Many people compare this years Duke team to the 2012 US Olympic team, and for good reason. Both teams lack size, but have the athleticism and depth to overcome their size. I do not only think Duke matches up well with the Olympic team in terms of play style, but in terms of individual roles that each player will have. Obviously, the Olympic players are better, but Coach K will be able to fill each Duke player into a role he had for an Olympic player. Each player has a set role and I will match each Duke player with an Olympic player that has a similar role. Some fit better then others, but there is no denying Duke will be similar to the last gold medal US Olympic team.
Team Leading Point Guard:
Chris Paul-Quinn Cook
Quinn Cook will be put into a very similar role he had last season. He will set up the offense, attack the defense, and spread the ball to his teammates. Chris Paul is an extremely talented player, but in the Olympics, he played much more as a passer than a scorer. Quinn Cook will be forced to put the team before himself and help distribute to all of Duke’s many prolific scorers. Cook has the ability to be a great scorer, like Chris Paul with the Clippers, but he has shown he is willing to sacrifice scoring for the team. That selfless attitude that Paul and Cook show is not always appreciated by fans, but it has a huge impact on each game and their team.
High Scoring Shooting Guard:
Kobe Bryant-Rasheed Sulaimon
Rasheed Sulaimon is not and will not be the scorer Kobe is, but he will fill the role that Kobe had for the Olympic team. Sulaimon can shoot from the three point line and attack the rim with ease. The biggest thing missing in Sulaimon’s offensive game is the mid range shot. Kobe made his living off the mid range game and Sulaimon will have to learn it to become truly lethal. With the mid range shot, Sulaimon could be one of the best scorers in college basketball. Even without it, Sulaimon will likely average close to 15 points per game amd challenge Hood and Parker for the teams leading scorer.
Do It All Small Forward:
Lebron James-Rodney Hood
The biggest role to fill from the Olympic team is Lebron James. Rodney Hood will not fill this role to the nature Lebron did, but he has the ability to be a really special player. One redshirt year removed from his freshman season at Mississippi St, Hood likes ready to take college basketball by storm. He can score off the dribble, slashing, and even shooting from the outside. He can cover a variety of positions, with the quickness to cover guards and the strength to cover forwards. Rodney Hood will do it all for Duke and will be a huge part of every aspect of the game for a talented Duke team.
High Scoring Power Forward:
Kevin Durant-Jabari Parker
Just a few weeks ago, Jabari Parker played Kevin Durant in one-on-one and was able to hold his ground. Like Durant, Parker is an extremely talented scorer with the ability to score in a variety of ways. He can score in the post against smaller defenders using his amazing footwork in the post. He can shoot from the outside with precision. He can drive and score at the rim or pull up from mid range. Durant was the leading scorer for the US Olympic team and Parker will likely do the same for Duke. Parker will likely aim to replicate Durant’s career, and that begins in his freshman Duke season.
Tyson Chandler-Amile Jefferson
Amile Jefferson does not have the experience or defense ability of Tyson Chandler, but he will play in a similar role. Neither players are expected score much offensively, besides put backs and finishing at the rim. They both will start but will not play major minutes unless the other team forces them. Jefferson is not near Chandler’s defensive ability but he will need to improve his rebounding and defense for Duke to succeed. Duke may not have a player to take Chandler’s role, but will need Jefferson to take it.
Explosive Sixth Man:
Carmelo Anthony-Andre Dawkins
Carmelo Anthony was an explosive scorer for the Olympic team, with the ability to score points in bunches. With Dawkins’ amazing shooting ability, he will add that explosiveness for Duke. Dawkins does not have the size that Carmelo does which limits Duke’s ability to play without a center. Dawkins is working to expand his offensive game inside the three point range, which will add to his effectiveness. If Dawkins’ ability to score in bunches comes through as Carmelo’s did in the Olympics, Duke will be in great shape.
Back Up Ball Handler and Defender:
Deron Williams-Tyler Thorton
Tyler Thorton does not have the offensive ability of Deron Williams, but he has his defense and leadership. Luckily for Duke, Thorton’s offensive ability will not be needed for a good season. Thorton will back up Cook and provide pressure to the opposing teams guards. Having a talented guard to come off the bench is valuable, as seen in the Olympics. Cook and Paul are both extremely talented, but having a back up guard that can take off pressure makes their job a lot easier. Thorton is not as talented as Deron Williams but he will likely have a bigger impact than Williams due to his leadership.
Back Up Big Man:
Kevin Love-Marshall Plumlee
Although they have completely different styles, Marshall Plumlee and Kevin Love fill the same role. Marshall Plumlee is a defensive and rebounding center with little offensive skill yet. Love is not as talented defensively but can rebound and stretch the court with his shooting. Both are valuable, as they provide depth against teams with talented big men. Against teams similar to Duke, Plumlee may not see much time due to a small ball lineup. He will still be needed throughout the season as a big body to rebound and protect the rim. Marshall Plumlee’s game is not fully developed yet, but he will be able to provide Duke with depth this season.
Situational and Explosive Guard:
Russell Westbrook-Matt Jones
Both Matt Jones and Russell Westbrook have minimal roles but can provide scoring punches off the bench. Russell scores attacking off the dribble and scoring at the rim. Matt Jones scores most effectively from shooting. They are different, but both have the ability to impact games using the ability to score quickly. Neither can expect major minutes from game to game, but are extremely talented scorers. Even if Matt Jones only effects a dozen games, he will have fulfilled his role for Duke this season.
Talented but Question Mark:
James Harden-Alex Murphy
In the 2012 Olympics, it was questioned how big of an impact James Harden would have for the team. It turned out very well for the US Olympic team, as James Harden was an effective guard off the bench. Duke hopes that they can get the same success out of Alex Murphy this season. Murphy was expected to start last season but ended up seeing very little action. Murphy will not start but he will need to be a valuable player off the bench. Murphy is definitely a question mark but hopefully he succeeds the same way James Harden did.
High Flier Wing:
Andre Iguodala-Semi Ojeleye
Both players are talented, but Andre Iguodala and Semi Ojeleye succeed by using their supreme athleticism. It has yet to be seen how productive Ojeleye will be at the college level, but he will likely have the same role as Iguodala, if he plays at all. Iguodala and Ojeleye play at a similar style but Ojeleye likely will not be able to fill Iguodala’s defensive and fast break role. Luckily for Duke, they have enough depth to succeed without Ojeleye.
Backup Big Man with Minimal Minutes:
Anthony Davis-Todd Zafirovski and Josh Hairston
Many people have higher hopes for Josh Hairston, but I do not think he will have major minutes for Duke. He will likely be similar to Anthony Davis, as bench depth that will not likely have a big role. Josh Hairston fit with the team last year as a power forward but will be forced to play center this year. At 6’7″, this role will not work at all for Hairston. I put Todd Zafirovski here as well, as a big who likely will not play much. Hairston will likely see some minutes, like Davis, but likely will not have a huge role.