In the last couple of weeks, Duke picked up a commitment from 5-star guard Trevor Keels, Davidson transfer Bates Jones and Marquette transfer Theo John, and next year’s team suddenly looks quite different.
Start with the front court.
With John, Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero and Henry Coleman, Duke has size and power now and at least two talented shotblockers (we’re not expecting Banchero to be one but that would be a nice surprise).
The backcourt will feature Jeremy Roach and Keels, both of whom are likely to start as they did in high school together at Paul VI.
Duke is still working on getting a commitment from Jaylen Blakes, who would help a great deal.
The Blue Devils will also have AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore and Joey Baker to provide a lot of versatility and defense, among other talents.
The most imposing thing for Duke may be if Williams is diligent about weight training this summer. He was brilliant in two ways in the second half of the season: first, he is an innately intelligent player who makes really good basketball plays. And second, his length allowed him to do things most players can’t do.
He struggled against more powerful players though. If he can address that, the sky’s the limit. A powerful Mark Williams is going to be a nightmare for defenders.
The transfers, John and Jones, are both seniors, who were pursued for different reasons. John, as we said, is a shot blocker and a physical big man. Jones is not.
He didn't really play much at Davidson but was recruited by Duke because of his character and his ability to help the team behind the scenes. Like Justin Robinson, his influence won't be that visible although it would be nice if he had a late run like Robinson did.
That brings up an interesting point that hasn’t been discussed a lot, and that’s this: player movement is good and fine, but there aren’t enough spots for everyone in the portal.
This is partly due to the bonus year and coaches planning their rosters a year or two down the road, but the NCAA expanded the supply of players without expanding roster size to accommodate them.
Player movement is one thing, but what is essentially free agency has a less discussed side: coaches might simply upgrade their roster and dump some less talented players, or dismiss them so that incoming freshmen won't be scared off by the competition. What happens to guys who have an injury or illness that keeps them out? Will they be cut?
And while that may seem unfair, you can’t have freedom of movement for players without coaches engaging in some unpleasant calculations.
Whatever else happens, when the dust settles, there are going to be a lot of guys who find themselves without a scholarship or team. It’s unfortunate in general, but deeply so for kids who truly wanted an education and will come up somewhat short.