4 Bench Players Critical to Duke Basketball Success

Sam DrakeCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

4 Bench Players Critical to Duke Basketball Success

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    Coach Krzyzewski has used a variety of starting line-ups this year: There is not one group that consistently starts.

    There are, on the other hand, a few players who normally always start. Those players are Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee.

    Coach K mixes and mashes his starting lineup in order to find a group that works well and can do damage in the beginning of the game.

    This has created intriguing lineups, like the super tall lineup with both Mason and Miles Plumlee, and the shooting lineup with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Ryan Kelly.

    Just because a player starts on the bench, that doesn't mean that he won't play much.

    Against the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, Rivers sat on the bench in the beginning, while Quinn Cook started.

    However, Cook only played 14 minutes, while Rivers logged 32 minutes of work.

    In order for Duke to have success in both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, these players must step up.

Ryan Kelly

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    Ryan Kelly is a key part to the Blue Devils success.

    The 6'11" forward comes off the bench to provide a spark to an offense that can be stagnant at times.

    He uses his tall frame to post up defenders but can also step back and hit a three-point shot with amazing accuracy for someone as tall as he is. 

    Kelly is also a good defender—he has the ability to guard forwards as well as centers. 

    This year, Kelly averages 26 minutes per game which is a lot for someone who mostly starts the game on the bench.

    There have been times during this season that Kelly has disappeared from the game.

    For instance, when Duke played Ohio St., Kelly actually started the game but only logged 15 minutes of play.

    During that time, he was 0-2 shooting with three rebounds, one turnover, and one foul. 

    On the other hand, Kelly has the ability to shoot lights out.

    In a game against Wake Forest, Kelly had 21 points on 3-4 shooting and was a perfect 14-14 from the free-throw line.

    He also contributed with five rebounds, three of them on the offensive end.

Quinn Cook

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    Quinn Cook is the future at the point guard position for Duke.

    The six-foot freshman is the only true point guard that actually plays for the Blue Devils.

    Although he doesn't play a lot of minutes, he has shown the potential to be a factor in games.

    In only his 12th game for Coach K, he came off the bench to score 16 points, dish out eight assists and grab four rebounds—in only 23 minutes of play. 

    Cook must log meaningful minutes to help out the starters who play close to three-fourths of a game. It is his job to ensure that the offense keeps clicking.

    Austin Rivers and Seth Curry cannot play the entire game.

    With Cook on the floor, they are able to get some much needed rest.

Andre Dawkins

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    Andre Dawkins is similar to Ryan Kelly: There are points when he disappears from the game and is a non-factor.

    When hot, Dawkins is a long ball threat.

    Against Florida St., he put the team on his back and made five of seven 3-pointers in the first half.

    He was 6-9 overall and scored 22 points overall and had four rebounds. 

    And just like Kelly, he can provide a spark to help get the offense going. He is yet another shooting/point guard that can help give Rivers and Curry a break.

    When he is on, he is one of the best shooters for Duke and can make the Blue Devil offense even harder to guard.

Tyler Thornton

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    Tyler Thornton is yet another guard that can come into the game to give other players rest.

    While he may not be as good of shooter as Rivers or a good passer like Cook, he is still capable enough to start every now and then for Coach K. 

    This year he has logged about 20 minutes per game and is dishing out two assists and scoring four points per game.

    He has shown the ability to score. Against Western Michigan, he had 12 points on 4-4 three-point shooting.

    He is only a sophomore and still has a lot of room for improvement.

    Duke fans are hoping he doesn't turn out like Dawkins who had a lot of expectations surrounding him but has quite lived up to the hype.