Another year, another new crop of men's basketball players coming to Durham. In this series, we will analyze film on each of Duke’s signees and transfers for the 2020-21 season. Previous film rooms include Jalen Johnson. Let’s continue with the sharpshooting combo guard for the Blue Devils, DJ Steward:
The Duke backcourt in the 2020-21 season is likely going to have a vastly different playing style than the backcourts of recent years. Making significant contributions to the change of pace will be the reigning Illinois Player of the Year DJ Steward. The combo guard officially checks in at 6-foot-3 and he is going to add offensive firepower with a slightly different skillset than Duke’s recent guards.
Steward is excellent off the dribble and off the ball, making it no problem for him to create his own shot from anywhere on the floor. His smooth stroke from 3-point range is what the rest of his game hinges off of. The McDonald's All-American shot 41 percent from 3-point land in the 2019 Nike EYBL circuit, forcing defenders to respect his shooting ability.
What gives Steward the five-star ranking that he has earned is what he is able to do with the edge that his outside range gives him. Using his ball handling and crafty moves, the Chicago native often wiggles his way around defenders after a pump fake for a shot of his liking. When driving, he has a bag of tricks to help him finish to make up for his slightly smaller frame. Whether he floats it over a swatting hand or spins the ball off the corner of the glass, Steward understands how to use his body to score over much larger defenders.
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Steward’s transition play fits the mold of what head coach Mike Krzyzewski wants in his guards. Krzyzewski values guards who can finish in the paint and Steward checks that box. He is quick down the court, yet under control and can find an open man on the wing or the inside if he is unable to get a quality look at the basket.
One aspect of his game that must improve is his production in the assist category. Duke’s roster is already looking a tad crowded next year and the incoming freshmen have all made names for themselves as scorers. Tre Jones was responsible for nearly 40 percent of the team's assists last season, so Steward will need to grow more comfortable with dishing the ball to fill the void.
Also in the backcourt is freshman Jeremy Roach, who has a similar style of play to Steward. Both are extremely athletic offensive threats and can do serious damage when the offense is run through them. That being said, Steward has shown tremendous ability to be a catch-and-shoot guy off the ball and if he can settle into that role, the freshmen duo could form a dangerous pairing.
Steward and senior guard Jordan Goldwire will likely make a good combo as well. Goldwire improved greatly a season ago and is comfortable being a pass first player. Steward will also reap the benefits of the offensive opportunities Goldwire's suffocating defense provides, allowing him to flash some of his crafty moves.
In his senior year of high school, Steward averaged 22.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, and he has had success against top competition in various tournaments and circuits. With his talent and production, he is going to be a key factor in this upcoming season. Expect growing pains early on as he settles into whatever role Krzyzewski draws up for him.