Duke Basketball Preview: Two Views on Five Pressing Questions for Season

Tyler LambertSenior Analyst IOctober 4, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 28:  James Johnson #23 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons positions for a rebound against Kyle Singler #12 and Jon Scheyer #30 of the Duke Blue Devils at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on January 28, 2009 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest won the game 70-68. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

This article is a collaboration between Duke Community Leader Brad Frank and Duke Basketball Writer Tyler Lambert. This article was written and discussed by both parties mentioned, and thus credit shall go to both writers.

This article consists of five questions about the 2009-10 Duke basketball season. Our goal in creating this article was that we would give the public two different views on Duke's season. By doing this, we are giving readers two different angles on Duke's chances this year.

I will answer the following questions as a typical Duke fan would. I will be optimistic, giving a hope-filled perspective on the season as a whole. Brad, on the other hand, will be pessimistic and cynical about Duke's chances this season.
Who will convince you to take their side? Whose angle is most like yours? Two Duke fans, two different angles on Duke's chances this season, two men going head-to-head.

1. Will Duke restore its national credibility with three consecutive sub par NCAA tournament finishes?

Brad: No. What America is looking for from Duke this season is for it to provide some substance in terms of on-court success behind the name of the team. Duke will always be Duke because of its rich history and tradition of success. But people, Duke fans namely, are wanting Duke to return to prominence so that the team is a legitimate Final Four contender every season. This team doesn’t appear to be any different nor any better from any of the last three Duke teams.

Tyler: Yes. Although the loss of both Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams will affect Duke’s overall athleticism as a team, a legitimate top five recruiting class will ease the pain a little. Recruits Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee will add size and depth to the Duke frontcourt, something that Duke hasn’t had the past three seasons. With a big man in the post, Duke won’t have to rely on shooting from the perimeter as frequently. Having a talented big man in the post, Duke guards will be fresh come March, Kyle Singler won’t be burned out by postseason time, and Duke will be prepared to make a deep run in the tournament.


2. What affect will Elliot Williams’ transfer have on the Duke backcourt this season?

Brad: Elliot Williams’ transfer comes at a huge cost to Duke. He eliminates any depth Duke had in its backcourt, and he removes the possibility that Gerald Henderson's production is immediately replaced. This will force Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer to play more minutes early in the season while others get acclimated to playing for Duke in the backcourt.

Tyler: Last season Coach K inserted Elliot Williams in the starting lineup for Duke’s final 12 games. During that time Duke went 10-2 with an ACC Championship Game win against Florida State and a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. Although Elliot Williams played a crucial role in the victories late last season, the backcourt of Duke should excel once again, even in his absence. Led by senior Jon Scheyer and junior Nolan Smith, along with highly touted freshman Andre Dawkins, Duke should once again have great guard play to mirror their talented frontcourt.


3. What impact will incoming freshman Andre Dawkins have on Duke this season?

Brad: Andre Dawkins won’t have a tremendous amount of impact on Duke this season. He is the type of player who can come in and eat minutes without hurting Duke terribly, but he’s not ready to deliver on the type of level some people he can. Duke already has its focal points in Singler and Scheyer. So to expect Dawkins to be more than a role player is a bit optimistic.

Tyler: Andre Dawkins will play a major role for Duke during the 2009-2010 season. With Henderson leaving for the NBA and Williams transferring to Memphis, Duke’s backcourt over the summer looked depleted. However, Dawkins, a Duke Class of 2010 commit, discovered he could enroll to Duke early and play this upcoming basketball season. Look for Dawkins, one of the purest shooters in the upcoming recruiting class, to play huge minutes for Duke this season.


4. Will Ryan Kelly and Miles and Mason Plumlee serve as legitimate interior presence which Duke has been without for several years?

Brad: The Plumlees and Kelly will be upgrades over recent Duke frontcourts. However, if you’re expecting them to perform at the level of frontcourts which featured Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, you’re expecting too much. We’ll see bigger and more athletic frontcourts in the ACC, and these guys will be able to hold their own and be somewhat effective compared to recent Duke frontcourts. But don’t expect them dominate every game.

Tyler: Compared to the Duke frontcourts over the past few seasons in Durham, Ryan Kelly and the Plumlee brothers are a huge upgrade. Miles Plumlee didn’t play a major factor for Duke last season, but look for that to change this year. With Mason, the most talented of the two, by his side, Miles should step up his play in all aspects of the game. Give Miles his more talented brother Mason, and the Plumlee brothers should play a huge role in Duke’s success this season. Ryan Kelly, on the other hand, is a great shooter for a guy his size. He can step back and shoot the three, as well as consistently drain jump shots. Duke fans should be very optimistic about the frontcourt for this season. They will be one of the most, if not the most, talented frontcourts in the ACC.


5. Is Nolan Smith ready to take command of the team as point guard, or will Jon Scheyer need to resume the role he assumed last season?

Brad: Nolan Smith won’t be able to run the point guard full time, as much as Duke needs him to. Expect Scheyer to split time with Smith at point guard this season as well. In fact, Smith actually may be more effective as an off guard. Defensively, Smith can excel both as an on-ball defender and from the help side. Offensively, he’ll be able to lead a fast break alongside Scheyer and could be effective in the pick-and-roll offense after coming off of a screen.

Tyler: As a junior, Nolan Smith will be looked upon as one of the leaders for Duke this season. As a leader, Smith must sacrifice his more comfortable role as a shooting guard to become the point guard of a talented Duke team. However, with accepting this role comes the pressure and expectations to succeed. Last season Smith was not prepared to face these challenges, and thus lost his starting spot. Coming into this season, however, look for Smith to be focused on the challenges ahead and take command of the team as point guard. He is one of the most impressive defenders and ball handlers in the conference. So look for Smith to play well this season for Duke, regardless of his position on the team.