Obviously we are dealing with just one game against the Chinese Junior National Team but what we can discern from Duke so far is:
Firstly, curb your enthusiasms and criticisms, this is a team chock full of freshmen, NolanÂ Smith and Kyle Singler are not going to walk out there on that court. As highly touted as Austin Rivers, Michael Gbinije, Marshall Plumlee, Quinn Cook and Alex Murphy are they have not played in ACC games, they have yet to play on the college level at all. They are going to struggle and Duke is going to have a lot of games where they struggle as a whole.
RKelly Believes He Can Fly
What the game on Thursday showed us is that neither the offense nor the defense is where it will be (obviously). The talent is there, and that is never in question, but who will lead this team. Who will be they guy to rally the troops when they are down 10 in the second half. What you can glean from the game Thursday is that Ryan Kelly is ready to make a jump, he’s ready to be that guy. A slimmer version has appeared before us this year, a much more confident playmaker who can get his own shot, and isn’t afraid to be the guy.Â If there is a knock on Kelly it’s quickness on defense, moving his feet especially laterally. Hopefully this will come and hopefully team defense will mask his deficiencies in that area. He can be that matchup problem that Kyle Singler was but with more size. What Kelly has over Singler is the ability to get into the paint and convert, on a big guy or a smaller guy. Singler may have been a step quicker on D perhaps. His confidence is there coupled with that talent makes him a very important cog in the gears of this team. Kelly scored 20 in Thursdays game.
Austin Rivers is learning, and will have to learn more. Little things like shot selection, getting back on D, knowing when to attack and when to pull it back, this comes with game experience. If he can manage to get his head adjusted to not only the speed of the college game but the stout defensive identity that Coach K demands, he will be unstoppable. A lot of what the Chinese team did do to Duke was play aggressively and physically. They were not afraid to lay a body on the Devils, it seemed to rattle Duke a bit, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Lots of avoiding the lane, settling for contested 3’s instead of getting to the lane and possibly the foul line. Driving and kicking could have definitely come in handy. Also utilizing the midrange game, attacking in that fashion might open up the middle for interior passing. Just my non-expert opinion. Rivers despite some bonehead plays scored 12 points.
This year provides an open door for Miles and Mason to really step up their games, it’s time for a leap by Miles and Mason. Obviously both are athletic and can jump out of the gym but can they lead. The vacuum created by the departure of last years seniors as well as Kyrie needs to be filled. Mason and Miles are going to be looked at to lead, they are going to have to be the anchors on the defensive end and recyclers and attackers on offense. Rebounding is at a premium as are points in the paint, those are the kind of things that are crucial to a young, developing team. Shots are not always going to fall. If Duke can get a Zoubekian performance out of Mason and Miles, to go along with the post moves that apparently this off-season work has produced, Duke can make a little noise. The size and speed and skill is there, mentally are they ready to lead? Time will tell. Both Plumlees showed signs against China with some nifty moves around the basket. Miles Plumlee put down 14 points and Mason had 4.
Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins seem to be players that are more than ready to jump into a lead role on this team, Seth being the primary ball handler has to become more teary at the point while not sacrificing completely what he brings to the table on offense. His mid-range game is as good as anyone in the ACC, and we know he can knock it down from distance. Andre Dawkins is to me an enigma, obviously he has probably the best pure stroke of any player in the ACC, and is adept at hitting the shot, but there is so much more to his game, his athleticism is underrated and he has the ability, not sure if he has the desire, to be a high flyer. To get in the lane and finish strong. A proficiency at that makes him dangerous in a very good way for Duke. That is the element that perhaps this team isn’t really equipped with. While rivers does make some crazy and electrifying plays, I truly believe that Dawkins needs to add that to his repertoire. Its there and in the tournament two years ago and in the off season and flashes last season he has shown it. With a shot fake and a hard drive to the rim, he can assure himself of 2 points or a trip to the line.
We are sure to learn more from the last game than the first game just a few thoughts and a box score for those who want to see it.