Kyle Singler’s decision to return to Durham gives the talented wing another full year to grow out his eyebrows before playing professionally in the Association. Nothing says all “grown” up like a modicum of facial hair above the eye sockets.
As for Duke, Singler is a veritable hair plug on top of Dick Vitale’s cue-ball, especially considering most of the heart and soul of the Blue Devils’ championship run, Scheyer, Zoubek, and possibly Singler were possibly moving on.
Singler’s return not only provides Duke the experienced star power to go along with youngsters like Dawkins, Curry, Irving, and the Plumlees, but Kyle gives the Devils the rare commodity that is the hybrid four-man, which is rare in the college game today. Elite hybrid fours play in the Association.
So here’s your starting lineup with legitimate Final Four sights going into 2010-2011.
Nolan Smith. He’s the lead guard if for no other reason than he led Duke to a national championship. Offensively and defensively. I like Irving on the ball a bit more, and I expect Irving to run the old Duke jersey tugging isolation play when things break down, but Nolan’s the guy for good reason.
Singler’s return is huge for Nolan in that Duke having a third perimeter scoring option allows Coach K to continue to run motion and find scoring with Singler and Smith coming off screens instead of relying on isolation games on the dribble with Irving and the rest of the Devil guards.
It also allows the inexperienced Duke bigs to play screen and dive, which takes advantage of their unique athletic abilities, instead of traditional back to the basket post schemes which aren’t a strength of guys like Mason and Miles Plumlee.
Kyrie Irving. One of the top five players in the nation, Irving gives the Blue Devils a legitimate combo guard who can create and score with his explosive quickness off the bounce and athleticism at the rim.
Singler’s presence helps Irving as well, in that it will take much of the pressure off the true freshman to be THE guy and No. 1 scoring option on the perimeter for this squad. Instead, Irving can just focus on creating and letting the game come to him.
Seth Curry/Andre Dawkins. Since the Devils will be looking to pressure and run with all of their newfound perimeter depth, you’ll see a lot of mixing and matching not only with guard personnel but positionally as well.
You’ll see Singler play some four, which means Dawkins has to be the third guard in the lineup because he’s the only guard with elite size. Irving and Smith play bigger than their height, but Dawkins is really the only Duke guard that can handle bigger wings defensively.
In traditional two-guard looks with Singler at the three, I suspect Curry gets some run at the two if he proves he can handle at an elite level. His perimeter shooting and scoring is unquestioned, but can he handle and defend in the ACC?
It’s going to be Singler at the four when the Devils are going for more quickness and scoring with Miles Plumlee at the five. When Singler slides down to three, Mason and Miles will man the boxes.
Obviously Singler’s return gives them NBA-caliber firepower on the wing, but perhaps just as important, it allows the Devils to continue to run motion like they did last year. This motion will be complimented by having a bona fide blow-by guy in Irving when things break down, something the Devils lacked last year. Not that it hurt them that much.
Where the Blue Devils will change things up is on the defensive end. Look for more perimeter pressure, a staple of Duke’s defensive philosophy over the years, because of the injection of perimeter depth provided by Irving and Curry.
There will be less pack-line, shell perimeter defense with heels on the arc, and more ball pressure, wing-denial looks from the 2011 version of the Blue Devils. The bench will be a bigger part of this team, especially if Curry and Irving are as good as advertised and if Dawkins can build on late season success in 2010.
The key, just as it was last season, will be Duke’s ability to compete on the glass. If the Plumlees and a couple key newcomers bring a Zoubek type lunch pail attitude inside, the Devils can certainly repeat or at least make a Final Four run.
Regardless of next season’s level of success, Singler’s return should put a devilish grin on the collective faces of Duke Nation.
Kevin Berger writes the leading college hoops blog March To March .
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