Mining intra-squad scrimmages for major insights into a basketball team’s prospects is more often than not a fool’s errand. The task has become even more arduous since that advent of Countdown to Craziness: while a fantastic recruiting tool, player spotlight, and overall event, the extracurriculars can distract from the game action itself.
We certainly saw that Friday night.
The 16 minute scrimmage we were treated to was more notable for what was absent than what was present: namely, Duke’s two most prized freshmen (Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead) and any semblance of consistent outside shooting. There were few highlight plays, and the most impressive player may not see the court for the Blue Devils this season.
Nonetheless, the event unofficially marks the beginning of the season, and in turn the beginning of the hot take cycle. Some of these are massive overreactions given the circumstances, but others not so much. Amongst the most notable:
Christian Reeves will be an impact player for Duke... someday. With that “someday” caveat, this is certainly not an overreaction. Reeves took advantage of Lively’s absence to showcase better-than-expected defense and solid control over his seven-foot frame that led to easy buckets in transition and off of opportunities created by Jeremy Roach. Reeves still plans to redshirt this year, but the fears in some corners of the fanbase about the lack of a true center in the Class of 2023 were justifiably assuaged by Reeves’ performance. A second year Reeves, perhaps supplemented by a sixth-year Ryan Young, would be well suited to man the 5 spot for the 2023-24 squad.
Outside shooting will be a problem. This is the biggest overreaction to come from Friday night’s action. Yes, projected sharpshooters Jaden Schutt and Jacob Grandison went a combined 0-for-7 from deep, and yes no one besides Roach made more than one shot from beyond the arc. But this type of sloppiness is to be expected not only in a scrimmage, but in one where players may have been more concerned with their opening dance number than the game itself. Take the shooting numbers with a massive grain of salt.
Tyrese Proctor will be a first round NBA draft pick. While not a sure thing, this is not an overreaction when combining his rumored performance in practice with what he showed in Cameron on Friday. Proctor was the clear leader of the White team, showing an ability to get to the line (where he shot 3-for-3), making a nice three pointer, and also having the biggest highlight of the night with a beautiful juke move for an easy layup:
Proctor looks to be the type of player who can create his own offense, especially key considering some fans were left worried that:
Duke will struggle to score without Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead’s presence was certainly missed, but I think this is an overreaction for one simple reason: Proctor and Roach were on opposing squads. If this Duke team was healthy and played a more traditional “starters versus bench” Blue and White game, we could’ve gotten a glimpse into the nightmare that a backcourt of Roach and Proctor will pose for opposing teams. Both can shoot, both can penetrate, both can pass. It will be hard for opposing defenses to key in on either of Duke’s guards, especially with a healthy Lively (who was kept out for very precautionary reasons) and when Duke’s shooting gets up to speed.