Who Will See Consistent Minutes For Duke Basketball This Season?
Duke has a lot of depth this season. This will be key for a small team that plans on playing an uptempo game. Twelve players on Duke seem deserving of minutes from Coach K this season, but playing twelve players consistently is unrealistic. Coach K will want to let all his players have impacts on the game, but that can not come at the expense of minutes for Duke's star players. In my opinion, Coach K will have a nine man rotation that receives significant minutes. I think he could go as low as eight, but nine seems to be a more realistic number. Here is how I see Coach K building the rotation for this season.
Starting Point Guard: Quinn Cook.
Quinn Cook will be the starting point guard for Duke this season. He was much improved last season and will play a critical role as a leader and playmaker. He will safely see around 30 minutes per game this season. It would take a significant regression for Cook to lose his starting role.
Starting Guard: Rasheed Sulaimon.
The other returning starter from last season will also receive the same role this season. Sulaimon was inconsistent last season but showed his immense potential. If Sulaimon can become more consistent, he will have a huge role on this team. Even if he improves minimally, he will still start for Duke.
Starting Forward: Rodney Hood.
Although Rodney Hood has not played for Duke, he has been building up hype since he transferred to Duke from Mississippi State. He gives Duke the size to start only two guards this season. He has great athletic skill and fits in extremely well with the rest of Duke's starting five. Hood will start for Duke this season barring anything catostraphic.
Starting Forward: Jabari Parker.
Duke's other forward will also likely be a star, even as a freshman. Parker has been hyped as the best high school player since Lebron James by Sports Illustrated. As the second best player in his high school recruiting class, he will start for Duke this season. The biggest questions with Parker is how great he will be.
Starting Center: Amile Jefferson. Other options: Marshall Plumlee, Josh Hairston.
The only starting spot with any controversy is at the big man spot. After Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly graduated, Duke lacks size. The player most likely to take the starting spot is Amile Jefferson. Although Hairston and Plumlee are decent options, Jefferson has emerged so far as the man who will take the spot.
Backup Point Guard: Tyler Thornton.
Although Tyler Thornton is not a starter, he has a known role on this team. He is a very steady defender and leader who will be huge on a team that lacks senior leadership. He may not always receive significant minutes, but he will play in every game and make a difference not seen in the box score. His defense makes him a lock to play consistently this year.
Backup Wing: Andre Dawkins. Other option: Matt Jones.
Duke's backup wing looks like it will be a shooter this season. After his redshirt year, Andre Dawkins looks prime for a big year. This spot will likely go to Dawkins, but Jones will be ready to fill in if Dawkins falters. Dawkins is not always consistent and Jones provides safety if Dawkins does not play well. I still expect Dawkins to take this spot and keep it the whole year with improved play.
Backup Forward: Alex Murphy. Other options: Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye.
If Coach K decided to play eight players, he would likely cut this role and give Thornton and Dawkins more minutes. Alex Murphy is the player who would best fit this role but has to prove he is ready for it. If he plays poorly, one of the freshman will likely take this role. I personally this Murphy will break through this year and be a key player off the bench.
Backup Center: Marshall Plumlee. Other option: Josh Hairston.
Like Murphy, Marshall Plumlee was very inconsistent last season but looks ready for a good season this year. Being a full seven feet gives Plumlee a full leg up on Hairston if he plays well. Hairston provides good protection if Plumlee does not improve. Duke will be at its best if Plumlee can take this role and I believe he will.
Likely left without consistent roles: Matt Jones, Josh Hairston, Semi Ojeleye.
Although all three players are talented and deserve minutes, I think all three will be left without significant minutes this season. Jones is a great shooter but may get squeezed by another shooter with more experience. Hairston is a hard worker, but does not have the size or agility of Jefferson and Plumlee. Ojeleye is athletic but will need to adjust to playing top notch competition. All three will be ready to step in, but I do not see them playing a lot this season.