Ranking Duke Basketball's Biggest Offensive Threats

Thad NovakCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2012

Ranking Duke Basketball's Biggest Offensive Threats

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    Even in a down year for Duke in 2011-12, the Blue Devil offense ranked in the nation’s top 20 in scoring. As Coach K's boys look to bounce back from a disappointing finish, another great offensive showing will be needed.

    Just like last year, one of the crucial factors will be Seth Curry’s long-range shooting. The rising senior hit more three-pointers than any other Blue Devil last season, and that kind of shooting touch will always be rewarded in Coach K’s offense.

    Read on for more on Curry and the rest of the keys to Duke’s offensive success in 2012-13.

5. Amile Jefferson

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    As highly touted as Amile Jefferson is, it’s hard to picture the freshman starting in the Duke frontcourt.

    That being the case, the primary limitation on Jefferson’s scoring is going to be how many minutes he can win for himself.

    Jefferson has more potential as an offensive weapon than any of Duke’s forwards, given his athleticism and finishing ability.

    However, without a top-notch jumper to back up those assets, he’s not going to be quite the scorer as a freshman that he should eventually become by the time he’s done in Durham.

4. Ryan Kelly

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    Miles Plumlee’s graduation means extra minutes for the sweet-shooting Ryan Kelly, who made the most of his comparatively limited playing time last year.

    Presuming that he doesn’t suffer any recurrence of the foot injury that knocked him out of the postseason, Kelly’s ability to stretch opposing defenses will again be at the heart of the Duke offense.

    Kelly’s .408 three-point shooting was the team’s best last season, and he should knock down even more treys this season.

    However, he isn’t much at creating his own shots (or being aggressive inside at 6'11"), and those vulnerabilities will keep him from being too much more than a role player, even as a senior.

3. Seth Curry

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    A natural shooting guard, Seth Curry was pressed into splitting time at the point last season, thanks to Duke’s lack of a true floor leader.

    That scenario is set to repeat itself for Curry’s senior season, and just like last time, he’s sure to create plenty of his own shots while handling the ball for Coach K.

    Curry was the Blue Devils’ second-leading scorer last year (13.2 points per game), thanks largely to his .383 long-range shooting.

    With more experience as a distributor, Curry is likely to dish out a few more assists (after posting a paltry 2.4 per game last year) and take a few less shots this year, but he’s still going to be one of the team’s top marksmen in 2012-13.

2. Mason Plumlee

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    Despite taking a huge step forward as a scorer last season, Mason Plumlee still doesn’t get much credit for putting points on the board.

    This season, though, he’ll be a senior with loads of starting experience in a conference with few opponents to match his size and skills.

    The 6'10" Plumlee is already a dominant rebounder (9.2 boards per game last year), and he’ll turn even more of those boards into second-chance points next season.

    Add in his improving back-to-the-basket abilities, and it won’t be a surprise if his scoring average jumps another four points—into the 15 point-per-game range—as he closes his college career.

1. Rasheed Sulaimon

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    Austin Rivers is gone, but his absence isn’t going to change the Duke offense all that much. Another stud freshman, Rasheed Sulaimon, is ready to step in as the Blue Devils' primary scoring option.

    Sulaimon doesn’t have quite the three-point stroke of the typical Duke perimeter weapon, but he’s a pure scorer who (like Rivers) can attack the basket as well as anybody.

    He gives every indication of being the kind of go-to offensive weapon that can put Duke back on top of the ACC.