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There is already much speculation by writers and fans regarding who may leave Duke for the NBA following the upcoming basketball season. The most likely individuals could be Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, and/or Rasheed Sulaimon. One would suppose that to be drafted, say, in the top ten or fifteen lottery picks, the player would have to have a terrific season with a 20-30 ppg average and other outstanding stats.
I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that there will be one dominating scorer for Duke this year. The biggest reason for this opinion is that Duke is loaded with superior shooters. Sulaimon, Hood, Parker and Dawkins are all shooters. That’s what they do. Then if either Ojeleye, Jones or both prove they’re ready for some playing time, that’s two more guys who love the hoop. Even Cook, at point, likes to shoot and is good at it (11.7 ppg). Thornton, Jefferson, Hairston, Plumlee, and Murphy are not known shooters but you can bet they will all want to shoot a few if they get some good looks.
For one player to maintain, say, a 25-point scoring average, he would have to take a ton of shots each game. On a team like this, loaded with shooters, that will, at the least, not win him friends. At worst, it could disrupt team unity, escalate the fight for minutes, and maybe result in players taking bad shots just because they don’t want to lose the opportunity.
Second, with the over-abundance of great shooters, Coach K will mete out minutes based also on factors such as defensive skills. If one player is shooting well and also making stops, snagging rebounds, making steals, taking charges, giving assists, or blocking shots, that player will get more minutes than the guy who is just making baskets. So that may mean, for example, that Tyler Thornton could conceivably get more minutes than an Andre Dawkins, unless Dawkins’s defense has obviously improved.
Third, I have no inside perspective, but from outward appearances so far, the new players seem polite, teachable, and willing to accept Coach K’s hierarchy in which experienced players coach new guys into the Duke system. Hood has had a year to earn the respect and build friendships with teammates, and I could bet he’s not going to try to flail his way into the rotation like a razorback in a preschool classroom. Parker has commented humbly that he may be slightly overrated. Ojeleye is modest and unassuming, preferring to prove his value by his extreme work ethic on the court. Sulaimon has established himself as a skilled shooter and as a tough defender, and really has nothing to prove. Dawkins has quietly worked very hard during his season away, and we’ll see how much he’s improved his overall game. But I don’t see any crazed ball hogs.
Fourth, of course the temptation for big NBA dollars can turn the head of any young man. And given such seduction, we can hardly blame these kids for bolting. However, Jabari Parker’s family, for example, places a huge value on a top education, and that’s one reason why he claims he chose Duke. Parker has stated, “The whole attitude and approach of the one-and-done’s; that’s good for them—that’s their decision. But going to Duke is real special for me, because people out of my neighborhood probably wouldn’t have even thought about getting an education like that. I’m just looking at different opportunities where I can grow…”
The cost for a year at the university is in the neighborhood of $60,000. Add to that the respect accorded a Duke diploma and you’ve got a real thing of value. In a sport in which too many athletes have been shut out of huge pro dollars because of a serious random injury or such, of course the wisest move is to have something lucrative to fall back on. I know, I know these days I sound like an old hack imparting outdated wisdom… One thing I’m trying to say is that if these players will stay for at least a second or third season at Duke, they’ll be more likely to play team ball and it’ll ease the temptation to totally dominate for the scouts each week.
One way or another, there’s likely going to be a ton of scoring by this particular group of guys, and I suspect that, based on overall skills, shooters will each get their fair share of opportunities.
Make sure to follow Steve on Twitter at @sfortosis.