Five former Duke Blue Devils who are poised for big NBA seasons
Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
With Gordon Hayward now in Boston, Rodney Hood has the chance to take a major leap during the 2017-18 NBA season. Hood can score from anywhere on the floor and now will have the opportunity to be the primary playmaker in Utah’s offense. The soon to be 25-year-old is coming off a career best 37.1 3-point percentage.
Hood is an elite pick and roll player, whose usage rate will skyrocket this year. This is a guy who could average around 18 points per game. In a 3-point league, Hood can thrive, as he shot 44.7 percent on all corner 3-pointers. He also lowered his turnover percentage
Through three preseason games, Hood is shooting 65.4 percent from the field and an exceptional 75 percent from long range.
Justise Winslow, Miami Heat
Last season, Winslow appeared to be on the verge of a coming out party, until a bruised left wrist and shoulder surgery caused him to be sidelined for the majority of the season. In the 18 games he played in, Winslow looked good, averaging just about 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34.7 minutes per game. The biggest question mark is whether or not Winslow can shoot, as he shot 35.6 percent from the field last season.
Winslow is still just a kid. He will turn 22 in March, and still has plenty of time to develop his shot. In his one season at Duke, Winslow shot 48.6 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from three. Obviously, college and pro numbers cannot be compared, but Winslow has shown he has the ability to shoot at a high level.
Winslow is also down 10 pounds from last season and has been spending extra time getting shots up in the gym to round out his game. He is an elite defender and outstanding rebounder. If his shot develops, he has the chance to be a major factor in getting the Miami Heat back to the postseason.
Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks
Last season, Curry started 42 games and averaged 12.8 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting. His 42.5 percent shooting from three was good for eighth best in the league. Curry is an absolute sniper, who will be starting at shooting guard once he is fully recovered from his recent left tibia injury.
Curry is tired of being “Steph’s little brother” and is ready to make a legit name for himself. He is in a contract year, so look for Curry to prove all the doubters wrong and work towards a major contract. While a max deal is probably out of the question, this is still a player, who in the right system, could average around 20 points a game.
Per 36 minutes, Curry averages about 16, and that is through only 118 career games. He is an underrated defender and an extremely efficient free throw shooter.
The addition of Dennis Smith Jr. will be very beneficial for Curry’s game. An insanely athletic point guard, Smith will be able to get into the paint and open the floor up for Curry to knock down shots.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Not only did Ingram grow to 6-foot-11, but he also changed his shooting mechanics and improved his leg strength. In his only Summer League game before getting injured, Ingram tallied up 26 points in 32 minutes. Although he could have played once he recovered from his leg cramp, Magic Johnson had seen enough. Magic told Ingram that he would be disappointed if he didn’t average 20 points per game. Post All-Star break, Ingram averaged 13.2 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting.
The sky is the limit for Ingram. Once he starts hitting shots, he could emerge as a top talent in this league. While off to a slow start in preseason, his teammates are by no means concerned. Brook Lopez, who was acquired this offseason via trade, said they know what Ingram is capable of and are confident in his abilities.
With a rather thin frame, Ingram looks a lot stronger than he did during his rookie season. Playing with Lonzo Ball, one of the most gifted passers we have seen since Jason Kidd, will only boost Ingram’s potential. Ingram told reporters that his confidence is sky high and so is Magic’s. The president of basketball operations believes Ball and Ingram will have great chemistry, comparing them to himself and James Worthy.
Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
A highly criticized guard, mostly due to his father coaching him, Austin Rivers is ready to show that he is a legitimate starter at the NBA level. Whether it’s true or not that Doc Rivers showed favoritism by not trading Austin to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, all we know is one thing: Chris Paul is gone and it is Austin’s turn to make plays for the Clippers.
Because of the fact that his father is his coach, Austin Rivers is often overlooked. This was a kid who was the player of the year in high school. He was also the top-rated player in the country by Rivals.com in 2011. At Duke, he made first team All-ACC.
In 29 games as a starter last season, Rivers averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 45.8 percent from the field and an elite 42 percent from three. If he starts this year, it is because he earned the right to.
Rivers wants the haters to know that if he scores 20 a game and locks down on defense, it is his doing and not his dad’s. No J.J. Redick and no Chris Paul means Rivers could shine in the Clippers’ offense.
Featured image by SI.com
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