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Kedsy
10-22-2013, 09:59 AM
Traditionally, our Phase 0 report includes CTC and the two exhibition games. This season, we're obviously a little late with the report, meaning technically this Phase will include only our upcoming exhibitions against Bowie State (10/26) and Drury (11/2). In the interest of completeness, I'll touch upon our tilts with these Division II teams, but I'm going to focus this Phase report on the season as a whole.

Let's start out with our next two games. Our first opponent, Bowie State, was 16-14 last season but they came on at the end, winning the CIAA championship. The Bulldogs have six players who stand between 6'6" and 6'8" (inclusive), although nobody taller than 6'8", and boast two players who played Division I at one time (6'7" Brian Freeman, who played at Binghamton, and 6'4" Donald Williams, who played at Maryland Eastern-Shore).

Our second exhibition opponent, Drury, represents the fifth straight defending Division II Champion that has come to Cameron (the other four were: Western Washington (2012), Bellarmine (2011), Cal-Poly Pomona (2010), and Findlay (2009)). The Drury roster has lots of experience, with three seniors and five juniors, but nobody taller than 6'6". The only current Panther who played Division I ball is 6'3" Lonnie Boga, who played at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Duke will be huge favorites in both games. Everybody happy? Let's move on. Here are the main questions I'll be focusing on this season:

(1) HEALTH!!!

We've had major injuries to important starters three seasons in a row. The team appears pretty healthy right now, so everybody cross whatever appendages seem appropriate and pray things stay that way.

The only Phase report last season in which "Health" was inadvertently not listed first was written less than a week before Ryan Kelly went down for almost two months.

Nuff said.

(2) Depth

Depth can mean many things. It could refer to depth of talent on the roster, and this year's team scores high by that standard. My guess is all 12 of our recruited scholarship players would start (or at least play big rotation minutes) on at least 90% of the college basketball teams out there. We have talent.

Another, possibly better definition, is how prepared you are for unforeseen emergencies, foul trouble, injuries, and the like. Last season, Amile Jefferson played 7 minutes combined in the two games before Ryan Kelly got hurt, but was talented and prepared enough to step in and play well in almost 20 mpg while Ryan was out. Again, all twelve recruited scholarship players on Duke's roster this season should be able to answer the bell when called.

But most fans seem to equate depth with how many players earn rotation minutes.

The good news here is that Coach K has announced he plans to go deeper into his bench this season than he generally has in the past. His usual rotation in close games after January 1 has tended to be around seven deep, with only a handful of teams during his Duke tenure that have even approached eight deep.

Will he go nine or ten deep this year? Who knows. If he does, it might simply mean the 9th and 10th guys play 5 mpg in big games instead of 0 mpg. But it will certainly be something to watch.

(2b) Rotation

A corollary to depth is who's going to be in the rotation. This season the top of the rotation seems fairly well set: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Andre Dawkins, and Tyler Thornton seem poised to play the lion's share of Duke's minutes. The pecking order beyond that is something to keep an eye on.

Josh Hairston is a senior who can defend inside and led the Duke team in charges taken last season. He'd seem to be in the best position for the 8th man/3rd big at this juncture. However, all four of our remaining players bring potentially intriguing things, and I could see all of them as 8th or 9th men at some point in the season.

Matt Jones has a reputation as an outstanding shooter and showed decent defensive chops at CTC. Marshall Plumlee is still coming back from multiple injuries but he looked pretty mobile at CTC and is our only player close to a 7-footer. Semi Ojeleye is built like a Sherman Tank and can jump out of the gym -- and according to Jay Williams, Semi wins every speed drill too. He looked pretty decent on the defensive end at CTC as well. And at one time Alex Murphy, our 2nd tallest player but with the mobility of a wing, appeared to be penciled in as a four-year starter. All should push for time, though this season at least I'd guess none of them has a ceiling higher than 8th man.

(3) Rebounding

A lot of people have identified defensive rebounding as a potential Achilles Heel for this year's Duke team. But here's something I bet you didn't know: In the past 16 seasons, our top two defensive rebounding teams were in 2006-07 (69.6% defensive rebounding pct) and 2011-12 (68.1%). Of course, the other thing those years have in common is they were the only two seasons in the time span that we didn't get out of the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Our worst three defensive rebounding teams were 1999-2000 (62.0%), 2005-06 (62.2%), and 2003-04 (62.9%), three seasons in which Duke either finished #1 in the Final AP poll or made the Final Four.

So maybe defensive rebounding prowess doesn't necessarily correlate to overall team strength? It may also be worth mentioning that those three worst rebounding teams all had either Shelden Williams or Carlos Boozer playing center for them.

All that said, I'm cautiously optimistic about Duke's defensive rebounding this season. Amile Jefferson is still thin, but he has put on some weight and seems fundamentally sound; Jabari Parker appeared to be a rebounding beast at CTC; Rodney Hood has good size for a small forward; and last season, Rasheed Sulaimon (10.9% def reb pct) and Quinn Cook (11.0% dr%) were both pretty solid rebounders for perimeter-oriented guards. To the extent that they play, both Semi Ojeleye and Marshall Plumlee have the potential to rebound well. So we may not dominate the defensive boards, but we should at least be adequate.

Due to the smallish nature of our first two opponents, I doubt we'll have too much more information after Phase 0 than we have now.

