Jahlil Okafor: The only freshman to win ACC Player of the Year and widely considered the best big man in college basketball this past season, Okafor is considered a lock to picked as either the No. 1 or No. 2 pick tonight. Currently the Lakers hold the second overall pick, and should LA take Okafor, he would have some historically big shoes to fill for a franchise that had bigs such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. Over the past month the former Blue Devil worked out for the Lakers twice, and the Timberwolves once.
Here’s where things could vary from the plan, however. Currently there are rumors that Los Angeles is pursuing a trade with Sacramento that would include DeMarcus Cousins. If that trade happened, the No. 2 pick would almost assuredly be included, meaning Okafor would be in play for Coach George Karl and the Kings.
Draft Express: 2
Justise Winslow: Winslow came to Duke with the potential of leaving early, and exceeded expectations according to head coach Mike Krzyzewski who pointed out that the 6-foot-6 Houston forward went from averaging around two points per game to, arguably, Duke’s best player over the last six weeks of the season.
Winslow’s stock is firmly cemented in the top 10 according to most NBA Draft pundits. He is expected to be picked anywhere from fifth to eighth. He’s being compared to everyone from Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard to James Harden.
Away from the court Winslow has been extremely active on social media since leaving Duke, documenting his pre-draft journey with pictures, videos, and messages. And, when his name is called on Thursday night, look for him to pay tribute to Duke with his choice of suit by using a “lot of different shades of blue that complement each other pretty well”.
Draft Express: 5
Tyus Jones: Jones playing at Duke was the culmination of three plus years of recruiting for Krzyzewski who passed on point guards in the classes of 2013 and 2012 while waiting on Jones to arrive. The gamble paid off as the Minnesota lead guard came in and immediately assumed the reins of the Blue Devil program alongside Cook.
He averaged 11.8 points and 5.6 assists per game and hit a number of big shots as the season progressed and took over a couple of games during crunch time which earned him the nickname “Tyus Stones”. It culminated with a Most Outstanding Player award in the 2015 Final Four.
He worked out for the Houston Rockets twice, and with the Denver Nuggets as he looked to shed some potential concerns teams had with his athleticism and size. There are a number of NBA executives who believe the Rockets have made Jones a promise at the 18 spot.
Quinn Cook: While the three freshmen got the hype and will go much higher in the draft, there’s no player that embodied Duke’s climb back to the top of the mountain than Cook. For three plus years the former McDonald’s All-American showed flashes of promise, but those were mixed in with frequent bouts and displays of immaturity. It resulted in Coach K sitting down with his rising senior before the past season to have a direct conversation about “growing up”.
It worked as Cook guided his young, but talented group of Blue Devils through the preseason, conference, and NCAA Tournament with a mix of savvy, emotion, and skill. He’s tried to showcase that in everything from the NBA combines to workouts for various teams including the Knicks, Nuggets, Lakers, and others.
Most draft sites don’t go into the second round, but those who do usually have Cook going towards the latter half of that round. As for his preference of location, he won’t say, but he does have a childhood favorite - the LA Lakers - calling him self the “the biggest Lakers fan you could ever think of. For me to be here with this Laker shirt on, I’ve been sending pictures to my mom and my whole family. I’m in heaven right now.”
Draft Express: Second Round-Undrafted
Yahoo!: Second Round-Undrafted
Scout: Second Round-Undrafted
FoxSports: Second Round-Undrafted
Notes: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has said he kept up with each of his former players as they prepared for the draft through texts and calls. He will be in New York, but will be attending a basketball awards sessions noting that he doesn’t want to take away from the players’ moments. Instead, Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel will be in attendance representing Duke. Coach K will meet with the players after the draft takes place.