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Duke’s Offense Is Like A Phoenix Every Year

Starting over annually in the one-and-done era

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest
Feb 25, 2020; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Matthew Hurt (21) shoots the ball against Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward Ody Oguama (33) during the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

As usual, Duke lost a preponderance of its scoring from last season.

The top three ’20 scorers left early – freshmen Vernon Carey Jr. (17.8 points per game) and Cassius Stanley (12.6), as well as sophomore Tre Jones (16.2). Also departed are reserves Alex O’Connell (5.2) and grads Javin DeLaurier (3.3) and Jack White (3.1).

(O’Connell transferred to Creighton, the school in Omaha, Neb., that was Mike Krzyzewski’s preferred destination as a high school recruit before his parents insisted the U.S. Military Academy was his best and only option).

Those six regulars accounted for better than 70 percent of Duke’s 82.5 points per game in 2020 – a scoring average seven points higher than any other ACC squad. That was actually a reduced portion lost compared to 2019: RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Marquise Bolden took more than 77 percent of the scoring with them when they jumped ship.

And that in turn was a reduction from the attrition of 2018, when all five of Duke’s top scorers – Marvin Bagley III, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Trevon Duval – left following the season.

To the enduring credit of Mike Krzyzewski and staff, subsequent squads didn’t miss a beat. Last season was a prime illustration. Even with truncated opportunity Duke finished tied for second in the ACC at 25-6; the last time the Blue Devils finished with fewer than 25 victories was 2007, prior to Barack Obama’s first election as president.

A certain amount of overlooked continuity is crucial to the Devils’ success. Amid its quick-fluxing rosters three players since 2010 came back twice as the program’s top scorer – Grayson Allen in 2017 and 2018; Quinn Cook in 2014 and 2015; and Seth Curry in 2012 and 2013.

This year’s return scoring leader is gangly 6-9 sophomore Matthew Hurt, who wisely passed on one and doneness while a pair of classmates left.

The Minnesotan, a threat inside and out, averaged 9.7 points, fourth on the 2020 team. Hurt’s 3-point shooting also was barely less accurate than team leader Joey Baker on 36 more attempts (.3925 versus .3944). He basically broke even on assists and turnovers (27-26) and hit a respectable .487 from the floor and .741 from the line.

Given his height, reach and athleticism, many questioned Hurt’s defense (14 steals, one every 45.5 minutes played) and rebounding. But his lackluster 3.8 boards per game, though fifth on the 2020 team, weren’t as weak as they looked. He got a rebound every 5.44 minutes played, better than fellow wings Stanley (5.64), Wendell Moore (5.66) and AOC (5.94).

Then again, Hurt wasn’t so consistently productive as to be indispensable. By his coach’s choice the forward sat out long stretches, barely leaving the bench at Madison Square Garden against Georgetown or at Boston College, UNC, NC State and UVa.

PPG Player Season As Scorer Mins FGA Returned
21.6 Grayson Allen 2016 1 1217 513 2017
18.2 Kyle Singler 2010 2 1470 531 2011
14.5 Grayson Allen 2017 3 1077 357 2018
13.2 Seth Curry 2012 2 1026 336 2013
11.7 Quinn Cook 2013 4 1208 363 2014
11.6 Quinn Cook 2014 3 1042 317 2015
9.7 Matthew Hurt 2020 4 637 226 2021
9.4 Tre Jones 2019 4 1230 319 2020
9.0 Seth Curry 2011 4 924 239 2012
6.1 Amile Jefferson 2015 6 831 149 2016
3.9 Marquis Bolden 2018 6 373 78 2019