As the several conferences in NCAA basketball have their respective media days, the prospective picture of the upcoming season is falling into place.
The Duke Blue Devils, as most prevalent teams in college basketball, lost some fire power to this year’s NBA draft. Austin Rivers was the team’s leading scorer with 15.5 ppg before being drafted by the New Orleans Hornets at #10 overall.
Rivers’ place in the Duke offense was a study in playbook malleability. Mike Krzyzewski became the caretaker of an unfamiliar burden. Rivers was equal parts electric and risk-heavy on both ends of the floor.
The electricity, most often expressed in Rivers’ sharp finishing and precise slashing, was no surprise. Duke boasted another player of the same spark-plug nature in Kyrie Irving.
The difference in Irving was that he was a playbook point guard. Though being the most talented player on the floor for Duke meant that he was awarded more freedom on offense, Irving played along the marginals of Krzyzewski’s momentum-centric system. Rivers, on the other hand, was as much a stopgap as he was an offensive initiator.
Rivers was responsible for a considerable portion of Duke’s turnovers. For the 2011-2012 season, he continually hovered around an average of 20% of his team’s cough-ups. In short, he was a relatively new element to a firmly ingrained system of basketball.
Now, that he’s departed to the NBA, the point guard duties have fallen on two budding talents in Quin Cook and Seth Curry.
Cook has had bright moments in isolated spots last year. He and back up Tyler Thornton are essentially the same style of player. They are both pass-first guards with high basketball IQ’s. The only exception would be perhaps Cook’s superior shooting. Both guards are also defensive pests, getting their hands everywhere and bother opposing ball-handlers.
The other half of that back-court, Seth Curry, is going to be a return to coach K’s comfort zone. Curry is a talented individual player, with enough savvy to create his own shots in isolation plays. With that being said, Curry is more of an adherent to coach K’s system, being that he is very comfortable as a spot-up shooter. His three point shooting will be key as Duke returns to the more traditional, momentum based offense, moving the ball without the weight of Rivers’ isolation plays.
One other thing to note is that Sophomore center Mason Plumlee will be out for about 6-8 weeks with a toe injury. He should be ready by the start of the season, but it’s still worth noting that his presence is going to be critical for the Blue Devils’ offense to work. With guys like Curry, Cook, and Ryan Kelly shooting the ball early and often from outside, Plumlee’s 9.2 rebounds per game become more important.
The ACC looks very tough this year, boasting a highly ranked NC State, mainstays UNC, Florida State, and Clemson, and welcoming a newcomer in the ever-relevant Notre Dame. Duke will look to win their 20th ACC title and regain their status as perennial Final 4 darlings.
Mohamed Abdihakim is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Phoenix Suns fan, who is not prepared for the possibility of Nash winning a title in a Lakers jersey. Mohamed is also a contributor at “Les Snobs”. Interests include International basketball, Mad Men, and blues music. Nearly all stats are credited to Hoopdata or Basketball-Reference.
Twitter handle: @Abdi_hakim