Duke Basketball: Why Shabazz Muhammad Would Change the Blue Devil Way

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Duke Basketball: Why Shabazz Muhammad Would Change the Blue Devil Way
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Duke has not had a player like Shabazz Muhammad on the roster since Luol Deng in 2003-04.

Since 2006-07, the Duke Blue Devils have lived, and died, by the three-point shot. Elite outside shooters like Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Seth Curry and Austin Rivers have been the focal point of an offensive attack that can be as overwhelming in wins as it is debilitating in losses.

That '06-'07 marks the beginning of several trends that have shaped the program into what we know it to be today. Let's take a look at what happened that season (all numbers courtesy of Sports Reference: College Basketball).

  • Josh McRoberts was the second leading scorer (13.0 point per game), making him the last true post player to finish in the top two.
  • Duke made 198 three-point shots. Since this season, the Blue Devils have not made less than 200 in a single season.
  • At least four players have attempted 100 or more three-pointers in a season. The two exceptions being this year (first-round exit) and the 2009-10 champions (Singler and Scheyer took a combined 500, however).
  • Duke lost 11 games that season. Since '06-'07, the Blue Devils have not lost more than seven in a single season.

What do these numbers mean, though? Well, it proves that Duke has become reliant on the outside shot due to a lack of post scoring or a perimeter player who could create his own shot.

Which brings me to my point: Shabazz Muhammad's arrival at Duke would bring an end to this over-reliance on outside shooting.

Muhammad has a decent outside shot, but he is at his best when he is attacking the rim and getting himself to the line. His ability to create his own shot off the dribble is unmatched and nobody will outwork him once he gets a piece of the paint.

Will Shabazz Muhammad's presence change the way Duke plays next season?

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Some of you may be saying: "But you just said we haven't lost more than seven games since '06, so why fix what isn't broken?"

To you I say: "Lehigh."

Duke struggled to hit from the outside, making just 6-of-26 from three, and when they needed to get points down the stretch they had no go-to scorer who could will his way into the lane. Having a player like Muhammad takes away that reliance on the three because you know he is at least going to get a piece of the paint.

Muhammad would also open things up for the shooters that Duke inevitably will have next season. Rasheed Sulaimon and his pure stroke from three will join Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry next year. Muhammad would bring back the drive-and-kick game that made the Smith-Scheyer-Singler team so unstoppable.

From a post perspective, Muhammad doesn't solve the problem but he could help improve that situation as well. His driving would draw double teams, which would result in easy buckets for Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy and Mason Plumlee (fingers crossed).

Muhammad is such a transcendent talent that he would cure all of the ills that this season brought and bring back some of the inside-out action that has always been a staple of Mike Krzyzewski's teams.

April 11 could be a very happy day in Durham for fans and players alike.

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