With the NBA playoffs set to begin this weekend, the Duke Blue Devils have quite a few former players on playoff-bound teams. Many are impact players on their respective teams. All the former Dukies heading to the NBA playoffs represent Eastern Conference teams (except for Shane Battier with the Memphis Grizzlies).
Carlos Boozer against the Wizards (Flickr/Keith Allison)
The number one seed in the East (and overall number one seed), the Chicago Bulls, have the possible league MVP in Derrick Rose. The Bulls also rely heavily on fellow starters, and Duke alum, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. Boozer was averaging 17.5 points per game along with 9.7 rebounds per game since starting the season recovering from injury. He averaged 31.9 minutes a game and shot 51% from the field. Boozer scored a season-high 34 points (on 13-of-17 shooting in just 26 minutes) at the Toronto Raptors on December 15th. He pulled down a season-high 22 rebounds against the NY Knicks on April 12th.
Deng was averaging 17.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. He is averaging 39.1 minutes per game while shooting 46% from the field. Deng scored a season-high of 40 points against the Portland Trailblazers back on November 1st. He pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds on back-to-back games in January. Will both consistently provide Rose scoring options? If so, the Bulls should reach the Finals.
To get more in-depth coverage of the Bulls, check out KISSING THE RIM, a site run by my fellow AerysSports reporter Nabila Abedin. She gives her own insight, while also providing links to other Bulls coverage in her â€œBulls Breakfast Digestâ€.
The Bulls opponent in the first round of the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers, have three former Blue Devils on their roster. One of which (Mike Dunleavy) played with Boozer on the 2001 National Championship team at Duke. Dunleavy was averaging 11.2 points per game for the Pacers while starting 44 of the 61 games he played. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds a game. Dunleavy shot 46% from the field, while shooting 40% from three-point land and 80% from the free-throw line. He scored a season-high 30 points (on 12-of-16 shooting in 31 minutes) against the NJ Nets on January 28th.
Dahntay Jones, who sat out the 2001 season at Duke due to the transfer rule, was averaging 6.3 points per game in his average of 13.1 minutes a game. He scored a season-high 19 points (in 19 minutes) on February 11th against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Josh McRoberts seems to have found a home in Indiana after surprisingly leaving Duke early in 2007. He was averaging 7.4 points a game and 5.3 rebounds a game in an average of 22.2 minutes. He is shooting 54.7% from the field. McRoberts has started 51 of the 72 games he has played. He scored a season-high 20 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) at the Bulls on January 29th (though it was a loss). He pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds (with 15 points) in 28 minutes against the Detroit Pistons on March 30th.
Elton Brand against the Wizards (Flickr/Keith Allison)
The Philadelphia Sixers started out the season poorly under new head coach Doug Collins (father of current Duke assistant coach Chris Collins). They were just 6 and 16 through the first two months of the season. However they bought into Collinsâ€™ system and vastly improved. A big reason why is Elton Brand, who is finally healthy. Brand was averaging 15 points a game and 8.3 rebounds a game during the regular season. He started all 81 games he played while averaging 34.7 minutes. He also shot 51.2% from the floor. Brand scored a season-high 33 points (on 14-of-23 shooting in 42 minutes) against the NY Knicks on February 4th. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they have to face the preseason favorite Miami Heat in the first round (as the Sixers dropped below the NY Knicks by losing five of their last seven games).
Speaking of the Knicks, former Duke forward (and WNBA star Candace Parkerâ€™s husband) Shelden Williams is one of their bench players after a trade from the Denver Nuggets. Williams has moved around the NBA since leaving Duke. He was averaging 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds a game since joining the now Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks. Williiams has started six of the 17 games he has played with the Knicks, while averaging 11.6 minutes. The Knicks will open the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. Check out fellow AerysSports reporter Stacey Gotsuliasâ€™ BeatKnicks site for all the Knicks news.
JJ Redick (Flickr/Keith Allison)
Many questioned whether sharp-shooter JJ Redick would make it in the NBA. Now five years with the Orlando Magic, Redick comes off the bench averaging 25.4 minutes. He has struggled with his shot when not getting minutes in the past, but he has had a solid season. He averaged 10.1 points per game while shooting 44% from the field, 39.7% from three-point land, and 87.5% from the free-throw line. Redick scored a season-high 29 points 9-of-12 shooting in 39 minutes) at the Denver Nuggets on December 14th (though it was a Magic loss).
Joining Redick in Orlando is fellow guard Chris Duhon. Duhonâ€™s main job is to backup Jameer Nelson, as he only averaged 2.5 points and 2.3 assists per game. He averaged 15 minutes a game in the 51 games he played in. The Magic open the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks.
Starting the season with the Houston Rockets, Shane Battier started all 59 games that he played in. He averaged 30.8 minutes and 8.6 points per game. However he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies (the team he was originally drafted by) and became a bench player. He played in 23 games and averaged 24 minutes a game. His points per game also decreased (5 points per game), as did his shooting percentages, though he did average four rebounds a game. The Grizzlies earned the 8-seed in the NBA playoffs, matching up with the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
There are 10 former Blue Devils participating in the NBA playoffs and I hope to keep updating game-by-game.