with limitless potential until injuries derailed the lead-up to his freshman season at Duke, and nagged at him throughout. He played sparingly during his stint in Durham, North Carolina, and never found the form of himself that dominated the Nike EYBL months prior.