With around 2 weeks until Duke’s official start of the season, or at least some somewhat meaningful basketball in the Dominican Republic there are still some unanswered questions facing this Duke team. Obviously the first question is how will this team differ from last year’s team or the year before that. We do know that Coach K is a master and tailoring his offense and defense to the personnel rather than trying to force-fit a player into a role that won’t benefit that player or the team as a whole. The question is what are the assets he has to work with – there are plenty of unknowns.
1. Will this team be more or less reliant on the outside shot?
2. Will Duke have a dominant post presence and if so how will that change the answer to number 1 ?
3. How much true depth will Duke have?
4. Will having a true point guard possibly make this team better than last years even with what some consider a lesser recruiting class?
5. Marvin Bagley? Marvin Bagley! Marvin Bagley ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
6. Will the Dominican Republic games be televised or streamed?
I’ll give my best guesses on some of these:
1. Obviously when you have a healthy Grayson Allen you will have good 3 point shooting but one has to be worried about the drop-off after that. I know Gary Trent is a capable shooter as well but it remains to be seen how he fares in his first and likely only year in college. With a body like Trent Jr’s, if he is just a serviceable 3 point shooter it will open up drives to the lane. He has the body and strength to garner 3 the hard way with and1’s. Personally, I’d much rather see him using his shot as a decoy to draw defenders on the close-out then pitch it around or drive to the basket. Trent’s ability to square his body and absorb contact as well as his balance are weapons in my opinion. Jordan Tucker and Alex O’Connell are both better than average 3 point shooters as well in Tucker’s case he has more of a stronger body than O’Connell and is probably more of a triple threat player while I see O’Connell still needing to add a little strength to be able to put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop (from what I have heard he has added some good weight and strength). Tucker and Trent have a little more in the mid-range right now but all in all I do not think this team will suffer from beyond the arc but I don’t believe it will be the focal point.
2. On Paper Duke should have an improved post game, providing everyone stays healthy. Duke has two guys in Marques Bolden and Wendell Carter who are strong and have worked their tail off this summer so far. Bolden in particular has a lot to prove. Perception in sports is often reality and the perception of Marques has not been positive. People tend to forget that not everyone comes into college as a finished product. There is always room for growth, always room to learn. The growth of an athlete isn’t always just physical, mental growth is just as, and in some cases more important. I’m not casting a player aside after one year. I think Duke will look to utilize their bigs much more on offense as a one dimensional Duke is a vulnerable Duke. No better way to open up the outside shot than having a solid inside game to keep the defense honest.
3. Depth is a question that is never really possible to answer in the pre-season. This isn’t limited to Duke but coaches in general get a feel for their team and how they respond in certain situations during the course of the early season but as the competition level upticks during conference play, the bench generally shortens. We all would like to see K use the full compliment of his players but we also have to be cognizant of the fact that just because a player is recruited and dresses that it doesn’t mean they are ready. One can make the argument that you don’t progress if you don’t get into the game, but I would counter that with if you don’t show it in practice how could you possibly show it when it counts. Benches always shorten – it’s just how things go. Shane Battier once said something to the effect of, “you need to, as a player, force the coaches to play you, be so damn good that they cannot sit you”. I tend to agree. Minutes aren’t given in sports, they are earned. That being said I don’t know if there will be a discernible drop off with the bench this year from starter to backup but these are all things that will remain questions until the first jump ball.
4. That is an easy one. Having Trevon Duval and Jordan Goldwire will pay huge dividends for this team, while the talent level from top to bottom may not be what it was last year. This group should have more cohesion, especially if they stay healthy. There really isn’t much more of a pivotal position in the college basketball game than the point guard. Not every player has the ability to get their own shot, not every player is an off the dribble asset. Having a floor general who not only is looking to set the table but also knows the game of each of his fellow players is a crucial piece to make an engine run. Duke did not have that last year and at times suffered for it. This team should be able to play faster, looser and should be – at least on paper, be able to put guys that are not necessarily offensive juggernauts in positions to be successful on the offensive end.
5. The biggest unknown for this team is whether or not there will be a late addition to the class. Marvin Bagley is attempting to make a run at reclassifying for this school year as most people know. I’ve given my 2 cents as to what it could possibly mean for the team at length. I cannot say how this will change what Duke does but what we all as Duke fans hope is that there isn’t a negative effect. There are a million and one rumors and weeding through them is exhausting. What we do know is that Duke made a strong pitch and that it mostly likely is going to come down to Duke or USC, the other question is will he suiting up this year or next and if it’s this season what does that time frame look like. We know he will not be making the trip to the Dominican Republic if he does decide he wants to attend Duke. None of us know the state of his academic standing or what he needs to complete but I doubt Duke would put as much effort forth if there wasn’t some chance that this could come to fruition. With Bagley skipping his AZ visit one has to think a decision is coming sooner rather than later – kinda has to be sooner.
6. Still noting has been updated in terms of being able to view the games, obviously it’s coming down to the wire but when that news breaks it’ll break pretty universally. I can’t imagine ESPN not getting on that. We’ll keep you posted.