The Duke basketball team announced this morning that Grayson Allen has been suspended indefinitely following its review of last night’s incident in which he intentionally tripped Steven Santa Ana of Elon.
It’s the third time Allen has tripped an opposing player and Wednesday night’s action, and subsequent display following the incident, has drawn the attention of national media, which also criticized Mike Krzyzewski for not immediately suspending the junior guard.
I’m not going to get into what Coach K should have done (or not done) during the game or immediately afterwards, because what matters now is that the program has elected to suspend Allen indefinitely. So, let’s move forward from that.
This is a unique situation that could actually help the Blue Devils.
As odd as it sounds, Duke just suspended the Preseason National Player of the Year and returning All-American and it may make the team even better.
The 2015-16 Duke team is one of the most talented rosters Mike Krzyzewski has ever coached during his tenure in Durham.
In Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden, Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Frank Jackson, you have six players projected as potential 1st round draft picks, whether it’s the 2016 or 2017 NBA Draft.
That also doesn’t account for Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson, two seniors who impact the game in so many ways that go unnoticed. In my opinion, Jefferson is still this program’s most irreplaceable player.
Duke is loaded. There’s no disputing that.
And if you’ve been paying attention this season, Grayson Allen hasn’t been a major part of this team’s success.
It’s true Allen has struggled with injuries, but it doesn’t change that fact that he’s shooting 38% from the field and only 33% from 3-point range. Aside from his 34-point performance against UNLV, Allen has played poorly for much of the year.
Luke Kennard is having a breakout sophomore year, leading the team at 20.4 points per game and establishing himself as a legitimate National Player of the Year contender.
Amile Jefferson has also worked his way into becoming one of the best frontcourt players in the ACC, averaging 14.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, while also playing terrific interior defense.
Jefferson and Kennard are the biggest reasons Duke is 12-1 and the fifth ranked team in the country, and I haven’t even mentioned Jayson Tatum.
After sitting out the first eight games of the season because of a foot injury, the highly touted freshman and potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is steadily working his way into form and showing the skills that make him a potential star at the college and NBA level.
At 6’8”, 205 pounds, Tatum has size, length and athleticism that make him a difficult matchup for opponents. Combine his physical gifts with a dizzying array of offensive moves and perimeter shooting range, and you get a player who becomes nearly unstoppable when he’s 100%. We haven’t seen that player yet because Tatum has admitted he’s still getting into game-shape and adjusting, but it’s coming.
And when he gets there, Duke will have two of the most explosive wing players in college basketball in Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard.
Two players to build around, along with key supporting roles for guys like Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden, Harry Giles, and even Grayson Allen.
The biggest question that remains for this team is at the point guard position, where Duke doesn’t have a natural point guard on the roster who can immediately fill the role. However, Frank Jackson is still likely the best fit for the position, and the Allen suspension affords Coach K the opportunity to give the freshman guard more extended minutes in the role.
A lineup of Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Jayson Tatum, and Amile Jefferson could be strong on both ends of the floor for the Blue Devils, and you could have devastating weapons off the bench in Giles, Allen, and Bolden.
The biggest challenge Mike Krzyzewski likely faces is buy-in from all the players on the roster, many of whom have never had to deal with being role players.
There was a hint at some discord last night in Luke Kennard’s post-game comments, when he was quoted as saying that everyone’s “not bought in” and “consumed in just being one.”
This is always a potential challenge when you have a collection of incredibly talented players, but this is where Krzyzewski has been at his best in many previous situations.
With Allen on the bench, that likely leads to more opportunities for Kennard, Tatum, and Jefferson. Based on how they’ve played this season, that certainly appears to be a good thing. Now, it’s a matter of everyone on the roster seeing it that way.