Duke's biggest busts in NBA Draft history, ranked from Jabari Parker to Shelden Williams

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Duke basketball has produced some of the biggest names in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving has become one of the league's best point guards. Jayson Tatum just powered the Celtics to the NBA Finals. Grant Hill delivered a Hall of Fame career and was a seven-time All-Star.

On Thursday, five more Blue Devils — Paulo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore — could hear their names called in the first round which would tie Kentucky's record for the most first-round picks from one school in a single draft.

But for all the success the pro Duke players have found in their careers, there are also several that did not live up to the hype. Some could even be saddled with the dreaded "b" word.

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Of course, the term "bust" is subjective, with different interpretations depending on whom you ask. For this list, we're considering not just the player's performance in the NBA, but where they were drafted. The higher the pick, the higher the standards. 

Enough with the small talk. Without further ado, counting down the 10 biggest draft busts from Duke...

Duke draft busts

Justise Winslow

10. Justise Winslow, F — 2015 NBA Draft, 10th overall to Heat

Winslow was a standout one-and-done player for the Blue Devils. During the 2014-15 season, he averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists, and established himself as one of the top prospects in the 2015 class. But it has not clicked for Winslow in the NBA. He has averaged double-digit point totals only four times in his career, and has had only one season (2018-19) in which he started at least half of his team's games. He's been a contributor in the paint as he's averaged 5.1 rebounds per game across his career, but he has not been the impact performer many thought he would be.

Danny Ferry
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9. Danny Ferry, F — 1989 NBA Draft, 2nd overall to Clippers

Ferry was a regular starter for the Blue Devils in four years, but turned it up in his fourth year at Duke when he averaged 22.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The Clippers took him second overall in 1989, but Ferry refused to play and instead spent the season in Italy. In 1990, he signed a 10-year deal with the Cavaliers that secured his spot in the league for a while. It wasn't until the 1995-96 season that he started a bulk of the season. He averaged 13.3 points in 82 games (79 starts), but then saw his playing time diminish over the remainder of his career, starting 96 games over his final seven years in the NBA. He finished his career with an average of 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game across 917 games. A long career, but perhaps not as successful as one would expect out of a second overall pick.

MORE: Could Paulo Banchero have been an NFL QB?

Cherokee Parks
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8. Cherokee Parks, F — 1995 NBA Draft, 12th overall to Mavericks

Once Parks became a starter in Durham, he was a consistent double-digit scorer. He averaged at least 12.3 points per game from his sophomore through senior years, and capped off his career with 19 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his senior year that helped him get selected 12th overall by the Mavericks in 1995. Parks spent nine years in the NBA, but he was never an impact player. His best season came in the 1997-98 campaign when he averaged 7.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 43 starts (79 games) with the Timberwolves. He wound up spending time with seven different teams after just a single year with Dallas.

William Avery
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7. William Avery, G — 1999 NBA Draft, 14th overall to Timberwolves

Avery did not start in his first season with the Blue Devils and came exclusively off the bench, but in the 1998-99 campaign, he became an impact player for Duke, averaging 14.9 points for the national runner-up squad. The Timberwolves believed he could have that type of impact as a scorer and took him 14th overall in 1999, but it was not to be. Avery started one game in his three-year NBA career and averaged a career-best 2.8 points in the 2000-01 season. His option was declined after the 2001-02 season, and he never returned to the NBA.

MORE: Biggest bust candidates in 2022 NBA Draft

6. Tate Armstrong, G — 1977 NBA Draft, 13th overall to Bulls

Armstrong exploded on the college basketball scene in his junior year with the Blue Devils. He averaged 24.2 points per game and replicated that against in the 1976-77 season when he averaged 22.7 points per game. His successful collegiate career led him to be selected 13th overall by the Bulls in 1977. The same level of scoring did not follow him to the NBA, however. He averaged 4.3 points per game in his rookie season in 66 games. He played in only 26 games in his second season with just 2.5 points per game.

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5. Nolan Smith, G — 2011 NBA Draft, 21st overall to Trail Blazers

During his junior and senior years, Smith was about as impactful as any player for the Blue Devils. He averaged 19 points and 4.0 assists across the two seasons, helping lead Duke to a title in the 2009-10 season and another tournament run the following year. The Trail Blazers opted to selected him 21st overall. However, his NBA career was short-lived. He started four games in his first year in the NBA and averaged only 3.8 points, 1.4 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 44 total games. The next year, he appeared in 40 games in what would be his final year in the league. He signed with the Celtics in the 2013 Summer League, but later signed with a team in the Croatian League.

MORE: Tracking latest draft leaks, news, trade buzz

Trajan Langdon
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4. Trajan Langdon, G — 1999 NBA Draft, 11th overall to Cavaliers

The Alaskan Assassin was a consistent performer as a four-year starter at Duke, but he saved his best for last, averaging 17.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in the 1998-99 season just as he was preparing to go to the NBA. The Cavaliers took him with the 11th overall pick in the 1999 draft. He made history as the first Alaskan-born NBA player, but otherwise, did not have a major impact on the league. He never averaged more than six points per game and started in only five games in 119 games across his three-year career before going to play in Europe.

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Jabari Parker

3. Jabari Parker, F — 2014 NBA Draft, 2nd overall to Bucks

In his lone season with Duke, Parker was a scoring machine. He averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and scored at least 20 points in more than half of his games played. Milwaukee selected him second overall in 2014, and immediately plugged him into the starting five. Early in his rookie year, he tore his ACL, cutting short his first year. He has continued to be plagued by injuries throughout his career, and has only once started in more than 50 games. Though he has averaged 14.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, Parker has been waived twice in the past two seasons and has not started a game since the 2019-20 season.

MORE: Worst first-round miss by each team in franchise history

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2. Jahlil Okafor, C — 2015 NBA Draft, 3rd overall to 76ers

Okafor arrived in Durham as the No. 1 recruit in the nation with lofty expectations that he met in college. Playing on a team filled with future NBA players, Okafor helped guide the 2014-15 Blue Devils to a national championship behind 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. The 76ers selected him third overall in 2015. At first, the pick appeared like a good one. He averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds per game and was named to the 2014-15 All-Rookie team. But he never played at that level again. He averaged 11.8 points the following season and did not reach double-digit scoring averages or average more than five rebounds per game. He bounced around near the end of his NBA career before he was waived by the Hawks in September 2021, and he has not played in the NBA since.

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1. Shelden Williams, F — 2006 NBA Draft, 5th overall to Hawks

It took Williams some time to establish himself as one of the premier college basketball talents, but over the final two seasons of his four-year career at Duke, he turned it up, averaging a double-double in both years with 18.8 points and 10.7 rebounds in his final campaign. The Hawks took the senior forward fifth overall in 2006, and expected him to start early in his career. Unlike at Duke, Williams never picked up his game. He averaged a career-best 5.5 points in his rookie season, and was traded midway through his second year in the league. Williams bounced around to play for seven total teams in his six-year career before leaving for the Euroleague in 2012.

Author(s)
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Edward Sutelan is a content producer at The Sporting News.