Duke Basketball: 5 Biggest Red Flags on Blue Devils Roster

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

Duke Basketball: 5 Biggest Red Flags on Blue Devils Roster

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    The 2013-14 Duke Blue Devils look very strong on paper and are considered by many to be a contender to reach the 2014 Final Four.

    However, as with any team, there are potential challenges and issues that could derail Duke's hopes of capturing a fifth national championship.

    Last season, Duke fans knew that if Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee both played poorly in a game, it was nearly impossible for the team to win. Next season's team will not be as dependent on two players, but there are other things to keep an eye on.

    Here are the five biggest red flags on the Duke roster.

5. Leadership

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    Leadership is a huge component of any Mike Krzyzewski-coached team.

    While Krzyzewski sets the tone as the coach, he also looks to certain players to step up as the vocal leaders on the floor.

    Leaders like Shane Battier, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are part of why the Blue Devils have had so much success over the years. In most seasons at Duke, there is a natural transition to an experienced player or two who take over the leadership role of the team.

    It's still unclear who that player will be next season.

    As a senior, Tyler Thornton appears to be the most likely candidate because of his mentality and vocal demeanor, but he might not be on the court in the game's most crucial moments.

    Another potential leader that could emerge would be junior point guard Quinn Cook.

    If Cook and Thornton can handle the leadership responsibilities, it would take pressure off newcomers like Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. If they can't, it would put added pressure on Mike Krzyzewski.

4. Inexperience

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    Duke was able to rely heavily on three seniors last season.

    Seth Curry was a fifth-year senior, while Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee were four-year players with national championship experience. Even while battling through numerous injuries, all three players were consistent and dependable for Mike Krzyzewski.

    Next season's team will not be nearly as experienced.

    If Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson are the starting five—which appears to be the early consensus—Duke wouldn't have any seniors in the starting lineup.

    Cook and Sulaimon gained valuable experience last season, but they were also able to follow the lead of Plumlee, Kelly and Curry.

    There may be some rocky patches early in the season as this group learns how to play together.

3. Marshall Plumlee

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    Marshall Plumlee is entering his third season at Duke and he has yet to play any meaningful minutes or prove he can stay healthy.

    The 6'11", 235-pound redshirt sophomore sat out his first season in Durham and spent last season battling a foot injury. He had surgery on the foot this past April.

    Mason Plumlee's graduation to the NBA leaves an opening in the lineup that Marshall could fill, but he hasn't shown the ability to stay on the court long enough to contribute.

    Like his two older brothers, Marshall Plumlee clearly has some unique athletic ability, but he needs time to refine his skills and recurring injuries are making that increasingly difficult.

2. Expectations for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood

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    There's a chance that the two best players on Duke's roster next season will be two individuals who have never played a game for the Blue Devils.

    Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker head into next season with tremendous reputations, which brings high expectations from Blue Devil fans.

    Hood was talked about as the best player on the team in practice last season, and Parker is considered to be one of the most gifted high school recruits of the past decade.

    Unfortunately, it's still unknown how the success of either player will translate to the ACC and the spotlight of playing for Duke University.

    The expectation is that Parker and Hood will have no trouble adjusting and that they can work together to be one of the most dynamic duos in the country. Those are lofty expectations for two guys who have never played together.

1. Lack of Interior Depth

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    When Tarik Black chose to spend his extra season of eligibility at Kansas instead of Duke a few weeks ago, it left the Blue Devils with one significant hole in the lineup for next season.

    The Blue Devils have an abundance of depth in the backcourt and at the wings, but they are extremely thin on the front line.

    Marshall Plumlee's struggles have been documented in a previous slide, and Josh Hairston has had issues with fouls during his career at Duke.

    If Plumlee cannot stay healthy, much of the responsibility in the paint will fall on Amile Jefferson, who is adding muscle and expanding his game in the offseason but will still be undersized to play in the paint.

    Duke can address major issues in the post by playing at a faster pace, but it could have trouble when facing bigger teams that slow the game down and execute half-court sets.


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