Duke & Kentucky Dominate NBA Draft Once Again

NEW YORK -- Duke and Kentucky continue to dominate the top of the NBA Draft.

Led by No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, Duke had three of the Top 10 picks in Thursday's NBA Draft, while Kentucky added three more in the first round. Together the two schools accounted for six of the 30 first-round picks. 

After the 6-foot-7 Williamson was chosen No. 1 by the New Orleans Pelicans, his running buddy and good friend R.J. Barrett went No. 3 to the New York Knicks. Cam Reddish then was chosen at No. 10 by the Atlanta Hawks. This marked just the second time in the modern era that one school produced three Top 10 picks after Florida did it in 2007 with Al Horford (No. 3), Corey Brewer (7) and Joakim Noah (9).

With the selection of Williamson, Duke also equaled Kentucky with its third No. 1 overall pick, the most for one school in the common era of the draft (1966-present).  The Blue Devils’ previous two No. 1 selections were Elton Brand (1999) and Kyrie Irving (2011).

Williamson and Barrett also gave Duke two picks in the top three for the second time in school history. Jay Williams (2) and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (3) were selected back-to-back in the 2002 NBA Draft.

North Carolina also had three first-round picks, while Gonzaga and Virginia had two apiece. So Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Gonzaga Virginia accounted for 13 of the 30 first-round picks

To see Z go first and go 3, I don't know where Cam is or Cam ends up yet, but it felt great," Barrett said before Reddish was selected. "I mean, we worked so hard and we had so many conversations over the year, definitely getting to learn about each other and learn what everyone goes through or went through to get to this point. So to see all our dreams being achieved is a special moment.

Williamson, who averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds at Duke, could command a $100-million sneaker deal, but has yet to choose which shoe company he will endorse.

"I don't know what to say," Williamson said on ESPN. "I didn't think I'd be in this position. My mom sacrificed a lot for me. I wouldn't be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski calls the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson "incredibly unique" and "phenomenal."

"Zion's incredibly unique," Coach K said on his Sirius show. "Not just as a player but as a young man.  He's still only 18 years old.  And as good of an athlete - he's a top percentile athlete in the world, not just in the game of basketball - he's that level of man.  He gets it.  I enjoyed every day with that kid. And he's improved, he's going to be a star in the league."

"Everyone talks about his jumping and his dunking, but he's very smart and his lateral quickness is phenomenal. Not good, phenomenal.  And his ball handling, it's hard to think of him small, but when he was smaller he was a point guard.  So he has an incredible skill set and set that'll set him apart.”

The 6-foot-7 Barrett, meantime, was expected to be chosen by the Knicks at No. 3 and now becomes the face of the Knicks unless or until they add a big-time free agent. The left-hander has drawn comparisons to James Harden.

"I'm so overwhelmed, humbled and just honored and very thankful that the Knicks took the chance with me, that they believed in me," Barrett said. "I'm so happy to be a Knick, and I can't wait to play in Madison Square Garden."

Barrett said his late grandfather once told him he'd play for the Knicks, and that was part of why he cried after being chosen.

"That was crazy," he said. "That was one of the reasons why I was because we used to watch the Knicks growing up and he would always tell me I was going to be a Knick. I'm sad he can't be here to see it. But I'm just very happy, man."

Barrett has New York City roots. His father, Rowan Barrett, played at St. John's and his mother, Kesha, is from Brooklyn and ran track and field at St. John's.  So he's ready for the pressure of the Big Apple, where the team hasn't been to the playoffs since 2013.

"Well, I call New York just a bigger version of Toronto," said Barrett, the highest Canadian to be drafted since Andrew Wiggins went No. 1 in 2014. "I'm kind of used to it already. When it comes to everything on the court with the fan base and everything, I just feel like -- I went to Duke, we got a lot of attention. Being in New York there's going to be a lot more, but I've just been built this way to handle it. Yeah, I'll be fine."

Reddish was Atlanta's second pick of the night at No. 10 after they traded with New Orleans and then chose Virginia's De'Andre Hunter at No. 4. That gives the Hawks a nice young nucleus including Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins Hunter and Reddish.

As for Kentucky, P.J. Washington went No. 12 to the Charlotte Hornets and Herro followed one pick later to the Miami Heat. Kentucky coach John Calipari then remained in the Green Room until freshman wing Keldon Johnson went No. 29 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kentucky has now had at least two players selected in the first round in every draft since 2010.

Since Calipari joined the Wildcat program for the 2009-10 season, Kentucky has now produced 38 NBA Draft picks over 10 seasons. Included in the 38 are 29 first-rounders, three No. 1 overall picks and 21 lottery selections.

I’m so proud of all of our guys,” Calipari said. “Graduation night is always special for our program because the lives of several families just changed. To see the dreams of not only our kids but their families come true is truly a special moment for all of us.

“I’m really happy for PJ and Tyler. There were teams that were hoping that they would go past 12 and 13 that really wanted them. They were so excited to go back-to-back. I heard PJ got up from an interview to applaud Tyler. I’m happy where they are and the kind of teams and coaches they will play for.

“It’s amazing how this draft works. If you don’t work out for three or four teams and you end up falling to those teams in a row, you end up unfortunately sliding by them. I’ve seen it happen with other players but never with one of ours. But here’s the thing with Keldon: He gets to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich in one of the best organizations that develops young people. I’ve been wrong before – I think it was 1978 – but I believe Keldon will over deliver more than any other player in the draft at his position. The Spurs got a gem, but Keldon drawing them is like hitting the lottery."

Washington considered leaving Kentucky after his freshman season but helped his stock by coming back. He improved his scoring from 10.8  to 15.2 points and his rebounding from 5.7 to 7.5 boards per game.

"I feel like I can improve my ball handling," he said. "That's one area I feel like I was a little shaky. I'm going to improve on that and feel like I can come in and make an impact as well."

As for Herro going to the Heat, he was asked about former Kentucky standout Pat Riley, now the Heat's President.

"Obviously, he has a great tradition in Miami," Herro said. "What they've done, they've won a lot of games and a lot of series and championships."

Herro, who averaged 14.0 points while shooting 36 percent from deep, should help the Heat space the floor.

"I'm a two-guard and I can bring shooting," he said. "I think I can stretch the floor. I bring toughness. I'm a leader. I bring defense as well. I think I'm going to a lot of people."

The 6-6 Johnson averaged 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds en route to SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

Aside from Duke and Kentucky, North Carolina and Gonzaga also had big nights.

The Tar Heels had three players drafted with Coby White at No. 7, Cam Johnson at No. 11 and Nassir Little at No. 25.

Rui Hachimura become the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round when he went No. 9 to Washington. Brandon Clarke was then taken No. 21 by Memphis after a trade with Oklahoma City.


Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who runs ZAGSBLOG.com and contributes to The New York Times. Follow Adam on Twitter.

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