Surely, Duke basketball will see some of its deep 2020 class as sophomores.
The craziness of the 2020-21 season has carried over into the offseason. There has already been a ton of roster turnover in Durham. Clearly, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski is unwilling to go through another year like last season’s 13-11 campaign.
While the man in charge remains the same, Duke’s roster and coaching staff will look very different from this past season.
The Blue Devils have already lost three players to the transfer portal, with Henry Coleman becoming the latest to announce his decision to leave the program on Tuesday. Coleman joins fellow freshman Jaemyn Brakefield along with senior guard Jordan Goldwire and senior forward Patrick Tape.
Duke also lost freshman guard DJ Steward and sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, who announced their plans to enter the NBA Draft.
The 2020 Duke basketball recruiting class was one of the deepest of Coach K’s 41 years in Durham. It featured six highly ranked freshmen, all inside the ESPN 100. Not even a full year later, just two of those players remain. Those two are point guard Jeremy Roach and big man Mark Williams.
Pivotal question: Will the Duke basketball roster include Mark Williams?
Given Mark Williams’ strong performances down the stretch last season, the possibility of him declaring for the NBA Draft is significant. He has dropped a few cryptic tweets lately that have had Blue Devil fans everywhere trying to interpret what they mean.
While having Williams back for the 2021-22 season would certainly make the Blue Devils a serious title contender, there is no reason why he shouldn’t at least test the NBA waters.
The 7-footer can still work out for NBA teams and get feedback from NBA personnel without losing his college eligibility. It would be beneficial for Williams to see how he might fare in the league. The experience of working out for teams and competing against NBA-level talent would be extremely valuable for his development.
Between Williams’ size, mobility, and age, he would make for an intriguing pro prospect. The 19-year-old could step into the league right now and be a serviceable rim protector and lob threat.
Those skills, however, do not seem worthy enough of a team using a first-round pick on him at this point. I believe Williams would be a late second-round pick at best. He could certainly benefit from another year in college to improve his offensive game. If he decides to return to Durham for his sophomore season, he has the potential to be one of the best frontcourt players in the ACC.
If, however, Williams decides to enter the NBA Draft, the Blue Devils would not be completely out of options down low. The addition of Marquette transfer Theo John will help bolster the Blue Devils’ frontcourt. But with no Williams, John would have to step into a much larger role than expected.
I believe the Blue Devils went after John not because they expect Williams to leave, but to add more depth and solidify the center position. The 2021-22 squad should always have some rim protection and muscle around the basket between Williams and John.
As of right now, Duke has only 10 players on scholarship for next season. I would expect the staff to add at least one more player, likely another in the frontcourt to replace Henry Coleman.
If Williams leaves, then the Blue Devils are sure to make a hard push at another talented player in the paint. But with most high school players already signed, and the most elite in the transfer portal quickly drying up, Duke could have limited options.
If Mark Williams decides to stay, then the Blue Devils should be fine with just 10 scholarship players. This looming decision will have a major impact on the 2021-22 Duke basketball season.