Duke Basketball: Breaking Down Blue Devils' Frontcourt Without Myles Turner

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team during practice at the NCAA college basketball tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 20, 2014. Duke plays Mercer in a second-round game on Friday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

As soon as Myles Turner uttered the words “Hook ‘em” during his press conference on Wednesday announcing that he would attend Texas next season, Duke’s dream of landing a borderline unfair recruiting class ended.

Duke was one of the schools that was in the running to land Turner, but Jerry Meyer of 247Sports.com pointed out that it seemed to come down to Texas and Kansas by the end of the process:

Of course, the Blue Devils would have loved to bolster their frontcourt with the addition of Turner, but Mike Krzyzewski still has 247Sports' No. 1 overall class for 2014.

However, if there is a weakness on this team, it is the lack of depth at the big-men positions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Duke’s frontcourt will look like this season without Turner.


Marshall Plumlee 

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 04:  Tyler Cavanaugh #34 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons shoots over Marshall Plumlee #40 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 4, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 83-63.  (Photo by
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Marshall Plumlee only averaged 1.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game last season, but that doesn’t paint the entire picture of his impact.

Plumlee provided solid interior defense at times and proved critical on the offensive glass in a couple of important games. He was also an extra body that played crucial minutes whenever Jabari Parker or Amile Jefferson got in foul trouble.

Nobody will mistake Plumlee for an elite big man at this point of his career, but he will likely see more minutes in 2014-15 because he is the only true center on the bench behind Jahlil Okafor.

Coach K may go small at times next season, but there will be some opponents that demand a bigger lineup. At that point, Blue Devils fans will be glad they have Plumlee as an insurance policy off the bench.


Amile Jefferson

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 13:  Jabari Parker #1 and Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate as they leave the floor following a last-second win over the Virginia Cavaliers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 13, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. D
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Jefferson was Duke’s best rebounder outside of Parker last year and vastly improved from the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign through March.

He finished with nightly averages of 6.5 points and 6.9 rebounds and is by far the best returning interior defender on the Blue Devils roster. With another year of experience under his belt, expect Jefferson to be even better in 2014-15.

He is still the uber-athletic and lengthy forward who blocks shots, alters drives and attacks the glass on both ends of the floor. What’s more, there may not be a player better-suited to complement Okafor because he had experience doing just that with Parker and Rodney Hood last year.

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 8, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

“To me, he may complement those two guys better than anyone on our team," Coach K told Laura Keeley of the Charlotte Observer in February.

Okafor’s presence will open up more space for Jefferson on the offensive end. That will likely lead to more points, offensive rebounds and overall production from the big man.


Jahlil Okafor

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 12:  Justise Winslow #10, Jahlil Okafor #15 and Tyus Jones#6 pose for pictures before the game against the World Team on April 12, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Now we come to the primary reason for all the recruiting optimism around Durham this offseason.

Okafor is the best post scorer in the entire 2014 class and may well be the best big man in the ACC the moment he steps on campus. He is incredibly strong and has impressive footwork on the block, so it is nearly impossible to keep him from scoring in a one-on-one situation.

Throw in a developing mid-range shot and soft hands, and Okafor will be too much to deal with for a majority of Duke’s opponents next year.

Okafor is also a tremendous rebounder, which will be a breath of fresh air for Duke fans that watched their team struggle trying to compete on the glass last season.

If Okafor plays up to his full potential, he could take home the ACC Player of the Year award as a freshman.

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 12:  Justise Winslow #10 and Jahlil Okafor #15 of the USA team celebrate during the game against the World Team on April 12, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

While Okafor and Jefferson in particular should have Duke fans excited for next season, there is a lack of depth in the frontcourt area. However, Krzyzewski will likely go small at times because Justise Winslow is a versatile and lengthy athlete who can play a number of different positions.

Still, look for Okafor to dominate down low in 2014-15, which is more than we can say about any Duke big man from last year.


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