Best Duke basketball lineup should have unique piece at center

Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team will utilize a small-ball lineup next season, but in order to maximize each player’s potential, Mike Krzyzewski needs to place a unique piece at the center position.

Matthew Hurt‘s official announcement to return to Duke for a sophomore season all but solidifies the 2020-21 roster, although freshman Wendell Moore has not officially made a statement despite hinting at his return to Durham for a second year.

With a new crop of freshmen entering Cameron Indoor Stadium and four key players from a season ago returning, Mike Krzyzewski will have some juggling to do with potentially 11 scholarship players in his rotation.

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The starting lineup is still unclear, but the Blue Devils will probably have a traditional five players to start the game.

However, the five players that need to be on the floor in the most critical situations are Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, and Jalen Johnson, in that positional order.

While the defensive abilities at the collegiate level of Roach and Steward are still unknown, Krzyzewski would be able to substitute offense for defense with Jordan Goldwire.

The biggest idea in this lineup is playing Jalen Johnson at center over Matthew Hurt.

Hurt proved that he can not keep up in a high-tempo game on the defensive end with his lateral quickness and strength, and while there’s time to work on that in the offseason, Johnson could prove to be a better defensive matchup and offensive mismatch for opposing centers than Hurt.

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Listed at 6-foot-8, Johnson has the ability to space the floor at the center position not only with his shooting but his passing abilities, and the shooters that would be surrounding him would make Duke virtually impossible to defend.

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However, the defensive end would be a different story as the freshman would be susceptible to post-ups, especially when potentially giving up two or three inches and approximately 20 points to traditional big men.

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Double-teams on the block with Matthew Hurt could be the route to go on defense, but a one-inch-shorter Johnson over Hurt would be a much better option for the Blue Devils to guard a center one-on-one.

If that doesn’t work, Coach K will always have more traditional bigs on his bench like freshman Mark Williams and graduate transfer Patrick Tape.