The Blue Devils steamrollered Kentucky within the Champions Basic, and their 4 freshman prodigies all appeared the a part of future NBA gamers able to main this system to a nationwide title.
Then an awesome Gonzaga squad, one filled with grown males who concern nothing, held off the Blue Devils within the title sport, an 89-87 thriller.
Now the identical of us who debated Duke’s possibilities of beating an NBA squad — that was foolish — started to query the hype.
Take a deep breath, America.
Duke continues to be an elite group. Duke can evolve into an awesome group. The Blue Devils misplaced to a nationwide championship contender in Maui in November. Nothing has modified for the Blue Devils in 2018-19. They’re nonetheless probably the most intriguing and imposing assortment of expertise within the nation. They’re ranked second in adjusted offensive effectivity and eighth in adjusted defensive effectivity on KenPom.com.
They’re nonetheless the squad that might lower down the nets in Minneapolis.
However Duke’s effort in Maui showcased among the program’s wants going ahead:
1. Time: Final month, I talked to Mike Krzyzewski in his workplace in Durham, North Carolina, about this squad, a group he informed me he “actually preferred” earlier than the season. He mentioned this system had the athletic presents to duplicate the success of the daunting Duke squads of the previous. However he apprehensive about his gamers’ means to speak and their studying curve. I in contrast this group to the 2014-15 group that gained a nationwide title, and he jogged my memory that these Blue Devils had veterans akin to Quinn Prepare dinner, Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones. This group wants its younger gamers to steer. Nothing in opposition to Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White and Alex O’Connell, however Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones should man these roles this season. And that is probably the most troublesome adjustment for younger gamers. They’re going to get there. Keep in mind, that is nonetheless a squad filled with youngsters who performed three video games in three days 4,000 miles from house and misplaced to certainly one of America’s greatest groups on the third day of the match after erasing a double-digit deficit within the last moments of the season’s greatest sport (up to now). Think about the place this group could be 5 months from now.
2. Use Tre Jones as a scoring risk: Duke’s freshman level guard had the breakout efficiency of the Maui Invitational. Professional scouts and execs who hadn’t talked about him earlier within the week have been immediately figuring out him as a participant who would possibly be part of his freshman teammates in subsequent summer time’s draft. One NBA official informed me “he is grown on me.” Jones is 6-for-11 from the 3-point line this season. He made 59 p.c of his pictures throughout Duke’s three video games in Maui, and his group has dedicated turnovers on simply Eight p.c of its possessions whereas making 45.6 p.c of its 3-pointers with him on the ground, per hooplens.com. In opposition to Gonzaga within the Maui Invitational title sport, he hit a few huge buckets down the stretch that helped Duke shut the hole. Though he entered the season because the maestro of this proficient group, he is clearly a succesful scorer who can carry a larger portion of Duke’s offense going ahead. Jones is greater than a distributor. He proved that final week.
3. Permit RJ Barrett to settle into his alpha position and the calls for connected to it: Hear, Duke will proceed to show to the projected No. 1 choose in subsequent summer time’s NBA draft when in a good sport. You’d too. However Barrett has to intention to make one of the best play in these moments. With practically 33 seconds to play in a two-point sport in opposition to Gonzaga, Barrett penetrated and spun towards the basket. By that point, nevertheless, everybody on the island knew he was the highest choice for a Duke group vying for a come-from-behind win. He had been swarmed on the earlier play. On the following possession, he was met by a trio of Bulldogs once more. He had DeLaurier alone below the basket. He had Williamson open, trailing him. He had Jack White, who went 4-for-Eight from the 3-point line in Maui, open within the nook. Jones was on the prime of the arc, ready to reset the offense if obligatory. There have been higher pictures than the one-on-three choice Barrett selected. However that is simply who he’s. He has gained at each stage. He desires that strain. And Duke will profit from his late-game confidence, particularly if he continues to seek for the proper play in these moments. He’ll develop from final week’s challenges.
4. Get constant vitality from Cam Reddish: The 6-foot-8, five-star freshman was probably the most polarizing participant in Maui final week. One NBA scout informed me Reddish “might be probably the most proficient participant on that roster if he would cease bulls—-ing.” Within the last minutes of Duke’s loss to Gonzaga, Reddish was on the bench after going 3-for-9 and committing 4 turnovers. He’s a particular participant. He can play a number of positions on the subsequent stage. He has linked on 43 p.c of his 3-pointers up to now. However the Blue Devils have been a superior defensive group with Reddish on the bench (0.96 factors per possession allowed versus 0.77 PPP allowed, in line with hooplens.com). His effort in stretches was questioned final week. That was the knock in opposition to him in highschool, too. And he is simply too good to provide observers any motive to query his drive. Duke will want a targeted, decided Reddish each sport this season.
5. Establish a constant set off the bench: One NBA scout informed me he was shocked that extra groups didn’t try to attract fouls on Jones, who hasn’t picked up greater than two fouls in a sport but this season. “They do not actually have a backup level guard,” the scout mentioned. If there’s one early concern about Duke, it is the worth of the reserves. Does the group have sufficient high-caliber gamers on its bench? In video games in opposition to Auburn and Gonzaga at Maui, Duke was outscored 42-17 by opponents’ reserves. White had his moments. DeLaurier is a major contributor, too. Nonetheless, the Blue Devils want a dependable catalyst off the bench this season. The group’s star freshmen can have tough nights. They’re going to want extra assist from their reserves in future outings.