Through the early part of the season, we have seen many things from this Duke team, good and bad. We saw them play terrible defense but come back and play solid defense. We have seen Rasheed Sulaimon start and Rasheed Sulaimon not play. This season has been hectic, and it has continued at the point guard position. Quinn Cook has been Duke's starting point guard going on his two years and has yet to find consistency in his game. Duke needs him to find that consistency because this team will only go as far as Quinn Cook is able to take them.
Quinn Cook is not the best player on this team. In fact, he is likely third (Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood). This does not prevent him from being Duke's most important player; Duke's play goes with Cook's inconsistencies. Cook dominated in the first half against Vermont, leading Duke to a large half time lead. In the second half, as Cook struggled, Duke failed to maintain their lead and almost lost game. Cook may not be the player who leads the team in scoring, but his play usually dictates Duke's success.
In Duke's two early losses against Kansas and Arizona, Cook averaged 11.5 points per game and 3.5 assists per game. This is below his season average, 14.6 ppg and 6.3 apg. This could be contributed to the difficult opponent, but Cook has proven he can succeed against quality opponents. Last year, Duke could succeed without Cook, as they won against Michigan State with 0 points from Cook. This year, these poor performances are much tougher to overcome. These performances will need to improve in order to beat top competition.
Along with the bad, Cook has also shown he can play well against top competition. In Duke's 3 biggest wins, against Davidson, Alabama, and Michigan, Cook has averaged 20.7 ppg and 6.3 apg. Cook does not need to score over 20 points to win, but this type of performance is what Duke needs to win. They can not afford game-to-game or in game inconsistencies like they have seen from Cook so far. In these three games, Cook was in control and was able to keep Duke together the whole game. Especially in the Michigan game, Cook showed how great he can be. He now needs to continue these efforts going forward.
Cook may not receive the attention of Parker and Hood, but he is even more important to Duke's success. Duke usually knows what they will get out of Parker and Hood, but Cook is a wildcard. He has proven he can be the third scorer and leader that Duke needs, but he needs to be this person at all times. If he can consistently be Duke's third scorer, leader and solid defender like he has proven he can be, Duke will be a difficult team to beat. If he sputters and plays inconsistently, like he has also shown, Duke may struggle. The play of Quinn Cook has been a question mark, but he has the potential to be the point guard Duke needs night in and night out. Whether he reaches that potential will determine how far this Duke team goes.