Duke basketball’s distribution of playing time should undergo a few tweaks.
It’s not that Joey Baker and Jeremy Roach can’t or shouldn’t play at all. However, these two experienced Duke basketball players are not living up to the expectations resulting from the heavy playing time they have each received through the group’s 7-1 start.
Meanwhile, despite being an ideal candidate to take chunks of minutes from Baker or Roach, freshman AJ Griffin inexplicably seems stuck in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s doghouse. And in the sparse minutes the former five-star recruit has played of late — a combined eight minutes in the past two outings — it’s clear that he’s on a short leash for some reason.
It’s been almost two months since Griffin’s preseason knee sprain, which hasn’t kept him out of any games entirely. With that in mind, the athletically inclined small forward’s lack of significant playing time is bordering on utterly baffling.
The struggles of Duke basketball reserve small forward Joey Baker
Joey Baker is now averaging a career-high 18.6 minutes off the bench after logging 20 minutes in No. 1 Duke’s 71-66 collapse at unranked Ohio State on Tuesday night. The senior co-captain contributed only five points, one rebound, and a steal against the Buckeyes.
And on one critical possession, he appeared drastically overconfident in his abilities by heaving a prayer in the form of a fadeaway airball. As for the ensuing “airball” chants from the raucous home crowd, they certainly didn’t help in putting the air back under Duke’s sails.
Although Baker’s visible passion and 40.0 percent shooting from deep this season remain admirable, his scoring average per 40 minutes is worse than what he put up as a sophomore. Altogether, he is still underproducing for his position in pretty much every department other than 3-point precision.
Yes, at this point, it ought to be time for Baker to see at least a slightly reduced role, preferably coinciding with Griffin’s increased usage.
The struggles of Duke basketball starting point guard Jeremy Roach
Jeremy Roach continues to lead this Duke basketball team with his 33.4 minutes per game. At the same time, though, he sits third on the squad in assists at only 3.0 per game and fourth in steals at 1.1 per game. No, neither of those stats are impressive for a starting guard, especially since he’s on the floor so often and in crunch time.
The same goes for the sophomore’s dismal shooting percentages: 38.4 from the field and 25.0 from downtown.
True, Roach is not the only Blue Devil who is cold from outside at the moment. But others — such as freshman shooting guard Trevor Keels, who paces Duke with 2.1 steals per game plus countless heads-up plays on both ends of the floor — are undoubtedly earning their minutes elsewhere.
As it is, like it or not, Joey Baker and Jeremy Roach aren’t quite holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to Coach K trusting them enough to keep each on the floor for such long stretches.