(4) Interior Defense

Along the same lines, I think our interior defense should be fine, although obviously teams with hulking centers could present a challenge for Amile Jefferson (listed on GoDuke.com at 210 lbs). While several ACC teams boast centers who outweigh Amile by 50 pounds or more, the only ones who present a major threat (for anything other than offensive rebounding, which I discussed in the previous section) are big centers who are relied upon by their teams to score, and there just aren't so many of those.

But there are some centers who fit that category and it will be interesting to see how Coach K deals with them when we face them. Obviously he could insert Marshall's height into the lineup, or Semi's strength, and that might be enough.

But after watching CTC, I believe the most likely counter to an overpowering center will be for Duke to go small.

I don't think there's a center in the country who can come close to guarding Jabari Parker. Not many power forwards who'll be able to handle Rodney Hood, either. Quinn and Rasheed should present challenges at their positions, and if the fifth player on the floor is Andre Dawkins or Matt Jones, whoever's guarding them can't afford to roam or help elsewhere.

Defense is a team endeavor. The small lineup I described will be long enough and quick enough to make it difficult for opponents to get the ball inside to their big man, especially if we're applying pressure 30 feet from the basket, or in the full- or three-quarters-court. But the opposing defense would likely be entirely ill-equipped to stop Duke. My guess is most big teams will be forced to go small to counter us and thus would negate their size advantage. It's something I'll be looking for as the season goes on.

But like rebounding, Phase 0 won't provide us very much information on this front.

(5) Defensive Style

This year's Duke team is more athletic than most of our recent editions. How will that affect our defensive prowess and personality?

Pomeroy measures team defense according to four factors: defensive rebounding, free throw rate (how often your opponent gets to the line), turnovers, and opponent's effective FG%. I think it's additionally helpful to break down opponent's FG% into 2-point % and 3-point %.

There are lots of ways to get where you want to be. In 2010 and 2013, our defensive rebounding was pretty strong (for Duke, anyway: 67.7% def reb % in 2013 and 67.5% in 2010) but our opponents got to the line pretty well (32.7% free throw rate in 2013 and 34.0% in 2010) and we didn't turn them over very much (20.4% turnover % in 2013 and 21.4% in 2010). What made those teams strong on D was the fact that our opponents shot lots of threes and didn't hit very many of them (36.8% of our opponents' shots last season were from three-range and they only hit 29.0%; 34.1% of opponents' shots were threes in 2010, and they hit a paltry 28.2% of them).

In 2005, we had a top 3 defense according to Pomeroy, but were average or below average at defensive rebounding, free throw rate, and turnover %. What we did well was not let our opponents take threes (only 26.5% of opponents' shots were from three-land) and then we smothered their 2-point shots (opponents only hit 41.3% of their 2-point shots that year, compared to 47.0% in the dismal defensive season of 2011-12).

In the late '90s and early '00s, the calling card of our defense was forcing turnovers. While our best turnover percentage over the past four seasons was a meh 21.4% in 2010, from 1997 to 2004 our worst turnover pct was 23.1% in 1999 (the best was 27.0% in 1998). (At the same time, our defensive rebounding was fairly anemic during that period.)

What'll it be this season? Coach K has promised us pressure D, some full-court, some three-quarter court traps, some high-pressure halfcourt D. Assuming it happens, it'll be fun to watch. And I think the best guess about our defensive personality is we'll see fairly low defensive rebounding numbers combined with an excitingly high amount of forced turnovers, similar to the glory years of 1997 to 2004. How well we guard shooters and how often we send our opponents to the line remains to be seen.

Put another way, Quinn Cook looked like a defensive dynamo at CTC, and disrupting the opposing point has always been key in Coach K's defensive schemes. Jabari Parker also looked like a plus defender. Rodney Hood is said to be the team's best defender, which is really saying something on a team containing Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton. Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye and Amile Jefferson appeared to be able to hold their own defensively, and Andre Dawkins looked much improved at CTC (although he still showed a couple lapses switching and helping). Josh Hairston can bang inside and is best on the team at drawing charges.

Watching Duke play D this season could be an awful lot of fun.

(6) Tempo

Coach K has also predicted we'll play faster than we have in recent years, perhaps also similar to the late '90s and early '00s. From 1998 to 2003, Duke's lowest number of possessions per 40 minutes was 73.4, peaking in 2001 (77.0) and 2002 (77.1). Since then, we've only broken 71 twice -- 71.6 in 2006 and 74.4 in 2008. Our highest number of possessions per 40 in the last five seasons was 70.2 in 2011. We've been under 69 in three of the past four years.

The key to those fast tempos of 1998 to 2003 was that we managed that speed while not turning the ball over excessively (every one of those seasons Duke had either the lowest or 2nd-lowest turnover percentage in the ACC and among the 42-lowest in the nation). Which means the key here is again Quinn Cook. So far in his career, Quinn has been strong at protecting the ball. If he can continue that trend while playing at a quicker pace, it'll be an exciting ride.

One side note on this topic: the prevailing wisdom is when you play a fast pace you also go deeper into your bench. While this may be true for many teams -- and may be true this year since Coach K says he's going to go deeper -- it has not been the case up until now at Duke during Coach K's time. In fact, the three fastest Duke teams in the past 17 seasons (2000, 2001, and 2002) were actually the three teams that played the shortest benches in Coach K's entire tenure at Duke.

