Duke basketball: Player comparisons for seven incoming Blue Devils

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

The 2020 Duke basketball recruiting haul is the most balanced and versatile in the country, but what should fans expect from each new addition? Let’s look at player comparisons to see where they may line up.

I decided to switch things up a bit with this blog and have some fun by doing player comparisons for the incoming 2020 Duke basketball class. It is personally one of my favorite things to do, and then to look back on it a year or a few years from now makes it all the more fun.

Please note that the comparisons made are based on the compared player’s college years, not necessarily their years in the pro ranks. The incoming Blue Devils for next season also include the newest addition via transfer, Patrick Tape, and his player comparison will come at the end here. Let’s get to it with a look at who the highest-ranked Duke basketball commit resembles on the court (rankings via 247Sports and ESPN):

SF. 434. Scouting Report. 215 pounds. Jalen Johnson. Pick Analysis. 6-foot-8. player

  • No. 11 overall recruit nationally
  • No. 3 small forward

Jalen Johnson may just be the most underrated high school recruit in the nation this year, and that’s saying a lot considering his placement as a top 15 recruit already. But from a player comparison, it’s tough to pinpoint, considering how well-rounded his game truly is. He’s a true combo forward. His athleticism is rock solid, with ideal size and wingspan for the three-spot or stretch-four position. His basketball IQ, passing ability, and scoring ability are all elite. He can rebound effectively, and he’s already a quality defender.

The lone fault I see in Johnson’s game is rather obvious to those who have watched him play at all in high school, and that’s his shooting. His form itself looks fine, but it needs some fine-tuning with timing between the jump and the release. I expect him to be able to get to the rim at will in college; however, teams will begin to sag off him, and he’ll need to be able to hit perimeter shots at a respectable clip.

From a comparison point of view, I see a blend between the college versions of Kansas legend Paul Pierce and LSU’s Ben Simmons. I know that’s kind of cheating, but he’s a difficult player to project. Johnson won’t be as dominant on the boards as Simmons was, and he won’t be as inferior on the playmaking side as Pierce was statistically. A realistic average stat line is something along the lines of 18.0 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 5.0 assists per game, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting efficiently inside the arc and mediocre from distance.