Key advantage Duke basketball has over last year’s team


As a whole, the 2020-21 Duke basketball roster should look like an upgrade.

Despite an abrupt ending to the 2019-20 season, it was a successful one for Duke basketball. The Blue Devils won 25 games and beat some of the top teams in the country, including Kansas, Michigan State, and Florida State.

Duke was led by stars Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr., and Cassius Stanley had our jaws on the floor all season with his incredible displays of athleticism.

ALSO READ: What made Tre Jones a great Duke point guard

That Duke basketball team is now history with Jones, Stanley, and Carey Jr. all moving on to the NBA. Duke also lost Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, and Justin Robinson to graduation, and Alex O’Connell to transfer. With the 2020-21 season coming up, the Blue Devils are reloaded and ready to go, eager for an opportunity to bring a sixth national title back to Durham.

Once again, Duke will have a much different roster. A new roster means new lineups, new rotations, and new opportunities.

Duke was a solid team a season ago. The Blue Devils had excellent point guard play, a dangerous inside threat, athleticism, and streaky shooting.

This year’s team should also have quality point guard play, despite the loss of Tre Jones, with the return of Jordan Goldwire and the arrival of Jeremy Roach. Plus, Duke will have some low post options between Matthew Hurt, Mark Williams, and Patrick Tape. The Blue Devils will be even more athletic than last season, yet they could be another streaky shooting team.

ALSO READ: Taking a closer look at Duke’s point guard battle

Where the 2020-21 Blue Devils will have the biggest advantage over the 2019-20 Blue Devils is in terms of balance. Duke should have a much deeper arsenal, both offensively and defensively.

For the most part, a season ago, Duke lived and died offensively with Tre Jones, who scored over 16 points per game, and Vernon Carey Jr., who averaged close to 18 points. Cassius Stanley was the only other Blue Devil to average double figures.

Jones and Carey Jr. were clearly Duke basketball’s best players a season ago, and they dominated their teammates in terms of shot attempts. Carey Jr. shot the ball 345 times while Jones attempted 383 shots. Stanley attempted just 270. I doubt we will see that same type of discrepancy between the second and third-leading scorers this season.

A season ago, if Jones and Carey Jr. were having rough shooting nights, Duke struggled to score and find a rhythm. For example, Jones and Carey Jr. shot a combined 8-for-22 against Louisville, and the Blue Devils subsequently fell short in that game, scoring 73 points as a team, well below their 82.5 season average.

Another example of this was the February trip to NC State. Jones and Carey Jr. combined to shoot just 16-for-38, and Duke scored only 66 points, its third-lowest scoring output of the season. Jones shot 33 percent from the field that game, while Carey Jr. shot 50 percent, both well below their season averages.

When Jones and Carey Jr. did not have big offensive nights, not only did Duke’s offense suffer, but also did their ability to win games.

This Duke basketball team may be relatively unscathed by a cold hand or two

While the Blue Devils will certainly miss the contributions of Jones and Carey Jr., they should have a more balanced offensive attack. With two months until tipoff to college hoops, it is uncertain who will be Duke’s top scorer. Four or five players could average double figures.

Freshmen Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward, and Jaemyn Brakefield all come in with reputations as scorers. Matthew Hurt is Duke’s leading returning scorer, and Joey Baker showed at times to be a capable scorer a season ago.

ALSO READ: Figuring out Duke’s frontcourt this season

Duke should have more of an offense by committee. There will probably be less pick-and-roll and two-man game this season, as it doesn’t seem as if the Blue Devils will have as dominant of a low post threat as they’ve had the last few years.

The balanced attack should make the team more difficult to defend and prepare for. Not knowing which guy to key in on makes it more challenging for opposing teams to put together an adequate game plan.

The 2020-21 Blue Devils have a nice balance between guards and wings. If Mike Krzyzewski can get solid post play from his 41st Duke basketball roster, he could have one of the best offensive teams in the country.

Yes, 3-point shooting will still be a question, and the young Blue Devils will have to prove they are capable of hitting outside shots. But if Duke can find consistency from deep and get some inside scoring production, this could be one of the most offensively balanced Duke basketball teams in recent memory.

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball news and views.

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