Once again March is upon us and it’s always, at least in terms of basketball, a month of paradoxes. Firstly, March arrives too soon and yet not soon enough for us fans. It means that the season is both ramping up but also coming to a close. It’s also an odd time for coaches in that they both have to be 100% concentrating on the task at hand – closing out the season strong and preparing the team for the tournament. But also for coaches it means having an ear to the future.
With securing a roster coaches have to deal with a chess match where the board is continually shifting and things are changing from one day to the next. For Duke they have what most consider a top 5 recruiting class with commitments from Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier. Coach kK and company, especially with the issues dealing with depth and injury hope to add more to this class. Duke is positioned to lose Marshall Plumlee whose eligibility is drawing to close, most likely freshman Brandon Ingram who has played himself into a strong position in the next NBA Draft. Duke was also expected to lose senior forward Amile Jefferson but with the severity of his injury (a broken foot) and having not played a game since December 5th he meets the requirements to apply for a medical redshirt assuming he does not play again this season. Jefferson has indeed been practicing but as Coach K commented this week, he is still in pain and cannot aside from laterally move as he did prior to the injury.
Clearly there is a choice that must be made very quickly in terms of whether Duke wants to push for Jefferson to play in the ACC and NCAA tourneys or to shelve him and bring him back as the senior leader, along with Matt Jones on a very loaded Duke squad. As I said there are many moving pieces with Duke butting up against the scholarship limit. Duke should retain next year:
The number of in-use scholarships with Amile Jefferson returning via a medical redshirt is 12. Which leaves Duke with one remaining scholarship to use. Duke has offers out to small forward Jack White from Australia who recently had an official visit where he received the offer. Duke also has an offer out to the top center in the 2016 class Marques Bolden whose recruitment has been as mercurial as it has been quiet. Most seem to think that Jack White will commit to Duke in the coming days. Does a commitment from Jack White officially take Duke out of the running for Bolden? Maybe, but maybe not.
With Bolden not set to decide possibly until early April, there is still a reasonable possibility that he could find himself on the Duke roster. Some may contest that with Amile possibly returning to the fold it would eliminate Duke as a choice but I say why?
Where Duke is thin going into next year is the 5 spot. With Chase Jeter being the only player aside from the departing Marshall Plumlee who has played any kind of real minutes at the center position Duke has that need. Theoretically Marques Bolden would fit right in and provide good depth at the position and there would be plenty of minutes to spare. Where it gets a bit murky is when you talk about the 4 and the 5 position being interchangeable. Can Amile play the 5? Sure he can, but as beneficial as it could be for Duke is it beneficial for Jefferson? One would have to assume Harry Giles will start at the 4 spot no matter who comes or goes. I could definitely see Duke easing him in and monitoring his minutes given his injury troubles and with possibly Amile and Javin DeLaurier there to spell him it could be a very winning formula. The issue lies in the number of scholarships as well. Duke cannot take Bolden, White and Jefferson next year unless there is another departure. The only name barring an unforeseen transfer is that of Grayson Allen. There are just as many reasons for him to go as there are for him to stay.
This is strictly the opinion of one person and nothing I say is based on any inside knowledge, just my own thoughts on the matter. I generally, unless it’s fairly obvious, like to talk about a player leaving early but there is a good amount of chatter surrounding the possibility of sophomore guard Grayson Allen perhaps testing the early entry waters. Grayson has a championship which he was a huge part of, he has also upped his game by leaps and bounds from last year – why would he stay? Well basketball wise I would say that should Grayson stay (based on my own assumptions) he would firstly be asked to play a lot less minutes as Duke will have a much deeper array of guards, secondly with Duke bringing in a lot more offensive firepower I expect his scoring opportunities to also shrink. This year Grayson needed to take the reigns, next year he may be asked to play a diminished role. Does he come back for that but with possibly a greater shot to win another title? Perhaps.
It is debatable as to whether Grayson Allen is NBA ready. Strength-wise I would say Allen has turned the corner, the only real flaws I see in his game (and by flaws I just mean things that I would assume he would want to work on) are a bit of a better handle **I do get nervous when the sophomore needs to dribble out of trouble (am I the only one?)** and perhaps a bit more of a mid-range game and floater. The athletes in the NBA are obviously far superior to what you face at the college level and to be able to stop short of the rim or to have other outlets besides taking it directly to the hoop or the 3 point shot are necessary. The more tools you have the more likely you are to have what you need. These things can be learned in the league for sure. I personally am not advocating for or against the young man leaving early just that there are choices to be made and many moving parts – as a Duke fan it’s exciting and an intriguing subplot to have going into the post season.
Just some things to think about, I welcome the discussion via twitter, email or comment but keep it classy, no asking or advocating for players to transfer or abusive comments about players.