Yesterday, Duke men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed that the team plans to redshirt Andre Dawkins next season. The rising senior guard averaged 8.4 points per game last season in 22.4 minutes, hitting 2.0 3-pointers per game.
Bobby Colton and Andrew Beaton sat down to discuss the impact of the decision on the team and the backcourt going into next season.
Andrew Beaton: So, Bobby, what do you make of Duke's backcourt without Dawkins next year?
Bobby Colton: Even without Dawkins in the fold, Duke will have a litany of guys vying for minutes at point and on the wings. Dawkins is a strong shooter, but Duke has the personnel to replace him.
Beaton: Duke's backcourt is definitely a strength, but it will be interesting to see who picks up the slack on the outside. Dawkins, despite his flaws, is probably the best pure shooter on the team. I think it places a lot of pressure on Rasheed Sulaimon to step in immediately as a scorer and it shows that the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him doing that.
Colton: Looking at Sulaimon's performance for Team USA in the U-18 tournament, the guard showed he can shoot the ball. He shot 54% for the tournament. Part of the solution could also be letting Seth Curry play off the ball a little bit more. With Quinn Cook ticketed for more minutes and Tyler Thornton entering his junior season, Curry should get more reps at the two, allowing him to be more of a shooter instead of a creator for others.
Beaton: Definitely, at his press conference yesterday that's something Krzyzewski alluded to. He said last season Curry had to run the point too often and he needs to be more of an off-ball threat this season. I also think it says something about the coaching staff's faith in Alex Murphy to step in immediately. Unlike last year, when they trotted out three-guard lineups almost exclusively, Duke will have people who can be true wing players in Murphy and even Amile Jefferson. So they can survive with less depth at guard, playing only two at once a lot of the time.
Colton: In addition to Murphy and Jefferson, Josh Hairston could be in the mix at the three as well. Last season Hairston started a couple of games and always seemed to be floating near the three point arc. Hairston only attempted one three-pointer, and don't expect him to shoot a ton this season, but he is a guy who could contribute around the perimeter. Even if he doesn't, Hairston can play alongside Ryan Kelly, allowing Kelly to play on the outside letting Duke utilize his strong three point shooting. With guys who are between 6-6 and 6-8, Duke has players built for the small forward position, which will allow them to get along just fine with four guards.
Beaton: And, that's a major contrast from last season not only offensively, but defensively. Small forwards had matchup advantages against Duke's three-guard lineup last season, something that certainly contributed to the team's defensive woes. Guys like Harrison Barnes who can play on the wing but have size gave Duke issues. And Dawkins had size at 6-foot-4, but didn't really have the frame or foot speed to defend those guys.
Colton: And even at 6-foot-4, Dawkins didn't have the requisite size to compete with true small forwards. Duke resorted to 6'1" Tyler Thornton bodying up with Barnes. What was a big weakness of this team last season could immediately become a strength if Alex Murphy plays the way the coaching staff thinks he's able to. If at 6-foot-8 Murphy can have success, he'll draw double teams as smaller defenders won't be able to contain him. The double teams will lead to open three point looks for Curry, Sulaimon, Kelly, and the rest of the team, allowing Duke to play the sort of game they love to.
Beaton: And, ultimately, depending on how the 2013 recruitment pans out, Dawkins might be more important then with Curry gone and another year of practice in the system, than this year when he has clearly struggled for long stretches of time.
Colton: It'll be interesting to see how much Dawkins will be practicing with the team, at least at the beginning of the season. Krzyzewski billed the red-shirt decision as, "a time for him to step away." In any case, he's going to be more useful next season if for nothing else but his leadership. Curry, Kelly, and Mason Plumlee are all seniors and are more ready to lead than Dawkins. Next year, the only seniors will be Thornton and Hairston. Dawkins will be able to provide some sort of leadership on the offensive side of the ball, where Hairston and Thornton don't provide as much of an impact. What Duke may miss most about Dawkins this season is his ability to take over a game. Four times last season Dawkins topped 20 points. He's a streaky shooter who can completely change a game once he comes off the bench. His issue is that he tends to disappear. In post season play, the two games in the ACC tournament and the one NCAA tournament game, Dawkins shot an astonishing 2-for-16 and 1-for-10 from three. Hopefully after a year to clear his head, Dawkins can avoid the long slumps he's been prone to fall into thus far into his career.