People predict big things for the Duke basketball program every season.
No matter the roster, the Blue Devils are expected to compete for a championship every year.
In order for this season’s team to be in contention for a championship, it means each player in the starting lineup, along with those on the bench, will need to continue to improve and grow.
Let’s take a look at one prediction for each Duke starter.
After spending two years in the Duke system, it’s time for Quinn Cook to take the next step as one of the elite point guards in college basketball.
He had some great moments last season as Duke’s starting point guard, but there were also times where he struggled with consistency as a sophomore.
With an incredible supporting cast around him, Cook can serve as Duke’s primary distributor and then look to create his own offense when defenses try to focus on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
Cook should flourish as Duke looks to play at a faster pace this season, and he’s got a chance to be the best point guard in the ACC now that Miami’s Shane Larkin has moved on to the NBA.
Tyler Thornton started in Duke’s first two games and played relatively well, but he will eventually shift to a role where he comes off the bench.
Rasheed Sulaimon has battled some health issues in the preseason, but he appears to be getting healthy and is the better option for the Blue Devils at the starting shooting guard position.
Though Thornton provides Duke with toughness and excellent perimeter defense, Sulaimon gives the starting lineup another explosive scoring option that makes the team even tougher to stop in transition. He also has the potential to be an outstanding perimeter defender and rebounder.
Instead of being a starter, Thornton will play a key role as one of Duke’s first guys off the bench.
Jabari Parker is arguably the most hyped freshman to ever come to Duke.
He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler and is already viewed as a top pick whenever he elects to enter the NBA draft.
The expectations may be incredibly high for the 6’8”, 235-pound forward from Chicago, Ill., but this freshman superstar is good enough to live up to the hype.
He has an incredibly advanced offensive game, and he will benefit from playing with a very talented supporting cast, which will provide him the opportunity to play to his strengths.
While Parker grabs most of the headlines for this Duke team, Rodney Hood may be the Blue Devils’ best all-around player.
Hood has already shown a fantastic ability to score from anywhere on the court, and he has a smoothness to his game that Duke hasn’t had in a few years.
Between his outside shooting, mid-range game and ability to attack the basket, Hood will have opportunities to put up points against any type of defense he faces.
And because of the way he can be used, Hood will finish the season as Duke’s leading scorer.
Amile Jefferson may not be Duke’s leading scorer or best player, but he is the biggest x-factor that will determine if the Blue Devils can make a run to a national championship this season.
Jefferson has the responsibility of defending the post, and he needs to emerge as the team’s best rebounder and interior defender while managing to stay out of foul trouble.
He also needs to be able to finish around the rim when the wing players draw extra defenders because of their driving ability.
Duke’s biggest potential weakness will be against teams that have strong frontcourts. When Jefferson plays well, it helps neutralize that weakness.