The promising 2020-2021 Duke basketball team: An early look

Duke basketball (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball signee DJ Steward (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Who’s arriving in Durham?

As is custom, the Duke basketball coaches are bringing in an absolutely loaded class for the 2020-2021 season. Whereas Kentucky’s class is more wing-heavy, and North Carolina’s class is more top-heavy, Duke’s incoming class is unquestionably one of the more balanced recruiting classes we have seen in some time.

247Sports Composite Basketball Rankings for the 2020 Class:

  • Jalen Johnson – 6-foot-8, 215 pounds
    • #11 overall recruit nationally; #3 small forward
  • Jeremy Roach – 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
    • #21 overall recruit nationally; #4 point guard
  • DJ Steward – 6-foot-3, 165 pounds
    • #24 overall recruit nationally; #5 combo guard
  • Mark Williams – 7-foot, 225 pounds
    • #29 overall recruit nationally; #5 center
  • Jaemyn Brakefield – 6-foot-8, 210 pounds
    • #37 overall recruit nationally; #6 power forward
  • Henry Coleman – 6-foot-8, 240 pounds
    • #44 overall recruit nationally; #7 power forward

What it lacks in pure NBA phenom talent — like the 2018 recruiting class with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish — it makes up for with a robust combination of skills from six players all ranked within the top 45 in the country.

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Johnson is probably the most advanced offensive player in the class. Roach is a prototypical lead guard, likened to NBA star Kyle Lowry. Steward is a walking bucket. Williams is a block machine and lob menace. Brakefield is a smooth athlete and one of the better shooters at his position. Coleman is a physical anomaly, who is built like a linebacker and plays an extremely physical style of ball.

I should immediately retract my statement that it lacks NBA phenom talent. Johnson might just be the best player in his whole high school recruiting class. The only reason he’s currently ranked so low is that he missed most of his senior basketball season due to transferring from IMG Academy back to Nicolet High School.

Johnson is a walking bucket, likened to NBA star Paul George by 247Sports experts; however, I view him more as a Jayson Tatum type of Duke basketball player (albeit I believe Tatum has a smoother jump shot).

Now, let’s look at all the pieces as a Duke basketball unit…