I also agree that Cook and Thornton can coexist and compliment each other, much like Wojo and Avery in 98. I expect both will improve quite a bit over the summer and be ready to go come October.
Congrats to Captains Amile Jefferson & Quinn Cook. Go lead this team to nets and hardware fellas!
Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court
(1) He isn't athletic/quick enough to play solid on the ball defense (a SERIOUS flaw from this season's club)
(2) Often cannot create his own shot against solid on the ball defenders (another SERIOUS flaw from this season's club)
In my opinion the 10-11 team was fatally flawed due to #1 and #2 flaws listed above and thus had to rely too heavily on "the lottery" (Seth Andre Kelly shooting a ton of 3s) and died by playing that way.
From what I have read/seen of Sulaimon he is more athletic/quicker than Curry. He is also probably longer/taller than Curry. As such, if he can adjust to the college game he simply adds another dimension to the team that Curry cannot. This will become particularly important if Rivers leaves which is anyone's guess but my gut just thinks he's gone.
Of course no one really knows how Sulaimon (or any Freshman) will adjust from high school to college. If Sulaimon doesn't adjust well and just isn't ready I'd assume Curry would start at the 2 over Dawkins.
And thanks very much for the kind words (and to the others who've said stuff -- even the dreaded WHEAT! LOL). Scary stuff, and certainly puts a Duke loss in perspective. If there's a good thing that came out of it, at least I missed Duke-Lehigh. Far as I'm concerned, it never happened.
Wow, these are my thoughts almost to a T. I do hold out a small sliver of hope for Austin returning, not because "college is the best time of your life" (could we please get that cliche banned), but because the post-lockout draft is a crowded draft and Austin has a lot of things to work on, which even draftniks like Chad Ford have acknowledged. But realistically, next year's team will have similar issues to this year's, though it stands a better chance of getting to the round of 16 if Sulaimon can be a good perimeter defender and Kelly, Cook and Curry improve their games as much as we hope. It will still be a perimeter oriented team, but hopefully one with more bite on defense.
I have never been a recruiting alarmist and have generally trusted K's ability to get the most out of his players, like he did this year until things spiraled downward the final couple of weeks. From 2007-2010, I worried about how good our players were to a certain degree, but I felt we still had very highly regarded talent like McRoberts, Paulus, Henderson, Singler, Scheyer etc that just hit a wall during the tournament. I believed in the ability of a few of those players to carry the Duke team singlehandedly in stretches.
I'm more concerned at the gaps in the roster this year, how much more earthbound the talent seems, and how this situation might persist for a few years. I'm not talking about lack of bigs, but lack of high quality athletic wing talent...and yes, point guard worries me, too. Perhaps this year is a blip in the radar, but I look at next year's roster and am not close to blown away.
Reading Featherston's front page article started my mouth watering for next season. Speculating this early requires either a million what-ifs, or some assumptions. To keep things simple I'll go with assumptions:
1) Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee will return - big assumption in AR's case, but he's never said he's going to go, either. Less of an assumption in Mason's case - he's not likely to be a lottery pick, may not even be a sure 1st round pick, and he's got a strong academic focus as well as an opportunity to both improve his draft stock AND play with Marshall.
2) We'll get Jefferson, but not Parker or Bazz
3) There won't be any transfers or early graduations/transfers (Curry, for example, could theoretically graduate early and do that 1 year graduate school thing)
So that leaves us with the following pieces:
At point - Cook and Thornton.
At wing - Rivers, Dawkins, Curry, Sheed
At small forward - Murphy, Gbinije
At power forward - Kelly, Hairston, Jefferson
At center - Plumlee2, Plumlee3
I think we'll be a more balanced team next year, and a couple of chronic problems we faced this year should be improved.
We can expect a natural maturation of Thornton's and Cook's abilities. Cook will be another year removed from injury. He got significant PT this year and was inconsistent, as you'd expect from a freshman, particularly one who lost prep time due to injury. Cook has tremendous upside potential. I'm hoping to see a big leap forward, but, of course, that doesn't always happen. Even a reasonable improvement in his on-ball defense, scoring, and consistency will be a huge boost for our team next season. Thornton's upside is more limited, but given his work-ethic and desire, I would expect to see some improvement in scoring, ball handling, and continued dedication on defense. Point should be better than it was this year.
