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More On The China Games

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There's just one game left on Duke's summer tour and that's in Dubai, where the competition is not going to be as intense. So what did we learn in China?

First of all, Duke got better with each game. While that's partly because they were more rested each time out (the flight delay hurt, particularly on the first day), it was also because individually and collectively, they improved.

In Monday's game, for instance, Duke showed that a starting perimeter of Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers has the potential to be hugely effective - and that's with Rivers still working on his freshman curve.

Though his talent was obvious, he's rushing things and putting pressure on himself. When he figures that out, he'll be vastly more effective.

Curry, who gets first crack at point guard, seems to have gone through a similar transition himself.  Where last year he was often anxious and hurried, in China he was highly effective shooting and passing.  He seems vastly more relaxed and much more confident.  He was a solid defender last year and we would anticipate improvement there, though it's hard to measure in China.

The Plumlees, the older two anyway, seemed to be more secure in the post, more likely to be aggressive.  And the Chinese are huge, so scoring in there isn't as easy as one might think.  Still stuff to work on, mostly relating to smart decisions, but the perimeter will open up a lot of options for them.

We've already talked about Ryan Kelly, who appears to be radically improved.  He's moving better, reacting better, and just better in every way than he was last year. He's really refined his game and he'll be hard to get out of the lineup.  In fact, he may be on target for an All-ACC season.

Josh Hairston will carve out a role as an energy guy and his career may to an extent parallel that of Lance Thomas, although Thomas played out of necessity early in his career and Duke's depth makes that more problematic for the 6-7 Virginian.  His time will come though.

Tyler Thornton made a strong argument for playing time on Monday: when China seemed set to challenge Duke, Thornton's gritty defense pretty much personally shut off their comeback.  He has the ability to be very disruptive on defense, and at Duke, that will get you some attention.

While Quinn Cook hasn't played due to his knee and Marshall Plumlee barely did, we have gotten glimpses of Alex Murphy and Michael Gbinije. They'll add a lot of versatility to the lineup and their games will likely expand quickly.

Normally during the season roles change somewhat.  For instance, we won't be surprised to see the Plumlees switch starting roles, perhaps several times.  Nor would we be surprised to see Murphy become more of an offensive presence.

Predictions are hard to make, but we feel confident saying this: it's almost a tradition for the national media to underestimate Duke when they have serious losses to graduation and/or the NBA.  We think they're doing it again.  This should be a very good team before all is said and done.

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