The best part of the season for me is that there is a constant influx of data to sort through. Once the season ends, I’m left with reviewing a disappointing conclusion (normally) and setting expectations for incoming freshmen (without much information to work with). One redeeming quality of the offseason is that I now have a season or more worth of data for every returning Duke player. In the last few posts, I examined Rasheed Sulaimon’s freshman season. Few Duke freshmen play enough minutes for there to be a large enough sample size of their actions on the court. Sulaimon, Austin Rivers, and Kyrie Irving have been far from the norm for Coach K. By comparison, Quinn Cook has had a more traditional Duke trajectory.
In his freshman season, Cook played in 33 games and averaged 11.7 minutes per game. Given his knee injury and the glut of guards on that Duke squad, it should be unsurprising that he played so infrequently. In those 387 minutes, he took 56 three pointers, making only 14 (25%). More generally, he took 116 field goals, making 47 (40.5%). The best you can say about those numbers is that the sample was not big enough to draw any strong conclusions. That’s the best you can say. On the defensive end, his defensive rating was 1.03 PPP, nearly as bad as Austin River’s freshman season. With such poor perimeter, Duke’s 70th defensive ranking makes sense. At the time, Duke fans attributed his struggles to his lingering knee issues.
If his 2nd year defensive rating is any indication, Duke fans may have been right. As a sophomore, Cook’s defensive rating plummeted (in the good sense) to 0.977. Tyler Thornton was Duke’s only better perimeter defender at 0.963. If you put any stock in Thornton’s defensive reputation, then Cook was just behind him as a perimeter defender while playing 400 more minutes. Beyond his defense, Cook improved his rebounding percentage from 5% to 6.7%, putting him above the likes of Sulaimon, Erick Green, Shane Larkin, Marcus Paige, and TJ Warren.
On offense, Cook had strengths and weaknesses. Cook made significant strides with his 3 point shooting. He took 140 3’s last season, making 55 of them (39.3%). His assist % of 29% was 2nd in the ACC to Lorenzo Brown. His turnover % was either 18.1% or 16.6%, depending on the source. Even if we take 18.1%, he would rank 41st in the conference. Every team in the ACC would like to have a PG who ranks 2nd in assist % and 41st in turnover percentage. (Editor’s Note: Keep in mind, that rank includes players ahead of him that handle the ball very rarely, for example, Evan Nolte of UVA and Okara White of FSU) Unfortunately, Cook’s offensive weaknesses are not trivial. He shot nearly 40% from 3 but only 41.6% overall. This can only be true if he had a low shooting percentage on non 3 point shots (also called 2 point shots). If you take away 3 point shots, he shot 43% from the field. Although his overall shooting improved in his second season, his field goal percentage was still pretty low. Unfortunately, I do not have data on where those field goals were taken or under what circumstances they were taken. If he took mostly long jump shots, Cook needs to improve his shot selection. If he missed layups, then he just needs to finish better.
Interestingly, statsheet.com has a useful tool that uses a player’s stats to find similar players. Last season, the player most similar to Quinn Cook was Miami’s Shane Larkin. Make no mistake, Shane Larkin was a better player than Cook. Larkin shot better from the field, from 3, had a lower turnover %, higher usage rate, and better defensive rating. Larkin’s 6.6 Win Shares far exceeded Cook’s 4.6. However, Cook had a higher assist % and a very similar turnover %. Additionally, his defensive rating was just behind Larkin’s. The biggest gap between the two was shooting. I’m not saying that with improved shooting Cook will become Shane Larkin. However, at this point, shooting is one of Cook’s weaknesses. If he continues to improve, as we all expect he will, fans may be not pining for Tyus Jones so urgently.