Every team has at least one go-to player they can count on; one guy that they can expect to get points from night in and night out. Fewer teams have multiple guys and ever fewer can count on their entire starting lineup.
That is exactly what the Duke Blue Devils are getting right now as the entire starting lineup is averaging in double figures. Mason Plumlee is leading the way with 19.6 points and 11 rebounds per game and even though it is still very early in the season, he has quickly shot up the list of favorites for the national player of the year.
Seth Curry, who didn’t even play in Saturday’s lopsided blow out of Delaware is the second leading scorer at 15 points per game. If you add in Rasheed Sulaimon (12.9) Ryan Kelly (13) and Quinn Cook (10.5) then Duke is getting an average of 71 points from the starters, which in a lot of cases is enough to beat a lot of teams.
The downside to Duke’s starting 5′s scoring prowess is the fact that they are only getting on average about 7.8 points per game from the bench, mostly because those players according to Mike Krzyzewski aren’t coming into the game expected to score.
It is hard to imagine though a team that can get such impressive offensive production from its starting 5 than what the Blue Devils are getting out of theirs. As of Saturday only the No. 1 ranked Indiana had its starting 5 averaging more than 10 points per game and a few others in the Top 10 had up to four players averaging double figures.
If the Blue Devils could get some better scoring production from their bench then this Duke team could be very dangerous, but the jury is still out. Duke did get a glimpse of what can happen when its bench produces on Saturday when Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson stepped up and scored 12 and 10 points respectively to help the Blue Devils make up for Curry sitting out while he is nursing a leg/ankle injury.
Now the only question remains is, can that become a more consistent thing or was it only because Delaware was so overly matched.
You certainly can’t overlook the damage that the Blue Devils’ starters are doing on the scoreboard and overall in the stat sheeting. According to Statsheet.com, Duke’s starting 5 has an average stat grade of 95.3 which is better than a majority of all other players combined.
Mason Plumlee has the nation’s top stat rank at 105 while the Blue Devils have the second highest rank as a team at 98. Granted stats are something that can easily be manipulated and interpreted at will, though all indications seem to indicate that this has the makings of a very good Blue Devil team and their 8-0 record and No. 2 ranking has everyone taking notice.
Just think how good Duke will be though if the contributions of Jefferson and or Murphy become more consistent as the year goes on. Granted we can’t fully expect a game against an over-matched team to be any kind of precursor of things to come. The one thing both players may have been lacking going into the Delaware game is confidence and playing solid minutes and contributing certainly can only improve that.
Duke and especially Krzyzewski is criticized often, even by fans for not playing his bench players and many feel that wears down his starters as they year goes on. History would seem to refute that more times than not, however.
So far the starters are averaging 30 or more minutes per game, which is nothing new, and if they continue to produce at the rate with which they are, then you can’t complain, but so much about minutes, though more production, from the bench is certainly welcome.