Quinn Cook was recruited to Duke and thought to in line for big things as Coach K’s point guard. His freshman year was hindered due to a slow recovery from knee surgery, and looking back, he might have been better off red-shirting. The expectations were high going into his sophomore season (I mocked Duke fans for this in a preseason 2012 post) and showed promise on a senior-laden team led by Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry. Fans were ready for a big jump from Cook going into his junior season, but he struggled to create with defenses ready for him to be the head of the snake. The ball would often die in the hands of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood and the team’s weaknesses were exposed. Coming into his senior season, Duke brought in Tyus Jones, and many wondered how Cook and Jones would mesh in Duke’s backcourt. A point guard’s mindset never changes, and though some say that the 2-guard is Cook’s natural position because of his ability to spot up from the outside, I’m sure Quinn himself would argue this fact. Without a real choice in the matter (obviously he could have refused to play shooting guard and thus been benched) Quinn stepped up to the plate, accepted his role, and has become a leader for a young Duke team. His leadership abilities cannot be quantified, but it is obvious how much his teammates respect him on and off the court. When it comes down to black and white facts, Duke players at the end of the day are judged by postseason banners, and Cook has garnered none in his first three years. He’s shelved his ego and bought in, taking his Captain role seriously to become a major piece of this impressive 2014-2015 Duke team.
As usual with my scouting reports, I will only write about what I visually see, so I cannot break down Cook’s leadership qualities. Unlike the Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow scouting reports, I can compare Cook to previous seasons and evaluate what parts of his game have changed for better or worse. Though I watch each game multiple times and analyze each play, I went back through this season and rewatched games isolating Cook from the rest of the team. I wanted to make sure I was confident in my analysis, as some of the things I will write will be extremely different from the themes of nonstop Quinn Cook puff pieces this year.
Just a reminder that everything is analyzed and written without bias.
-Not since JJ Redick has Duke had a player who gets his feat set and hands ready to catch and shoot like Cook, which leads to a lightning quick release. When fully balanced, there is no one more accurate from the outside.
-Very improved at switching up hands to use his left as the dominant when dribbling. He came to Duke very ball-dominant with his right hand.
-Quinn can struggle to finish in traffic, so this year has added a floater to his game. He is still adjusting to the touch/feel he needs to put on it, so the shot is not always consistent, but has vastly improved throughout the season, and makes me wonder what could have been if he had learned it earlier in his Duke career.
-Cook is at his best driving in the halfcourt when picking his spots. When he catches the defense off-guard, the surprise factor makes up for his last of foot speed and creates to angle for him to finish before the big men can make up the distance, or Cook can use his patented drop off pass to a teammate for the Dunk.
-Early in Cook’s career, he would put his head down while driving, bulling his way into the defense. At this stage in his career, his head is always up and his eyes are focused on what is going on around him. This is a HUGE improvement from his freshman season to now.
-Cook doesn’t use his ability to finish with his left hand nearly enough. It’s proven to be a successful part of his game, yet Quinn will still many times force the driving to the right side and the opponent can overplay that direction.
-The bounce pass is a vastly underutilized part of basketball that can go overlooked these days in favor of flashy plays. Quinn is extremely accurate when a teammate cuts to the rim in putting the bounce pass right on the money.
-In transition, Quinn has more time to feel out the defense and create an angle without dealing with heavy defensive traffic. He is by far the best finisher in transition on the team and has a supreme ability to perfectly time his passes to teammates as well on the break.
-Guarding off the ball, Quinn many times chooses to faceguard to make sure he can anticipate potential screens. He rarely is caught unaware is what is going on around him.
-Cook rarely takes a rest, which proves how important and necessary Coach K feels he is on the court. His minutes since the ACC conference season started are typically 37-40 per game.
-At big points, Cook has proven the ability to elevate his game in crunch time, going above and beyond when the moment calls for it.
-Watching Cook’s footwork is interesting. He seems to shuffle and drag his feet rather than fully lifting. Considering his already slow reactions and lack of quickness, this puts him one step further behind the 8-ball when trying to separate on offense or make up ground on defense.
