Next season Duke will have a ton of talent. The key will be how all that talent fits together. Good team chemistry would make the Blue Devils one of the best teams in the country. Bad team chemistry would result in a disappointing season for a team with such high expectations.
So just how will the 2013-14 puzzle fit together?
Let’s take a look at next season’s Duke roster and examine the roles each player will have.
Quarterbacks on teams loaded with receiving talent are forced to spread the ball around to keep everyone happy. Cook will be in a similar position next season.
With so many offensive weapons, Cook will need continually dish out the ball to get everyone their shots. There will be sharp-shooters, post-up players and athletic guys cutting to rim. Cook will need to keep his head on a swivel to keep track of where his best option is.
It’s also important that Cook keep cool under pressure. The two seniors on the team aren’t offensive threats, so Cook is the most senior player that can reliably contribute on the offensive end. The junior guard will have to run the show efficiently with a team full of new faces.
If Cook handles the situation like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Duke will be in great shape. If Cook can’t get a handle on the new roster and increased responsibility, the Blue Devils are likely to get sacked.
Role: Primary Scoring Threat
On a team that will lack upperclassmen who can score, Sulaimon is the best offensive option. The sophomore guard can score in all facets of the offense. That being said, he'll need to improve his three-point shot.
Sulaimon was 37.1 percent from three last year. That was worse than Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. Duke will need that number at or above 40 percent in order to stretch defenses and force them to pay close attention to Sulaimon on the perimeter.
Consistency was also an issue last year for the freshman. There was a stretch in December and January where Sulaimon really struggled with his shot. Fortunately, he seemed to sort it out by the end of the season and was driving to the basket with more determination and greater regularity.
Overall, Sulaimon has the potential to be a great three-point shooter who can also get to the rim and draw fouls off drives. That’ll make him a reliable scorer for the Blue Devils next season. He's shown flashes of his ability to be a big-time scorer, and next season it will be his responsibility to live up to that potential.
Parker may overtake Sulaimon as the team’s best or most reliable scoring option by the end of the season, but the freshman’s biggest asset for Duke is his versatility.
Stars can do it all for their team. Duke will need Parker to play inside, where he’ll be outsized. He'll also be forced to play on the wing, where he’ll often defend the opponent’s best player. On offense and defense, Parker will be a linchpin to the Blue Devils’ success.
Stars are also expected to occasionally put teams on their back. As usual, Duke will be loaded with great shooters. However, on a back shooting night it’s Parker’s ability to score inside and on the wing that will allow him to put up points in games where Duke can’t find the range.
In all, Parker will have to do it all for Duke. Fortunately, he’s got the versatility to do whatever the Blue Devils will need to get win after win.
Critics of Duke point out how unathletic Blue Devil teams typically are. Of course that’s hogwash, but even the most ardent Duke hater would have to admit that Hood is a spectacular athlete.
Hood is an NBA forward who can drive, shoot or post up. He’s got small forward shooting range and power forward post moves. Because Duke won’t have much height next season, Hood will have to use his athletic ability to pull bigger defenders around the court.
Hood can hit threes, so a post player won’t feel comfortable guarding him. He can also take advantage of a smaller matchup by going inside. That versatility will be key for Duke on offense. Just as Ryan Kelly did, Hood puts opponents in a difficult defensive situation.
Beyond that, Hood’s athleticism makes him an able defender. He can outplay even difficult defensive assignments.
As with his fellow forward, Jabari Parker, Hood will be asked to do a little of everything for Duke. Due to his athletic prowess, Hood should be up to the challenge and will probably add more than a few exclamation point dunks to Duke’s highlight reel.
Duke didn’t ask much from Jefferson last season. The freshman only averaged 12.7 minutes per game last season. Nevertheless, in limited minutes Jefferson was impressive.
When called upon, Jefferson came up with big rebounds and solid interior defense. He even added a few buckets off offensive boards or excellent cuts to the basket.
Next season Jefferson will certainly see more time on the court. Though he still won’t be asked to be a big-time scorer, Jefferson’s contribution will be integral to Duke’s effort.
Unless Marshall Plumlee joins him on the floor, Jefferson will be the Blue Devils’ tallest player. He’ll have to guard opposing centers. That’ll require a high basketball IQ, because he’ll typically be giving up size and strength.
Jefferson will also have to fight for rebounds on a team that’s full of shooters. Again, due to being out-sized, Jefferson will need to be smart. He can’t do anything about his height, but some of the greatest rebounders ever—like Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman—weren’t terribly tall. If Jefferson can refine the skill of hunting down rebounds, then he’ll see a lot of playing time and make Duke a difficult team to beat.
He's got the IQ and hustle, but he'll need to put that combination together quickly next season.
Role: Interior Defender
Plumlee's skill set is tough to read. It’s possible that he’s really good and can contribute on both offense and defense. Unfortunately, evidence of his great potential hasn’t materialized as of yet.
