Duke’s last recruiting class was full of stars and a very good complement of players. Marvin Bagley III being the centerpiece. A star among stars when paired with Wendell Carter Jr. in the post. Duke also brought in the top point guard in the glass and the top shooting guard in Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. respectively. They also brought in some companion pieces in Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire. On paper this was one of, if not the best class that Coach K has put together. While I agree in terms of talent this was a far superior class than most. In terms of what I feel is Coach K’s ideal team or team makeup…perhaps not.
What I feel Coach K has craved since the days of Grant Hill and Thomas Hill has been versatility. Wings with the ability to play both on the perimeter and if possible in the paint. A team of interchangeable pieces and parts.
Enter the class of 2018. It’s impossible to say whether the results in the upcoming season will mirror or surpass the 2017 season for the Duke Blue Devils but I think in terms of how the lineup is structured as of right now, I think this is a team that could have Coach K much more in his element. The addition of two solid and versatile wing players is something Coach K hasn’t had in a while. Neither player are adept 3 point shooters but neither are poor in that regard and both have the ability to play multiple positions and guard multiple positions. Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett despite being similar in size, position and skill set should be able to flourish on the floor under Coach K. Whether it’s being able to push the ball immediately up the floor after a defensive rebound or being able to switch defensively without a discernible drop in defensive intensity or ability. These are the types of players that Coach K craves at Duke.
The unknown will be the addition of Zion Williamson. This future freshmen obviously has a ton of highlight real dunks and blocks but the entirety of his game is still an unknown to most. He has abilities that go beyond being a world-class Dunker. Zion has some of the same abilities that his classmates Barrett and Reddish have in that he should be able to also guard multiple positions as well as handle the ball in certain situations. While it’s still unclear exactly how Coach K and company will use the 6’6, 272 point forward. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play more on the perimeter as a driver / slasher. If he can develop an above average jumpsuit then he becomes perhaps the most dangerous player on the court.
Tre Jones may be the most important piece to this puzzle for Duke, the only way that these players will be able to co-exist on the floor is with a true floor general who understands the strengths and tendencies of his teammates. Tre Jones is the perfect person for that role. Being a pass first point guard much like his brother Tyus, Tre understands that putting players in the best position to utilize their strengths is his main job, scoring is secondary.
There are clearly areas where this team is suspect, one of which being 3-point shooting. With no Gary Trent Jr. or Grayson Allen to hit shots Duke will need for their 3 wings and point guard to improve in that area. Duke can also bring in Alex O’Connell in that role and I’d still look for Duke to try, after unsuccessfully luring Joe Cremo to Duke, to land a grad transfer. The other issue facing this team is a lack of upperclassmen and experience. Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier will have to assume that role in their junior seasons and also anchor Duke’s defense that spent much of this past year suspect at best. Duke should be able to go back to their traditional man-to-man with a sprinkling of zone with this new cast of players. Duke should look like Duke again.
With the amount of talent that is amassing in Durham this season the team will still only go as far as their unity, chemistry and point guard can take them. In terms of talent, this may not be Coach K’s best class ever but when you look at his most successful teams over the years , even the olympic teams…this is the type of team that can have Coach Mike Krzyzewski feeling like it’s 1991 all over again.