In 1999-2000, in games decided by fewer than 20 points after January 1, Duke saw an average of 6.31 players playing 10 minutes or more while compiling 76.1 possessions per game. The 2000-01 season had an average of 6.5 such players with a 77.0 pace, and 2001-02 had 6.27 such players with a 77.1 pace. In contrast, the 2011-12 season had an average of 7.55 such players with a pedestrian 68.8 pace.

(7) Andre and Rasheed

The two Duke players who seem to be the biggest enigmas this season are Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon. Opinions on Andre have ranged from some predicting a starting role while others suggesting he won't get off the bench. Guesses about Rasheed have ranged from sixth man to early NBA entry.

Andre, of course, is coming back from a season off while he tried to mentally regroup after a personal tragedy. Rasheed is the one presumed starter who Coach K hasn't confirmed in that role. How these two players respond to the uncertainty will go a long way toward determining the scope of Duke's success this season.

In the end, I'm hoping they both rise to the challenge. With his mind free and the body of a fifth-year senior, Andre has the potential to to be a star. His defense appears much improved, his shot has always been a thing of beauty, and at CTC he slashed to the hoop and/or drove and dished several times. Especially in the situation where the opponent's best defenders will likely be concentrated elsewhere, if Andre shows more consistency than he has in the past, he (and Duke) will be very hard to stop.

As a freshman, Rasheed looked like a rising star as well. His quickness, slashing ability, and top notch defensive acumen, combined with an unorthodox but fairly effective shot, had NBA scouts penning glowing reports. And yet Coach K has not yet annointed him as a starter. And at CTC he sometimes appeared to be trying to do too much. I predict he'll settle down and become the great player we all know he can be.

(8) Any weakness on offense?

We've discussed defense, but what weaknesses will Duke have on offense this season? Will we have any?

On the CTC broadcast, Dino Gaudio suggested Duke's going to have to find an interior scorer. I think he's way off base. First of all, Amile Jefferson is crafty around the basket and showed several times during CTC that he can score against a seven-footer. Second, every single player on Duke's team can get to the rack under the right circumstances. Third, in general teams need inside scoring to give them an "easy" score in tight situations, but Duke's "easy" score this year will probably be the fast break. Finally, we have such a strong offense with so many effective offensive weapons that the lack of a true back-to-the-basket scorer shouldn't even slow us down.

There has also been talk that free throw shooting might be Duke's kryptonite. Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker are going to get to the line a lot, they're both going to be out there at crunch time and neither are reputed to be stellar from the line. The parallels to the 2002 Duke/Indiana tournament game have the potential to induce nightmares. To add to the hysteria, none of Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Josh Hairston, or Alex Murphy have shown even adequate free throw shooting in their careers so far. Tyler Thornton is not great from the line, either, and at CTC, Matt Jones hit only 3 of 8 freebies.

The good news is Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are outstanding free throw shooters, and Andre Dawkins isn't too far behind them. What we need to watch for is whether the others can exceed expectations from the line. Josh, Marshall, and Alex showed improved vastly improved strokes at CTC. Jabari and Rodney combined to hit 12 of 15 from the charity stripe.

And more pertinent to this Phase report, this is an area on which we might actually get good input during the Phase 0 exhibition games.

(9) Leadership and Chemistry

Every team needs leadership. On a team that lost three senior leaders and has five players who weren't on the roster last season, it's not immediately obvious where that leadership's going to come from. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston are seniors with leadership quailities, but as the likely 7th and 8th men, they may not be on the court enough to lead. Andre Dawkins is also a senior (really a grad student) but his quiet demeanor and unique personal situation may (or may not) prove a hurdle in the leadership area. Quinn Cook could be the answer, but in the past his on-court emotions have been a bit too mercurial. Now an upperclassman, perhaps Quinn can mature in this area.

One of the biggest surprises of the off-season (at least to me) was the selection of Rodney Hood as captain (along with Tyler Thornton). Obviously the players and coaches see leadership qualities in this quiet newcomer (who isn't entirely a newcomer since he practiced with the team all last season). At CTC, Jabari Parker seemed to lead by example on the court, as well.

So, we have a lot of potential candidates here. It will be interesting to see who steps up and grabs the leadership mantle.

Another question is the oft-cited issue of "chemistry." The team is essentially being formed around two guys (Jabari and Rodney) who haven't yet played a minute for the Blue Devils, and Coach K has said playing time will at least partially be assigned by how well the others can work with those two. The potential for resentment is certainly there. How well will the team mesh?

At CTC this didn't appear to be a problem. The team seems to genuinely enjoy playing together and both Rodney and Jabari appear to be friendly, modest guys who most players would love to have on their team. Neither are prima donnas, both share the ball and the glory. So I'm not worried, but it may be something to track as the season unfolds.

(10) Let's go Duke

That's it for now. I'm really stoked for the ride this season.

Billy Dat
10-22-2013, 10:29 AM
Excellent Phase post!

A few things popped out to me.

-Free throws
Nice work panning for this nugget. I will start taking the antacids now. For all J. Willy's brilliance, his free throw bugaboos were mind boggling. Let's hope we keep the ball in the guards hands in free throw battles at the ends of close games.

