Duke Basketball: Team Assessment Before the Break


The Duke Blue Devils capped off their eighth victory of the season yesterday with a win over the University of Buffalo, 82-59. Duke is on a six game winning streak after previously having fallen to the Kentucky Wildcats on November 17th. With a break for Finals coming and Duke only playing two games the next three weeks, I figured now is a great time to give my overall assessment of the team. 

More from Duke Basketball

Guard Play – B+

Perhaps the most spectacular but inconsistent part of the team thus far. Derryck Thornton has averaged 8.6 points per game this year along with 2.7 assists. Thornton has shown flashes of what he is capable of against the likes of Kentucky and Georgetown but still has not played with the consistency to warrant him a permanent starting position. I have been an advocate of starting Thornton the entire season but if Matt Jones and Grayson Allen can continue to handle point guard “duties” then Thornton is a nice, twenty-minute option off the bench to have. Thornton still has to work on his in-between game, meaning his mid-range and floater game as there have been numerous air-balled runner attempts. His three-point stroke has been a consistent 37-38% on the year.

Grayson Allen is the engine of this team. He is averaging a cool 21.8 points per game along with 5.3 rebounds, 3 assists and one steal. Allen is shooting a sizzling 46% from behind the arc as well as 50% from the field. Outside of his dismal performance against Kentucky, Allen has looked like one of the five best players in the country. His performance against Georgetown was one for the ages and I expect him to contend for the ACC Player of the Year at season’s end.

Junior Matt Jones has been another consistent force on the floor with an average of 13.3 points per game. Jones is also shooting 46% from three-point range as well as playing above average defense. He played a huge role in the win over Indiana with 23 points, where he had five threes.

Luke Kennard‘s shooting struggles have been well documented this entire year but one can tell that if he ever gets his shooting stroke back, he is in for big things. His scoring prowess was on display against Utah State where he poured in 22 points and looked like the player everyone thought he would be coming out of high school. Despite not shooting well the entire year, Kennard plays twenty minutes a game because he does not turn the ball over and his basketball I.Q. is always a positive when he is on the court. He helps the team even when he is not scoring.

Frontcourt – A-

Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee are going to be lumped into one person here because they are seniors and provide similar leadership qualities to this team. Now Jefferson is a better player, averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Plumlee only averages 5.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. But both make so many little plays throughout a game that do not show up in the box score. They are fantastic help defenders as well as elite box out players. They might not get every rebound but they make sure that their man does not get the rebound either. Both average more than one block per game and force steals at a high rate for big men. While Grayson Allen is the engine of this car, Jefferson and Plumlee are the body.

Chase Jeter has seen limited floor action this year as he needs to bulk up for a year in Duke’s strength program but I envision him much the same as Jefferson. Jeter is more skilled on the block at his young age than Jefferson was. Next year is when Jeter will become a real factor on this team.

The most intriguing part of this team is Brandon Ingram. After a less than stellar first seven games of the season, Ingram has exploded for 24 and 23 points in respective games. If Allen is the engine and Jefferson and Plumlee are the body then Ingram is the fancy paint job or extravagant rims on this well-oiled machine. If Ingram’s play continues to mature at this rate, then this Duke team becomes infinitely more scary the next three months. He provides the match-up problem that only a handful of teams in the country can deal with. I thought Ingram would be a top 5 selection in the NBA draft next year. He is certainly playing like it right now.

Duke’s next game is on Tuesday against 3-4, Georgia Southern. Keep it here for all your Duke-related news.