-When Cook’s feet are set, he’s money from the outside. But Duke has tried to use him curling around screens sometimes in the same way they did with Redick, and he becomes unbalanced in his upper and lower body when this happens.
-When Cook becomes overaggressive and goes beyond picking his spots to attack, the defense can prepare for his playmaking, and his lack of quick twitch muscles and natural foot speed can’t be overcome, preventing him from creating an angle to the basket.
-Many times when Cook is caught in traffic while driving, he will leave his feet without a plan of what to do, which leads to turnovers or poor shot attempts.
-Quinn likes to try and get inside for offensive rebounds, yet stands and watches next to the basket when he has the opportunity. If he’s not going to impact the play, he’s better off rotating back on defense.
-Quinn’s rotations back on defense are many times tough to watch. When he shoots a three-pointer, he will stand and watch. When he’s open and doesn’t get the ball, he will stand, watch, and sulk. When a teammate turns the ball over, he will stand, watch, and sulk. This is a continuing trend for Quinn which I saw many, many times while watching various games, and leaves his teammates out to dry as well as showing bad body language. Even when he is in perfect position to rotate back, he sometimes gets heavy footed and is late to do so. He jogs back during rotations, setting a bad example for his teammates and is a major reason why when Duke struggles this season, it can be pinpointed back to transition defense.
-Off the ball, Quinn is a solid defender. On the ball, he gives up the angle easily and is overly reliant on help defense. Any player dribbling for more than a few seconds will find an angle on Cook, and once Cook loses the angle, he gives up on the play, hoping that Okafor, Winslow, Amile, or Plumlee will come help. Part of the reason why Duke stuck to zone against Clemson when playing without Okafor is that it allowed Matt Jones to shade over towards Cook’s man and help out. In many games this year, the reason that Winslow is close to the basket is because he has to be ready for Cook’s man to beat him off the dribble. Quinn was exposed more last year without big men and elite athletes to make up for his on-ball defense. This year, this is hidden better.
-Cook does a good job of trying to fight over the top of screens, but doesn’t communicate to his teammates what he’s doing, and this leads to miscommunication with big men like Okafor, Amile, Plumlee, and even Winslow. He seems to never want a big man to switch onto his man with the ball, but I’m not sure what else they are supposed to do if he starts out a step behind on a defender, considering Cook can’t make up speed.
-For a player who I hear talked about as a leader as much as Cook, I find his body language unnerving at times. He doesn’t get as emotionally worked up as prior seasons, but his negativity can still show through and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t influence the young kids on Duke.
When Quinn Cook was a point guard, defenses would shade to him, knowing that if they could stop the head of the snake, Duke was weakened on offense. His ability wasn’t enough to overcome this, and he wasn’t able to take the next step from an average/good point guard to a great point guard. Much of being a great point guard, besides being blessed with the necessary physical skillset, is making teammates better. Quinn doesn’t do this. Being switched to shooting guard has helped him immensely, but without someone to get him the ball at the perfect time and position, it would still be doubtful as to whether he would be performing at the same kind of high level as he is this season with Jones as his running mate. When Tyus is out of the game, Quinn takes over as point guard, and Duke’s offense struggles. This is not a coincidence. Rasheed Sulaimon played point guard many times last year and was doing the same when Tyus was out this year instead of Cook.
Cook lacks the quickness and instinct on defense required in the NBA, so will have to strengthen his body tenfold to endure the pounding. As a tweener (PG/SG) with more of a shooting guard’s ability, it will be tough to find a spot on an NBA roster. Nolan Smith had more ability and still struggled to find minutes in the league. Any player who can shoot will always have a chance, and Quinn can definitely stroke from long range. If I am an NBA team looking for a below average athlete who can shoot, though, I’d choose Seth Curry. The biggest way Cook can help himself is to work on his body and become stronger, and though he will never be quick, his footwork needs total revamping. I see Quinn as a solid overseas player, and based on what I see and hear about his leadership, someone who could possibly be a future coach.