Duke Basketball: Predicting the 2015-16 Starting Lineup

Grayson Allen Duke
Photo: Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

It’s been an amazing past month for the Duke basketball program.

Between winning the 2015 national championship, keeping Jeff Capel as part of the coaching staff, sending three likely 1st round picks to the 2015 NBA Draft, and securing the top incoming recruiting class in the country, it’s an incredible time to be a Blue Devil.

After landing commitments from Antonio Vrankovic, Derryck Thornton and Brandon Ingram in the past few weeks, the 2015-16 season has gone from looking like something of a transition year for the program to another season in which Duke has the potential to compete for a national title.

Though it’s extremely difficult to win back-to-back titles and widely assumed that the 2015 freshman class isn’t as strong as last year’s incoming class (for all of college basketball), the Blue Devils certainly have the talent to repeat.

If nothing else, Coach K appears to be heading into next season with tremendous versatility and depth, which is something we also projected prior to last season. Whether or not the roster plays out that way over the course of the 2015-16 season remains to be seen.

However, despite losing four starters, who were also the top four scorers, no one will feel sorry for the talented collection of talent on Duke’s roster next year.

Here is my early prediction for what the starting lineup will look like for the Blue Devils.

PG – Derryck Thornton
Freshman, 6’2, 175 lbs.

I don’t think the incoming 5-star freshman from Las Vegas would have reclassified from the class of 2016 to the 2015 class without there being the understanding that he’d be the team’s primary option at the point guard position next season. Thornton is the pure point guard Coach K was looking for to run his team and he will get the bulk of the minutes as this group’s ballhandler.

SG – Grayson Allen
Sophomore, 6’4”, 195 lbs.

The depth at the 2-guard spot is where Duke will be able to flex its muscles next year. Some might think it’s easy to pencil Grayson Allen in to this spot because of his incredible 2nd half in the national championship game, but it’s more than just that. Over the final month of last season, the game seemed to slow down for Allen and he began to make an impact in nearly every aspect of the game. He’s known for his scoring ability, but his defense and rebounding give him the potential to be a fantastic all-around player.

SF – Brandon Ingram
Freshman, 6’9”, 200 lbs.

I’m giving Ingram the nod in the lineup right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Matt Jones gets this spot. Jones has shown a knack for finding significant minutes in Coach K’s rotation. People are comparing Ingram to Justise Winslow, which I’m assuming is because he’s another athletic forward who can create matchup problems, but Winslow was much more physical. Though he’s lighter, Ingram reminds me more of when Luol Deng joined the Blue Devils in 2003. Ingram is a fantastic offensive player who can use his size and length to score over smaller defenders and quickness to beat bigger defenders.

PF – Amile Jefferson
Senior, 6’9”, 215 lbs.

It’s lazy to look at Amile Jefferson’s stats and think Duke could find a better option for the power forward spot. For a team that will be integrating so many new pieces into the lineup again, Jefferson’s leadership and communication will be key. He’s one of the more underrated defenders in the country, which was evident in how he shut down Frank Kaminsky in the final minutes of the national championship game, and he’s the prototypical glue guy that every great team needs.

C – Marshall Plumlee
Redshirt Senior, 7’0”, 255 lbs.

If you didn’t notice a difference in Marshall Plumlee’s level of play in the 2nd half of last season, you weren’t paying attention. He became more assertive when attacking the basket in the pick-and-roll offense and he was a strong defensive presence on the interior. Duke has enough depth to platoon between the two frontcourt positions and adjust based on style of play, but I think Plumlee gets the starting nod to begin the year.

Key Reserves

Luke Kennard – Guard – Freshman, 6’5”, 180 lbs.

Kennard is the Duke freshman I’m most excited to see next season. He’s one of the best scorers in the class of 2015 and his perimeter shooting will make him a huge weapon in the Duke offense.

Matt Jones – Guard – Junior, 6’5”, 210 lbs.

I have no doubt that Matt Jones is going to play significant minutes next season. Whether he’s a starter or one of the first guys off the bench – it won’t matter. He’ll likely be the team’s best perimeter defender and finds a way to make key plays in crucial situations.

Sean ObiForward – RSo., 6’9”, 270 lbs.

After spending the past season redshirting, Sean Obi should have a better understanding of how he’ll fit in the Duke program. He’s a big body who can be physical on the interior and attack the glass, and he’ll give the Blue Devils needed depth in the frontcourt.

Chase JeterForward – Freshman, 6’10”, 240 lbs.

