Contemplating the 2016-17 season, it was reasonable to expect Duke would have so many playing options that no roster member would rack up an inordinate number of minutes on the floor, let alone lead the ACC.
Then, when three of the four incoming freshmen were sidelined by injury, it became obvious the 2016-17 version of the Blue Devils would remain largely intact through the end of the ’16 calendar year. That meant more minutes for fewer folks.
As to who would lead in minutes played, the obvious choice was Grayson Allen, the top returning scorer and Duke’s incumbent star. But Allen got hurt too, couldn’t practice, and his toe injury had to be taken into account in rationing his playing time.
Well, then, what about fifth-year senior Amile Jefferson, a tower of strength on defense and the boards? Or Matt Jones, another senior whom Mike Krzyzewski praises for his shutdown defense? They clearly were needed on the court as much as possible, especially early on.
Jones ranks among the ACC’s top five in minutes played. But the conference leader, rather surprisingly, is Duke wing Luke Kennard. Through a dozen of the 23 games in the nonconference schedule, he racked up minutes at nearly a record pace for a Blue Devil. He also led the team in scoring (20.3 points per game).
In the unlikely event Kennard continues to get this much playing time through season’s end, he will be among Duke’s all-time leaders in minutes per game. Oddly, Duke’s media guide lists best per-minute average for freshmen, and most minutes per season, but not top per-game playing time. Here’s our best estimate of same:
Most Minutes Per Game by Duke Player, Modern Times
(Through Games of Dec. 19, 2016)