The main buzzword around the Duke twitterverse this offseason has been talent. We’ve all heard how spectacular and deep Duke’s backcourt is projected to be. That being said, this is also the most unsure Duke Fans have been about the team in recent history. No one really knows what to expect. Duke is inexperienced in almost every position this year. They’ve lost the bulk of their experience and leadership to graduations. With all of that out and open on the table, there is definitely no reason to panic. All fans need to do is go back to the first sentence of this paragraph and remember that this team could be one of the most talented squads to take Coach K Court over the past few years. However, there are a few questions that Duke Fans should be looking to have answered in the first few non-conference matchups of the season.
Question 1: Where’s the height?
Loosing Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly hurts this team bad, and it goes deeper than the scoring department. Those two carried most of the minute load for big men throughout the 2012-2013 season. The only exception to this was when Kelly was out with his foot injury. During this time his minutes were mainly split between Hairston and Jefferson. Although these two were quality role players off the bench, they did not provide the production that the team needed in the starting spot. Duke rebounded the ball terribly during this stretch, and, at times, the team looked downright awful. That was with Mason on the floor, still.
Now that you’re all riled up about Duke’s big man production this year, I’ll calm you down a little. Duke will be relying on Hairston and Jefferson again this season; however they will also be calling on Marshall Plumlee to help carry the load. Most starting lineup projections have Marshall anchoring down the center spot. He is a GREAT fit as a big man for this Duke team. He is an absolute bruiser. I fully expect to see him take the court for half of the games this year with black eyes. If he is able to use his physicality to defend and rebound his position, while kicking the ball out to open three point shooters – a la Brian Zoubek – he will be of great use for this team.
As for Hairston and Jefferson, both will be competing for the last starting spot with Marshall. In reality it could end up being any of the three. I believe Marshall wins it because of his rebounding and his inside defensive ability. However, with Amile in the lineup (which seems to be a very likely possibility) Duke becomes a lot faster, and more athletic. In the end, it could boil down to which matches up better with the opposing bigs. Duke can adjust to fit a lot of different molds, it will be exciting to pay attention to in the early going.
Question 2: What type of team chemistry will this team have?
There are a lot of interchangeable parts for the Devils this year. Do not expect them to come out firing on all cylinders right out of the gates like last year’s team. It will take some time for them to feel each other out on the court. How long this process will take will depend a lot on Quinn Cook. Cook will have to take control of this team and keep everyone on the same page. Pay close attention to how this team gels together in the early games. If they can click together early, non-conference opponents should be very afraid.
Question 3: Who will be the star of this team?
The easy answer is Jabrari Parker. Although he carries the most star power, Quinn Cook could easily be the go to guy on this team. Yes, Parker is an absolute stud, but is he ready to carry the work load that this team needs him to carry? Look for Parker to come on strong in January but for Cook to be the workhorse for this team throughout the season. Cook started to show spurts of his ability in flashes last year. If he can carry that throughout the whole season, (very possible now with a full summer of work put in) than look for him to fulfill the “star” role on this team.
A quick disclaimer on this section of the article: any player in Duke’s backcourt could be Duke’s leading scorer on any night. That is the most exciting part about this team. Based solely off of what could be seen last year I am picking Quinn to fulfill this star role. I would not be surprised if Parker took it over right at the start, or Hood, or Dawkins, or Sheed, or maybe it won’t be anyone. Duke may have so much firepower that they might not need that type of consistency from one player (wouldn’t that be something).
There are plenty more questions to be asked and answered in the early going of this season. I will have three more lined up to be discussed next week, so check back then. If you have any of your own questions about this year’s team that you would liked featured in next week’s article, feel free to shout them our way. You can reach me on my twitter page @DukeBlogDaily, or through Blue Devil Digest’s twitter page @BlueDevilDigest.