-Rasheed
Highlighting the Rasheed and Andre point was key. The more K talks about Rasheed, the more you see that Rasheed has his work cut out for him. I found this passage from ACC media day really interesting:
http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/10/16/3287247/mike-krzyzewski-talks-matt-jones.html
"Throughout the preseason, Krzyzewski had avoided anointing Rasheed Sulaimon a starter, even though he and Quinn Cook are the pair of returning starters from last yearís Elite Eight squad. That continued Wednesday when he was asked specifically about Sulaimonís role.
'Rasheed had a really good freshman year, but we also had no competition because Seth couldnít practice, he just played, and Andre didnít play at all. Now, you have Andre back, Matt is really good and Rodney. You have three guys on the perimeter and Quinn back and Tyler, itís tougher for everybody, which is good. The other thing is, we knew we were going to build our team around three guys last year, the three seniors. So, then you fit in. You fit in really well in a drama. Now, itís an action movie or a musical. Something you did with that, you have to adapt to do it here. Heís still in a period of adapting. Heís not the only one.'

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 10:40 AM
Kedsy,

Great job. This is insanely thorough. I agree with about 98% of what you said (you and I have historically disagreed about interior defense and rebounding, but that's a minor quibble).

The one thing I would change is 'Depth'. Barring injury, we clearly have depth, and a lot of it (the fact that Alex Murphy a is rarely listed as a key player for this Duke team shows how deep we are. He has the talent, the body, and the potential. Now he needs the confidence and mental strength).

Anywho, I'd change 'Depth' with 'Role Buy-in'. This is highly linked to chemistry, but it's an important quality nonetheless. There are clear roles on this year's team - Coach K has essentially said the same thing - and in order to crush it during the season and tournaments, we need buy-in from all players. For instance, if Rasheed is expected to play insane defense and provide an offensive spark here and there, then him executing on that role is essential (just an example). Playing outside of his role (or any other player's role) can be detrimental to the team, especially with regards to team chemistry.

I look at the beautiful 2009-10 team as inspiration. I wouldn't call them a top 5 team talent-wise during the season. Of Coach K's Final Four teams, I'd argue that they were the least talented. However, they won because each player had a role and bought into that role beautifully. If it can happen with this team, I'm expecting great things.

As you said, Go Duke!

Billy Dat
10-22-2013, 11:02 AM
I didn't see CTC (sigh), but I have seen the Jabari baseline flush. My first thought was that we haven't had an NBA-caliber talent with his particular size and skill set in a long while, if ever. He's thicker than Grant, McRoberts, Deng, Dunleavy or Shane, not as bruising as Brand or Shelden or Singler but smoother than all 3....and he's clearly in that "man among boys" camp. As I watched that highlight, it reminded me of how impactful a true NBA starter-caliber talent can be to a college team. So, maybe we need to break out a segment called, "Will Jabari be JABARI!?!"

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 11:05 AM
I didn't see CTC (sigh), but I have seen the Jabari baseline flush. My first thought was that we haven't had an NBA-caliber talent with his particular size and skill set in a long while, if ever. He's thicker than Grant, McRoberts, Deng, Dunleavy or Shane, not as bruising as Brand or Shelden or Singler but smoother than all 3....and he's clearly in that "man among boys" camp. As I watched that highlight, it reminded me of how impactful a true NBA starter-caliber talent can be to a college team. So, maybe we need to break out a segment called, "Will Jabari be JABARI!?!"

Jabari is really interesting. His body is identical to Melo's. His D is probably better (most PFs have better D than Melo), his rebounding will probably be tough to match, he isn't as good of a 3pt shooter, but he just as creative on O, and he is more cerebral. I can't think of a player like that.

I think you're spot on: he may be the first 'Jabari'.

ChillinDuke
10-22-2013, 12:54 PM
Jabari is really interesting. His body is identical to Melo's. His D is probably better (most PFs have better D than Melo), his rebounding will probably be tough to match, he isn't as good of a 3pt shooter, but he just as creative on O, and he is more cerebral. I can't think of a player like that.

I think you're spot on: he may be the first 'Jabari'.

Kedsy - superb stuff. Hats off.

FDD - I agree wholeheartedly. Jabari carries himself on the court in a way that I have never seen before in my years following basketball (NBA as a youngster; NCAA since, well, college). In my limited time watching him, I'd say he's fluid and seems to already possess that "the game needs to slow down for him" skill. He's not fast, but he can beat you. He's not quick, but he can be shifty. He seems to be in the right places at the right times. And he doesn't want to make every play - just the right play. That's what I've seen so far - and man, is that unique to truly possess and utilize that skill set.

Go Duke!!!

- Chillin

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 01:00 PM
Kedsy - superb stuff. Hats off.

FDD - I agree wholeheartedly. Jabari carries himself on the court in a way that I have never seen before in my years following basketball (NBA as a youngster; NCAA since, well, college). In my limited time watching him, I'd say he's fluid and seems to already possess that "the game needs to slow down for him" skill. He's not fast, but he can beat you. He's not quick, but he can be shifty. He seems to be in the right places at the right times. And he doesn't want to make every play - just the right play. That's what I've seen so far - and man, is that unique to truly possess and utilize that skill set.

Go Duke!!!

- Chillin

I think you've described Melo here. Players like him are incredibly unique - they are crazy strong (and I'd argue that Jabari can lift the most on the team, Semi withstanding) to overpower quick players and fast enough to get around strong players. Elton fit that description, but he was a college 5, not a college 4 like Jabari. It's gonna be a pleasure watching him.

