Is Matthew Hurt ready to be Duke basketball’s No. 1 option?

Duke basketball forward Matthew Hurt (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Matthew Hurt (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Matthew Hurt needs more help from his Duke basketball teammates on offense.

Duke basketball has certainly had no shortage of dominant scorers throughout the program’s history. However, a go-to scorer is something these current 2-2 Blue Devils sorely miss.

Sophomore Matthew Hurt has been by far the team’s best and most consistent option on offense. The Minnesota native has taken a big jump from his freshman season, but his increased load hasn’t resulted in wins so far for the Blue Devils this year.

What makes Matthew Hurt dangerous is his ability to score both on the inside and from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-9 forward has a very good shooting touch and a high release, which makes his shot difficult to block. He has also put on some more weight, which has allowed him to finish through contact better and be more of a threat on the inside.

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Hurt has a well-rounded game and has shown he can be a reliable scorer. The issue is that nobody else has really stepped up and found consistency on the offensive end.

Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward have displayed some nice moments, showing signs of being high-level scorers, but consistency is lacking. Right now, Hurt leads Duke at 19.0 points per game. Steward is currently second on the team at 11.8 points per game. If that margin does not narrow, then Duke will continue to struggle on offense.

Is Matthew Hurt built to handle the bulk of Duke basketball’s offense?

One thing that has been problematic for Matthew Hurt this year is his shot selection. I thought in the Illinois game that Hurt settled for too many outside shots. He was being guarded mostly by Kofi Cockburn, who is not comfortable defending on the perimeter.

There were a few times where Hurt used his shot fake to drive right by Cockburn, but far too often he settled for long-range shots, and he finished 0-for-6 from three.

One issue that affected Hurt last year was his inconsistency. As a freshman, he seemed to play his best against lesser competition and his worst against tougher opponents. That concerning trend has carried over into this season.

Hurt scored 24 points on 75.0 percent shooting, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range, against Bellarmine. In Duke’s two losses against Michigan State and Illinois, he shot 48.3 percent from the field and just 1-for-9 from three. Believe it or not, Hurt was Duke’s best offensive player in both of those games. That should give you a good idea of the current state of the offense in Durham.

I think Hurt needs to do more work on the inside early in games. He has the ability to face up and shoot over defenders, or use a quick move to get around a bigger and slower defender. This could really open up his outside shot.

Another issue is that he shoots out of rhythm too often. Hurt likes to catch the ball and jab-step a couple of times before shooting. He needs to make it easier on himself by shooting in rhythm.

He also has to stay out of foul trouble. Hurt picked up three fouls in the first half against Illinois, which made it harder for him to settle into the game.

Given what I have seen through four games, I do believe that Matthew Hurt is ready to be Duke basketball’s No. 1 option on offense. The only question is, who will step up and become a reliable second option? To find out, we will have to wait until Wednesday when the team plays at Notre Dame.

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