Jeter has a ton of potential and I expect him to become a key piece for Duke over the next couple years, but it’ll take some time. He’s got some solid post moves and he’s athletic, which gives the Blue Devils a great option when they want to push the pace. At nearly 7-feet tall, Jeter can also team with Marshall Plumlee to help protect the rim.

What are your predictions for the starting lineup next season? Let me know in the comments section!

26 comments

  1. Boobie Miles

    Thornton/Jones/Ingram/Jefferson/Jeter. Biggest question is who gets that 8th spot come conference play. Obi or Plum? I say Obi.

  2. David:

    I see Obi at center ahead of Marshall Plumlee and Jeter spelling Amile.   While I love Marshall’s enthusiasm and athleticism, he has trouble controlling his energy and is prone to fouling or turning the ball over.  Whenever he gets the ball on offense (except for a dunk), I cringe in fear that its a turnover waiting to happen.  I just wish Marshall could slow down a little and focus on protecting the rim and snaring rebounds.  Despite knowing very little about Obi, he should be able to control the paint with his size and get lots of rebounds and maybe a few points.  Otherwise, I agree completely with your assessment.

    Read more at https://dukereport.com/duke-basketball/duke-basketball-predicting-the-2015-16-starting-lineup/daldridge/#4uH3vkld6xOoowCv.99

  3. caseyellisjohnson

    I don’t think Grayson should start. Yes, he is capable of starting, but I think he’d be of more use coming off the bench taking advantage of the opposing teams second string. Not only will that balance the scoring, it also provides experienced help with Luke Kennard and that 2nd unit. 

    I like Matt starting because he’s a captain, and will be the defensive anchor on next year’s team. He will set the tone early on defense guarding the opposing teams best perimeter player. Not to mention he’s a better defender than Grayson, bigger and stronger.

    Thorton/Jones/Ingram/Amile/Jeter

    Grayson/Kennard/Obi……9th spot Plumlee

  4. caseyellisjohnson  Grayson will be the starting SG and Matt Jones will split time with Ingram at SF.  Matt might slide to the SG at times and Ingram might play PF at times but both are SF for the most part.  Jeter will play mostly at the PF position behind Amile I believe.

  5. I agree with every position except for Center.  It may not happen on day 1 but I do believe that Jeter will eventually assume the starting role.  While thin, I believe he is the best offensive option we will have down low next year and will ultimately take the most pressure off of the perimeter guys.  I think we all got spoiled this year with Okafor down low and I hope that Duke fans will allow him to progress at his own pace and not get frustrated when he makes mistakes.  I do believe that by the end of the year that we may see K go heavy on a small ball lineup that features Thornton (PG), Allen (SG), Jones/Kennard (SF), Ingram (PF), and Jeter/Jefferson (C).  He has had so much success in recent years with these types of lineups that I think it’ll be too tempting to pass up.  I absolutely love the versatility of our roster and am really excited to see these kids hoop.  The only negative is that the season’s over 6 months away!

  6. Thornton, Allen, Ingram, Jefferson and Obi. There’s arguments there for others which brings some of them pouting over not being a starter. Allen showed he’s more than just an aggressive weapon on offense, which he showed in championship with his defense too. He’s got potential to be the all around leader on the team, totally fearless. Matt will play a lot, maybe start in Ingram or Jeffersons spot if they don’t produce, same for Plumee over Obi. He has choices this upcoming season, he just has to get them to buy into it as well as the 8 did this past year. Practices will be intense I bet.

  7. caseyellisjohnson

    mcchesiii caseyellisjohnson Jut because Grayson had a god game in the championship doesn’t mean he’s better than Jones. Also, even if Grayson does become better than Jones this preseason, you don’t have to start all of your offensive weapons at the same time. Kennard (a freshman) and Jones coming off the bench is not smart. You need points off the bench. 

    Plumlee may start the season at C (courtesy, as coach K does with all upperclassman) but it won’t last long. Plumlee is horrible. Obi & Jeter will easily take his minutes as the year goes on, and quickly.

  8. caseyellisjohnson

    patowens2423 I agree. Coach K always starts the season off with his upperclassman in starting roles, but it is subject to change. Plumlee will start, but Jeter will take over by the time conference play starts. I also agree that we’ll see a lot of small ball this year with Ingram playing PF & Amile playing 5. It makes sense to run and outscore teams when you don’t have a dominant big man in the post like Okafor AND all of your perimeter players excel in the open court.