Kedsy
10-22-2013, 01:05 PM
(and I'd argue that Jabari can lift the most on the team, Semi withstanding)

FWIW, from what I've read, Semi lifts way more than anybody else on the team (Jabari included).

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 01:20 PM
FWIW, from what I've read, Semi lifts way more than anybody else on the team (Jabari included).

Whoops. Wrong choice of words. I meant Semi not included.

Jabari is a strong kid. He's definitely got some mass.

Skitzle
10-22-2013, 01:51 PM
My brain/memory felt like all the Melo-Parker comparisons were unjust. I just felt like Melo was much stronger than Parker, but.... Melo was 220 his freshman year. Jabari is 235.... In fact, Melo is only 235 now! Both are 6'8".

Wow! Jabari has some sneaky muscle...

Jabari has 35 pounds on Wiggins.

The more you know...

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 02:26 PM
My brain/memory felt like all the Melo-Parker comparisons were unjust. I just felt like Melo was much stronger than Parker, but.... Melo was 220 his freshman year. Jabari is 235.... In fact, Melo is only 235 now! Both are 6'8".

Wow! Jabari has some sneaky muscle...

Jabari has 35 pounds on Wiggins.

The more you know...

The interesting thing about Melo and Jabari is that they are both power small forwards, ie SFs who can easily play PF in small ball situations.

It's important to note that the term 'tweener' does not apply to either player. A tweener is a player who is often too small to play PF or too slow to play SF (think Derrick Williams and Anthony Randolph).

That leads to me ask - will we ever play Jabari at the 3? I know we don't have much big man depth, but a line-up of Quinn, Hood, Jabari, Amile, and MP3 is just massive. Coach K may use it sparingly (if at all), and I'd love to see how that group functions together.

Wow - I have convinced myself to really follow Jabari this year (DBR helped ;)).

Skitzle
10-22-2013, 02:34 PM
Wow - I have convinced myself to really follow Jabari this year (DBR helped ;)).


You weren't thinking about it before??? He's the most exciting thing to happen to Duke basketball since Rodney Hood and Rasheed's awesome freshman season and Amile's also surprising awesome freshman season.

Sucks doesn't it, we have to wait SOOO long between excitement as Duke basketball fans.

Kedsy
10-22-2013, 02:38 PM
That leads to me ask - will we ever play Jabari at the 3? I know we don't have much big man depth, but a line-up of Quinn, Hood, Jabari, Amile, and MP3 is just massive. Coach K may use it sparingly (if at all), and I'd love to see how that group functions together.

I'd be surprised if we played a lineup like this for more than a few seconds. Minutes, especially minutes on the wing, are going to be a precious commodity this season, and it wouldn't seem to make sense to play Marshall and Amile together at the expense of our plethora of wings.

flyingdutchdevil
10-22-2013, 02:40 PM
I'd be surprised if we played a lineup like this for more than a few seconds. Minutes, especially minutes on the wing, are going to be a precious commodity this season, and it wouldn't seem to make sense to play Marshall and Amile together at the expense of our plethora of wings.

I agree with you, but look at that size! Also, each of those players would be comfortable at each of those positions! NBA teams would be jealous of that height.

Hey, at least a man can dream...

superdave
10-22-2013, 03:19 PM
(7) Andre and Rasheed

The two Duke players who seem to be the biggest enigmas this season are Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon. Opinions on Andre have ranged from some predicting a starting role while others suggesting he won't get off the bench. Guesses about Rasheed have ranged from sixth man to early NBA entry.

Andre, of course, is coming back from a season off while he tried to mentally regroup after a personal tragedy. Rasheed is the one presumed starter who Coach K hasn't confirmed in that role. How these two players respond to the uncertainty will go a long way toward determining the scope of Duke's success this season.

In the end, I'm hoping they both rise to the challenge. With his mind free and the body of a fifth-year senior, Andre has the potential to to be a star. His defense appears much improved, his shot has always been a thing of beauty, and at CTC he slashed to the hoop and/or drove and dished several times. Especially in the situation where the opponent's best defenders will likely be concentrated elsewhere, if Andre shows more consistency than he has in the past, he (and Duke) will be very hard to stop.

As a freshman, Rasheed looked like a rising star as well. His quickness, slashing ability, and top notch defensive acumen, combined with an unorthodox but fairly effective shot, had NBA scouts penning glowing reports. And yet Coach K has not yet annointed him as a starter. And at CTC he sometimes appeared to be trying to do too much. I predict he'll settle down and become the great player we all know he can be.



Rasheed started for the first couple of months last season, then came off the bench mid-January vs. GT immediately following a game against State where he shot 0-10. He bounced back to go 5-8 from the field including 3-4 for 3.

Here is what Coach K had to say after the game: (http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=206014661) "And Rasheed [Sulaimon] had his best performance since Temple. For a lot of freshman it is tough to keep playing really well, but he had a month where he just wasnít playing up to the level that he can play at, but tonight he did. He has practiced that way for the last three days and it paid off. Those two freshmen really helped us tonight."

Come March, Thornton replaced Sulaimon in the starting lineup for the game at Unc and the ACCT loss to Maryland. Sulaimon had a four game stretch where he scored only 17 points to go with 8 turnovers. Looks like in retrospect he hit the freshman wall.

