Gerald Henderson Delivers When Duke Needs It Most
Over Duke's last four games, Gerald Henderson has averaged 22 points and 5.75 rebounds. He has shot 61 percent from the field and 73 percent from three-point range. Duke as a team has shot 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. But those numbers include Henderson's stats.
Without Henderson, Duke has shot 39.49 percent from the field and 33.33 percent from three-point range. Part of that has been Jon Scheyer's well-publicized slump (7-of-33 from the field in the last four games). But in reality, the team as a whole has been playing atrocious offensive basketball lately, with the obvious exception of Henderson.
One has only to look at the first half of the Florida State game to see that Duke is simply not hitting on all cylinders right now. They had 19 points in the first half against FSU. They managed only 22 in the first half two nights ago against NC State.
Now, this is something that would be truly worrying, were it not for the fact that Duke is playing very well defensively right now. They are currently rated third by kenpom.com in defensive efficiency, behind only Louisville and Memphis.
However, it doesn't matter how well you play defense, you must score more than 19 or 22 points in a half if you want to beat Wake Forest or UNC.
So, how does Duke fix their offense?
Well, if I could answer that question with certainty, maybe I should look into a coaching career. However, there are some things that Duke was doing earlier in the season that they haven't been doing as much lately, and I think that this may be part of the problem.
1. Play Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer a Bit Less
Both players are currently averaging between 30.5 and 31 minutes. But each player's minutes have steadily increased as the season has progressed. Both players averaged 36 mpg for the five games prior to Tuesday night's NC State game.
Letting them rest for a few minutes, maybe across a TV timeout in the first half, could greatly increase their productivity and efficiency at the end of games, where it may be needed most.
2. Feed the Ball to Brian Zoubek
You think I'm joking, I know you do. But the simple truth is that when Duke gets Zoubek the ball at the high post and runs the offense through him, they play cleaner and more efficiently.
Believe me, that's not something I ever expected to say, but from watching the games this season, it's true. He won't be a major scorer or "dominate" any games, but he's a good passer. When he pulls his man away from the basket and opens up the paint, he's very good at finding cutters down the lane or baseline for easy baskets. Duke did this very well earlier in the season, but they have gotten away from it lately.
3. Find a Few Minutes Per Game for Elliot Williams
I know he's a freshman still learning Duke's system. It's a big transition going from a very unstructured concept where he always had the ball in his hands, to a complex motion system where he always has to know where to be. But this kid has all the tools to be a dynamic scorer, and he already plays good on-ball defense. Over the last six games, he is averaging just over three minutes a game.
Prior to that, he was averaging 14. I'm not asking for 14 mpg for him, but give him eight to 10. He can bring explosiveness to the floor, something that is missing whenever Gerald Henderson is on the bench.
As I said before, I'm no expert. These three things may be the completely wrong steps to take. But judging from the way this season has gone, when these things have happened, Duke has played better.
The last few games have me worried that we will see another February/March swoon, and that's not something I want to see happen again.
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