With the exception of Trevon Duval, the entire Duke Blue Devils starting lineup heard their names called at the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday night.
Marvin Bagley III went No. 2 to the Sacramento Kings. Wendell Carter Jr. went No. 7 to the Chicago Bulls. Grayson Allen went No. 21 to the Utah Jazz, and Gary Trent Jr. went No. 37 to the Portland Trailblazers. A year ago, most would have expected Duval to be included in that list as well.
Duval arrived at Duke as a coveted point guard at 6-foot-3 with nearly a 6-10 wingspan and a chiseled 195-pound frame. Unfortunately, his stature and athleticism weren’t enough to mask an up-and-down season at Duke.
His jump shot was always going to be a work in progress, but 59.6 percent free-throw shooting and 29 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line made it clear his mechanics were worse than expected. In an NBA that increasingly values the ability to shoot from distance, that diminished his value considerably.
However, struggles in areas where he should have excelled because of his athleticism were equally detrimental. Duval took possessions off and took too many gambles defensively. He also struggled to finish effectively around the rim.
The death knell for his draft hopes may have been the questionable decision-making he displayed. Or, as one anonymous scout put it:
“Big-time athlete, but I don’t trust him to run my team,” the scout told Seth Davis of The Athletic. “His shot is broken. I don’t know how you play in our league if you can’t make a shot. I was expecting a lot more. I thought he had one foot out the door from the minute he got to Duke. He wasn’t a committed defender. He was in over his head a lot.”
The good news for Duval is this isn’t the end of the road. There’s still enormous upside. He’s a smart kid and as long as he understands everything that he has to work on, he’ll have a chance to work his back into a legit NBA prospect through the G League.
That athleticism gives him potential to be an elite defender and the third-highest max vertical at this year’s combine should eventually make him an elite finisher. If the jump shot improves and decision-making gets better (he is a willing passer), he could still be an NBA starter.
And that will keep him from being an opportunity for other schools to negatively recruit against Mike Krzyzewski and Duke by claiming he took an elite athlete at point guard that probably would have been a first-round pick straight out of high school and turned him into something undraftable. Because even if it isn’t true — it’s not — we know it will not stop other coaching staffs from using it to fight dirty in the already cutthroat world of one-and-done recruiting.