Rasheed Sulaimon is the latest in a line of high-profile recruits to join the backcourt for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. Sulaimon, considered by many to be one of the purest shooters in the class, follows in the footsteps of Austin Rivers (2011), Kyrie Irving (2010) and Elliot Williams (2008).
These three players all had varying degrees of success during their freshman campaigns, so in which direction will Sulaimon's freshman year go?
Here are five predictions for Sulaimon's first year on campus.
Sulaimon will fit right into Austin Rivers spot in this huddle.
This has become almost a foregone conclusion due to the complications in the Andre Dawkins situation. Sulaimon is a perfect fit to play the wing and will function much better off the ball than Austin Rivers did this past season.
Sulaimon will slide right in thanks to his catch-and-shoot ability off of drives by Quinn Cook, and he can also create his own shot to take some pressure off the other guards. His presence will be felt immediately, especially by Seth Curry.
Sulaimon's spot-up ability will make defenses respect his side of the court, which will lead to more passing lanes on Curry's side of the floor. Everyone wins with Sulaimon in the starting lineup.
Quinn Cook will take over much of the point guard responsibilities next year, splitting them with Tyler Thornton (not pictured).
When Duke has had effective outside shooters, which Sulaimon certainly is, there is a noticeable spike in the point guard's assist numbers. Sulaimon's arrival will also allow Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton to play more of a pure point, something Duke has not had either of the last two seasons.
The best example of this is Greg Paulus. Paulus played with J.J. Redick during his freshman season and handed out a career-best 187 assists (5.2 per game). After Redick left Paulus' numbers dropped to 3.8 assists per game as a sophomore and 3.2 as a junior.
Not to compare Sulaimon to Redick, which is simply unfair, but his shot-making ability will have a similar effect on the team.
Austin Rivers was a ball-stopper. Once the ball was in his hands, everything stopped as he tried to make an individual move to beat his man. Sulaimon's skill set will encourage more ball movement, which has always been a barometer for good Duke teams.
The 2010 National Championship team ranked 15th in the country in assists (555), and the 2001 team ranked first (701).
Austin Rivers was on of two unanimous picks to the All-Freshman team in 2012.
The ACC has some very talented incoming freshman, but it is hard to imagine that too many other newcomers will have as large an impact on their teams as Sulaimon will. His scoring stroke and defensive effort should put him on that team.
The 2013 All-Freshman team will likely look something like this:
- Marcus Paige, North Carolina
- Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
- Rodney Purvis, NC State
- J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina
- Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
Sulaimon would be the second straight Blue Devil to make the team after Austin Rivers this season.
Rivers' one electrifying moment as a freshman was his game-winner against North Carolina.
It is hard to imagine that someone with Sulaimon's ability to shoot won't find himself in position to win a game or two next year. Whether it comes through a designed play or, like Rivers did this past year, he takes it into his own hands is up in the air, but the opportunity will likely come, and Sulaimon will take advantage.
This is more of a fun prediction because there is no guarantee that it will actually come to pass, but it is always fun to see young players come up big in big moments. Hopefully we will get to see what his crunch-time ability is like.
Sulaimon is too talented a player and is poised to be too important to the success of the Blue Devils next season to not have an impressive final stat line. Here is where things start to get a little more fun than the last slide.
Here is my projected stat line for Rasheed Sulaimon in 2013:
- 31 games played, 29 games started
- 27.4 minutes per game
- 11.2 points
- 2.3 assists
- 1.3 steals
- 60-for-154 three-point shooting (39 percent)
- 45 percent field goal shooting
If Sulaimon can follow through on these predictions, he will be one of the most successful freshmen the Blue Devils have had in some time. Let's just hope we can keep him for more than one year.