Tyler Thorton: Duke's New Leading Man or Achilles Heel?

Curtis ClontzCorrespondent IIDecember 11, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Tyler Thornton #3 of the Duke Blue Devils is challenged by Abdul Gaddy #0 of the Washington Huskies at Madison Square Garden on December 10, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Tyler Thornton has always been known as a defensive specialist.  A spark plug off of the bench, his constant defensive pressure earned tons of praise last year, but suddenly his role has changed.  He is no longer just a guy off of the bench—he is a starter.

Thornton has now started two straight games.  The Seth Curry at-the-point-project didn't fail, but it never truly took hold.  In these two games Tyler has still been used for his solid defense, but has also been asked to run the offense more than normal. 

Against Colorado State, Thornton's minutes jumped to 28 but his offensive production failed to increase as he only scored five points on 0-2 shooting from the floor.  The key stat to take away from this game was his four assists and 0 turnovers.  In last night's Washington game he only scored two points but had three assists and only one turnover.

It doesn't take a genius to know that the starting point guard has to productive.  Their job is to evenly distribute the ball making sure to get the playmakers the best chance to score. 

Tyler may be at the point, but he will never be a Jay Williams type of point guard.  He is on the floor to be smart and get the ball to Curry, Dawkins and Rivers at their spots on the floor.  He is also there to stop the typical athletic guard that usually troubles Duke.

During his recruitment, Tyler hovered around the 30th best point guard in the nation.  He was praised for his ability to lead and distribute in the open court.  This is exactly how he can make this team much better. 

Austin Rivers is still young but improving, Curry is deadly and Dawkins is a true sniper.  As Tyler continues to gel in this offense he will start to get more points and the team will get better.  In the mean time he has to continue to keep down the turnovers and stop the other teams point guard.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans drives the ball against Tyler Thornton #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during the 2011 State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2011 in New York City.  (
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Although he is only a sophomore, Thornton is suddenly a key player on this Duke squad.  His leadership will be key in conference play and tourney time. 

All of that being said, this is still not his team; they will not rely just on him to win at any point this season.  At the end of the day, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry are the two players that will determine how well this team does down the stretch.

It is nice to see Tyler starting but don't expect too much this soon.  It may not seem like it, but he is still merely a role player. 

That may sound harsh, but lets face it. Coach K's system is a good one and if everyone fills their role then they are tough to beat.