If Rivers returns, then we'll be loaded and deep at the 2, probably the best combination of talent and depth at that position in the nation. Obviously it's a real possiblity that Rivers could go pro. If he does, we'll have to hope for improved consistency from Curry and Dawkins. Sheed is a freshman, could be very good, but I never look for consistency from freshmen, and I'm delighted when it happens. If Rivers goes pro, a rotation of Curry, Dawkins, and Sheed at the 2 at least gives us options if Curry and Dawkins continue to show some up and down performance as they have (noting that Curry's inconsistency is NOTHING compared to Dre's). So, if Rivers stays, we'll have an amazing rotation at the 2 and will be able to go small-ball when needed. If Rivers goes, we'll have enough depth with Curry/Dawk/Sheed to rotate guys and go with the hot hand of a very solid rotation.
The 3 is a huge question mark, only because we haven't seen much of those guys. I still maintain that G wasn't really ready for prime time this year. Murphy supposedly has all the tools, and he likely benefitted from the redshirt year, but we have yet to see him play in the college game. If he is ready to be a starter, that will be a huge boost to our flexibility both on offense and defense. If G improves his offense significantly and can become the defensive guy we all think he can be, then he also gives us a great option at the small forward. Upside: our 3 is a real strength and we are much more balanced. Worst case: our 3 is still better than it was this year.
The 4 is certainly going to be a strength. Kelly may have some limitations, but he had a very good year, and we can expect further improvement as a senior. Kelly's upside this year: an all-ACC caliber player. Hairston showed us great energy, good defense, and some offensive skills that he can develop. As a backup power forward, he's very, very solid. Reports on Jefferson indicate he may not have enough perimeter game to be a legitimate contender at the 3, so I put him at the 4. As a freshman, he may have more talent than Hairston, but given Hairston's maturity and strength, Jefferson may be behind him in the rotation. I'm not expecting a huge contribution from Jefferson this season, but that's okay -that means he could be a pleasant surprise.
The 5 COULD also be a strength. Mason has been almost as tantalizing and frustrating as Dre. Part of it isn't his fault - how many times did we all note this year he or Miles being in good position in the post and not getting the ball. So, part of improving the 5 on offense is getting better work on the perimeter in getting the ball to the post in scoring position. Marshall supposedly is a strong back-to-the-basket guy. Mason has shown he can finish when he gets the ball in good position. Remember how well Mason did when Kyrie was driving and dishing to him? So, some of my hope in seeing improved low post production comes from hoping that Mason will be more consistent and Marshall will be ready as a backup. The other part is my hope that Cook, in particular, will do a better job feeding the post than he or the other perimeter guys did this year.
Like this year, there's going to be excitement seeing the team develop, but I think we'll also have some frustration. For folks who only really enjoy a Duke team that's a beast and a likely national championship winner, 2012-2013 could be a frustrating season. This team may have some of the same problems we saw this year (especially perimeter and on-ball defense), but it may also (and I believe it will ultimately) shape into a much more balanced team than the 2011-2012 team. By tournament time, this could be a very good, solid, well rounded team and a legitimate contender.
Brian Zoubek on what was going through his mind walking to the free throw line with 3.6 seconds remaining in the 2010 National Championship game and Duke up by 1: "Fifty percent [of me is] thinking, This is what I've been dreaming of doing my entire life. Fifty percent I'm crapping my pants."
If keeping quick guards out of the lane is a problem again next year, I hope our bigs learn to make better plays contesting shots. There were a few times every game when a guard would drive and a big would rotate late and try to take a charge, ultimately getting called for a block. I feel like contesting a shot, not even necessarily blocking it, would be much easier for any of the Plumlees to do than taking a charge. Ryan and Josh are quick enough to get in place in time, but even if they do everything right, it doesn't guarantee the refs will see it that way. Taking a charge is still a great defensive play, but better decision making is what I am looking for.
The answer is that of course he can do it. He's 6'11". He's had solid shotblocking numbers for much of his career. His rebounding is not where one would like, but some of that comes from guarding fours instead of fives plus Mason and Miles being such accomplished rebounders. If an opposing center had to guard him, it would be huge mismatch on our end of the court. It's possible a year in the post would wear him down physically, but he will be a senior with a man's body next season. K's history is rife with successful Duke teams that had guys at center no burlier or more athletic than Kelly.
