Duke Basketball: Assessing Whether Rasheed Sulaimon Should Stay or Go Pro

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Duke Basketball: Assessing Whether Rasheed Sulaimon Should Stay or Go Pro
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The simple answer to that titular question is stay.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any simple answers when millions of dollars are on the line for basketball players who are too young to drink legally.

All signs indicate that Sulaimon will be back for his sophomore year, which is good for both Duke and Sulaimon. In his first season as a Blue Devil, the young shooting guard showed signs of his vast potential and suffered through some freshman growing pains.

Sulaimon averaged 11.6 points per game. That seems low at first glance, but examining his game log reveals that for every 27 points explosion there was a single-digit scoring dud. All season, Sulaimon was up and down. Thankfully for Duke, there were more ups and downs.

Starting in the second game of the season, against Kentucky, Sulaimon had a seven-game streak of double-digit scoring. That early season success from the freshman helped Duke start the year undefeated despite playing the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule.

A slump from late-December to mid-January took some of the air out of Sulaimon’s sails. When Ryan Kelly got hurt, however, Sulaimon soon found his form again and helped Duke overcome the hole left by the injured senior.

Kelly got hurt in the Clemson game. Though Sulaimon only had four points in Duke’s following game, a loss to NC State, he had double-digits in nine of the 13 games the Blue Devils played without Kelly. That included home wins over Maryland and Boston College in which Sulaimon scored 25 and 27 points respectively.

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Even though he’s prone to slumps, Sulaimon was a regular contributor during the 2012-13 season. He was integral to Duke’s success and clearly demonstrated an ability to score points in bunches.

That scoring potential has NBA teams scouting Sulaimon. He not only came into Duke with a reputation as a three-point marksman, he showed an ability to get penetration against college-level defenders and proved himself a capable defender against even the ACC’s best wing players. His size and skills absolutely project as an NBA-caliber player.

The problem is his consistency. For all the accolades he received as a sharp-shooter, Sulaimon was just 37.1 percent from three. That was worse than Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. Sulaimon also looked lost at times in the offense. Especially once Kelly returned from his injury, Sulaimon struggled to find his place on the court.

The Blue Devils’ best option seemed to be isolating Sulaimon so that he could take his defender to the basket. As effective as that was, it highlighted the fact that Sulaimon couldn’t insert himself into the offensive sets.

Sulaimon could also stand to gain some strength. If he’s going to utilize his ability to drive to the basket, then he’ll need to be able to muscle through interior defenders. He’ll certainly need that added strength to cut it in the NBA.

In short, Sulaimon will need at least another year in college. His sophomore campaign at Duke will be one where the shooting guard will strive to integrate himself into the offensive sets so as to become a reliable scorer. Shooting slumps are somewhat unavoidable, but given Sulaimon’s talent at taking players off the dribble, he should be able to score no matter what.

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