It is way too early to think about next season’s Duke team, after all this year’s team is pretty good and well the season isn’t half over, but since there isn’t anything else to do why the team is on Christmas break lets think about it for a second.
The announcement on Thursday that that nation’s second ranked recruit, Jabari Parker was verbally committing to Duke was big news across the college basketball world and especially at Duke. The Blue Devils have gotten some pretty big recruits over the years but Parker may be the biggest commitment since Shane Battier.
Now that the decision is done, naturally everyone is looking to what that decision means for Duke next year. There is the very real possibility that Duke will have one, if not the most loaded lineup in college basketball, but still some are already thinking about the dominoes that could fall and the players that could leave.
If you look at who they have coming back or who they should have back you have to like what the Blue Devils offer. Parker would join Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye on a roster that will already include Rodney Hood, Marshall Plumlee, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Josh Hairston. And if Andre Dawkins comes back from his year long sabatical you have one pretty stacked lineup.
There of course naturally is a lot of debate about that possible lineup including the future of some of those players in Durham. The first one that comes to mind is Dawkins. Will he return and with the year layoff and the addition of sharp shooter Matt Jones, will he be able to carve out a roll on a team that will be loaded and minutes would be a luxury?
My personal belief is that he will come back because if he wants to play and he doesn’t think he will get that time at Duke then he would have to transfer and sit out another entire season. He may take the challenge head on and fight for that playing time and personally, I hope that he does.
The second question that is already popping up in people’s minds is the future of Alex Murphy. Even before Parker’s commitment there were those who have felt Murphy my have one foot out the door. A preseason starter this season, Murphy has struggled to get any amount of playing time. With the addition of Parker and Hood’s ability to play coming off his transfer year things look to be getting crowded at the small forward.
Does that mean Murphy will transfer, does that mean he will completely fall out of the rotation? Not necessarily, but it is going to take a lot of work to get him to the point where he can work his way into the lineup behind those two guys, but he is talented enough to earn his time.
Parker is an immense talent and can potentially play the stretch four position being vacated by Ryan Kelly. It is a position that Murphy or potentially Hood can play but all three could play the small forward and you have to think that Murphy is certainly talented enough to get some amount of playing time.
The same can be said for Amile Jefferson who you’d have to expect will bulk up and be able to play more in the post. With Marshall Plumlee the only true post player Duke will have the talent and the available minutes may seem limited with guys like Parker and Hood but they will be there. And no program has taken advantage of versatile post players quite like Duke.
There are a lot of those who see Parker’s arival as a good thing but a sign that some on the current team may be thinking about moving on. Instead of choosing to look at all the dominoes that could fall and the people who might leave as a result of Parker coming to Duke, I’m looking at the opportunity that the Blue Devils will have at putting together one of the more talented and deeps squads they have ever had.
Duke could have an insanely good starting lineup and nearly as much talent coming off the bench. There are a lot of ifs attached to that and it will take the right mindset by all of the players but you have to consider the long-term benefits for players like Murphy and Jefferson waiting.
Hood and Parker are likely going to be leaving after next season especially if they are as good as all indications would believe, and Jefferson and Murphy would be a year older with a year of practicing and playing with two very good players and the would be at the top of the totem pole.
The dominoes could fall some of those player could choose to not wait their turn but again I’m choosing to believe, even if naively that they will and that next year’s Duke team and the subsequent years will keep the Blue Devils at the top of the college basketball universe.
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