Here's a blurb (http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/03/15/2753322/duke-trails-maryland-34-26-at.html#storylink=cpy) from Laura Keely's post game article: "Ė If there was one positive for Duke, it was Rasheed Sulaimon turning in his first solid performance in five games. The freshman, who lost his starting spot to Tyler Thornton before the North Carolina game, finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. He had 17 points in his last four games combined.

Krzyzewski wasnít overly comforted by that development.

ďHe did a good job. But itís not about one guy,Ē Krzyzewski said. ďThis was not a good night for us.Ē

Looks like Coach K wants Rasheed to be more consistent and earn that starting job.

One good question comes from the competition between Rasheed and Andre though - would it make more sense to start Andre to help space the floor for our slashers? Rasheed could come off the bench at the 1, 2 and 3 and play start-level minutes.

Kedsy
10-22-2013, 03:38 PM
One good question comes from the competition between Rasheed and Andre though - would it make more sense to start Andre to help space the floor for our slashers? Rasheed could come off the bench at the 1, 2 and 3 and play start-level minutes.

That might make sense from an offensive perspective. Rasheed's defense is still much better than Andre's, though. Plus, Rasheed sometimes seems to get down when things aren't going well. I know he did it in the two examples you cited from last season, but is he the kind of guy who would take the "demotion" constructively, or would he sulk a little? I'm not sure.


I agree with you, but look at that size! Also, each of those players would be comfortable at each of those positions! NBA teams would be jealous of that height.

Hey, at least a man can dream...

Did you see Rodney guarding the point guard for a bit at CTC? You want size, replace Quinn with Alex or Semi (both of whom supposedly played wing in high school). Another lineup that'll never see the light of day, but about as big as they come -- 6'8, 6'9 (or 6'7"), 6'8, 6'9, 7'0.

BD80
10-22-2013, 05:00 PM
... Here are the main questions I'll be focusing on this season:

(1) HEALTH!!!
...

(2) Depth

... Coach K has announced he plans to go deeper into his bench this season than he generally has in the past. His usual rotation in close games after January 1 has tended to be around seven deep, with only a handful of teams during his Duke tenure that have even approached eight deep.

Will he go nine or ten deep this year? Who knows. If he does, it might simply mean the 9th and 10th guys play 5 mpg in big games instead of 0 mpg. But it will certainly be something to watch.

(2b) Rotation

A corollary to depth is who's going to be in the rotation. This season the top of the rotation seems fairly well set: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Andre Dawkins, and Tyler Thornton seem poised to play the lion's share of Duke's minutes. The pecking order beyond that is something to keep an eye on.

Josh Hairston is a senior who can defend inside and led the Duke team in charges taken last season. He'd seem to be in the best position for the 8th man/3rd big at this juncture. However, all four of our remaining players bring potentially intriguing things, and I could see all of them as 8th or 9th men at some point in the season.

Matt Jones has a reputation as an outstanding shooter and showed decent defensive chops at CTC. Marshall Plumlee is still coming back from multiple injuries but he looked pretty mobile at CTC and is our only player close to a 7-footer. Semi Ojeleye is built like a Sherman Tank and can jump out of the gym -- and according to Jay Williams, Semi wins every speed drill too. He looked pretty decent on the defensive end at CTC as well. And at one time Alex Murphy, our 2nd tallest player but with the mobility of a wing, appeared to be penciled in as a four-year starter. All should push for time, though this season at least I'd guess none of them has a ceiling higher than 8th man.

(3) Rebounding ...

(4) Interior Defense

...

But like rebounding, Phase 0 won't provide us very much information on this front.

(5) Defensive Style

...

What'll it be this season? Coach K has promised us pressure D, some full-court, some three-quarter court traps, some high-pressure halfcourt D. Assuming it happens, it'll be fun to watch. And I think the best guess about our defensive personality is we'll see fairly low defensive rebounding numbers combined with an excitingly high amount of forced turnovers, similar to the glory years of 1997 to 2004. How well we guard shooters and how often we send our opponents to the line remains to be seen. ...

Watching Duke play D this season could be an awful lot of fun.

(6) Tempo

...

(7) Andre and Rasheed

... As a freshman, Rasheed looked like a rising star as well. His quickness, slashing ability, and top notch defensive acumen, combined with an unorthodox but fairly effective shot, had NBA scouts penning glowing reports. ...

(8) Any weakness on offense?... There has also been talk that free throw shooting might be Duke's kryptonite. ...

(9) Leadership and Chemistry...

(10) Let's go Duke ...

Dang! Good thing ol' roy can't break down our team as well as this!


I think a HUGE factor, one that will reveal itself from the opening tip, is the new rules/ rule interpretations. Although I hate calipari, he did say some interesting things when interviewed for ESPN's midnight madness special. He believes the rules will greatly open up the game, favor teams that can play zone, and will (at least initially) lead to a LOT of foul trouble -which will favor teams with deep benches.

The rule changes, restricting hand checking on defense, and requiring the defender have position earlier in the block/charge call, will impact most of the issues listed above.

On defense, will we change the way we play help-side D? We are known for stepping in to take the charge, some would say Duke's success in that respect led to the new rule interpretation. Coaches have commented that they will not be teaching their kids to take charge, they will tell them to "go for the block or get out of the way!" This would hurt Josh, who is more of an earthbound/position oriented defender, and would favor Amile and Semi. It might also give Marshall more of a role as a basket defender.

