The Duke basketball team will be one of the most intriguing teams to follow during the 2013-14 season.
Not only do the Blue Devils feature one of the most highly regarded freshmen in the country in Jabari Parker, they also potentially have the most impactful transfer in Rodney Hood and one of the more interesting stories in Andre Dawkins.
Every season at Duke is exciting, but this one is particularly exciting because of the new players, style of play and interesting dynamics that Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t had in previous years.
Let’s take a look at the top five storylines for the Blue Devils this season.
At one point during his high school career, Jabari Parker was touted as the next LeBron James.
When he committed to Duke during his senior year in high school, there were predictions he would have a Carmelo Anthony-type freshman season and lead the Blue Devils to a national championship.
Many scouts and draft experts believe Parker would have been a lottery pick had he been eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft and will certainly be a top pick if he enters next year’s draft.
Can a player with such pressure and expectations live up to the hype?
The Duke coaching staff appears to already have a great deal of confidence in Parker, and Mike Krzyzewski has said this season’s team will be built around Parker and Rodney Hood. Through Duke’s first two exhibition games, it’s clear Parker is expected to be aggressive and look for opportunities to create.
Duke fans are optimistic he will be as good as advertised, and he’s shown fantastic potential through the preseason. If he is as good as advertised, the rest of the ACC should hope he only stays at Duke for one year.
While Duke’s players must focus on this season’s goals, the coaching staff must always keep an eye on the future of the program, which means developing each recruiting class.
The Blue Devils are strong contenders in the race to get Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, two of the top recruits in the class of the 2014, but there is still work to be done to get these two talented players to commit.
With a roster that’s expected to have significant turnover after this season due to graduation and early entry, it’s important for Duke to secure commitments from Jones and Okafor and keep the momentum rolling into next season.
Jones and Okafor are two players with the potential to help carry a team to a national championship, and adding them to the roster with some of Duke’s other young players would put the program in a great position for the 2014-15 season.
Following last season, many Duke fans probably would have penciled Rasheed Sulaimon into the starting lineup as the other starting guard alongside Quinn Cook for the 2013-14 season and felt confident in that prediction.
Instead, Sulaimon finds himself in an intense battle for playing time against Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones.
Though he arrived with the reputation of being a shooter, Jones has emerged as a freshman who plays great defense and can use his size to be an effective rebounder.
Dawkins struggled through Duke’s two exhibition games, but he still has one of the purest shooting strokes in college basketball and brings experience to the team.
It’s a good problem for Mike Krzyzewski to have, but it’s an interesting dynamic to see which player gets the majority of the minutes in critical situations.
Duke is going to rely heavily on Amile Jefferson in the frontcourt this season.
Jefferson worked hard in the offseason to build his strength and refine his skills, and the coaching staff is hoping that effort pays off and he can be a consistent presence in the paint this season.
However, Jefferson is still relatively inexperienced, and he must be an aggressive defender and rebounder without getting in foul trouble, which can be difficult for young players.
If Jefferson struggles, Marshall Plumlee, Josh Hairston, Semi Ojeleye and Alex Murphy are all options, but each of those players have some limitations that will make the Blue Devils vulnerable in the paint.
Don’t be surprised if rebounding and interior play becomes an Achilles’ heel for Duke this season.
Duke has the potential to use 12 players in the regular rotation this season.
Mike Krzyzewski has said this year’s team will play at a faster pace and rely on its depth, but we don’t know what that actually means in terms of playing time.
Will Alex Murphy finally become a regular contributor? Will Semi Ojeleye get minutes in meaningful games? Can Marshall Plumlee stay healthy and develop into a valuable role player?
For a team that’s replacing three senior leaders from last season and now building around Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, two guys who didn’t play for Duke last year, it will be an adjustment for many guys to learn new roles.
Once they learn those roles, they have to hope there are still enough minutes to go around.