Duke Basketball: Recent decisions bode well for Blue Devils

Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Just because the number of Duke basketball players on tap for next season took a hit on Monday night does not mean the product will be worse as a result.

The saying “Less is more” applies to the outlook on next season’s Duke basketball roster — which suddenly seems set with 11 scholarship players and three walk-ons.

Had both Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier opted to return as seniors — or if three-star Charles Coleman had joined one or both of them in Durham next season — the number of Blue Devils expecting to play would have been more than the max number coach Mike Krzyzewski would likely ever play.

But on Monday night, Bolden announced he won’t be back due to his desire to start his professional career.

Moments later, DeLaurier announced he will be back, taking his name out of the NBA Draft process before today’s deadline.

At about the same time, Coleman committed to ECU, leaving DeLaurier as the only one of the three centers to be a member of the 2019-20 Duke squad.

Now, the next sentence will seem absurd the first time a ball ricochets off DeLaurier’s seemingly fingerless hands next season. That being said, DeLaurier is the best counterpart to the four freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors, and one other senior who are all worthy of playing time come November:

Yes, it’s true Krzyzewski typically only calls on seven or eight each game by the time March rolls around each season. However, the bench members who see action often change from one game to the next; Coach K usually draws from a group of 10 players to find his rotation of seven or eight for each close game (his selections depend on matchups and which of his players reside in his doghouse at the time).

DeLaurier, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound native of Shipman, Va., who started 16 games as a co-captain last season and figures to play but not start in every game next season, has defensive versatility the Blue Devils will desperately need and Bolden could not have provided.

After all, center Vernon Carey Jr. and power forward Matthew Hurt, the two best incoming freshmen per composite rankings, did not receive their lofty rankings due to their defense.

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And on offense, DeLaurier is known for knowing his role — primarily a clean-up role, which is suitable considering the wide array of scoring weapons both Hurt and Carey Jr. are well-known for having in their arsenals.

Last season, on his way to averaging a mere 3.8 points, DeLaurier had one stretch where he made 19 shots in a row — almost entirely putback and fastbreak finishes, though few and far between, with the streak spanning more than six weeks. Overall, the co-captain — he’ll likely again share the role with fellow senior Jack White, adding a splash of continuity to the discontinuity of the one-and-done era — made 75 percent of his 79 attempts.

He played in every game, so he averaged only about two attempts per game.

Conversely, Bolden averaged only 1.5 more points than DeLaurier despite 148 more attempts.

Again, less is sometimes more.

Every once in a while, Bolden would even eat away at opportunities of Zion Williamson — not ideal, obviously, since the Duke legend and surefire No. 1 pick next month, who probably had the softest touch in the paint of any college basketball player in history, was essentially unstoppable down low all season.

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Bolden, who will likely go undrafted and end up either in the G League or overseas, tried to incorporate a baby hook into his game; most games, though, the shot seemed to still be in its infant stage of development — i.e., his touch simply wasn’t soft enough.

Also, DeLaurier is faster and nimbler than Bolden, meaning he can play more positions — potentially the three-through-five spots — which means he can be in the lineup at the same time as either Carey Jr. or Hurt; the combo of Bolden and Carey Jr. on the floor together would have been to the detriment of the team’s transition opportunities.

Finally, let’s just assume Coach K favors freshmen for playing time and chooses as the most common starting lineup the duo of Carey Jr. and Hurt inside — though both have the ability to contribute from beyond the arc on offense — with sophomore point guard Tre Jones, freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley, and freshman small forward Wendell Moore primarily manning the perimeter.

Such a starting five would mean those who are likely to see regular minutes off the bench — DeLaurier, White, sophomore wing Joey Baker, junior shooting guard Alex O’Connell, and junior combo guard Jordan Goldwire — have each already proven able to spend most of their time watching teammates shine without creating a fuss.

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Now, this isn’t to say Bolden or Coleman — who probably chose ECU over Duke with the hopes of more immediate playing time — would have fit into the category of frustrated benchwarmers; someone maybe would have, though, especially if the roster was to include one or more excess pieces.

And when it comes to potentially chemistry-damaging egos and other issues stemming from too many Duke basketball players competing for too few spaces, the old saying holds true…

Next. Coach K's five sweetest comebacks. dark

Less is more.