Duke Basketball: 5 Effects Roster Changes Will Have on Blue Devils in 2014
With last season behind them, the Duke Blue Devils will begin to turn their focus towards the 2013-14 college basketball season with high hopes of challenging for a national championship.
And as we look ahead, it will be a completely different look for the Blue Devils than in years past.
Gone are the senior trio of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, who were the three most critical pieces to Duke's run towards an Elite Eight appearance.
While the losses of three outstanding senior leaders would be too significant for many to overcome, Duke will reload with a formidable group of players that will quickly develop into highly adequate replacements.
However, like every season, with a new roster comes positive and negative effects that can impact the journey towards superiority throughout the course of a season.
These are the five most notable effects that a newly formed roster will have on the Duke basketball team in 2014.
Positive: Added Depth
In recent seasons, Duke has been regarded as a team that relies on a steady eight-man rotation. Outside of the starting five, however, the production from the bench has, at times, been less than consistent.
That should all change next season, as Duke will enjoy having a great mix of talent to make up its most deepest squad in nearly a decade.
Exiting the team will be three senior leaders that enjoyed outstanding careers, respectively, at Duke. Entering will be three highly-touted freshmen—Jabari Parker, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye—with extremely bright futures ahead of them along their individual paths.
Joining those three freshmen will be Andre Dawkins, returning as a fifth-year senior after sitting out last year due to personal reasons, and Rodney Hood, a dynamic Mississippi State transfer that will surely turn a lot of heads in Durham in his first official season at Duke.
While all five players are capable of providing an immediate impact, Parker and Hood specifically are the game-changers that will most likely earn heavy minutes as starters in 2014. However, that's not to take away from the value of Dawkins, Jones and Ojeleye who will become vital while joining a deep bench that includes seniors Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton, and sophomores Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee.
As the Blue Devils prepare for the 2014 college basketball season, a year in which they're considered as a serious contender for a national title, minute distribution within a talented rotation will be a great problem to have for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff.
Negative: Flawed Frontcourt
As Duke's depth will be its biggest strength next season, a bevy of questions surround its biggest weakness: an inferior frontcourt.
Who starts at center? Will Amile Jefferson bulk up considerably in the offseason? How will Marshall Plumlee recover from postseason surgery? What will be Josh Hairston's role in his senior season?
All valid questions that have no answer at this point in time.
What we do know, however, is that among the three players, Amile Jefferson is the best of the group.
After departing senior Ryan Kelly went down with an injury at the beginning of conference play last season, Jefferson showed great promise in an expanded role for the Blue Devils. Possessing a high motor, gritty determination and unmatched effort, the play of the 6'8" Jefferson was a pleasant surprise for Duke fans.
With all of the skills to succeed at the college level, it's Jefferson's strength that holds him back from becoming a true low post player. If he can develop his body periodically during the transition from his freshman season to his sophomore season, it will greatly benefit the Blue Devils going forward next year.
While Jefferson has the inside track as a starter next season, Josh Hairston currently finds himself as the second option at the 5 for Duke.
A role player for the entirety of his career, Hairston is not opposed to mixing it up down low with opposing big men of greater size.
The biggest question mark of Duke's frontcourt, however, lies with its biggest player.
Most recently, Marshall Plumlee underwent surgery to repair an injured left foot which will sideline him for almost four months. It was the same foot that the 6'11" Warsaw, Ind., native hurt late in the preseason that caused him to miss the Blue Devils' first nine games of the year.
While his size would automatically land him a starting position next year in place of his older brother Mason Plumlee, the injury will set back his progression considerably. How he returns from the injury could have a lasting impact on Duke's run towards its fifth championship in school history next season.
Positive: Improved Athleticism on the Wing
Not only will the depth be much improved for Duke next season, but so will the overall athleticism of the team.
As the Blue Devils will essentially reload their roster with five key additions to go along with seven returning players, they will be at their strongest on the wing.
Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon, Andre Dawkins, Alex Murphy, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye will give the Blue Devils an uncanny collection of athletes that will provide them with the majority of their production next year.
All seven players can present an inordinate amount of problems for opposing defenses with their abilities to score from the outside as well as getting into the lane and finishing from the mid-range or emphatically around the rim.
Next season, Duke's depth and athleticism will be its most biggest assets as they will go hand in hand toward building another successful season in the storied program's history, likely culminating in a banner year in 2014.
Negative: Team Rebounding
It was Duke's most glaring flaw last season, and it could likely rear its ugly head again next season. The Blue Devils were among the worst rebounding teams in the country as they ranked 213th nationally averaging 33.8 rebounds per game.
Looking ahead, next year's team will need to replace nearly 53 percent of its team rebounding from a year ago with the departures of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.
It will need to start in the questionable frontcourt for the Blue Devils that includes Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee. All three have the capabilities to average four or more rebounds per game consistently, although it remains to be seen if they can throughout the course of an entire season.
However, instant impact on the glass could come in the form of the highly-touted incoming freshman Jabari Parker.
Parker will likely begin the year starting at the power forward position for Duke, which is arguably his most natural playing position. He has the size and possesses terrific instincts around the rim to compile missed shots at a high rate.
Outside of the four aforementioned players, however, the remainder of the roster will need to do its part in elevating the team's rebounding numbers considerably next season to become elite.
Positive: Better Playmakers
Lastly, one of the most positive effects the 2014 roster will have on the Blue Devils is that there will be an array of talented playmakers.
Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon showed in a number of games last season that they were fully capable of making game-changing plays at critical times for Duke. Next season, they will be joined by two superb talents in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to form a transcendent quartet.
In Parker and Hood, they will become the two best players for Duke next year.
Jabari Parker will bring a smooth array of skills on the offensive end and will be among those considered for Naismith College Player of the Year in his first season in Durham.
After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Rodney Hood will officially begin his first playing season at Duke in 2014. Hood is an athletic, slashing lefty who was considered among many circles as the best player for Duke in his redshirt year.
All four players will complement each other perfectly, as they will be the on-court leaders for a newly revamped Blue Devils team with the ultimate goal of getting to North Texas for the 2014 Final Four and playing their way into prime position to capture a fifth national championship.