Preseason practices and early non-conference games are usually when coach Mike Krzyzewski learns what he has in his team and what each individual’s role will be. Last season, Coach K tinkered with many different lineups and it seemed that he was never able to find a rotation that clicked. For a large portion of the time, he went to a hockey-style “shift change”, but that couldn’t last the entire season. Now, there is a new team and new season to begin thinking about the roles each player will have. As most know, Jabari Parker is gone along with Rodney Hood, Josh Hairston, Tyler Thornton, and Andre Dawkins. Replacing them is the number 1 recruiting class in the nation that consists of Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Jahlil Okafor. For this article, Grayson Allen will be the focus and what his role may be with the 2014-15 Blue Devils.
Allen is a 6-4 freshman guard out of Providence high school in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the first of the freshman to commit to Coach K’s squad and is an unbelievable athlete. There is no doubt about it, as he finishes well above the rim with dunks and has tremendous leaping ability. He is also a great shooter from behind the arc and can work well off of the dribble. All of this is a plus, of course, but what role will he play on this Duke team?
It is fair to say that Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones will see the majority of the time at the point. Cook, the lone senior on a young Blue Devil squad, will probably have the starting position to begin the season, but don’t be surprised if Duke goes to a two point guard look with him at the 1 and Jones at the 2 or vice-versa. Everyone knows what Duke has in Cook, but Jones is new to Durham. Rasheed Sulaimon was the man last season that Duke went to when they needed someone to create off the dribble, mainly playing the 2 and occasionally seeing some time at the point guard spot. Sulaimon had a rough season, but is poised to have a bounce-back season. When the season begins, he will most likely be the starting 2 guard. This leaves sophomore Matt Jones and Grayson Allen to battle for a role coming off of the bench.
Jones emerged last season mainly due to his defense. Right from the start, Krzyzewski stated how well developed he was on the defensive end and this earned him minutes when Duke needed stops or were struggling to contain the dribble drive. He didn’t shoot the ball relatively well as he had a tough time from beyond the arc. He was impressive when he drove to the basket, but wasn’t consistent enough to earn the spotting role over Tyler Thornton. Expect Coach Krzyzewski to have a close watch on Allen and Matt Jones during workouts and early in the season. With such a bad defensive year last season, Grayson will need to show that he can defend well if he wants to be the first off of the bench to replace Cook or Tyus Jones. This is a good problem to have, as both could come off of the bench in a similar way that the Plumlee brothers did when they would replace Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Grayson is more athletic than Matt, which can factor in when Kryzewski makes his decision, but we are a long way away from that at this point in time.