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Next Year's Model

With Chris Duhon gone, Luol Deng most likely gone, and Shaun Livingston still
undecided, what will next year be like? Probably not too bad.

The biggest problem will be depth, needless to say, and Livingston could have
a huge impact on the team. Let's take a look at who will be in blue next

  • Daniel Ewing
  • Shelden Williams
  • Shavlik Randolph
  • JJ Redick
  • Sean Dockery
  • Lee Melchionni
  • Dave McClure
  • DeMarcus Nelson

The obvious issue is depth: with only eight players (not counting
Livingston), Duke has little room for injuries or error. However, they
have a lot of versatility, and that can make up for a short bench. And
since one of the criticisms of Duke lately is that Coach K doesn't use his bench
enough, well, no one will be able to say that this time.

Duke has at least three guys who can play point guard to some extent - Ewing,
Dockery, and Nelson. They have several guys who can play the other guard
spot (call it whatever you will) in Ewing, Redick, Nelson, Melchionni, and
possibly McClure.

At small forward, they can run in McClure, Melchionni, and Redick.
Power forward is somewhat limited, with only Shavlik Randolph fitting the
traditional profile.

And in the post, they have Williams and Randolph.

We were extremely impressed to see Mike Dunleavy, in his freshman year,
become basically a one-man bench. Coach K used him pretty widely to spell
just about everyone. He would come in for, say, Carrawell, then Carrawell
would come in for Williams, who would come in for Dunleavy, who would come in
for Boozer, and so on and so forth.

No one on this current team, at least at first blush, has the same
versatility that Dunleavy had. But enough guys have enough skills to keep
everyone fresh - and that's without Livingston.

With Livingston, things change a lot. First of all, he's an amazing
passer. One of the ways you get to be a really good passer is that you
understand who your teammates are and what they are capable of. So you
might see

Secondly, he's a superb ballhandler, which takes pressure off of everyone
else. Add those qualities to the outside shooting by Redick and Ewing,
both of whom we hope will start the season healthy, and it would be really
difficult do defend Duke.

There are some other problems to deal with, notably the tendencies by
Williams and Randolph to stack up fouls. If Duke could get 30-35 minutes
out of Williams consistently, they'd be ecstatic.

By the same token, even though Randolph has at times been foul prone, at the
end of the season, he began to improve dramatically. Keep these guys
available for the entire game, and it's a different Duke team.

Finally, with all the focus on Livingston's decision, it's easy to overlook
McClure and Nelson. Nelson in particular is a superb athlete. We
have not seen him in person, but we have heard people say he is Duke's best
athlete since Corey Maggette. Is that hyperbole? We don't know,
honestly. But e're very excited to hear people say it.

And when we saw McClure play in Durham, in the Tournament of Champions, he
was absolutely awful. Then again, he was also recovering from mono.
Since then, he has recovered fully, and, according to people who have seen him
(unlike us), has proven to be much more athletic than he was orginally believed
to be.

He also was recruited by Duke at least partly for his leadership potential,
which is a good sign.

Finally, though next year's team will lack depth, it will be a team full of
speedy, midsized players, a formula Coach K has had before. If you want to
have a smile on your face today, imagine this lineup playing defense:

  • Shelden Williams
  • Sean Dockery
  • Daniel Ewing
  • Dave McClure
  • DeMarcus Nelson

Obviously not a huge lineup, but it's not much smaller than 1986, or 1989,
for that matter. And moving the ball against that lineup could prove to be
very difficult.

One final note: while Lee Melchionni has not played an enormous amount
in his first two years, we've watched him as much as we can, and we can tell you
this: the kid has heart. He plays with passion and toughness, and when he
gets his chance, he's going to be relentless. Do not be shocked if he is one of
the bigger surprises in the ACC next season.