Duke Basketball: One Early-Season Adjustment Each Blue Devil Must Make
Blue Devils fans couldn’t ask for a better start to the 2012-13 season from Mike Krzyzewski’s talented team.
Duke is 9-0 and already boasts enough quality wins on its resume to get into the NCAA Tournament, even if it is eons away.
Unfortunately, though, the national title isn’t handed out at the end of December.
To stay ahead of the competition, the Blue Devils will need to stay ahead of the curve.
No matter how impressive they’ve been thus far, each Dukie could make an adjustment to his game as the Blue Devils head into the teeth of the schedule.
Here’s one adjustment each Blue Devil would be wise to make.
Mason Plumlee: Keep a Level Head
Right now, Mason Plumlee really doesn’t have to change anything about his game—he’s that good.
Plumlee is one of the leading candidates at this point for the prestigious Naismith Trophy. That’s mainly because he’s one of the game’s most complete players.
He’s scoring on the block, swatting shots away on defense and cleaning up the glass on both ends of the court.
Plumlee has even improved his free throw shooting, an area of his game that was once a liability.
As long as Plumlee doesn’t let the hype get to his head and try and do too much, his dominance of the competition will continue well into the winter and spring.
Seth Curry: Stay Outside
Obviously Seth Curry is a player who thrives outside of the three-point arc for Duke.
He needs to stay there the remainder of the season. That’s not a knock on Curry’s ability to occasionally drive to the basket because he has proven he’s got that in his repertoire, too.
But since Curry is nursing a shin injury that will bother him all season, along with an ankle injury, he needs to limit the amount of physical contact he receives in games.
The best way to do that will be cutting down on the amount of times he takes the ball to the rack.
Ryan Kelly: Stay Inside
For Duke to continue inflicting damage offensively, they’ll need Mason Plumlee to live inside and Seth Curry outside.
Curry is already getting enough help from other teammates as far as lighting it up from the perimeter is concerned.
That’s why Duke needs Ryan Kelly to go inside more for the remainder of the season. He needs to help out Plumlee in terms of rebounding and scoring tough inside points.
Kelly can obviously shoot threes very well. But it will be how well he plays in the paint from here on out that will go a long way in determining Duke’s success for the rest of the season.
Quinn Cook: Prepare for the Physicality
A major force behind Duke’s very successful start to the season is Quinn Cook.
The sophomore has played well and given the Blue Devils the stability they needed at the point guard position.
But as ACC play looms around the corner, Cook needs to anticipate seeing more physical play from opposing guards.
These guards will make it a point of emphasis to slow down Duke’s offense through Cook the facilitator.
He has fared well so far in non-conference play against the likes of Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and VCU’s suffocating backcourt defense.
It will be interesting to see if Cook can keep it going.
Rasheed Sulaimon: Drive to the Basket More
It’s hard to come up with an adjustment for Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon.
Simply put, the freshman has been sensational so far in his young career, averaging 12 PPG. But if there’s any adjustment Sulaimon could make, he could drive to the rim more often.
First, he’s so good at it already. Second, he’s shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line. The more opportunities he gets in that area, the better.
Finally, as aforementioned, the injured Seth Curry would be better off driving less to the basket to limit physical contact.
Who better to replace Curry in this instance than the explosive Sulaimon?
Tyler Thornton: Shoot More
Tyler Thornton is widely regarded by analysts as Duke’s best on ball defender.
The bad thing about this is that people have pigeonholed Thornton as simply a defensive pitbull with no bite offensively.
That’s a shame, because Thornton can shoot the ball effectively on occasion.
Thornton is actually a more effective shooter than advertised, a fact that the folks over at Duke Hoop Blog pointed out through evidence back in October.
This only serves as further proof that Thornton needs to shoot more as the season continues to unfold.
Alex Murphy: Do the Small Things More Often
At 6’8”, Alex Murphy is a big guy for the Duke Blue Devils.
However, Murphy needs to do all the small things if he wants to see more playing time this season.
The redshirt freshman will have to crash the boards, hustle on defense and chase down loose balls to get into Coach K’s good graces.
Murphy has the potential to be a great one for Duke, but he needs to complete the baby steps before he can make that big leap in his young career.
Amile Jefferson: Keep the Aggressiveness Going
Freshman Amile Jefferson has seen his playing time increase recently for Duke.
That’s because he’s becoming less and less passive on the court.
Jefferson must continue playing with an edge to help out Duke heading into ACC play.
He’s shown lots of aggression in recent solid games against Temple and Delaware. It’s a kind of aggression that’s always welcomed at Duke.
Pairing that ruthlessness with Mason Plumlee’s all around dominance will make Duke’s frontline nearly unstoppable.
Josh Hairston: Help out (literally) on Defense
By now in his career, many Duke fans expected junior Josh Hairston to have earned more playing time.
However, Hairston is seeing just roughly 10 minutes of playing time per game.
So, the best way for Hairston to maximize his limited playing time is to find a niche and stick to it. That niche appears to be playing great help defense.
Having Hairston hold down the fort on the weak side will help in situations where guards like Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon get beat off the dribble.
Marshall Plumlee: Get Healthy
While Mason Plumlee is tearing it up for Duke, his younger brother Marshall has been relegated to the bench so far this season.
But that’s not Marshall’s fault.
Marshall has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot, causing him to miss the entire season so far.
The only major adjustment he can make right now is simply healing the injury. That way, he can finally share the court with his big brother.