Rasheed Sulaimon may have hit a slump, but Duke fans can sleep worry-free as March Madness creeps up around the corner.
Among the excitement over Ryan Kelly's return and 36-point performance in Duke's win over Miami, a bit of bad news was overshadowed. For the 10th time this season (and second game in a row), Sulaimon failed to reach the two-digit mark in points.
The freshman has been less than inspiring in the last two games, scoring only 11 combined points and hitting only five of the 17 shots he took. Also, he has failed to connect on a three-pointer during that span, despite attempting eight of them.
However, that is no reason for worry. Sulaimon's slump is nothing more than a momentary one and, even if he can't find to his better form again, Duke has plenty of pieces to step up in his place.
Here are four reasons why Sulaimon's slump is nothing to worry about.
The very first point is also going to be the most obvious. Sulaimon has stepped up in such big ways this year that we sometimes forget the dude is only a freshman in college. Here's a reality check for you: He was born in 1994.
Sulaimon has been criticized in the past for his composure on the floor. One of the people to point this out was Bleacher Report's own Dantzler Smith:
While it is great that he plays with such passion, his frustrations have a tendency to negatively impact his game. Against Virginia, when Sulaimon slumped his shoulders and dropped his head after every Joe Harris bucket, the Duke freshman had four points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Smith is entirely correct saying that the freshman needs to do a better job keeping his emotions in check.
However, can we give somebody that hasn't even been on this planet for 20 years the benefit a bad couple of weeks? Yes, yes we can.
Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee
Duke fans are so spoiled. What a luxury it is to have on your team high-caliber players like Kelly, Plumlee and Seth Curry. All of these, by the way, score more points per game than Sulaimon.
Coach K quite literally doesn't need Sulaimon to score 20 points every game because he has plenty of guys on the floor that are capable of taking care of the scoring load. In fact, a lot of these guys are better scorers than Sulaimon anyway. As the Miami game proved, Duke can still win big games even if Sulaimon isn't having crazy 27-point nights.
Passing and Defense
Perhaps the most worrying number from Sulaimon's last two games was the zero under the assists column against Miami. Sulaimon's passing was a very pleasant surprise this year and Duke can definitely use his vision and intelligence on the offensive floor night in and night out.
Also, Sulaimon has made a name for himself on the perimeter with his defense. With the floor once more, Dantzler Smith:
As a perimeter defender, his long arms produce a hefty wingspan and his lateral movement has good pace. The result is that guards, even quick ones, find it hard to get around Sulaimon. When he’s forced into the post by bigger opponents, Sulaimon is strong and athletic enough to hold his own.
Fans should not be worried Sulaimon's struggles on the offensive floor because he can bring a lot more to the table.
It's happened before
Calm down, people. Sulaimon's has had bad stretches before and he emerged from them like a boss every single time.
Between December 29 and January 12, he averaged 6.4 points in a spam of five games, including a game in which he missed all 10 shots he took.
He followed up that stretch by scoring 15, 16 and 25 points in the next three games.
Slumps are expected of the still inconsistent Sulaimon. Thankfully for Duke fans, it is just as expected that he will brush of these bad stretches with some very impressive ones.
And hey, guess what? March Madness is just around the corner. Maybe he's just waiting for the right moment to strike.