NBA Draft prospect rankings: Four Duke stars are in our top 11 ACC players with pro potential

Only twice in the 21st century has a player from the ACC been selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. And in both cases -- 2011, with Kyrie Irving, and 2019, with Zion Williamson -- they were players from Duke. That trend could come to a halt in 2020.
The No. 1 player in the debut of our prospect rankings for 2020 is a player attending school in the same state as Duke, but separated by Tobacco Road. He's North Carolina combo guard Cole Anthony, and he's the No. 1 draft prospect to watch this season in a conference littered with NBA talent.

As for the others, here's who you should keep an eye on in the ACC this season.

1. Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Position: Guard
Draft projection: No. 1 overall

What to know: North Carolina's system is guard-friendly and plays to Cole Anthony's biggest strengths. He'll be given freedom to play on or off the ball and should really flourish as a playmaker. While he's perhaps not as speedy as predecessor Coby White, it's like saying Justin Gatlin isn't quite as fast as Usain Bolt; Anthony is still plenty fast and can get downhill fast enough to dominate in UNC's offense. With the athleticism, handles and bounce all playing to his advantage, he's got a chance to be as lethal as White was last season in transition.

2. Tre Jones, Duke

Measurables: 6-2, 183 pounds
Position: Point guard
Draft projection: First round

What to know: A potential first-round slot awaited Tre Jones after a strong freshman campaign in which he finished third in the country in assist/turnover ratio, but unlike his other freshmen teammates, he came back. Now, with another stellar supporting cast, he has a chance to take a leading role on a Duke team that again should be top-10 quality all season long. He needs to improve overall as a shooter -- last season, teams dared him to take open shots. But the perimeter pressure he applies on defense coupled with his sure-handed ball-handling already has him in the mix to be the next Jones from Duke taken in the first round.

3. Jordan Nwora, Louisville

Measurables: 6-8, 215 pounds
Position: Small forward
Draft projection: First round

What to know: Size and shot-making set Jordan Nwora apart from his peers. He's shot 38.8% from 3-point range in his first two seasons at Louisville, and should see a monster workload as a featured piece as a junior. Nwora's not just a shooter, though; he led the Cardinals in rebounds, steals and minutes played last season. He'll enter this season as a favorite to win ACC Player of the Year on a Louisville team I'm picking to win the conference.

4. Matthew Hurt, Duke

Measurables: 6-9, 214 pounds
Position: Power forward
Draft projection: First round

What to know: Matthew Hurt is a 6-9, 214-pound forward, but he moves like a 6-3, 180-pound guard -- and shoots like one, too. That versatility will be on full display this season for Duke as he's put into situations as a pick-and-pop stretch big with range that extends to the 3-point line.

5. Wendell Moore, Duke

Measurables: 6-6, 213 pounds
Position: Forward
Draft projection: Late first round/early second round

What to know: A crafty, competitive and rangy forward, Wendell Moore is the archetype of what you look for in an NBA small forward. He can put the ball on the floor, he plays with really good anticipation on defense, and he's got a smooth jumper he shoots with confidence. Playing alongside Tre Jones is going to unlock Moore's potential as a catch-and-shoot player.

mamadi-diakite.jpg
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite made the right decision to return for his senior season. USATSI

6. Mamadi Diakite, Virginia

Measurables: 6-9, 228 pounds
Position: Power forward
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Despite playing just over 20 minutes of action per game last season, Mamadi Diakite finished top 10 in the ACC in blocked shots. And down the stretch, he was critical in keying UVA's title run. This season he figures to pick up where he left off last season as a shot-blocking savant. If he can expand his offensive arsenal even a bit, he'll thrust himself among the ACC's most intriguing draft prospects.

7. Vernon Carey, Duke

Measurables: 6-10, 270 pounds
Position: Center
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Being a big man at Duke has worked out well for the draft stock of many. Jahlil Okafor. Marvin Bagley. Wendell Carter. And Vernon Carey is next. He may not put up the same huge numbers as Okafor or Bagley did in their heyday, but Carey figures to be a vital component of Duke's frontcourt this season. It's not unreasonable to think that his nimble feet and impressive mobility (for a 6-10 center) play as strengths for his NBA profile.

8. Xavier Johnson, Pittsburgh

Measurables: 6-3, 220 pounds
Position: Guard
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: There weren't many bright spots for Pitt last season, but the discovery of Xavier Johnson as a building block was certainly one of them. The former three-star prospect finished second among ACC players in conference play in assist rate, third in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and fourth in free-throw rate, all according to KenPom.com. Translated, he distributed the ball well and attacked the rim aggressively as Pitt ran its offense through him. Now that he's officially on the radar, he's in for a breakout sophomore season with more notoriety soon to follow.

9. Patrick Williams, Florida State

Measurables: 6-8, 225 pounds
Position: Forward
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: The highest-rated signee for FSU in 2019, Patrick Williams has what you can't teach: size. Leonard Hamilton loves to recruit length, and Patrick Williams should slot in as one of the most intriguing freshmen to enter the ACC this season given his long-term potential as a two-way wing.

10. Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Measurables: 6-10, 232 pounds
Position: Power forward
Draft projection: Second round/undrafted

What to know: Luke Maye's successful decade-long tenure at North Carolina is now finished, leaving the door open for blue-chip freshman big man Armando Bacot to step in and be a big contributor from day one. Bacot isn't quite the modern-day big man you can plop into the NBA and expect to flourish, but he's a crafty interior playmaker who wields his size well. At the college level -- and especially at UNC, where they still heavily rely on post play -- he should be really productive.

11. Samuell Williamson, Louisville

Measurables: 6-7, 190 pounds
Position: Guard
Draft projection: Second round/undrafted

What to know: One of the most intriguing under-the-radar prospects in this year's crop of ACC newbies. Sameull Williamson's a gifted athlete who has some polish to his game offensively that suggests he's just scratching the surface. He'll need to grow quickly for a top-5 preseason Louisville team, and I think the situation is perfect for him to blossom into a very viable first-round prospect by season's end. 

Other names to watch: Cassius Stanley, Duke; Steven Enoch, Louisville; Markell Johnson, NC State; M.J. Walker, Florida State

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