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Duke Basketball: How Rivers-Less Blue Devils Will Improve in 2012-13

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammates Seth Curry #30 and Quinn Cook #2 after hitting a game-winning 3 pointer to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-84 during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Mitch CharetteCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2012

The Duke Blue Devils saw their most intimidating player, Austin Rivers, leave for the NBA this past June, but his absence may be just what the team needs in order to improve and succeed in the 2012-2013 season.

There is no doubt that Rivers was a talented and polarizing combination guard, as he led the Duke team in scoring with 15.5 points per game. The young star was also the only player on Coach Krzyzewski's roster who had the ability to effectively drive to the rim consistently.

As always, however, with the good comes the bad. Rivers showed immaturity throughout the season, most notably with his play as point guard and the reluctance to pass. While averaging only 2.1 assists per game, he turned the ball over 2.3 times per game. A higher turnover ratio is exactly what you do not want to see from a player tasked to be the playmaker and leader on the floor.

Now that Rivers has been drafted to the NBA, Cameron Crazies and all other Blue Devil fans should feel not only a sigh of relief, but excitement for the upcoming season.

With the departure of Rivers, multiple players will benefit—along with the team as a whole.

Likely to benefit the most is Sophomore point guard Quinn Cook. Cook is immensely talented with the ball, and although he may not possess the scoring ability of Rivers, he is a true point guard who can create his own shots as well as provide more opportunities for the remaining four players on the court—something Rivers struggled with.

The key to Cook's success will be his ability to drive to the rim. Last year, Duke was a team consisting mostly of shooters and two big men, whom rarely saw the benefits of Rivers' ability to get into the lane. With Cook controlling the ball, assists should vastly improve and players such as Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee will find themselves with more comfortable positioning and therefore easier shots.

Another player who is seemingly glad to see Rivers gone is Curry—and he expressed that feeling when talking to reporter Shawn Krest of CBS. As Krest reported on his Twitter account:

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