Friday, June 11, 2004

Duhon's road to the NBA

Collegeball has a few comments on an ESPN story about Chris Duhon and the long road ahead he now faces as an NBA player. The draft is in a few weeks and Duhon has spent much of his time at pre-draft camps and giving individual workouts to interested teams. The only problem is Duhon in all likelihood won't hear his name called until the second round.

Andy Katz wonders if things might have been different if Duhon came out early. As a Tarheel fan I take a lot of satisfaction in bad-mouthing Duke -- especially Duhon (see here, here,here and here), but even in my biased judgement, Duhon probably was never a first round point guard.

Katz gives the pros and cons to Duhon leaving early but eventually seems to come to the same conclusion -- Duhon was a solid college player, but his abilities don't translate well to the NBA:
Chris Duhon could be working toward his second NBA contract right now. Then again, he could have spent the past two seasons out of the league, in a foreign country, playing point guard on some European city's team, trying prove he belongs in the NBA. Instead...

Duhon has a degree from Duke University.

Duhon owns a stellar 123-21 record in four seasons as Duke's point guard.

Duhon is the only player in ACC history to score 1,000 points, dish out 800 assists, grab 475 rebounds, record 300 steals and nail 125 three-pointers.

Duhon is also forever part of Duke-North Carolina lore after his end-to-end layup in overtime beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill this past season.

If Duhon had left Durham as a freshman or sophomore he wouldn't be the Chris Duhon of today -- the confident, self-assured, well-rounded Duke graduate.
If Duhon would have been a first round pick as a freshman or sophmore, he'd be one of the rare examples of a player whose stock actually dropped by coming back to college. I had a post a few weeks ago showing that, for the most part, players who stay in school can actually increase their payout over the long-term than if they had come out early. And the primary impetus for this improvement is that (usually) the longer a player stays in school the more they progress, and the higher their draft stock rises. Two examples from this year's draft are St. Joe's guards Jameer Nelson Delante West.

Maybe it's the case that Duhon has hit the 'athletic' ceiling. Perhaps he maxed out after high school and his first two years at Duke, while other players continued to progress and get better, stronger, quicker...etc. Maybe he's a solid college athlete whose ability doesn't translate to the NBA.

Whatever the case, Duhon probably did the right thing by graduating. He certainly caused more than a few problems for a Tarheel team that struggled through most of his career and he also won a national championship. Taking a quick look at the current list of NBA point guards, it's hard to imagine Duhon being able to beat any one of them out for a spot on the bench. But as Katz reminds us, former Dukie Carlos Boozer was a second round pick and he was a large part of the success the Cavs experienced this season. Oh, and he'll probably be on the Olympic team this summer too. I also expect this summer Coach K will announce his plans to offer Duhon a job as an assistant next to the other former Duke players who were great college players but struggled professionally (although, to be fair, Johnny Dawkins did have some success for several years). But hey, who knows, Jacque Vaughn is still in the league so anything's possible.