Three players who will be X factors for Duke basketball in 2024-25

Tyrese Proctor, Khaman Maluach, and Caleb Foster will be significant X factors for the Duke basketball team in 2024-25 as the Blue Devils chase a national title.
Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor (5) controls the ball against
Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor (5) controls the ball against / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the Duke basketball program looks like it has built its best roster in over a decade, perhaps even longer. With the Nation's No. 1 high school class incoming and a gritty group of veterans set to join them via the transfer portal, this could be the year that John Scheyer cuts down the nets at the Final Four.

However, nearly every team that wins a championship has players step up and outperform expectations somewhere along the way. For Duke in 2024-25, there will be some X factors who need to take a step forward and be bigger contributors than they are projected to be if a title is going to come home to Durham.

We know about the star power. Cooper Flagg, the top recruit in the nation will garner all the attention.

Who will be the glue guys, though, the players who carve out a role for themselves and who prove that they are ready to do what it takes in order for the Blue Devils to reach their full potential? Let's look at three players who will be X factors for Scheyer and Co. this coming season.

Tyrese Proctor must develop into a reliable point guard

It is time for Tyrese Proctor to become the reliable player that many Duke fans have expected him to be since his arrival two seasons ago. The good news, though, is that he doesn't have to be a superstar in order for Duke to be a National Championship contender.

To know what Scheyer thinks of Proctor, remember that last season he was named a team captain despite being just a sophomore. That's a rarity for such a young player at Duke.

In the first seven games of the season, Proctor was off to a great start averaging 11.7 points and 5.1 assists per game until an ankle injury forced him to miss nearly all of December. After that, he was a bit inconsistent never putting together more than six straight games in double-figure scoring despite his immense talent. What's more, in the Elite Eight loss to NC State, he was held without a point and had only four assists in 30 minutes of action.

This year, Proctor has to be consistent instead of spectacular. If he wants to be consistently spectacular, then all the better.

Replacing veteran point guard Jeremy Roach won't be easy for Duke. That's where Proctor has to step up. Around him will be all the talent a point guard could ask for. If Proctor can learn how to be a leader and run this team as well as Roach did, then Duke will be nearly impossible to stop given what will be around him.

Freshman Khaman Maluach has to be a factor on the glass

The 2024-25 Duke roster could be the longest and tallest in the ACC, if not the country. Freshman, Khaman Maluach will lead the way at 7-foot-1, 250 pounds.

He's rated as the No. 4 overall and No. 1 center in the class of 2024. Still, the five-star recruit is a bit raw and will need to develop before he's ready to dominate the college game.

How quickly he becomes a monster on the glass could tell the story of the season for Duke. If he adapts to the college game in a hurry, he and Flagg (who is 6-foot-9) could make the most athletic and fearsome front court duo in the country.

Duke needs to be better when it comes to protecting the rim this season. Last year, the Blue Devils were just 122nd in the nation in blocks per game at 3.7. If Maluach becomes the type of force in the paint that he projects to be, Duke could have a dominant center and we saw with Purdue and UCONN in the 2024 NCAA Tournament how valuable that can be.

Can Caleb Foster become a go-to shot-maker?

Of course, the loss of Jared McCain from this past season's team will be significant moving forward for Duke. He was the team's best 3-point weapon shooting 41.1% from deep and making 2.4 shots per game from beyond the arc.

Whether or not that long-range productivity can be replaced will be key in 2024-25. That's where Caleb Foster needs to assert himself.

Last season, Foster was a nice piece averaging 7.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. However, he started only 15 games as a freshman and his usage rate (the percentage of a team's plays in which a player shot the ball, assisted on a basket, or turned the ball over) was just 16.4% meaning he wasn't a focal point.

Next season, Foster will likely be thrust into more of a leadership role on the court. Can he be a 40% or better 3-point shooter again in 2024-25 even if his attempts are up significantly from the 2.6 he fired off per game in his first year as a collegiate? If so, he could replace McCain's productivity and make Duke a true national title contender.