With Duke adding another big time recruit for the 2012-13 class (SG Rasheed Sulaimon) my mind wandered to what Duke would look like two years from now and how that team might be better than this years team and next years team.
So, I looked into my crystal ball and amidst the smoke I saw this:
How’s this for a starting lineup?
Mason Plumlee (Sr.) – Ryan Kelly (Sr.) – Alex Murphy (Fr.) – Seth Curry (Sr.) – Tyler Thornton (Jr.)
And a bench containing: Andre Dawkins (Sr.), Rasheed Sulaimon (Fr.), Josh Hairston (Jr.), Michael Gbinije (So.), Marshall Plumlee (So.), Quinn Cook (So.)
That looks good to me, it also doesn’t include anyone else that Duke might add to the 2012-13 class. So, we will take a look at at what I saw for the Duke Blue Devils circa February 2013.
Tyler Thornton would be coming into his own late in his junior season. As a sophomore (and starting point guard) his role is going to be distribute the ball and guide the offense. (Read: get the ball to Austin Rivers.) As a junior, when he’s truly leading the offense (instead of just getting the ball to Rivers), he is going to turn the corner, like Nolan Smith did two years ago between his sophomore and junior season. He won’t go from 8 points to 17 points a game, but he will start scoring more. He is going to be much more comfortable in his second season as starting point guard, look for some 12-15 assist games throughout the season.
Quinn Cook, will be a good backup, especially since he received a good amount of minutes as a freshmen as one of two point guards on the team.
There will be times when Thornton -as a junior- will be the youngest player on the court for Duke (Plumlee-Kelly-Dawkins-Curry-Thornton). That’s always a nice thing to have and even rarer on a team from a Big 6 conference.
First of all, Austin Rivers is one-and-done, lets not kid ourselves. Unless there is some change in the NBA collective bargaining agreement, Rivers will be playing in the NBA in 2013.
By the time they are seniors, Dawkins and Curry will have acquired more nicknames (‘Dynamic Duo’, ‘Baby Faced Assassins’, etc) than strands of facial hair. Curry will most likely be the starter at the 2 in the future, but Dawkins will be the first person off the bench. They are going to drive defenses crazy with their range, their knowledge of each others games and their uncanny ability to find each other on the floor at all times.
Pushing them to make them better will be freshman Rasheed Sulaimon. A high energy guy, his playing time is going to be determined his defense.
Alex Murphy will probably start the season as the starter, but he will suffer from Harrisonitis, a disease that affects over-touted freshmen from playing up to expectation, and will end up coming off the bench until he cures himself some time around January or February.
Unlike the previous top stars of the past two Duke recruiting classes (Irving & Rivers), Murphy isn’t as adapt at creating his own shot, therefore he is going to have trouble finding his way in the Duke offense with guys who have played together for 2 or 3 seasons.
Eventually he will figure it out and turn himself into a contender for ACC Rookie of the Year and a 2nd or 3rd team All-ACC calibre player.
Backing up Murphy will be junior Josh Hairston, who has turned into a David McClure-like player, a glue guy and a fan favorite. Hairston will be able to backup both the three and four and will see a good amount of playing time. Sophomore Michael Gbinije will be the last man off the very deep bench, but not forgotten on a team that lacks a true All-American threat.
Ryan Kelly, a two-year starter, will be showing off his rebounding skills, as well as continuing to shoot 40% from 3-point range. He will finally be comfortable playing with his back to the basket as a senior and -as co-captain- will be one of the floor leaders.
As a senior there will be talk of Kelly playing at the next level, not as a starter, but a solid contributor off someone’s bench.
Mason Plumlee, yes he stuck around for his senior season because he was still being schooled by UNC and Maryland big men as a junior. As a senior he finally added that final 15 pounds he needed to become a force inside. The first true double-double Blue Devil since Shelden Williams, he gets tagged with the “like Brian Zoubek, but with an offensive game” line and makes a run at ACC Player of the Year.
His younger brother, Marshall has shaken off the freshman jitters, grows to a true 7′ footer and adds some weight. This will also be the last season of multiple Plumlees on the floor for Duke, a streak that ends at 5, but Marshall will continue the Plumlee streak and eventually ends at 7 straight Duke teams with a Plumlee.
With four seniors, a junior point guard, a stud freshman on the wing and a deep bench, the 2012-13 Duke team is a near lock to make it back to the Final Four after falling short the season before. Rivers was only able to carry the team to the Elite 8 before their lack of an emotional leader finally caught up with them.
So, my crystal ball says the Duke future looks bright for the next couple of seasons. Its back to the way it should be, reloading, not rebuilding.