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Duke Basketball: Which Freshman Will Have the Biggest Impact this Season?

Trevon Duval | Photo: Chris Summerville

The Duke basketball program is hard at work getting prepared for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

As is often the case with every offseason now, the Blue Devils are facing a significant amount of roster turnover. Due to graduation, NBA departures, and transferring, Duke has to replace seven of its top eight contributors from last season, with Grayson Allen being the lone returning starter.

The team will hope to close the gap by bringing in one of the top freshman classes in the country, headlined by three McDonald’s All-Americans.

Mike Krzyzewski will rely heavily on his talented freshman – something that has become common for the Duke basketball program over the past few years.

Here’s how I think things will play out in terms of the type of impact those freshmen have.

  1. Trevon Duval
    Point Guard – 6’3”, 186 lbs.
    Championship caliber teams almost always have elite point guard play. It’s one of the biggest things that was missing on last season’s Duke roster. The Blue Devils don’t have that concern this season as Trevon Duval is one of the top rated incoming point guards in the country and has drawn comparisons to Derrick Rose for his size and athleticism. Duval is the kind of player who makes everyone around him better and can serve as a catalyst for his team’s success. Here’s to hoping he reminds us all of the healthy Derrick Rose and avoids the Duke injury bug in what will likely be his lone season in college.

2. Wendell Carter
Power Forward – 6’10”, 259 lbs.
Wendell Carter has a chance to put together a huge year at Duke and position himself as a Top 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. We’ve been hearing reports for the past couple months about how he’s transformed his body to play stronger and faster this season, and that could make him a lethal pairing with Trevon Duval. If Carter has also been able to extend his range to be able to make perimeter shots consistently, he could be unstoppable on offense.

3. Gary Trent Jr.
Shooting Guard – 6’6”, 209 lbs.
It will be interesting to see how Duke elects to use Gary Trent Jr. It’s almost guaranteed that Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen will be starters, meaning Trent would be part of a 3-guard lineup that could require to him to have to defend bigger wing players. He’s drawn praise for his toughness and maturity, but that will be a tough challenge against Duke’s best opponents. He also may be this team’s best option in terms of being able to create his own shot.

4. Jordan Tucker
Small Forward – 6’7”, 212 lbs.
I consider Jordan Tucker to be the x-factor in Duke’s 2017 recruiting class. He was basically the Plan B after Kevin Knox surprisingly committed to Kentucky, but Tucker has the potential to be a perfect fit for the Blue Devils. He’s known as one of the best shooters in the class and at 6’7”, 212 lbs., he should be able to hold his own physically on the wing. If he can hold his own defensively, Tucker could be a dangerous weapon with his perimeter shooting and the playmakers around him.

5. Alex O’Connell
Shooting Guard – 6’6”, 171 lbs.
For this season, it’s unlikely that we see much of Alex O’Connell. He’s known as a playmaker and shooter, but he’ll need a couple years to continue to develop physically and adjust to playing at Duke. Hopefully O’Connell is one of the key members of this class who can help provide the program with some depth and experience down the line.

6. Jordan Goldwire
Point Guard – 6’2”, 172 lbs.
I’ve seen some people comparing Jordan Goldwire to Tyler Thornton, which would be an outstanding scenario for Duke, but it’s also short-changing how Thornton was regarded as a recruit. He was a 4-star prospect from a talent-rich area in Washington, D.C., who had offers from other big-time programs. Duke’s biggest competition for Goldwire was Eastern Kentucky. Realistic expectations for him at this point is that he can be a tough player who can help push Trevon Duval in practice.

*Marvin Bagley
Power Forward – 6’11”, 220 lbs.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll reclassify from the class of 2018, but if Marvin Bagley does elect to jump to this year’s class and commit to Duke, he’d get one of the top two spots on this list. I’d still stick with Duval as the freshman who will have the biggest impact because point guard is such a position of need on this roster, but Bagley would be the most talented player in the lineup. Paired with Wendell Carter and Marques Bolden, Duke could potentially have the most talented frontcourt in the country.

Which freshman do you expect to have the biggest impact this season? Let us know on Twitter at @DukeReport!