Big Decisions Coming And What They Mean

What an amazing season for the Blue Devils. It all ended on Monday night with the program’s fifth national championship. In a season where Coach K proudly declared that “eight is enough” when describing his roster, Duke proved their coach to be prophetic. But now a number of decisions could rob the team of four starters and more. Here’s a look at the potential departures and additions.

Heading into the season Duke was guaranteed to lose just one player - senior point guard Quinn Cook. After the fourth year point guard, there was a good idea that at least one of the members of the prized freshman class would be leaving, but this season has brought even more decisions to the forefront as Duke prepares for the 2015-2016 season.


Jahlil Okafor: The first freshman in history to take home ACC Player of the Year honors, Okafor’s draft stock may have tumbled a little bit over the last month or so, but he’s still a lock to be drafted in the top three along with Kentucky’s Karl Anthony Towns and former high school all-star Emmanuel Mudiay. Throughout the season Duke coaches, players, and even recruits have alluded to Okafor’s pending departure after one season in Durham, and nobody will be surprised when the Chicago native makes it official in the coming weeks.

Possible Replacements: There’s nobody on the roster or in high school basketball who can replace Okafor’s production and efficiency on the offensive end of the court. Instead the Blue Devils will likely turn to a platoon of Marshall Plumlee (perhaps, see below), Rice transfer Sean Obi, incoming freshman Chase Jeter, and perhaps unsigned All-American Caleb Swanigan. Each of those options brings something different to the table with Plumlee being a solid defender and Obi being a very good rebounder. Jeter will need time to adjust to the college game, but has a lot of upside. Should he decide on Duke, Swanigan would likely become the immediate starter inside, though that recruitment seems to be trending away from Duke.

Justise Winslow: Earlier in the season it seemed as though the 6-foot-6 wing from Houston May return as injury limited his production. However, over the last six weeks Winslow has been the team’s best overall player, and has played himself safely into the top 10 picks in June’s NBA Draft. Certainly an encore season in Durham could serve to further enhance his stature, but it’d be nearly un-prescendented to turn down his current draft stock. Expect a second freshman departure accordingly.

Possible Replacements: Matt Jones established himself as a capable perimeter defender and an occasional big shot maker for Duke this year. During the off season the Blue Devils will likely continue to work with Jones on the offensive end in hopes he can up his scoring performance in both frequency and volume. An improved offensive game paired with his defense will likely result in Jones moving into the small forward role for Duke next season. Another option would be five star, in-state prospect Brandon Ingram, a five star player with great length and shooting ability. Ingram would immediately challenge for minutes on the wing and his length would be an asset on defense, though he would need to add a lot of strength.

Tyus Jones: This is where it gets dicey for Duke as the point guard they recruited and waited for over the last three years was handed the keys to the team early on, and delivered terrific results in being named the Most Outstanding Player in the Regional Final and Final Four. Jones has the lowest draft stock of the three star freshmen due to a lack of size and athleticism, but his March performance could be enough to push him out the door and into the draft. And if he leaves, Duke’s offense takes a major hit in terms of big shot takers, court vision, and general basketball IQ.

Possible Replacements: There’s no other point guard on the roster right now. Duke could certainly ask incoming freshman Luke Kennard to handle the ball, and those discussions have taken place according to Kennard. Similarly, Duke could ask both Matt Jones and Grayson Allen to handle the ball, though neither is a point guard. In keeping with the Tyus Jones recruitment strategy, it appears as though Duke has zeroed in on Nevada’s Derryck Thornton, Jr. as the preferred point guard of the future, but Thornton is currently a junior and would have to make a decision on reclassification to the class of 2015 very soon. And that’s only after deciding to not only accelerate his high major recruitment tremendously, but choosing Duke.

Marshall Plumlee: The redshirt junior big man didn’t play for his first three seasons in Durham due to a plethora of injuries. Now, after his fourth season, Plumlee was a key contributor on national title team. He is the most likely starter for next season, but he’s also able to graduate this year and has the option of pursuing his career in the Armed Forces OR playing basketball elsewhere. Will he return for a final season in Durham? That was the question raised after Swanigan told TDD that Duke was “losing both of their bigs” last week at the McDonald’s All-American game.

Possible Replacements: Same as Okafor’s. Duke could also extend an offer to three star big man Antonio Vrankovic out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Pine Crest School. Whether Duke will offer or not is up in the air, but if one comes it seems that good things could happen as the 6-foot-11, 275 pound center told TDD:

“Duke’s been my dream school for awhile now since I started playing and watching basketball. It doesn’t get much bigger in college basketball than Duke”


Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel has been a driving force in Duke’s success over the past few seasons, and that role only increased over the last two seasons as Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski both departed to become head coaches at Northwestern and Marquette. During this title run the news broke that Arizona State had zeroed in on Capel as their top choice for the open position in Tempe. The interest progressed enough that Sun Devil officials flew to Durham within the last week to meet with Capel about the job. With Duke’s season now over, this will be a big storyline to watch.

Potential Replacements: There are a number of potential names here - all former players of Coach Krzyzewski. The issue will be who takes over a number of high major recruitments - especially in the absolutely pivotal class of 2016. Capel is a lead recruiter on several of the nation’s best players in that class, and losing him would elevate the stature of not only the new assistant coach on staff, but also that of Jon Scheyer and Nate James.

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