Ryan Kelly's Injury Exposes Blue Devils Lack of Depth in Frontcourt

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2013

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 08:  Ryan Kelly #34 of the Duke Blue Devils looks for a foul call after being knocked to the floor on a three-point attempt against the Clemson Tigers during play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 8, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils are set to be tested in a major way. I'm not speaking of a specific opponent, although a tough road game against No. 20 North Carolina State looms.

Duke's frontcourt depth took a huge hit with the recent injury to forward Ryan Kelly. The senior forward is out for what's being called "an extended period" per CBS Sports

This one injury really exposes the team's lack of viable options up front.

The bulk of the paint work has been carried by Mason Plumlee and Kelly this season. This is especially the case on defense where Kelly's absence will immediately be missed.

He is the team's leading shot-blocker at 1.7 per game. 

On offense, Kelly's long-range shooting stretches the floor and creates mismatches for opponents. He's knocked down 52 percent of his attempts from three-point range this season, and that dynamic to the Blue Devils' attack will be missed as well.

Plumlee, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and freshman Amile Jefferson all have the ability to step things up offensively, but the biggest concern is on the defensive end.

The Blue Devils don't have a player with the size/experience combination to adequately step in for Kelly.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski may be forced to go full Plumlee—or at least two-thirds— in an effort to fill the defensive void in the paint.

The youngest of three Plumlee brothers to attend Duke is little used freshman seven-footer Marshall Plumlee. He has only played in four games this season after missing the first nine with a stress fracture in his foot (ACC Star News).

The oldest Plumlee brother is now an NBA rookie with the Indiana Pacers, but the injury woes makes using Mason and Marshall together a sensible option.

If Duke can weather this storm, and Kelly can return in time for the postseason, the team will be stronger for it. It will develop some of the younger players and strengthen the team for the long haul.


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