Duke Basketball: Ways the Blue Devils Can Replace Andre Dawkins
In this day and age of college athletics, it’s almost unheard of for a healthy upperclassman to redshirt a season. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening to senior Duke shooting guard Andre Dawkins.
Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed that Dawkins would redshirt this season in late June, saying “it’s time for him to step away (from the program).”
The most likely reason (although all we can do is speculate) that this is the time for the sweet-shooting Dawkins to step away is to deal with the devastating loss of his sister, who was tragically killed in a car accident during Dawkins’ freshman season.
With Dawkins away from the team this upcoming season, Coach K will have to come up with some ways to replace Dawkins’ on-court contributions. For starters, here are a few.
Rely on the Inside Game a Bit More
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The Duke Blue Devils’ frontcourt certainly isn’t getting confused with Phi Slama Jama anytime soon. Still, one way for coach Mike Krzyzewski and his team to overcome the one-year loss of Andre Dawkins’ outside shooting could be to focus on pushing the basketball inside on a more consistent basis.
If that’s the case, then Coach K will be calling primarily on the Plumlee brothers (senior Mason and redshirt freshman Marshall), senior Ryan Kelly and freshman Amile Jefferson to bring the beef inside.
Having more of a scoring presence down low is vital for Duke this season, not only to make up for the loss of Dawkins’ 8.4 ppg from last season, but to allow the Blue Devils to bounce back from their miserable ending from last season.
Behind an imbalanced scoring attack down the stretch this past March (it was pretty much 'rely on Austin Rivers and the 3-pointer'), Duke fizzled out, culminating in them being upset by Lehigh in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
If any of the four aforementioned big men can step up for Duke this upcoming season, it will be a solid way to replace Dawkins’ productivity through more of a balanced offense.
Count on Improved Play from Seth Curry
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Many Duke fans are hoping that shooting guard Seth Curry’s final season in Durham will be a memorable one. The question will be whether or not Curry can take another step in improving upon his 13.4 ppg average from last season.
If he can this year, then Curry may be able to single-handedly replace Andre Dawkins’ contributions from beyond the arc. For those who doubt Curry’s ability to become even more of a scorer than he’s been as a Blue Devil, let me remind you that he averaged 20.2 ppg in his only season playing for Liberty.
And when you consider that Curry’s surrounding talent at Liberty wasn’t the caliber of that at Duke, then that 20.2 ppg mark is even more impressive. It remains to be seen if Curry will be forced to duplicate his Liberty point production for Duke to be successful this year.
But if he happens to, then Mike Krzyzewski can breathe a bit easier knowing that he’s found at least one way to compensate for the loss of Dawkins.
Hope the Young Guns Come to Play
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How well the Duke Blue Devils replace Andre Dawkins for one year may hinge on the team’s promising crop of both true and redshirt freshmen.
Even before taking the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the quartet will be expected to contribute to coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team almost immediately. There has been talk that redshirt freshman small forward Alex Murphy could very well be the next Kyle Singler or Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Murphy has a similar frame (6’8”) and outside shooting stroke when compared to those two particular Duke national champions.
Redshirt freshman power forward Marshall Plumlee (the last of the trio of Duke brothers) is expected to make an impact in the paint, as is highly touted freshman big man Amile Jefferson. The tall, lanky Jefferson committed to play for Coach K late in the recruiting process. But perhaps the freshman who will be the best of the bunch is Houston shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
His game is very similar to that of former Duke star Nolan Smith and will only improve during his time with the US-Under 18 national team this summer. If these diaper dandies prove their worth right away, then Duke will be able to cope without Dawkins for a year.
Trust the System
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Over the past several years, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke teams have predicated their offenses around the idea of dribble penetration and kick-out three-pointers. In layman’s terms, this is the drive-and-dish offense.
Whether Andre Dawkins is there to hit those open threes or not, the Blue Devils’ offense will fare just fine as long as the players can return to trusting the system that played a part in winning the team a national title just two seasons ago.
Last season, Duke’s offense revolved many times around Austin Rivers’ great ability to create his own shot. At times, Rivers kicked out to the open shooter through his penetration; and at other times, he simply didn’t.
With Quinn Cook manning the offense, Coach K is hoping that there will be far more dishing of the rock than there was when it was in Rivers’ hands. If that’s the case, then the Blue Devils certainly have their fair share of quality outside shooters (guys like Ryan Kelly, Rasheed Sulaimon, Seth Curry and Alex Murphy) who are more than capable of stroking the long ball.
With so many snipers on the roster, Duke fans may forget about Dawkins’ shooting, if only for a little while.
Don't Sweat It
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No disrespect to Andre Dawkins, but it’s not going to be that daunting of a task for coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff to try and replace his productivity on the court this approaching season.
On paper, Dawkins averaged 8.4 ppg and shot 39 percent from three-point land in 2011-12. Those are decent numbers. However, when you consider that Dawkins stepped onto campus as a coveted five-star prospect three years ago, a ppg average like that from the junior is a bit disappointing.
What also stung Duke fans last year was the fact that Dawkins struggled mightily on offense at the very end of last season. He only scored eight points combined in the team’s last six games and shot a harsh 3 of 21 from the field in the process.
A year away from the rigors of the ACC will hopefully give Dawkins the time he needs to clear his mind and return for his senior season with that outside shooting touch that he has possessed for the majority of his Duke career.
In the meantime, if Dawkins’ teammates can’t make up his modest offensive contributions from last season, then they’ll have some pretty big fish to fry.