Over the past few years, it looks like Duke freshmen have been diamonds in the rough in the NBA — and there's possibly another one coming in 2023.
Dariq Whitehead is a player full of potential and has shown his ability to do some good things on the court, and everyone is waiting to see him put it all together.
The 6’6” freshman is not your typical athletic player, but one thing he can do is make shots. His catch-and-shoot numbers were solid at Duke (44% C&S), and he was not afraid to take those shots, whether they were contested or not.
If you watch his game, you can see his confidence in taking those shots, and he’s shown the ability to hit pull-up jumpers as well. Being able to maneuver around the perimeter for a shot is important, and Whitehead can do so if needed. He is the type of player that can get you a bucket with the shot clock running down, and at Duke, he didn't seem to back away from those moments.
Though his shotmaking is good, finishing is an area where Whitehead will need to see improvement. At Duke, he didn't have many moments creating for himself and finishing at the rim, despite having some good looks. If he wants to put more pressure on the defense, his attacking must be better.
With multiple foot surgeries behind him, it's been hard to see what Whitehead can really do on offense if healthy, but his high school tape showed someone that could get a bucket from anywhere. If he's able to get some of his athleticism back from injuries, things could look brighter for him in the league.
Defensively, Whitehead’s impact isn't something that pops off the screen, but he does his job and has some on-ball skills. With his size, he has just enough quickness to stay in front of his man, and his length helps to better contest shots from the perimeter. There were times during his freshman year when he had some defensive lapses, especially when it came to switching and letting his man beat him off the first step.
Whitehead recently has another foot surgery, but he is expected to be fully recovered for the start of training camp. Injury concerns may be something that make him fall on draft boards, but it's undeniable what he can do when he's healthy.
It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see the Hawks take a flyer on Whitehead with the 15th pick. The past two drafts, Atlanta has drafted Duke prospects in Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin, and they've turned out to be solid prospects who can contribute heavily in the future. Whitehead is another wing player that can shoot the ball and has some defensive upside, so it's possible that the Hawks could be good landing spot for him. In today's NBA, you can never have too many wing players.