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FanTake: The Achilles’ Heel for Duke in 2017

Grayson Allen | Photo: Chris Summerville

Chris Summerville is most likely correct that Duke’s 2017 basketball team is now complete. Scout, Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports each rank Duke’s 2017 recruiting class as second in the nation behind Kentucky. All that sounds good.

The analysts at DukeReport.com, whom I respect a lot, seem to generally expect a starting lineup of Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent, Wendell Carter, and Marques Bolden.

One analyst, though, starts Jack White and another speculates that Jordan Tucker might start. Both feel that Gary Trent might be an invaluable sixth man, perhaps the way Allen was in the latter games of last season.

It is envisioned that Bolden will have improved on his quickness and court savvy and be able to contribute significant minutes, though he had few last year. In fact, neither Bolden nor Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, and Antonio Vrankovic had many minutes on the court at all and this makes them big question marks in regard to how much they will be able to contribute on a consistent, game-by-game basis.

Add this to the fact that, though their mixtapes look nice, Tucker, Alex O’Connell, and Jordan Goldwire are largely unknown quantities in regard to how quickly they can adapt to Division 1 college basketball and perform well. Hopefully, all the guys above will be pleasant surprises.

To me, this is the acid-reflux factor about this Duke team. It has some great pieces, but is woefully thin. Last year, we watched helplessly as Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden all sat on the bench for the first games of the season with the foot/ankle injuries which have become all-too-common on Duke teams for years (Amile Jefferson, Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson were playing injured, too). Bolden and Giles were never able to contribute significantly, though Giles showed flashes of his former talent near the end of the season.

With only Grayson Allen having significant minutes and experience this year, what happens if a player or two gets injured? What happens when a player or more gets in foul trouble? Will the newer guys be able to step in and defend and score adequately to win games? To me, that is the most crucial question facing this year’s team. Though this puts me on edge, I hope the best for this bunch. If they can gel, avoid injuries, adapt quickly, and play to their highest potential, who knows? We may have another winner.
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