Hopefully, though, Mason comes back.
OK, I'll take a stab at what I'd like to see next year. I'm going to assume that Austin and MP2 stay and that we don't get Bazz, Jefferson or Parker.
pg - Austin, Cook, TT
sg - Sheed, Curry, Austin, Andre
sf - SG, Alex, Andre, Sheed
pf - Ryan, Josh, Alex
C - MP2, MP3
First, I agree with those that have stated that Austin should be the PG. He should have the ball in his hands and the offense should run through him. Backing him up at PG would be Quinn Cook. I think Quinn's defense got much better as the season went on (and I was backing up games and re-watching is defense) and his attacking style on offense is a nice complement to Austin's attacking style on offense. Backing up Quinn would be TT. I'm not a big TT fan. Love his attitude but I don't think he has enough game. Tyler would be used when we needed to shake things up and I think his leadership is important and will really help the team but I'd prefer for that help to be in practice.
If Austin is our PG, we have to hope Sheed is ready to play. I think Curry would be a good 6th man getting playing time every game and a good bit of PT against teams that he matches up well against. Obviously if Sheed isn't ready we can use Curry again in this role (as long as we have a SF starting). When Quinn is running the point, Austin can play the 2. Andre....sigh. I know this paragraph might not be the most popular thing I've posted on here but I'm calling it like I'm seeing it.
We didn't play a SF this year and it really was an issue. The coaches inability to prepare SG to play was a huge disappointment. Here's hoping that Mike and Alex can step up and be ready. Andre can play SF when the match ups allow and when he's hitting his shots.
Having Ryan starting at PF is a given and a strength. I'd love to see the staff explain to him that he's 6'10" and have him start trying to alter every shot in the paint instead of trying to draw charges like he's a 6'1" guard. Josh is a capable back up PF. His midrange game (if slightly improved) could provide some nice points off the bench. From what we have heard Alex could pitch in at PF when we go small or have foul trouble.
Mason will be a beast and if we can make an entry pass or hit him on the roll off of picks he will have a monster year scoring. He's going to rebound very well and, like this year, he will be improved on defense. We've heard that MP3 is very talented. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do.
We are going to miss Miles, and I'm looking forward to see who will step up and be a leader on the court. Of course if we land Bazz he starts at the 2 and if Jefferson comes he could supplant Josh as the backup PF. I'd love to have either. We have lots of talent and some really great kids and if we can get them together and play to our strengths we can have another great season of Duke Basketball.
Will they be leaders or will they again let the underclassmen lead?
I think duke really missed someone this year who could drive to the basket to either score or pass to he shooting guards. We had that with smith and scheyer the last couple of years. Austin can't seem to do that.
The man to do that next year is cook. I just don't think that Thornton has it in him! I could be wrong...
Just a thought.
What's fairly obvious is that for some reason, Coach K. wanted this team to be a 3 point shooting team. He said in a interview I recently watched " it's who we are ".
I have to ask WHY?? I mean, I have to ask why EXCLUDE inside play to the point that we live and die at the three point line?
Seriously, I am wondering if Coach K. deep down didn't have faith that our bigs could get it done. There has to be SOME reason why we neglected our bigs ( in most games ) and kept firing up 3 point shots.
When I am talking about acquiring a BIG I am talking about someone of the caliber of Zeller, Henson, Davis etc.
I personally would like to see more inside out play, more drives to the basket that draws defenders leaving someone open for a shot, a big that demands a double team, etc.
I guess what I am saying is we need a dominate big man that will open our game up and draw coverage.
The right POWER forward could perhaps get this done but he would have to be a special player.
Moreover, it isn't as if Ryan's only offensive game is the jumper from distance. He has a good handle for a big man and is pretty subtle around the basket. I think he would function just fine down low if that is where we needed him.
On the offensive end, I'm not at all worried. Coach K thrives in these kinds of situations. He will make Kelly productive. Frankly I'm looking forward to Kelly improving his midrange game, because I think he can be way more dangerous if he uses his craftiness inside.