Take of the week: Next season for Duke men's basketball looks to be something special

<p>Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Kyle Filipowski huddle together following their second-round NCAA tournament loss to Tennessee.</p>

Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Kyle Filipowski huddle together following their second-round NCAA tournament loss to Tennessee.

It has been a busy week for Duke. Point guard and captain Jeremy Roach declared for the draft April 10, but retained his eligibility, meaning he could still come back in the fall. Then there were a couple of big moves: First, star big man Kyle Filipowski announced that he would be returning for his sophomore season, then five-star high school baller Mackenzie Mgbako decommitted from the Blue Devils. News of the returning center in combination with both rising sophomores Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell electing to return to the program — despite the loss of Mgbako and potential loss of Roach — means Duke will be a formidable squad come next season. In fact, there is a non-zero chance that, when all the dust from transfer news settles, the Blue Devils open the 2023-24 campaign as preseason No. 1.

To examine what will make Duke so strong next season, let’s take a look position-by-position to see what kind of depth the Blue Devils will have. At point guard, Proctor will almost certainly start. The rising sophomore was one of the best playmakers on the team in his initial campaign, and now with a full year of college ball and a full offseason in Durham under his belt, Proctor has the potential to be one of the best playmaking point guards in the nation. Last season, he averaged an impressive 3.3 assists per game and will be looking to put up even more this coming season. With Roach gone, Proctor will likely spend even more of the game as the one-guard, giving him the time and space to command the floor and create opportunities for his teammates. The NBA Global Academy product’s perimeter shooting has also improved during his time in Durham, and by the end of the season he averaged a solid 32% from deep on 4.1 attempts per game.

The shooting guard position is a little bit murkier than the point is. There are a few candidates competing to start here, both solid options. The most likely pick is incoming freshman Jared McCain, who has been an exciting player to watch in high school. McCain’s biggest asset is his 3-point shot, so look for him to space the floor and create a consistent perimeter threat. If the Californian can step into his role as a dangerous option from the corner, with some additional playmaking and shot-creation capabilities, he can write his name in the starting spot.

At the small forward position, the Blue Devils are bringing back one of the most athletic three-men in the country. Mark Mitchell was a force to be reckoned with in his debut season, and he will be looking to have an even larger impact going forward. Mitchell averaged 9.1 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds last season, and now with the added experience of a year in college ball he will have a chance to become a top small forward in the nation. Mitchell was also a key piece on the defensive end of the floor, and his lateral quickness and size allowed him to guard at the very least spot one through four. Look for him to play an even larger role in the upcoming campaign.

The center and power forward spots are still up in the air, largely because of uncertainty in the transfer portal. If the Blue Devils can pick up a stronger center like Virginia transfer Kadin Shedrick, he will likely start at the five. If no starting-caliber bigs come in, then rising sophomore Kyle Filipowski will likely move to the center spot, a position in which he saw a good chunk of minutes last year. Either way, Filipowski will be looking to become not only one of the best players in the ACC, but in the nation. He led the team in points per game last year with 15.1 and started in every game that he played. Filipowski is an offensive powerhouse, a threat from the basket to the arc and he will be a difficult player to guard. He can space the floor and create opportunities for his teammates, or he can dominate with his size in the post. Either way, look for another excellent season from him. 

If Filipowski does end up at center next year, incoming freshman Sean Stewart will probably start at power forward. The 6-foot-8 Montverde Academy product is one of the best recruits in the country, and he will look to prove it next season. Stewart is an athletic player who might be a little undersized as a power forward but makes up for it in strength and quickness. He can defend guards at the perimeter and use his speed and strength to drive to the basket. Look for a big season from Stewart, especially if he gets starting minutes.

The Blue Devils are coming into next season with a rare three starters returning, and some very strong incoming talent. Their defensive versatility, in combination with some of the best scorers and playmakers in the country coming back for sophomore seasons, will make them a formidable squad. Duke fans have reason to be optimistic after a disappointing second-round exit to close the 2022-23 season.


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