Still, he’s shown that he has good energy and is a big body on a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of options in the post. As a result, the youngest Plumlee brother will serve as the team’s defensive stopper in the paint.
Jefferson is good defensively, but opposing teams are sure to go after him inside because he’s only 6’8”. Plumlee, meanwhile, is 6’11” and built nothing like the lanky Jefferson.
Plumlee will serve as the team’s best post defender. He’ll be allowed to give up fouls the way Josh Hairston does and anything he contributes on the offensive end will be a pleasant bonus.
Until Plumlee proves that he’s more than just a defensive player, he’ll be incredibly useful to the Blue Devils as a shot-blocker and sizable defender in the paint.
Role: Emotional Leader
Hairston doesn’t have much to offer on offense. In fact, the mid-range jumpers he puts up are downright frustrating. But what he does do is provide an emotional jump start for the team.
As a senior, Hairston will have to keep a team full of high-potential underclassmen focused on the task at hand. In practices and off the court, Hairston will be a go-to guy to keep the intensity up.
On the court, Hairston will continue to come in as a defender and rebounder. He’ll be scrappy, dive on the floor and generally make a nuisance of himself to the other team. That’ll set a good example for the rest of the team. Hairston is an excellent role player, and he’ll continue to do all the little things that don’t make it onto the stat sheet.
Role: Defensive Ball Stopper
This has been Thornton’s roll since he arrive at Duke. What will change next season is how much more important his contribution will be.
Due to Duke’s lack of size, pressure defense will be the name of the game. If teams are allowed to set up shop and run offensive sets, they’ll take advantage of Duke inside. So expect a sort of Blue Devils version of VCU’s havoc defense.
Of course to the key to pressure defense is great ball pressure. Quinn Cook is a decent defender, but he sometimes had trouble staying in front of his man last year. Thornton, therefore, will be relied upon to hound opposing guards.
Whether it’s the point guard or a shooting guard that can light it up, Thornton will be Duke’s defensive answer. He’s a great option off the bench to ratchet up the defense and he can even chip in with a few three-pointers of his own.
Role: Wild card
At his best, Dawkins is a lights out three-point shooter with unlimited range. Unfortunately, he’s always been a bit of streaky shooter. With a year away from basketball, it’s impossible to know what exactly Duke will be getting from Andre Dawkins.
So Dawkins will be something of a wild card for Duke. He’ll likely come off the bench and be given the chance to test his shooting stroke. If he’s draining one after the other, the Blue Devils will likely be unbeatable. If he’s struggling to find the mark, Duke will have to go elsewhere offensively.
It’ll be interesting to see game by game. If Dawkins is hot or gains a high degree of consistency to his shot, then the Blue Devils would have enough offensive firepower to push the score up towards 100. That will really test opponents in a day and age when college basketball teams are struggling to score.
Role: Work in Progress
Murphy’s freshman campaign is difficult to dissect. On the one hand he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. He was 20.8 percent from three. On the other hand, he showed a surprisingly good ability to get to the basket.
In sparse minutes, he made nice cuts and respectable drives to get good looks. That showed a versatility that wasn’t necessarily anticipated. If Murphy can continue to show that kind of skill when it comes to penetration and add a three-point shot to his arsenal, then he’ll develop into a really impressive scoring option.
For now, however, Murphy is stuck on the bench behind a group of phenomenally talented players. Once again, he’ll get a few minutes here and there, but the real objective for Murphy’s season is to develop into a scorer for next season.
Jones’ impact on the squad took a serious hit when Andre Dawkins decided to come back for his senior year. The incoming freshman does essentially the same thing as Dawkins, but doesn’t have the benefit of experience at the college level.
Jones will be a handy deep threat to add to the equation, but in all likelihood he’ll have to wait a year before he gets the chance to prove he’s the next in a long line of Duke sharp shooters.
However, Dawkins hasn’t played in a year. It’s possible that he isn’t the same player he was two years ago. Or there may be games when Dawkins is ice cold. In that case, Jones could step up as the most reliable perimeter offensive weapon on Duke’s bench.
Ultimately, however, it looks like Jones will be the second perimeter scoring option after Dawkins.
Role: Learn from Parker and Hood
Semi Ojeleye is a dynamic small forward. The problem he’ll face next year is that Parker and Hood are also dynamic forwards and are more talented than him.
Fortunately, Ojeleye doesn’t seem like the type of player to pout about that. The opportunity to learn from Parker and Hood will be invaluable. The team’s game plan will also be set up to run offense through the forward position. That will be helpful to Ojeleye’s development. Plus, going against Parker and Hood in practice will be a great trial by fire for the freshman.
Down the road, Ojeleye will be an exciting player for the Blue Devils. He’s got talent and ample scoring ability. For now, however, he’ll do well to learn the ropes at the college level and prepare for a sophomore year in which he could be competing for a starter spot.