Duke’s 2015 recruiting class got a big boost earlier this week when Chase Jeter committed to the Blue Devils.
With commitments from Jeter and Luke Kennard, Duke joins Arizona as the only schools with multiple 5-star recruits so far in the class of 2015.
Duke will also have transfer Sean Obi available to play in 2015 after he redshirts this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Duke’s top remaining targets for the class of 2015 include Brandon Ingram, Ivan Rabb and Henry Ellenson. Duke’s ability to bring these players to campus will rely on many factors beyond the players’ preference of where to play.
The team will be hard-pressed to find scholarship offers with Quinn Cook the only senior next year. Duke will open another spot if Jahlil Okafor declares for the NBA draft after his freshman year.
Both Tyus Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon could possibly bolt if they have strong individual seasons. There is also the chance that a player transfers midseason or after the year due to a lack of playing time on this talent-rich team.
Even if Okafor, Sulaimon and Jones go to the NBA and a player transfers, Duke would still have plenty of talent on the roster for 2015.
With Jeter, Kennard, Obi, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Justise Winslow and more, Duke’s worst-case roster for 2015 could compete for an ACC championship. Duke’s best-case roster would be a Final Four favorite in 2015.
The following is a look at how Duke can best handle different roster scenarios through recruiting and building a new rotation.
While players transferring can be a looming reality for a team with so much talent, predicting a player to transfer is a pretty harsh undertaking, so my scenarios assume that no one leaves.
Okafor, Tyus Jones and Sulaimon All Declare for the NBA Draft
The good news is that if these three all declare, it probably means Duke had a successful season. The bad news is that it would leave Duke with a lot to replace, especially at point guard.
Cook, Tyus Jones and Sulaimon are capable of playing point, but if all three are gone in 2015, Duke would be left with very few options. The remaining guards on the team would be Matt Jones, Kennard and Grayson Allen.
Matt Jones did not show much ball-handling ability during his freshman year, and Kennard is unlikely to be able to run a team as a freshman.
Allen is a smooth ball-handler and could play minutes at the point, but one combo guard does not provide enough ball-handling capability for a team with high aspirations.
Adding to the problem, Duke has very little chance of landing a point guard in the class of 2015 who could step in and play right away. According to ESPN, there is not a single point guard in the class who is considering the Devils.
To avoid this problem, the coaching staff will need constant communication with Tyus Jones and Sulaimon throughout the season. If both are having strong seasons, the coaches will need to know whether or not they are considering declaring for the draft.
If this happens, look for Duke to start recruiting a lower-rated or junior college prospect in order to fill what could be a gaping hole.
No One Leaves for the NBA: Ingram, Ellenson and Rabb All Agree to Pay Their Own Tuition and Play for Duke
This is the literal best-case scenario and will not actually happen. Back to reality.
Okafor Leaves, Tyus Jones and Sulaimon Stay
Out of all the combinations, this might be the most likely to become a reality next spring. Duke would still have plenty of ball-handling, as well as big men Jeter, Jefferson, Obi and Marshall Plumlee in the paint for 2015.
With all that coming back, Duke should look to add a player who is capable of fitting in and contributing in small ways.
Enter Brandon Ingram.
Ingram is 6’8” and capable of playing multiple frontcourt positions. He has an insane wingspan that allows him to block shots, disrupt passing lanes and grab offensive rebounds.
Ingram most likely would not be a go-to player early in his career, but he could have a similar impact to Jefferson’s last year.
Every team needs capable role players, and Ingram should be up to the challenge. However, don’t let his intangibles fool you into thinking he has no skills with the ball.
His length and shooting ability recently drew a comparison to Kevin Durant. He could start off as a role player but grow into a big-time scorer in college.
Okafor and Either Sulaimon or Tyus Jones Leaves
If this happens, Duke’s team needs would be very similar to that of the previous scenario. The Devils would still have adequate guard play and bodies up front and would still benefit from having Ingram on the team.
Tyus Jones’ or Sulaimon’s departure would leave the team with an extra scholarship to offer. With no obvious needs in this situation, Duke should take a page from pro drafts and go for the best player available—Rabb.
Rabb is the No. 1 of the top prospects in his class. He recently took a visit to campus and met with the players and coaches.
Rabb is considered the cream of the crop as far as the next class of one-and-done prospects goes, and his lofty status gives Duke a timing advantage for recruiting him.
Most recruits choose to announce a college choice in the first semester of their senior season of high school, and with those players, college coaches have to project which of their players will go to the NBA after the current season.
However, a new trend is emerging among players who know they will stay only one year in college. These players are often looking for the right mix of prestige, exposure and, most important, available playing time in a school.
To find the right mix, they are willing to wait and see who will be leaving college teams, opening prime space.
If Rabb delays his decision and two Blue Devils leave, he could end up at Duke when the type of role he could play in Durham becomes clear.
If Rabb becomes a Devil, he would be the second straight No. 1 recruit to come to Duke.
Now that is a best-case scenario in recruiting.