The Duke basketball program is receiving an infusion of youth heading into the 2014-15 season, and it’s going to advance deep into the NCAA tournament because of it.
Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones are the headliners who have all played together for USA basketball. Each is incredibly talented, with Jones as the floor general at point guard, Okafor as the physically dominant big man on the blocks and Winslow as the versatile and athletic wing who should produce on both ends of the floor.
In fact, between Winslow and Okafor, Duke’s defensive and rebounding issues that were so crippling last season could completely disappear.
However, the overlooked member of Mike Krzyzewski’s recruiting class will also make an impact.
Grayson Allen is a 4-star shooting guard prospect who checks in at 6’4” and 200 pounds. He is ranked as the 25th-best player nationally by 247Sports, which is something of a testament to the overall talent in this Duke recruiting class. The fact that a top-25 player is overshadowed should be worrisome to the rest of the ACC.
Allen is a premier scorer who is best in transition because of his speed and athleticism. His three-point shot is impressive, he is a solid passer and he gets to the rim with an explosive first step. What’s more, Allen finishes through contact and connects on his free throws when he gets to the line.
Allen is also a solid rebounder for his size, but his versatility is arguably the most enticing part of his game. He can play anything from shooting guard to small forward to even point guard in a pinch because of his ball-handling ability.
Allen will thrill the Cameron Crazies, even as a freshman, because of his tendency to play above the rim. Bleacher Report passed along an example of this when Allen won the McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest by leaping over his future teammate:
VIDEO: Duke commit Grayson Allen won the McDonald's All American dunk contest by dunking over 6'10" Jahlil Okafor http://t.co/ZzvnjEFxt4— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 1, 2014
Allen’s defense leaves something to be desired, but playing alongside Winslow and Okafor will help cover up some of his mistakes. Okafor will clean up plenty of missed assignments at the rim, and Winslow will guard the opponent’s best perimeter player.
ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep discussed Allen’s talents, via Laura Keeley of The News & Observer:
He’s a little bit under the radar, as far as a national recruit goes. This is a guy that is equal parts basketball player and athlete. Sometimes we just label these Duke guys as shooters, but this guy is a basketball player.
He knows his way around the court, has huge hands, he can pass – this is a multiple position player for Duke. They’re going to be able to use him in a number of spots. He can handle the ball a little bit, and he can play some (shooting guard) and play some (small forward) a little bit. He’s really a versatile guy.
The problem for Allen when we are projecting forward toward his freshman role is the Duke backcourt and small forward position are stacked heading into the 2014-15 season. Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook, Winslow, Matt Jones and even Semi Ojeleye (who can play the stretch forward spot) are all on Krzyzewski’s roster.
How many points will Grayson Allen average per game as a freshman?
Jones, Sulaimon and Winslow are certainly going to see serious minutes, and Cook will play some role in the rotation as a senior.
Look for Allen to come off the bench when the team needs a spark. There are bound to be games when Duke’s offense is struggling and needs to hit a three or inject some energy into the crowd with a rim-rattling dunk or some more transition opportunities.
Expect Allen to average about 10 minutes a game as a sparkplug, similar to Andre Dawkins’ role last year (who hit a number of critical three-pointers). Given the talent on this Blue Devils team, that would be more than enough to advance deep into the NCAA tournament.
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