The Duke basketball team will feature one of the best starting lineups in the country when the 2013-14 college basketball season begins.
Hopefully, unlike in recent seasons, the players in that starting lineup can stay healthy for the entire year and help Mike Krzyzewski develop a consistent lineup.
Each player in the starting lineup brings something different to the table for the Blue Devils.
All five guys are extremely talented and have the ability to take over a game on either end of the court, but each player also brings unique intangibles that will help them come together as a collective unit, which is always critical for Coach K’s teams.
Let’s look at what each projected starter brings to the table.
This season will be an opportunity for Quinn Cook to step up as the vocal leader of the team.
After learning his role as a freshman two seasons ago and deferring to the team’s three senior leaders last year as a sophomore, Cook will now have more responsibility as a junior.
He has had two years to grow into this role and has developed significantly during his career at Duke. He showed signs of becoming more vocal last season, and now he can fully emerge in that capacity.
As the team’s starting point guard and most experienced starter, Cook needs to be the primary communicator on the court for the Blue Devils. He will be surrounded by talented playmakers, but he will serve as the quarterback and coach on the floor who makes everything run smoothly.
Some fans complained last season about Rasheed Sulaimon’s demeanor on the court. He was criticized for being an emotional player who wasn’t afraid to show his frustration when things weren’t going well.
A large part of that is subjective. Some might admire the way Sulaimon plays with such passion and intensity. Others would say he needs to show more composure. There’s truth in both sides of the argument.
However, there is no argument about the intensity Sulaimon brings when takes the floor for the Blue Devils. His attacking mentality is something that cannot be taught, and he appears to take it personally when he gives up a basket on defense.
That intensity is something that will help set the tone for Duke in every game.
At 6’8”, 215 pounds, Rodney Hood has NBA size and athleticism.
After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Duke fans can’t wait for the opportunity to see Hood’s athleticism on full display.
Because defenses have to respect his outside shooting ability, he will have many opportunities to drive to the basket and attack the rim. He will also be one of Duke’s most effective weapons when the Blue Devils push the tempo and play more in transition.
His length will also make him an extremely effective defensive presence for Mike Krzyzewski.
Expect Hood’s explosive playmaking to get the Cameron Crazies in a frenzy on a regular basis this season.
Perhaps the best aspect of Jabari Parker’s game is that he does so many things well.
He’s comfortable playing in transition or in the half court. He’s effective handling the ball or moving without the ball. And he’s got the interior and perimeter skills to find the mismatch against any defense.
In Jabari Parker, Mike Krzyzewski is getting a Swiss army knife that can be used in a variety of ways.
Parker’s versatility makes him an outstanding fit with this team because it doesn’t require everyone else to completely change their games to meet his needs. Instead, his versatility and ability can mesh with the other talented players around him.
Amile Jefferson was one of the biggest surprises of the 2012-13 season for Duke. He stepped in when Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury and provided valuable contributions for the team.
After having an offseason to work on his game and build his strength, Jefferson can now develop a more clearly defined role in the starting lineup for the Blue Devils.
The energy he brings to the team is contagious. He plays the game with incredible passion and is always looking to get his teammates and the crowd fired up, whether that’s from the bench or on the court. His spot in the starting lineup means that energy and excitement will be on full display.
Look for Jefferson’s style of play to make him a crowd favorite and for him to be the guy who always tries to pick up his teammates if they’re struggling.