Duke Basketball: Predictions for Blue Devils' Team Awards

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2013

Duke Basketball: Predictions for Blue Devils' Team Awards

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    For the Duke basketball program, the success of a season is determined by winning championships.

    It’s not based solely on winning the NCAA Championship at the end of the season, but Mike Krzyzewski places a huge value on teams winning championships.

    This means winning an early-season tournament, the regular-season conference title, the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.

    In order for the Blue Devils to play championship-caliber basketball, it means the players on the team have to give championship-level performances throughout the season. Many players on the Duke roster appear ready to take on that challenge in the 2013-14 season.

    The following list predicts which Blue Devils will give award-worthy performances.

Most Improved Player: Amile Jefferson

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    Amile Jefferson is ready to play a major role for the Blue Devils this season.

    He played sparingly behind Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston last season, but he’s put on weight and really worked to improve his game to be a major contributor this year.

    He’s up to almost 220 pounds, and his wingspan will make him a formidable presence in the paint for a Duke team that’s relatively thin in the frontcourt.

    Mike Krzyzewski has already said Jefferson will be a starter and believes his skill set will be a great complement to Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.

    Not only will he be the most improved player on the team, he will likely be one of the most improved players in the ACC.

Best Defensive Player: Rasheed Sulaimon

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    Tyler Thornton is an excellent defensive player, but Rasheed Sulaimon has a combination of attitude and athleticism that gives him the potential to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.

    Sulaimon struggled at times last season as a freshman, but it was obvious he’s very passionate about playing defense and loves the opportunity to guard the opposing team’s best players.

    He’s had a year to adjust to playing in the ACC, and he also spent the summer practicing against some of the best guards in the country as part of the USA U19 FIBA World Championship Team.

    Sulaimon could see his offensive opportunities decrease this year with Duke having so many talented weapons, but he could establish himself as a key player for the team with lockdown defense.

Best off the Bench: Andre Dawkins

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    It was a huge lift for Duke when Andre Dawkins announced he would be returning to the team for his final season of eligibility. Dawkins redshirted last season and spent the year away from the game of basketball for personal reasons.

    The fifth-year senior provides Mike Krzyzewski with a great combination of experience, outside shooting and athleticism that makes him a dynamic player to bring off the bench. He is still competing with Rasheed Sulaimon for a spot in the starting lineup, but Dawkins’ game is perfectly suited to be a sixth man.

    At 6’5”, 215 pounds, his size and quickness makes him a threat to attack the basket, but his shooting range makes him impossible to leave on the perimeter.

    Duke’s starting five will be dangerous enough, and a player like Andre Dawkins coming off the bench makes the Blue Devils that much tougher.

Most Explosive Player: Rodney Hood

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    Rodney Hood is already being talked about as one of the best players in the country, and he hasn’t even played a game in a Duke uniform.

    Hood has been impressing teammates and the Duke coaching staff since last season, which is part of why he was named a team captain for the 2013-14 Blue Devils. His length makes him an extremely versatile defender, and his offensive game will make him one of Duke’s two primary scoring options—the other being Jabari Parker.

    Rodney Hood will serve as the type of player that has given Duke fits in recent years. He’s a long, athletic player who doesn’t fit a traditional position and can be used anywhere on the court.

    He’ll also provide many moments during the season that will have the Cameron Crazies going nuts.

Most Valuable Player: Jabari Parker

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    Jabari Parker came out of high school with an incredible amount of hype, but all indications point to him being as good as advertised when he begins playing for Duke.

    Mike Krzyzewski has already said this season’s team will be built around Parker and Rodney Hood, and the freshman forward wowed fans and media at Duke’s open practice a few weeks ago.

    Parker has added some muscle and is listed at 235 pounds, which should help him when he plays in the paint against bigger opponents. He’s also 100 percent healthy and able to use his quickness and mid-range game to attack defenses from the perimeter.

    It’s rare for Duke to rely on a freshman as its best player, but Jabari Parker is one of those special players who can handle the responsibility.