Year after year, Duke boasts an eight-, nine- or even 10-man rotation through the early part of the season.
After November and December, however, the Blue Devils tend to only employ two to three substitutes and give heavy minutes to starters.
Last season, all five starters averaged at least 28.9 minutes per game.
Tyler Thornton was the most used sub, averaging 22 minutes. After Thornton, the next most used players were Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson, who got just 12.7 minutes per game. And, of course, those numbers were inflated by Ryan Kelly’s absence due to injury.
This season, Duke’s roster is extremely deep.
Despite losing three key seniors, the Blue Devils are loaded with talent. A number of players on the roster are not only skilled but are also versatile wing players capable of playing various positions.
It’s a good problem to have, but given Coach K’s history of using a short bench, the division of playing time is a genuine quandary.
The general consensus is that this particular Duke team will use the same playing style that Mike Krzyzewski used with Team USA. It makes sense on the surface, but it doesn't completely illuminate the manner in which Duke will integrate all the players at their disposal.
The stats for Team USA during their 2012 Olympic Gold Medal run bare out the potential for Duke’s player rotation.
During the eight Olympic games, the same five players started every game. Of those five starters, only three—LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul—averaged more than 25 minutes.
Tyson Chandler started as the de facto center but merely averaged 11.3 minutes-per-game. The post positions were mostly filled by Kevin Love and the aforementioned Durant. Both of those guys are really stretch fours rather than traditional players in the paint.
Duke will face a similar predicament in the post.
While Amile Jefferson will likely get more time than Chandler got, it’s fair to assume that just as Team USA wasn't afraid play without a true center, Duke will similarly be unconcerned about manning the paint with wing players.
It’s also interesting that of the 12 players on the USA roster, only four averaged less than 17 minutes.
While many of Team USA’s games were blowouts, which inflated the stats of the supporting cast, that even division of playing time was on display in the final versus Spain.
In the hotly contested gold medal game, all twelve players on the team made an appearance, and eight players saw double-digit minutes. Carmelo Anthony came off the bench to play 21 minutes.
Rasheed Sulaimon or Andre Dawkins may be destined for a sixth-man role, but Anthony is a pretty good template to follow and demonstrates that subs may get more minutes than some starters.
The bottom line with Coach K’s most recent Team USA stint is that while the minutes will be a little more evenly spread out, there will still be a core group that rides the pine only briefly.
In the Spain game, James, Durant and Paul played over 30 minutes. Durant actually only sat for two minutes.
So Duke, as per usual, will have something of a triumvirate that rarely sits on the bench. But it’s highly likely that the rest of the team will see more floor time than Blue Devil bench players in the past.
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