To read Em Adler's point, click here.
The Blue Devils are beginning this season with what is essentially an entirely new team. With head coach Kara Lawson coming off of a first year during which her program only played four games, and with 11 new additions to this year’s 15-woman roster, the question of which offense is most effective for the Blue Devils is what’s on everyone's mind.
While traditionally, teams prefer to set up offense with three-out past the 3-point line and two moving under the basket, this arrangement would not best serve Duke this season. Rather, the team should have only one player moving about the paint and four-out wide, setting up what is called a four-out, one-in motion offense.
The first and most obvious reason for this is the number of talented, tall guards on Duke’s roster. Celeste Taylor, Miela Goodchild, Elizabeth Balogun, Nyah Green, Imani Lewis and Lee Volker are all nearing or over six-foot, but are all able to shoot, pass and drive like point guards. The four-out would allow for three of these strong players—rather than two—to be in the game at a time, and their positioning around the three-point line rather than in the paint would give them the freedom to shoot and make plays better than they could under the rim. At the same time, their height would ensure that rebounding doesn’t become an issue and that there aren’t any uneven matchups on defense.
The Blue Devils’ guard-dominated nature could be seen in their exhibition game against Wingate Nov. 4. 65 of the team's 86 points were scored by players listed on the roster as either point guards or guards. Taylor, Green, Goodchild, Balogun and freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson led Duke in scoring, with each playing outside the paint offensively. Lawson herself was pleased with the team's offensive performance against the Bulldogs, which was led and paced by these guards.
“Tonight I was pleased with how we played offensively, shared the ball, passed it down to the open player, and then got great looks,” Lawson said in a postgame interview.
Interestingly enough, Taylor, Balogun and de Jesus tied for the second most rebounds in the game, grabbing only one less than 6-foot-4 post Amaya Finklea-Guity. Duke’s ability to send out players with the shooting and dribbling abilities of a guard, without its rebounding suffering, is unique and if capitalized on, could prove dangerous to the competition.
The four-out motion offense is also advantageous for teams who have one, standout post player. 6-foot-5 graduate student Jade Williams is exactly this for the Blue Devils. With both her impressive physical strength and basketball IQ, Williams could command the paint on offense, flashing to the ball to then pass it back out, post up or hit a short jumper. The two-time Lisa Leslie Award Candidate has more than proven her ability to rebound and could control this aspect of the game for Duke as its only player under the basket.
The main goal of a three-out offense is to get the ball inside to the post players. This arrangement would lead Duke’s guards to have the ball less, decreasing their number of offensive opportunities. On the other hand, the four-out motion offense would set the court up perfectly for the team’s guards to set the pace. Its spread out nature would open driving lanes for players like Taylor to attack the rim and space out the defense to allow sharpshooters like Goodchild to get open looks.
A three-out offense creates an equal inside-outside game, however this is not the Blue Devils’ best bet for a successful season. In order to maximize its talent, Duke should work with four guards out and one post in, turning its game into more of an outside one while simultaneously opening up space to work the ball into the paint.
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle's women's basketball season preview. Find the rest here.
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