Jason Atwood, columnist for the Blue Zone, makes a case for Jack White as Duke's fifth starter.
Between R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish, and Tre Jones, 80 percent of Duke’s starting lineup is set in stone. The logical fifth piece would be a big man who can protect the rim, vacuum up rebounds, and finish inside. Marques Bolden should fit that description. Although the former five-star recruit struggled through much of his time at Duke, Bolden showed flashes last year.
Given Bolden’s pedigree and physical tools, there was a lot of optimism that he could fill that pivotal role down low.
However, during Duke’s three game exhibition tour in Canada, the junior’s play was concerning. Across the 39 minutes that he played, the center attempted only three shots, missing them all, to go along with four turnovers and zero trips to the free throw line.
While it may not make sense to bail on Bolden after just three exhibition games, there was another Blue Devil who made a strong case to be the fifth starter: Jack White. White, a junior, averaged 7.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and finished third on the team in minutes played (28.3). Checking in at 6-foot-7 and 222 pounds, the Australian has the skill set and physical tools to be a strong defender and solid rebounder. However, what sets White apart the most is his infectious energy and hustle, which could inspire a team as young as Duke.
Offensively, White could be a real difference-maker, but not in the way you probably think. With four star freshmen, Duke does not lack ballhandlers and shot creators, but there is a serious dearth of shooting on the Blue Devils’ roster. In fact, White is easily one of the best shooters on Duke’s team. Opposing defenses need to respect White’s smooth three-point stroke, creating more space for the star freshmen to go to work.
Free throws are also a major factor here as White is one of the few Blue Devils that projects to be a plus free-throw shooter. Last season, Duke struggled from the free throw line, finishing No. 11 in the ACC in efficiency.
Nevertheless, this is not a no-brainer decision. White is not the traditional pick to round out this lineup and putting him out there leaves the team both without a proven rim protector and vulnerable on the boards. However, he provides a level of speed, energy and skill that Bolden simply can’t match. Slotting in White as the fifth starter puts another big, athletic forward on the court and would allow the Blue Devils to fly up and down the court and take full advantage of its elite athleticism.
Regardless of whether White ends up starting or coming off the bench, he will undoubtedly play a pivotal role this season, and I believe Duke will be a better team with him on the floor.
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