Duke vs. Davidson: Player Grades for the Blue Devils

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Duke vs. Davidson: Player Grades for the Blue Devils
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke blew out a quality Davidson team 111–77. The Wildcats are a potential NCAA tournament team, but they simply couldn’t keep up with Duke’s historically hot shooting.

The Blue Devils shot 70.4 percent from the field and 61.9 percent from three. That is simply unbelievable. There were no first game jitters for freshman Jabari Parker, who missed only two shots all game. Rasheed Sulaimon also missed the mark just twice, and Rodney Hood made all but one of his field goal attempts.

It’s safe to assume that Duke won’t shoot 70 percent every game, but it was certainly fun to watch. As I did last season, I’ll give out grades for the players since such a practice seems befitting for an academic institution like Duke.

Starters

Jabari Parker (A+)

Parker’s first college game was a resounding success. From the opening whistle, he was a scoring machine. He finished with 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Most impressive was Parker’s ability to score all over the floor. He scored in the post, with mid-range jumpers, off an incredible alley-oop and went 3-of-3 from three.

He may be a work in progress on the defensive end and in terms of rebounding, but his offensive skill set is simply outstanding. He’s a unique player, and he and Hood really change the dynamic of Duke’s offense. One game into his college career and he’s already shown that he can be the linchpin of a supremely talented team.

Rodney Hood (A+)

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Apparently Hood isn’t just one of Duke’s best players during practice, he’s also one of the Blue Devils’ best on game day. Hood might be Duke’s best three-point shooter, and when you combine that with his ability to penetrate, it’s easy to see why he’s such a reliable scorer.

Hood also had nine rebounds to go with his 22 points. Like Parker, Hood’s versatility will be critical for Duke going forward. Against an undersized Davidson team, he managed to score inside and outside while cleaning up the boards on the defensive end. He’s got the skills to be a truly complete player, but we’ll have to see how he handles a team with more robust post players.

Quinn Cook (A)

With 21 points and eight assists, you have to really nitpick to find a flaw in Cook’s performance. He pushed the ball when he needed to and did extremely well in Duke’s half-court sets. His 3-of-5 effort from three demonstrated that perhaps he’s improved on his shooting stroke, and he even penetrated to great effect.

The only reason I declined to give him an A+ is because a couple of times he forced a shot, and on defense, he still has a tendency to let his man drive by. It’s Cook’s defensive deficiencies that I think played a part in picking Thornton as a starter.

Tyler Thornton (B)

Speaking of Thornton, he did Thornton things. He played solid defense, he was a vocal leader on the floor and he made one three and missed another.

In all, Tyler Thornton played within himself—something Josh Hairston should learn to do—and although that might make for bland stats—six points and two assists—it’s obvious that the coaching staff want him on the court.

Amile Jefferson (D)

If you only look at the stat sheet, this grade seems absurdly low. He was a perfect 4-of-4 including a fantastic move from the free-throw line that led to a layup. The problem was that Jefferson started the game, quickly picked up two fouls and then sat on the bench for a long stretch.

It’s only one game so there’s no need to panic just yet, but Jefferson most certainly did not establish a post presence for Duke. He finished with zero rebounds and got pretty well worked by De’Mon Brooks— although so did every other Duke post player—who racked up 24 points against the Blue Devils’ big men.

Substitutes

Rasheed Sulaimon (A)

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Coming off of the bench, he had 20 points in just 25 minutes of playing time. Sulaimon shot the ball well and showed off his ability to drive to the hoop. He also snatched seven rebounds including one that led to a fast break, which he capped off with a three. Ultimately, Sulaimon showed that he shouldn’t get lost in all the Parker and Hood hype.

He doesn’t get an A+ for something that isn’t totally his fault. By not starting Sulaimon, the danger is that he comes into the game feeling the need to force things so as to earn back his starting spot or at least get more minutes on the court. As a result he took an ill-advised shot and was maybe too aggressive on some defensive plays, which led to open looks for Davidson.

Matt Jones (B)

Jones has been the subject of a lot of positive reviews coming out of practices. The high praise has particularly emphasized his defensive abilities. Against Davidson you could see signs of him being vocal, applying good pressure and getting into passing lanes. This earned him three steals against a Wildcat team that committed just 10 turnovers.

Clearly the coaching staff love what they’re seeing in practice because the freshman played 17 minutes. Though he didn’t shoot particularly well—going 1-of-4—and forced a couple of those shots, he’ll stay on the court if he continues to play aggressive and smart defense.

Josh Hairston (F)

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This grade may seem harsh, but if you can think of a good reason for Josh freaking Hairston to take two three-pointers in the span of 10 minutes, I’ll change it. Anyone? No, that’s what I thought.

Hairston looks set to continue frustrating Blue Devil fans. All he needs to do is rebound and play defense. That’s it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and for the love of all that is holy, do not attempt two three-pointers.

As my dad likes to say, “There’s a reason he’s wide open.”

Alex Murphy (A)

Coach K made a large portion of the Duke fan base happy when he put Murphy on the court. I suppose the thinking was that Davidson isn’t very big so Murphy could be used as a “post player” against the Wildcats. In eight minutes, he did a more than adequate job on defense and made a three-pointer—his only shot of the game—on the offensive end.

It’ll be interesting to see how much he plays going forward, but it was a good thing to get Murphy out on the court and gain some game experience. Of course it’s also possible that Coach K is just trolling the section of the fan base that wants Murphy to play more, and now he’ll go back to be buried on the bench behind the medical staff and student managers.

Marshall Plumlee, Semi Ojeleye and Andre Dawkins didn’t play enough to receive grades.

Team GPA: 3.07

Obviously it was a great win and the team shot the lights out, but there are still some kinks that need to be worked out, and determining player roles and lineups is still very much a work in progress.

Bonus Grade

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

NCAA Officiating (-F)

In order to make the game more fluid, the NCAA changed the rules so that refs will call more fouls. This is the sort of logic employed in Joseph Heller’s book Catch-22. The result was 44 fouls called in the Duke game, which was mercifully low compared to the Georgetown vs. Oregon game that featured 59 fouls and 74 free throw.

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