  9. Caseyellisjohnson,
    The objective is to put your best 5 out there as fits your team. Allen had more than one good game, it just so happened this big stage is where he showed what a beast he can be. I don’t know many teams that have a second string. Kentucky is only team that has had 10 players. There’s so many options he has but to say Allen is more suitable coming off bench is as bad as saying Plumlee is horrible. Marshall is limited offensively but brings a good value to team. Without him Duke would not have won title 5

  10. caseyellisjohnson

    Rob Mac Right………*smh*

  11. caseyellisjohnson patowens2423 That’s not true. In 2013, he started Jefferson over the senior Hairston, and Suilamon came off of the bench for 2 games before replacing Thornton in the starting lineup.  Jeter will start the season in the starting lineup.  Jefferson has struggled to stay in the starting lineup his whole career.  I think there is a good chance by the time we get to March it will be Thornton, Allen, Jones, Ingram, and Jeter starting games.

  12. caseyellisjohnson

    mtwinkel caseyellisjohnson patowens2423 Actually……it is true. Caoch K has said this before. Unless it’s an obvious change needed, he usually starts off the season giving his seniors the benefit of the doubt to start. He’s even said it, numerous times. Also, Ingram will play PF situationally. He’s 195lbs. 

    But hey, to each its own. You’re welcome to your opinion.

  13. “Kennard ( a freshman) and Jones coming off the bench is not smart. You need points off the bench.”
    You do know Kennard averaged 40 pts a game his senior year. He is also ranked higher in the state of Ohio all time leading scorers than LeBron James.
    This team will be so deep, it doesn’t matter who starts. They will have scoring at every position. Let’s also not forget Amile was one of the leading scorers in Pennsylvania high school basketball as well. Just because he hasn’t needed to score his entire career, doesn’t mean he can’t

  14. caseyellisjohnson

    Jstaff24 He’s also a freshman, playing in the toughest conference in the nation. High school isn’t college. Josh Hairston was also a high school All-American. Grayson was also a great high school scorer who disappeared in the AAU circuit when he played against top talent. While Kennard shot the ball well in the McDonald’s AA game, he also showed his inability to score against elite athleticism.

    Lastly, Kennard will play mostly point-forward off the bench to relieve Thornton. I think people are jumping the gun on Grayson’s performance last year.

    But hey, to each its own. You probably know more than me. You’re probably like a basketball guru low-key. Probably played AAU since 4th grade & a little over seas ball. If I’m so wrong, then please, allow me to be & comment on other knowledgeable commentaries.

  15. caseyellisjohnson mtwinkel patowens2423 Oh, I have no doubt he will give the upperclassmen the first shot at starting.  But I think, much like last year, the freshman will outplay the upperclassmen enough in practice that you won’t be able to keep them out of the starting lineup.  Singler started at PF as a freshman at 210-215.  Ingram has been trying to add weight.  If he comes in at 200-205, I don’t think there will be any issue with him at the 4.  I think Thornton, Allen, Jones, Ingram, and Jeter are the 5 best players on the team.  That’s why I think Coach K finds a way to get them all in the lineup.  We will see though.

  16. Caseyellisjohnson,
    Sorry but I don’t understand your complex terminology. Must have been something you learned while getting your masters. If you haven’t figured it out by now we are all speculating on the starting five. I merely told you a fact about Plumlee and that was your response. Where am I wrong? Only thing we know to be true is we don’t know who K will start, not even you. Remember the word speculating?

  17. I forgot folks caseyellisjohnson has a masters in psych from Duke. He talks every week with his cousin Frazier Crane

  18. caseyellisjohnson

    Rob Mac Excuse me, but you’re swinging on my nuts. If you don’t agree with what I have to say then, please, ignore me. Thanks!

  19. Caseyellisjohnson,
    You make the psychological field proud young man! As long as David and Jim write articles and you continue to post your comments I’ll always know there’s someone out there that knows less about Duke than I do.

  20. caseyellisjohnson I love watching college basketball, but I don’t understand all the little things about the game like I do with baseball. I suppose that’s why I’ve gravitated to Coach K teams over the years because I don’t think there’s another living coach who knows and understands what his players are capable of, and he has a knack for making the right substitutions at the right time. Coach K makes the game enjoyable to watch, regardless of the talent level we have in any particular year. I hope he’s got another 10-12 years ahead of him, but when Jeff Capel pulled his name from the ASU coaching pot, it made me wonder if he knew something about the status of Duke coaching over the next few years. I’m sure Capel would give up ANY head coaching job if it jeopardized his chances of taking over for Coach K when he announced his retirement.

