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Duke Blue Devils: The Bench Needs To Step Up

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Jeremy Brevard USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the Duke Blue Devils, everybody and their mama knows Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Rasheed Sulaimon (although I struggle with this last name). However, the same cannot be said for Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston, Emile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee (the third installment), and Tyler Thornton. These guys are slowly developing. Quinn Cook should probably have his name with Curry and the other starters mentioned earlier. I added Cook to the bench because he is not a household name like previous Duke point guards, Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith.

Duke has a chance to add another championship banner to their collection this season. Their chances decreased when Ryan Kelly was lost due to injury. Prior to his injury, Kelly averaged 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 assists per game, while maintaining a 47.1% field goal percentage, 52.1% three-point field goal percentage, and 79.3% free throw percentage. What these statistics do not show is Kelly’s ability to spread the offense with his versatility. Kelly was an excellent perimeter shooter, with deceiving quickness, and underrated rebounding. At 6’11” 230 pounds, he played like a small forward in a center’s body. His playing style is just as “Euro” as Dirk Nowitzki‘s or Andrei Kirilenko‘s.

Let’s be honest–none of the role players on Duke’s roster can duplicate Kelly’s numbers and impact individually. However, this can be accomplished collectively. It would behoove head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, to play Hairston, Jefferson, Murphy, and Marshall Plumlee in pairs along with his usual four starters in Cook, Curry, Plumlee, and Sulaimon. Kelly’s absence creates playing time for an unknown role player, but simultaneously, places more pressure on Curry and Mason Plumlee. These two players are the second and third leading scorers in the ACC.

The perfect time is now, because the conference schedule in the ACC will prepare Duke for the NCAA Tournament. If Coach K fails to prepare his team now, then he will have similar results to the past few years–getting knocked out of the tournament in one of the first rounds.

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