The Duke Blue Devils are the talk of the basketball world after their dismantling of Kentucky in the season opener in Indianapolis on Tuesday night.
Duke’s trio of freshmen stars all looked like the real deal against the Wildcats and, as such, people began speculating about how good this team can be. Some, like Stephen A. Smith, insisted they could go undefeated on the season and win the title with these special players, while others took things even further by posing the question that’s always asked when there’s a dominant college team: could they beat the worst NBA team?
It used to be “could Kentucky beat [insert worst NBA team here]” and now Duke has that title — in football this debate has been raging with Alabama for nearly a decade. Most people around the NBA scoff at the idea, but Paul Pierce, likely a future Hall of Famer, declared on ESPN that he believes Duke would beat the 1-10 Cleveland Cavaliers if they were to play.
Chauncey Billups was having none of it, but Pierce insisted they could beat what is certainly a very bad Cavaliers team. The problem, as it always is with this argument, is that Duke is not a deep team beyond their top level stars and at some point they’re either going to have to rest them and put non-NBA caliber talent on the floor or play their stars until they’re exhausted.
There’s no doubt Duke is talented and those top three stars will all be NBA players next year, but once you get past them, even the other NBA prospects on the team figure to be miles behind current, established players — even the mediocre to bad ones in Cleveland. Beyond that, we’ll never know because no NBA team would be foolish enough to take that challenge if it was extended because there is only risk and no reward to playing a college team.