The best current NBA player from every Sweet 16 team left in the NCAA Tournament

South Carolina v Duke
South Carolina v Duke / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
12 of 17

4. Duke Blue Devils: Jayson Tatum

You could form an All-Star team with just Duke players in the NBA, but Jayson Tatum is the cream of the crop at the moment. The Celtics superstar is on pace for his second straight top 5 MVP finish and his third straight First-Team All-NBA appearance.

The just-turned-26-year-old has already made five All-Star games in his seven seasons, has led the Celtics on several deep playoff runs including an NBA Finals appearance in 2022, and he has his team lapping the field with a 57-15 record on the year.

Tatum faces stiff competition from fellow Blue Devils like Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Paolo Banchero, and others, but his game has ascended to a level that none of those guys have ever reached.

In fact, there are only a handful of guys on Earth right now who are better than Jayson Tatum at basketball, and most of them didn’t even play college basketball (Jokic, Giannis, Luka).

Duke produces top-tier talent on an almost annual basis, and they’ll send more guys into the league to chase Tatum including Jared McCain and Kyle Filipowski this year, and the projected #1 pick in the 2025 NBA draft, Cooper Flagg. But even prospects like that have a long way to go to reach the level of Jayson Tatum.

Despite their illustrious legacy as a college basketball powerhouse, the list of retired NBA stars out of Duke is fairly underwhelming. Grant Hill is probably the top name, but his career was largely diminished with his potential unfulfilled due to injury.

Other notable names include Carlos Boozer, Corey Maggette, Luol Deng, JJ Redick, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Shane Battier, Elton Brand, and Christian Laettner.