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.
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 Obi – Forward – 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 Jeter – Forward – 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!