  21. caseyellisjohnson mcchesiii  Grayson didn’t get many minutes this year because he was a freshman behind some very good players but when he did, he showed what he could do at the most critical moment in the National Championship game.  That’s says a whole lot about him.  The kid attacks the rim, plays solid defense, can hit from outside – there is a lot to his game.  Matt Jones plays great defense and that’s about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Matt Jones, but he is a defensive specialist.  For points in 2015-16, we must rely on our guards because our frontline is not offensively minded like last year.  With Matt in the line-up, we won’t have many offensive weapons.

  22. Mcchesiii,
    It is of no use to try and use logic with caseyellisjohnson. If you read earlier comments, all he does is come back with childish remarks. He insulted Jstaff24 simply because he disagrees with him. This started over at Jim Oliver’s article about Ingram making Duke preseason #1. He insulted Mikecollins and myself. I happen to agree with what you said. Prepare yourself for a wonderful mature comeback from him though. It’s what some people do when they know the other person is smarter than them: completely get off subject and divert from issue. These forums are a bunch of Duke fans giving their opinions. Disagreements are fine, he however doesn’t get it

  23. Rob Mac  Agreed. And some seem to understand basketball better than others.

  24. Obi will be starting at the 5.. Jefferson will be a starter all season.. This team is soo deep K can do a lot of different things.. This talk about Jefferson “struggles to stay a starter” is BS.. You’re outta you’re mind if you think Kennard will start over Grayson.. Grayson is a better all around player.. Also if you think all Matt can do is play defense then you’re an idiot..

  25. I think Thornton &  Ingram might be the only two locks.  

    After that I want to give the nod to Allen over Jones at the SG spot because of his overall game compared to Matt’s.  He’s a good defender but Jones is better so I see his advantages coming on the offensive end as a more aggressive driver and a far superior shooter.  Because of that skill set, he can spread the floor more while being more dangerous in transition than Jones.   But there’s a summer’s worth of improvements that may, or may not be made by either player where Jones needs to change his jump-shot mechanics (can’t get his shot off with a defender on him) and Allen needs to figure out how to guard without fouling…  although that could be the reverse of Okafor where he wasn’t allowed to be in foul trouble and it didn’t matter how many fouls Allen racked up because his minutes were so limited anyways.  This decision by Coach K could come down to defense over offense and go with Jones but both players should get big minutes along with Kennard.

    We are very deep in the post with Obi, Jeter, Jefferson and Plumlee but I only see two of them getting significant minutes, one getting 10 or so per game and the other getting lost.  Coach K typically only goes with 7-8 players and also likes to play small ball–and also adjusts better than any other coach with his personal changes.  Plumlee and Jefferson are going to be the better defenders and Obi and Jeter are going to be the better offensive weapons which leads me to believes that those two pairs will be split;  Jefferson/Obi or Plumlee/Jeter for example.  And that line-up might get shifted around depending on the opponent.  I don’t know enough about Obi’s game, except that he’s not much of a rim protector but does hit the boards and Jeter didn’t look comfortable or polished as advertised in the couple of games that I’ve seen him in (small sample size) to guarantee either of them as starters but I’m guessing that one does for their offense.

    Best guess with a traditional line-up:

    PG Thornton
    SG Allen
    SF Ingram
    PF Jefferson
    C Obi

    Small ball:

    PG Thornton
    SG Allen
    SF Jones – I have such a hard time not picturing him as a starter
    PF Ingram – not nearly the physical specimen that Winslow was and doubt we’ll see as much small ball this year.
    C Plumlee – we saw what we looked like two years ago with Jefferson as the C and don’t see that happening again.

    While there are a lot of question marks going into the season, we have tons of potential and the master to make sure they reach it.

  26. blockboi – I really look forward to seeing what Obi can do for us and you’re right about Jefferson–his offense is better than he’s credited for because he simply wasn’t needed to score last year and he did his job.  Kennard may have some big moments and will have a chance to earn a starting spot but I agree that there’s no way that happens on day one and doubt that it happens in season one unless there’s an injury but I do love his offensive game.  Matt drove to the basket much more efficiently then I thought he would and hope that he can continue to improve his jumper–but he needs to change his mechanics to be a dependable deep threat.  The best thing that Matt and Grayson brought to the table last year is that they just make good things happen on the floor.  Gonna be another fun year to be a Duke fan!