Gibs mentioned it at the end of his last post, but I thought it was worth a post of its own to mention that Kyrie Irving is declaring for the NBA Draft after just one abbreviated season at Duke. Irving missed all but 11 games of his one and only college season with a toe injury; nevertheless, he’s a lock to be a top five pick, and could very easily go in the top spot depending on who is drafting. The number one recruit in the country out of high school, Irving came out of the gates as Duke’s alpha dog, despite having two seniors in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith returning from the 2009-2010 championship team. Who knows who would have been hoisting the trophy this year had he not missed most of the year, as Duke looked nearly unbeatable early on with him running the point.
I don’t blame Irving for leaving–how can you blame a guy who is a surefire top-five pick for jumping to the league no matter how old he is? Still, to me this really is an indictment on this year’s draft class. How many years is a guy who only played 11 games in his only college season going to be a lock to go in the first few picks? Still, Irving has unquestioned ability as both a floor leader and play maker, and it will be interesting to see where he lands. With a lockout looming, some thought guys like Irving would stay another year amidst uncertainty, but I think the injury this year–though he swears it had nothing to do with his decision–had to scare him a little bit, as he got a glimpse of what he might be losing if he risked another year in a Duke uniform.
Don’t cry for Duke, though, not that any of you would anyway. They have top recruit Austin Rivers along with fellow McDonald’s All-American Quinn Cook coming in to replace Irving right away. Imagine how crowded that backcourt would have been had Kyrie stayed for his sophomore season. Keep in mind Duke also returns Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry, and Tyler Thornton to their backcourt next year. Playing time will already be at a premium for those guys, but if you’re Coach K, I guess it’s not the worst problem to have.
Stay tuned for more pre-draft news, including a segment we are going to be rolling out called ‘Pro-or-No’.