Will we play z-z-z-z-z , heck, I can't even say the word! Coach K used a defense that rhymes with bone for Team USA, which this year's team resembles. That might give Alex and Semi more burn - and give us a chance to rest Jabari. It also provides an opportunity to play Rasheed and Andre together.

The new rules place an emphasis on speed/quickness over strength, requiring defenders to move their feet to stay in front of their men. This will tend to favor smaller/quicker line-ups, and we'll see more 3 or 4 guard line-ups. This year's team seems built for that. It also seems that Matt might be well suited to the new rules. Can Tyler adjust? He uses his strength as much as quickness in playing D.

I think we will see a much deeper rotation, if only because of the number of fouls that will be called. In phase 0, the rotation will be deep to see who is best adjusting to the rules and to see who works well in combination with whom.

On offense the new rules will make things very interesting. Unless Andre has greatly improved his ball-handling, I see Rasheed earning PT for his ability to get to the lane. However, if we intend to spread the floor to allow Quinn, Jabari and Rodney to penetrate, maybe Andre gets the nod for spot up shooting. Matt could really grow into this role, coming in as the designated shooter, a theme that arises again if we see zones.

Without hand-checking, I don't see many teams staying in front of Jabari or Quinn. Free throws will be of utmost importance this year.

If teams start playing more zone, we'll have Andre, Matt and Alex(?) to make shots. I don't know if you would call this the "rotation" as much as situational substitution, but does pertain to the depth we have in numbers and in variety of skills.

Leadership will also require Coach K's favorite: Communication. With a freer flowing game, even more and quicker communication is required. If we stretch the D, communication must come from all players. When leaders are on the bench for rest or for fouls, other leaders must emerge.

-jk
10-22-2013, 07:42 PM
With regards to how the refs call the game: rough play has been a point of emphasis for years. To no avail. I really hope they do call it tighter, but I'm not holding my breath.

-jk

Newton_14
10-22-2013, 07:58 PM
I didn't see CTC (sigh), but I have seen the Jabari baseline flush. My first thought was that we haven't had an NBA-caliber talent with his particular size and skill set in a long while, if ever. He's thicker than Grant, McRoberts, Deng, Dunleavy or Shane, not as bruising as Brand or Shelden or Singler but smoother than all 3....and he's clearly in that "man among boys" camp. As I watched that highlight, it reminded me of how impactful a true NBA starter-caliber talent can be to a college team. So, maybe we need to break out a segment called, "Will Jabari be JABARI!?!"

You were there in spirit Billy! I sat in Section 1 beside 2 guys who drove up from Rock Hill SC just to see CTC. We ended up chatting it up quite a bit. If the one right beside me said it once, he said it 15 times that night after a Jabari play: "That's grown man basketball right there".

I could not agree more with him or you. Jabari is special. He is going to be a beast for other teams to deal with on both ends of the floor.

kAzE
10-22-2013, 11:12 PM
That might make sense from an offensive perspective. Rasheed's defense is still much better than Andre's, though. Plus, Rasheed sometimes seems to get down when things aren't going well. I know he did it in the two examples you cited from last season, but is he the kind of guy who would take the "demotion" constructively, or would he sulk a little? I'm not sure.

This is definitely Rasheed's biggest weakness. He is never gun-shy from beyond the arc, but nonetheless, I don't think anyone can dispute that he is a very streaky shooter, and when his shot isn't falling, it tends to detract from other aspects of his game. (Sometimes, he will get into a "eff you" mode on offense, and try to score regardless of what the defense is giving him) Nobody needs to embrace the "next play" mentality more than Rasheed. Coming from my personal experience as a high school shooting guard who was similarly streaky, I just had to accept sometimes that I was having an off night, and use my other skills to help the team win. Rasheed's biggest strengths are his defense, rebounding from the wing, and ability to get to the foul stripe, where he is very consistent. If his shot isn't falling, he's just got to lean on those other foundations.

Regarding the Andre/Rasheed controversy . . . I don't see Andre supplanting Rasheed as a starter permanently, but I definitely think Andre will start at least 4 or 5 games this year. Coach K is known to bench guys as a motivational tool, and Andre is certainly capable of performing at a high level, being our best floor spacer as a deep threat.

greybeard
10-23-2013, 12:18 AM
Teams that have to play against great and varied competition in practice every day have a big edge on teams that do not have that kind of talent and team cohesion to go against everyday. As important, in my mind, with regard to who gets how many minutes is the extent to which the second stringers cohere and can not the snot out of the starters, maybe not for an entire scrimmage, but for long enough that the starters must grow to survive.

Also, a deep bench does a couple of other intangibles. It gives starters a sense that they are fortunate--it is not like those in front of them are "better," just that K selected them as best fitting his approach. Those who are picked have a different type of responsibility. It is not to their coach, nor the fans, nor even their co-starters. It is to the guys behind them against whom they compete every day. The bonds are strong, the competition is strong, and the guy on the floor in a certain sense is there for both of them. That type of relationship can spread amongst an entire team. Those teams often are quite special.

The depth Duke has can be a tremendous advantage.

COYS
10-23-2013, 12:00 PM
Great post, as always, Kedsy. Thanks for getting this started.

