This is part two of a three part series in which Thomas Eames and Jason Morrow will look at the past, present, and future of Duke at the forward spot. We looked at Duke's guard spot last weekend, and we will look into Duke's centers last. Jason will look into the past and present of Duke's forwards, how they played last season and how they will improve into this year. Thomas will look into the future of Duke's forwards, in terms of recruiting and who will go to the NBA. Although it is tough to look ahead with such a talented team, Duke has such a bright future that it is hard not to.
After redshirting last year due to some difficult circumstances, the senior guard is back for his final go-around in the Duke blue. Dawkins struggled towards the end of his junior year in 2011-12, scoring eight points total in the last six games. There were bright spots for Dawkins during that campaign, as just before the scoreless stretch he went for 22 points, knocking down six threes in a 74-66 win over Florida State.
Small forward Alex Murphy did not get to see significant minutes during the 2012-13 season, averaging only 6.3 minutes per game, and 2.1 points per game. Murphy redshirted his first year on campus after reclassifying to come out a year early, getting a jumpstart on strength and conditioning.
Another Blue Devil that had to sit last year would be Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood. Hood left Starkville after the 2011-12 season and some people thought he could make it in the draft this year, but he opted to stay in the college ranks with Duke and Coach K. In his freshman year with the Bulldogs, Hood averaged 10.3 points per game, and a little under five rebounds.
With just two upperclassmen forwards, Duke’s future at the forward position is extremely bright. Led by seniors Andre Dawkins and Josh Hairston, the Blue Devils play from the SF/PF spots on the floor will be something to watch over the next few years, starting this year with Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and top recruit Jabari Parker. With this amount of talent coming in, the forward position will be looked at for years to come as the source of most of the offense.
There is no doubt Dawkins can help the Blue Devils to a successful season this year, but the key will be to make sure he can get the necessary shots and avoid mistakes. His outside game needs a bit of work in terms of consistency, but when he does have the range, it is deadly. In six of those games during that 2011-12 campaign, Dawkins hit four or more threes, including two games where he had six or more. Minutes will be limited a bit due to Sulaimon, Hood, and Parker also in the mix, but if he can find his range, Dawkins can be an added to spark for Duke this year.
Murphy will be another solid piece for the Blue Devils off the bench if foul trouble becomes an issue in games this year. Coach K and his staff probably will not have Murphy and Hairston playing a lot of minutes this season unless something happens, but if they are called on, they are more than capable of helping the Blue Devils in a pinch.
Along with Parker, Hood will be called upon to generate most of the offense for the Blue Devils this season. Hood’s big frame and his ability to get to the cup when he needs to will definitely help Duke on the offensive end. His shooting from the outside will need to improve a bit (36.4% at MSSt), and if he does slash and draw contact frequently, there will need to be effort spent on his free-throw game (66%) as well. There is no doubt that Hood has worked on those facets of his game while away, and he will be ready to play come November.
One of the top players in the class of 2013 would be Simeon’s own Jabari Parker, donning the Duke blue come this November. Parker has been touted as one of the best players in the class, and for good reason. Not only does he feature a seven-foot wingspan, his outside game is something to notice, something the Blue Devils will utilize this season for sure.
Parker’s game has very few flaws, but something to look at will be to see if he is fully 100% in all features of his game after the foot injury that sidelined him to start his senior season at Simeon. The fracture occurred last summer during the FIBA under-17 World Championships in Lithuania. Parker’s expectations are through the roof and he has not even played a minute for the Blue Devils yet.
Ojeleye rounds out the discussion of the freshman in the 2013 class for the Blue Devils, and the only one of the group who did not go to the McDonalds All-American game. Nonetheless, Ojeleye can, and will certainly help the Blue Devils in this upcoming season. His range from three and physicality will be much needed from the forward position. Scoring comes easy to ESPN’s 40th ranked player in the 2013 class, and was not an issue for Ojeleye in high school, averaging 38 points per game at Ottawa High School as a senior.
The two players we know will be here are Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson. Jefferson will be back to forward after playing center last season. They are both talented players who could start, but Duke could benefit from them coming off the bench. Duke has four major options to add to their forward spot, and that begins with Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Both are extremely talented players who may go to the NBA after their only season at Duke. Jabari Parker seems to be a lock for a top five pick if he enters the 2014 NBA draft. Rodney Hood is much more of a wildcard, seeing as how he has been tabbed as a mid-first round pick in some mock drafts but is labeled a second round pick in others. His draft stock will be determined by his play this season, and how he compares to other top small forwards.
The other two options will be recruits Justise Winslow and Kevon Looney. Both players still have a long ways to go in choosing their team. Both are extremely talented, but would have a tough time stealing starting minutes away from Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, if Hood or Parker stay. Duke's uncertainty at forward could hurt their chances at both players. Duke will also likely look into potential four-year forwards, like Tyus Jones' AAU teammate Reid Travis. Reid Travis could play bench minutes for Duke this season if needed, but will likely make a bigger impact in the future.
In the end, I think Duke will end up with Rodney Hood, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Kevon Looney and a potential future player. I think the NBA draft will be too difficult for Jabari Parker to turn down, and Justise Winslow will play for a different top team that will offer him more playing time. Rodney Hood and Amile Jefferson would likely start with Alex Murphy and Kevon Looney playing major bench minutes. This might not be the best case scenario, but would complement the rest of the team well.
Just like 2014-15, the two players we know will be here are Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson. By their senior seasons, both will likely be ready for a starting role this season. By this year, both Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker will have likely moved onto the NBA.
This will leave the starting forward spots open to Murphy, Jefferson, and recruits. If Winslow and Looney are with Duke, it will be a fight for the two starting spots. Also a player like Reid Travis, if they got a long term forward last season, could prove to be a valuable bench player for this team.
In terms of recruiting, Duke has not offered many forwards in the 2015 recruiting class. Two players who stand out now are ESPN’s #1 and #3 recruits Ivan Rabb and Ben Simmons, respectively. Both would likely start for Duke, if they end up coming to Duke. Their college choice is still a long time from now so it is nearly impossible to predict. There will also be many other names that emerge as potential candidates for Duke for recruiting at the forward spot. Time will tell who will rise up Duke's board in terms of recruits for 2015-16.
I think Duke will end up starting Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson in that season. It will not be considered the most glamorous pick, as many fans like to see the top rated recruits. Duke has always had success with seniors at starting spots and Murphy and Jefferson give them that. They may not be the most explosive players, but Duke won a championship in 2010 with steady seniors in Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek. The options off the bench are uncertain, but Duke will likely be able to find recruits to back them up. As much as fans would like to see highly ranked recruits fill these spots every year like Jabari Parker, Duke has been successful with senior talent and leadership and I see them going back to that in the 2015-16 season.