Redshirt freshman Marshall Plumlee’s stress fractured foot had the Blue Devils already starting the season off on the wrong, well, foot.
While the youngest Plumlee’s injury certainly hurts Duke’s already limited frontcourt depth, Seth Curry missing games, or playing at less than 100 percent, has the potential to derail Duke’s entire season.
Coach Krzyzweski loves players he can leave in the game for the full 40 minutes. Curry was going to be that player for Duke this season.
As a junior, Curry averaged 30 minutes per game, second only to Austin Rivers at 33. Given Curry’s experience, intelligence and versatility, it would have been hard to justify keeping him on the bench for more than a quick breather.
After transferring from Liberty, Seth Curry had to sit out a year before being able to play for Duke. During that year, however, he was allowed to practice with the team. Receiving what amounted to a full year of apprenticeship under Coach K and the Duke coaching staff, Curry is entering his fourth year at Duke. Playing as a firth-year senior with four years of Coach K’s insight, Seth Curry is undoubtedly Duke’s most experienced player.
Even if he is injured, Curry will still serve in a leadership role, but if he’s hurt that will mean more time on the bench for a truly useful floor general.
Seth Curry’s time at Liberty also gave him experience as the team’s No. 1 scoring threat. With the loss of Rivers, Duke has to replace last year’s leading scorer. As a freshman playing at Liberty, Curry served as his team’s offensive go-to guy.
In an offense that revolved around him, Curry averaged 20.2 points per game for Liberty. Duke certainly has plenty of talented scorers, so the offensive load will not fall entirely on Curry. If healthy, he will be expected to take the big shots and lead the Blue Devils offensively. An injury to Seth Curry means someone else must step up as the team’s most reliable scorer.
It’s not just the experience as a leader and a scorer that will take a hit if Curry isn’t fully healthy. Seth Curry has proven himself to be a highly intelligent basketball player. Last year’s team was absolutely dreadful on defense. While Curry is not particularly quick, nor what you’d call a lock down defender, he did lead the team in steals.
Not the most athletic of players, Curry forced turnovers by reading the opposing offense’s sets and stepping into passing lanes or by picking the pocket of ball handlers not fully paying attention. He also drew charges.
All these moves are indicative of a player with a deep understanding of the game.
If Duke is going to improve on last year’s first-round NCAA ousting, they will have to play far better defense. On a team that doesn’t possess a ton of speed, the Blue Devils should look to play a lot of half-court defense, switching players and making sure to give weakside help.
That sort of team defense requires players like Seth Curry, who not only know what their responsibilities are, but know what their teammates should be doing as well. If Seth Curry has to come off the court, his replacement will likely be a freshman less familiar with the tenets of Coach K’s defensive system.
Of course, Curry’s intelligence isn’t just limited to the defensive side. Though a natural shooting guard, Curry found himself pressed into service as the team’s de facto point guard. He handled the situation well enough, but this year Quinn Cook is set to take the reins at the point.
This allows Curry to move back to his favored shooting guard position. The time served running the offense, however, should help Curry as he moves to a more off-the-ball role. Surely no one is better educated in the offensive system than Curry, and he ought to be able to anticipate the offensive sets to his advantage.
Seth Curry’s versatility serves as a huge advantage to an otherwise short-staffed Duke roster. If Quinn Cook and Curry are starting in the backcourt, only freshman Rasheed Sulaimon and defensive specialist Tyler Thornton are available off the bench. That bench depth is further reduced if Sulaimon works his way into the starting lineup.
Seth Curry’s ability to start at shooting guard, but move over to the point position would grant Duke a steady backcourt rotation. Sulaimon could come in for Cook and Curry could move to the point. Thornton could then briefly appear as a replacement for Curry, and then both starters could sub back on fully rested.
Without Curry, or with a limited version of him, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will have to play more minutes. While both look to be in great game shape, over the long haul of the season the physical rigors could take its toll on the two young players. It would be beneficial in the long term to be able to spell the guards and avoid overuse. With Seth Curry’s versatility, playing either the one or two guard slot, that option is available to Duke. Without Curry, people are pressed into service with no margin for injury.
Basketball is, of course, a team sport, and Duke does boast a roster full of talented players. However, in many ways Seth Curry is this team’s talisman. His experience, intelligence and versatility are invaluable to Duke’s 2012-13 fortunes.
If his leg injury proves to have a lingering effect that limits his play, Duke will find itself extremely vulnerable if not entirely upended even before their first regular season game.