Duke Basketball: Are the Blue Devils Headed for a Rebuilding Year in 2014?

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Duke Basketball: Are the Blue Devils Headed for a Rebuilding Year in 2014?
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There’s been a lot written about Duke’s stacked roster next season. After the 2012-13 season came to an end against Louisville, the speculation about the Blue Devils’ 2013-14 team has moved to the forefront for Duke fans.

But for all the possibilities in 2013-14, what about 2014-15?

It might seem strange to start thinking two years ahead, but when one-and-done players are the norm in college basketball, a team’s fortunes can change rather quickly. Kentucky proved as much this season as a national title was followed up by a first-round NIT exit to Robert Morris.

So it may be that the 2013-14 team is a bubble that will lead to 2014-15 recession in Durham.

The big additions to Duke’s 2013-14 team will be incoming freshman Jabari Parker, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye, as well as transfer Rodney Hood.

Both Parker and Hood are likely candidates to round out the starting five next season alongside Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. The fifth starter spot is up for grabs, but whatever starting lineup the Blue Devils decide to go with, Duke will have a rotation of high quality players.

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Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton will both be seniors who might earn a starting spot, but will certainly see a great deal of time off the bench. Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee will both be sophomores with the ability to play in the post on a team that lacks height. Either of them could challenge for a starting position. Alex Murphy will also be a sophomore and showed flashes of his talent on impressive cuts to the basket when he saw minutes as a freshman. If Murphy finds his feet from three, then he’ll likely force the coaching staff to find him more time on the court.

Then there’s the potential return of Andre Dawkins. He adds a sharp shooter with starter potential and will surely merit substantial minutes given his ability to blow out a wide margin for Duke by getting hot from three. After taking a year off, it’s hard to know where he stands in terms of his on-court abilities. If he’s the Andre Dawkins of old, however, he’ll certainly contend for a starting spot or at least get serious minutes off the bench.

So even before new arrivals Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye come into the picture, Duke has 10 players that deserve to see a healthy amount of time on the court.

As great as that sounds, it’s not sustainable.

Once the 2013-14 season is over, Hairston and Thornton will have graduated. Rodney Hood is likely bound for the NBA after one year at Duke, as is Jabari Parker. If Cook has a good junior year in 2013-14, he might head for the draft. Sulaimon, too, will attract NBA interest if his sophomore campaign is highly successful.

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A worst-case scenario could see Duke heading into the 2014-15 season having lost six players to the NBA and graduation. And that doesn’t account for possible transfers by players who might feel snubbed sitting at the end of the bench on a deep 2013-14 team.

Barring transfers, Duke should at least start 2014-15 with Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. If Sulaimon returned for his junior year, then he’d likely be the team’s primary scorer. Cook, however, is the more interesting piece of the 2014-15 puzzle. If he opts out of a senior season at Duke, then the Blue Devils would be left without a point guard on the roster.

Of course, Duke isn’t standing pat. The Blue Devils have already made an offer to point guard Tyus Jones. Unfortunately, the five-star recruit is also considering Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Baylor, and Minnesota. Even if the Blue Devils landed his signature, Tyus Jones would be forced to start as a freshman if Cook left early.

The bottom line is this: The 2013-14 season should be an enjoyable embarrassment of riches for Duke fans. However, that happiness might be short-lived as it could be a potential prelude for a mass exodus of Blue Devil players.

Duke is not Kentucky. Coach Mike Krzyzewski won’t turn his program into a one-and-done factory for the NBA. Still, this 2013-14 team is a collection of mercenaries—very talented, but only associated with the program in the short term. If players like Cook, Sulaimon, Parker and Hood leave the college ranks early, then Duke could be looking at something of a rebuilding year in 2014-15.

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