Note: This story was updated April 7 following Cassius Stanley's declaration for the 2020 NBA Draft.
The end of the 2019-20 college basketball season will always be accompanied by question marks and hypotheticals. While we can question whether or not Duke would've been playing in the national championship game this past Monday had it not been cancelled, it's time to start asking questions about the future.
At first glance, next year's crop of Blue Devils seems to be in familiar territory. Star guards Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley have already declared for the 2020 NBA Draft and All-American Vernon Carey Jr. figures to do so in the near future. Though there are still decisions looming for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff, Duke looks primed to boast a deep, championship-caliber roster for the 2020-21 campaign.
Blue Devil fans held out hope that Stanley would return for his sophomore season, yet the NBA dream was too large for the Sierra Canyon product to pass on. Duke will still begin the season as a top-10 team in the country and Final Four contender, though Stanley could have pushed the team to another level. Duke will likely return just 32.8 percent of its scoring from last year.
With a rollercoaster of an offseason for the Blue Devils, let's take a look at who's in line to take the court in Cameron Indoor this fall.
Point guard: Jordan Goldwire or Jeremy Roach?
After two years of Jones running the show, he'll be leaving the offense in good hands with either senior Jordan Goldwire or freshman Jeremy Roach. Krzyzewski often utilized Jones and Goldwire on the floor simultaneously last season, but expect one point guard to emerge in crunch-time next season. Roach comes in as the No. 4 point guard in his class, and although he isn't as comparable to Jones and Goldwire on the defensive end, the five-star prospect possesses a great basketball I.Q. and uses his size to wreak havoc inside the arc.
Roach won't just be handed the keys to the offense right away, though, as Goldwire's career arc predicts that the Norcross, Ga., native could be in store for something special in his final campaign. The battle for starting point guard could plausibly go either way and Duke can't go wrong with either option, but if players aren't back on campus over the summer, expect Krzyzewski to lean toward Goldwire at the start of the season while Roach learns the offense.
A wild card worth mentioning now is five-star combo guard D.J. Steward. The McDonald's All-American projects as one of the Blue Devils' best shooters next season, yet at 6-foot-3, it's unclear how he will match up with more physical college players. Steward has the tools to play point guard if needed, however he will be expected to be a scorer as soon as he steps on campus, something he should have no problem accomplishing. Of course, the last time Duke welcomed a Whitney Young High School product, a fifth banner was raised in the north end of Cameron.
Wings: Jalen Johnson and Wendell Moore Jr. round out the perimeter
Despite Stanley's decision, the Blue Devils will showcase plenty of talent on the wings. Duke doesn't bring in a top-5 prospect like usual, though Jalen Johnson is undoubtedly on that same level. The 6-foot-8, 215-pounder has a game reminiscent of former Blue Devil stars like Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum, and if I had to pin an All-American for Duke in 2021, it would be Johnson.
Depth won't be a problem in this group, as known-entities Wendell Moore Jr. and Joey Baker are back with stout defense and lights-out shooting, respectively. Baker should remain as a spark plug role player for the Blue Devils, while Moore has the ability to blossom into an elite two-way player, similar to Justise Winslow in 2015. The Charlotte native became more confident as a slasher late in the season, but he will need a major improvement in 3-point shooting to become a star. After shooting over 80 percent from the free throw line as a freshman, that kind of uptick in efficiency from deep may be more realistic than some think.
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Forwards: Matthew Hurt leads versatile group
The Blue Devils will also possess more size at the forward position next season, but that doesn't mean that those players don't have comparable skill sets to this past year's group. Matthew Hurt looks like he should return for his sophomore campaign, giving Duke another lethal deep threat. If the Rochester, Minn., native can bulk up in the offseason, the Blue Devils won't have to put as much stock into their unproven centers and could run lineups with Hurt at the 5.
Then there are two incoming recruits that seem to be off of many radars. Jaemyn Brakefield and Henry Coleman III aren't top-10 recruits by any means, but could carve out a space in the rotation during their first year on campus. Coleman figures to fill the roles left by Jack White and Javin DeLaurier as a gritty defender and rebounder. Though there is potential for bigger things in the future, look for the 6-foot-7 forward to gain playing time in his freshman campaign with things that don't show up in the box score.
Not to compare him to a former All-American out of the gates, but Brakefield possesses tools similar to former Blue Devil Jabari Parker. The Huntington Prep product has the size, ball-handling skills and decent shooting to turn into a college star, though recruiting analysts aren't quite sure how Brakefield will translate to the college game early on. The incoming freshman has the potential to blossom like Stanley in his freshman year, in which case you can find him seeing major minutes alongside Johnson.
Center: Mark Williams/Patrick Tape man the middle
Perhaps the biggest question for this roster is if the Blue Devils will have a reliable interior presence or if Krzyzewski will rely on a small-ball lineup. Incoming freshman Mark Williams shares similar shot blocking and rebounding skills to his sister and former Duke women's basketball star Elizabeth Williams, though his offensive prowess is a major step down from Carey. Then there's graduate transfer Patrick Tape, who after a winding journey to Durham could become a scoring threat for the Blue Devils after impressive performances against Power 5 schools during his junior campaign.
Williams has developed extremely fast as a prospect over his final two years of high school and should start for the Blue Devils throughout the year. Like the point guard battle, however, Tape has the necessary experience and could surprise with major minutes. No matter who takes the starting role, expect both to see the floor come November.
Krzyzewski rolled out 14 different starting lineups over the course of last season, and Duke's return to action could look very similar with at least 10 players capable of earning playing time. Lottery-level talent, headlined by Johnson, will inevitably find Cameron Indoor Stadium, but this balanced roster structure in back-to-back years could be a shift in the program's direction for Krzyzewski's stretch run.