Ranking Most Important Duke Players Remaining in NBA Playoffs

There are plenty of Duke alumni playing a huge role for their playoff teams. Let's take a look at the five most important Blue Devils of the NBA Playoffs.
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4. Dereck Lively, Dallas Mavericks

Another Duke big man who is experiencing the NBA playoffs for the first time is rookie Dereck Lively II. Ever since he became the 12th-overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Lively has become an integral part of the Mavericks, starting over half the games and playing over 20 minutes per game.

Lively's 7'1 frame, mobility, athleticism, and energy have proven to be huge for Dallas during their postseason run. After the trade deadline, he lost his starting role to Daniel Gafford, but he still plays significant minutes off the bench, offering valuable rim protection on one end and a lob threat on the other.

There aren't too many 20-year-old centers who play a significant role on good playoff teams but Lively has done that already. If the Mavs are going deep, they need Lively to provide the dynamism that he has been doing all season.

3. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Another young Duke alumnus going through his first postseason is Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic. Tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers at 2-2, the Magic have a chance to pull off an upset and make the second round in a season no one expected them to be a playoff team. They owe much of that success to Banchero.

Naturally, as any second-year player would, Banchero has had his struggles so far. He has 19 turnovers in four games and had difficulty scoring over the length of Cavs defenders. Cleveland is guarding him with an elite defender in Evan Mobley and Banchero has struggled with efficiency. But, he has made enough shots to keep this limited Orlando offense afloat. Even if they fail to make it out of the first round, the future is bright for this young Magic team.