To me, the most encouraging thing I saw in CTC was Quinn's absolute dismantling of Tyler in their head to head matchup. Quinn's defense on Tyler was so good, Jabari and Matt ended up bringing the ball up the court more than Tyler did in that first game. While Tyler is no offensive wizard, he's still got a steady enough handle that it is surprising when he can hardly manage to get the ball across the half-court line.

While some have been concerned with Duke's ability to play defense with a relatively small front-line, it is important to remember that Duke's defensive rating according to KenPom was much better during the 07-08 season with Kyle and Lance guarding opposing centers and 08-09, when Kyle, Lance, and Brian combined to guard opposing centers. In each of those years, Duke was undone by small-ball teams in the tournament (WVU and Villanova). In the past two seasons when we've had multiple options in Miles, Mason, Ryan, and Marshall to guard opposing centers, our defensive ratings have actually been pretty poor by Duke standards.

I think that Quinn's ability to neutralize or at least slow down opposing point guards is more important than whether or not we match up well one on one with big, low-post scorers (of which there are few in college basketball). In fact, I think it is the starting point for whether or not our defense can be as disruptive as we all hope it can be.

As Kedsy mentioned, there are many ways to play good defense. Preventing the opposing point guard from controlling the game will be key, as Duke's weaknesses (lack of size in the post, lack of a proven rebounder) are limited while our strengths (length, athleticism, open-court ability) are maximized in extended half-court defenses or full-court pressing.

It will be interesting to watch Quinn as the competition improves. If he can demonstrate a consistent ability to wreak havoc on the opposing point guard, it bodes well for Duke's defense this year.

azzefkram
10-23-2013, 12:40 PM
While some have been concerned with Duke's ability to play defense with a relatively small front-line, it is important to remember that Duke's defensive rating according to KenPom was much better during the 07-08 season with Kyle and Lance guarding opposing centers and 08-09, when Kyle, Lance, and Brian combined to guard opposing centers. In each of those years, Duke was undone by small-ball teams in the tournament (WVU and Villanova). In the past two seasons when we've had multiple options in Miles, Mason, Ryan, and Marshall to guard opposing centers, our defensive ratings have actually been pretty poor by Duke standards.

The poor defensive rating had much more to do with our perimeter defense than our front line defenders. Miles, Mason and Ryan were rated as some of the top defenders on our team. Two years ago our perimeter was Austin, Seth and Dre. All of them were terrible defenders. Last year Sheed and to a lesser extent Quinn helped improve that but it was still the weakest part of our D.

COYS
10-23-2013, 12:44 PM
The poor defensive rating had much more to do with our perimeter defense than our front line defenders. Miles, Mason and Ryan were rated as some of the top defenders on our team. Two years ago our perimeter was Austin, Seth and Dre. All of them were terrible defenders. Last year Sheed and to a lesser extent Quinn helped improve that but it was still the weakest part of our D.

I think it was a combo of a variety of factors. Mason and Miles never were great at hedging (something Zoubek became a master at), which is key for Duke's brand of D and makes life much easier for the guards, especially if the guards are a little slower than the opponents.

At any rate, the reason I mentioned the size of the interior defenders of the past few Duke teams was to highlight that perimeter D is in fact more important than the weight/height of our interior defenders. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I think we both agree, completely, on how crucial perimeter D is for the team's success.

kAzE
10-24-2013, 12:41 AM
But after watching CTC, I believe the most likely counter to an overpowering center will be for Duke to go small.

I don't think there's a center in the country who can come close to guarding Jabari Parker. Not many power forwards who'll be able to handle Rodney Hood, either. Quinn and Rasheed should present challenges at their positions, and if the fifth player on the floor is Andre Dawkins or Matt Jones, whoever's guarding them can't afford to roam or help elsewhere.

Defense is a team endeavor. The small lineup I described will be long enough and quick enough to make it difficult for opponents to get the ball inside to their big man, especially if we're applying pressure 30 feet from the basket, or in the full- or three-quarters-court. But the opposing defense would likely be entirely ill-equipped to stop Duke. My guess is most big teams will be forced to go small to counter us and thus would negate their size advantage. It's something I'll be looking for as the season goes on.


I think a Parker/Hood/Dawkins/Sulaimon/Cook lineup is very intriguing, and would not be surprised at all if that turned out to be our crunch time lineup (at least on offense). Jabari has the bulk to guard most centers, and Andre has the size to compare with most college swingmen, so outside of Rodney at the 4 (He's a legit 6-8, but he's skinny and has relatively short arms), we're not giving up THAT much size with our small lineup, even on D.

And on offense, good luck defending that . . . all 5 guys can shoot, 4 of them can create offense for themselves or others off the dribble plus Andre, who you just cannot leave due to the NBA range on his jumper. Also, the fast break potential is ridiculous, I think teams are just going to to have to bench their centers when we go small ball.

The only way I could see this going wrong is if our opponent just has an athletic freak at PF or center, someone who can run the court and is a real threat to score in the post. Oh wait, those don't exist in college basketball anymore, no worries.

Saratoga2
10-24-2013, 02:07 PM
Thanks for putting in the first phase input of the season. Nothing to add since I haven't seen the team play, but I have high hopes for the season. Lots of talent on this team and it should be competitive with anyone out there.

NYBri
10-25-2013, 01:51 PM
....to get this season started, all the more difficult. :)

Let's GO DUKE!