The Duke basketball team will be loaded in 2014-15, even without Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
The question now becomes how Mike Krzyzewski will utilize all the pieces in the rotation. Will he go small and rotate Amile Jefferson and Jahlil Okafor down low? Will he go big and surround Tyus Jones with centers, power forwards and stretch forwards?
Ultimately, the lineup will likely change depending on various factors such as health, the opposing team and who has the hot hand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a crack at the projected starting lineup at this point of the offseason.
With that in mind, here is an early guess of what the Blue Devils starting five will look like on opening day.
Point Guard: Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones is the exact type of point guard you would want to run a team that is loaded with elite talent.
He is a floor general with the ball in his hands. He has impressive court vision, controls the tempo of the game, recognizes when to push forward and when to slow the pace, is always looking to set his teammates up for open looks, and can score when necessary.
Jones can hit from behind the three-point line and has the extra gear needed to get to the rim. His quickness will also help on the defensive side of the ball against the likes of Marcus Paige and the rest of the ACC point guards.
Shooting Guard: Rasheed Sulaimon
The best thing about Rasheed Sulaimon’s game is his versatility.
He can play off the ball, primarily because of his impressive shooting stroke (41 percent from behind the three-point line last year), and he is capable of filling in at point guard when Jones needs a blow. In fact, Sulaimon played much better down the stretch last season when he moved to a ball-handling position and took some minutes from Quinn Cook.
Sulaimon’s most important role next year, at least on the offensive side, will be to hit his threes. Okafor will draw double-teams on the post, and Jones will force the defense to collapse on drives, so Sulaimon will have plenty of open looks.
Small Forward: Justise Winslow
Paul Biancardi of ESPN thinks Justise Winslow is one of the best defenders in the entire class of 2014, which should thrill Duke fans after last season’s defensive breakdowns:
Winslow’s length and athleticism allow him to stay in front of ball-handlers and dart into passing lanes, and he will be an immediate upgrade over any perimeter defense Duke had last year. What’s more, Winslow has the versatility and skill level necessary to play anything from point guard to power forward thanks to his ball-handling skills, physicality and shooting stroke.
Power Forward: Amile Jefferson
From the beginning of the season to the end, Amile Jefferson was arguably Duke’s most improved player last year.
He finished with nightly averages of 6.5 points and 6.9 rebounds, but his impact went beyond the numbers. He was the one threat outside of Parker on the roster who could score from the low block, and he altered a number of shots on the defensive end when opposing guards blew past the likes of Cook and Co.
Jefferson will also benefit from the extra attention Okafor will draw down low on the offensive side.
Center: Jahlil Okafor
Okafor will not only be the best freshman big guy next year, but he will also compete for the ACC Player of the Year if he and Duke meet expectations.
Okafor is a scoring machine on the low block because of his strength, soft hands, array of post moves and ability to get into favorable position before even getting the ball. He even has a mid-range shot, and he will be an absolute beast on the boards on both ends of the floor.
I think it’s just withholding a kid’s dreams if they wanted to make that leap to the NBA to help their family or whatever the reason may be. I’ll definitely have the option of going to the NBA after my first year. [The increased age minimum] is something that could potentially affect me also.
Enjoy him while you can, Duke fans.
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