One day after Jabari Parker departed for the NBA, Rodney Hood made it official. Both are expected to go in the first round, with Parker a definite high lottery pick and Hood very possibly a lottery pick as well.
In a normal situation, losing both to the draft would really set a program back. In Duke’s case, it’s already been discounted; Duke is widely seen as the #1 team going into next season.
That’s pretty meaningless, of course, but it’s still revealing. No one is expecting a step back for the Blue Devils. In fact, despite losing perhaps the best freshman Duke has ever had, the team is expected to do better.
Partly that’s due to Coach K’s ability to mold a team. But it’s more because of Duke’s incoming class of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen.
Okafor brings Duke something it hasn’t had in years - a highly skilled center. People who have been around him rave about his work ethic and his fundamentals. The comparison to Tim Duncan may be a bit of hype, but nonetheless, Okafor should be a load.
Jones brings an aggressive point guard mentality. We don’t have to run down Duke’s history of great point guards to remind you that Mike Krzyzewski knows what to do with point guards. Jones may or may not start - Quinn Cook has at times been spectacular. They’ll likely play together at times, but it’s going to be hard to keep Rasheed Sulaimon off the court given his size, his ability to penetrate and his desire on defense.
Those guys will get a ton of attention, but Winslow has a perfect role.
Like point guards, Duke has a knack for finding guys like Winslow. Think David Henderson, John Smith, Robert Brickey, Brian Davis, Shane Battier.
Or, to look outside of the program for a great example, look at Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. An athletic, versatile forward can impose himself on a game in a unique way. Kidd-Gilchrist was sensational at Kentucky. Anthony Davis got all the attention, and understandably so, but Kidd-Gilchrist was the heart and soul of that team.
We’ll see what his skills are. A lot of times it’s hard to tell before you see someone go up against college level competition. But we’re less intrigued with his current skills than his defense and leadership potential. If he brings that, then Duke has partly solved two problems from this past season.
We’re equally intrigued by Allen. We’d heard that he was surprisingly athletic, but we had no idea of just how bouncy he is.
We started to get it when this year’s high school dunk contests rolled around and Allen started pulling off spectacular stunts to win them.
It’s not enough. Joey Johnson and Harold Miner should’ve taught everyone that. But how many people get to touch that kind of talent, much less have an opportunity to refine it? Watching him grow at Duke is going to be a privilege.
That’ll be the case for all four.