Saturday, July 18, 2009

Andre Dawkins To Duke A Year Early?

I talked a few weeks ago about how dreadfully thin Duke is right now at the guard position. It's enough of a problem that Duke might actually end up being a bubble team, and they certainly don't seem like a plausible ACC contender. But suddenly there might be a ray of hope, with numerous sources reporting that 2010 recruit Andre Dawkins might actually be able to enroll this fall and be ready to play the 2009-10 season. Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is actually reporting that it's basically a done deal, although I haven't seen that confirmed.

So what type of player is Dawkins? ESPN's Paul Bincardi compares him to J.J. Redick and Trajan Langdon. He may or not be another Trajan Langdon, but the Redick comparison seems like a forced situation by an author who assumes that most of his readers don't remember any players much beyond three or four years ago. Dawkins is a very good shooter, but he's not yet nearly in the class of the shooter that Redick was. But at the same time, Dawkins is more athletic, and athleticism is sorely needed at a Duke program reeling from the loss of Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams.

And beyond that, the Blue Devils actually just need depth. With Seth Curry forced to sit out the season due to the transfer from Liberty, the only guards on Duke's roster right now are Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. They have two guards. Seriously. If we move up to the small forward position, the only scholarship small forward is Kyle Singler. Singler can certainly play some shooting guard if he has to, but that just makes Duke really thin on the inside, and also very slow and unathletic. You'd rather play Singler as an athletic power forward than as a slow shooting guard, but Coach K might not have a ton of choices.

If Dawkins comes then he provides depth at both guard positions. Singler will now be more free to play inside, and Duke suddenly becomes a fairly dangerous offensive team that will bring a variety of weapons. Dawkins is also a quality perimeter defender, and Duke should be an above average defensive team again. Dawkins won't make Duke an ACC contender, but if he's as good as the hype then Duke could already be off the 2010 Tournament bubble.

While we'll have to wait a little bit longer for confirmation of the eligibility of Andrew Dawkins, Duke fans certainly aren't waiting that long to celebrate. And if you were wondering just how important this news is to their 2009-10 chances, just look at the celebrations all of their message boards.


Arabinowitz said...

I do not get your dismissal for Duke in many of your blogs. UNC lost like 70% of its offense. Larry Drew showed just about nothing last year. Roy Williams didn't even give Drew 20 minutes of play in any of the games Lawson was out at the end of the year when the team needed a PG. Henson is ranked slightly ahead of Plumlee but Kelly is ranked ahead of all other players UNC except for Henson. Duke returns a guy who should contend for the ACC POY and would have been a first round pick in Singler. Duke will have 6 guys over 6'8 next year. With Dawkins coming in, Duke should have enough depth at the guard position. Even with there being only 3 guards who will get legitimate minutes for Duke, Smith, Scheyer and Dawkins are of better quality or at the very least have less questionmarks than Drew, Ginyard, Strickland and McDonald.

Jeff said...

I dismissed them because they had two guards on their roster. I don't care how good your guards are (and while good, you're definitely over-rating a bit), if you've only got two guards you've got a problem. You can't play anybody for 40 minutes, so who comes in when they need a breather? And even if they do get their third guard, what happens if one of them gets hurt?? It's just not enough players.

And as for ranking the big guys, scouting rankings only go so far. We KNOW that Ed Davis is an elite big man at the ACC level. None of the Duke big guys (unless you include Kyle Singler as a "big guy") have proven themselves to be even as good as Tyler Zeller.

Don't get too excited just because some Blue Devils have some highly rated recruits... remember how highly rated Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas were? If another Brian Zoubek was coming in this season, Duke fans would be proclaiming him a great addition who would be a good match for Davis & Zeller... yet how did that turn out?

Until Coach K proves that he can develop some good big men again (I still don't count Singler, who is the one unquestionably good Duke player, as a true "big man"), you can't count those big men to lead the team. And unfortunately, the big men do have to leave the team when you have only two or three guards on the roster.

DMoore said...

OK. A wide variety of comments pointing in different directions here.

First, your appraisal of UNC over Duke is completely legit. Two guards just aren't enough. Adding a third with promise (but completely unproven) helps, but it's still absolutely a disqualifying weakness. Unfortuntely, your assessment of Dawkins as a quality perimeter defender is not shared by many of the folks who have seen him play, including some of his coaches. Coach K will have to decide if he would rather play a freshman who has defense lapses, play a LOT more zone than he's used to, or wear out his two best guards in the beginning of the season racking up wins before they wear down. Historically, Coach K has ALWAYS chosen door #3.

On the other hand, UNC also has enormous question marks. Larry Drew has not yet shown the capability of being a full time ACC point guard. Weakness at the point guard position can be crippling on a young team. And Tyler Zeller? Really? He has great potential to become the next Brian Zoubek.

Now to the positives. I think you consistently, and badly, underrate Scheyer. His success as a point guard was the key to Duke's resurgence last year -- Elliott Williams simply made it possible for him to play point by being able to play shooting guard on offense while defending point guards. Nolan Smith had a poor stretch of games in the middle of the season, but started and finished very strongly. His defense is every bit as good as Williams' was. Duke returns four players who started the bulk of the games in a 30 win season, and three players who started the bulk of games in a 28 win season the year before. In a conference that saw significant losses, that's a lot of experience and a lot of wins coming back. Duke might end up being a bubble team? Even if Duke wears out and slumps at the end of the season (a pretty likely result of only having two guards), they should rack up plenty of wins at the beginning of the season to easily make the NCAAs.

As for UNC, the return of Ginyard likely gives them the conference defensive player of the year. That's not a bad place to start. Ed Davis and Deon Thompson are a nice inside core. But, the reality is that both teams are going to have to heavily rely on unproven players to succeed this year.

Jeff said...

DMoore, I'll take your word on the defense of Dawkins, because I assume you know more about him than I do. I had simply read in a couple of places that his athleticism made him a decent perimeter defender... I hadn't actually seen it for myself.

Now saying that Duke returns four starters who played the bulk of the games of a 30 win team is a deceptive statement, and you know it. For one, the best player was clearly Gerald Henderson. And besides that, the team was in the doldrums until one of those four was benched for Elliot Williams, who is gone.

I do agree that this will be the best group of forwards that Duke has had in several years, but it's the depth at guard that is a killer.

Now, I never said that I thought Duke was a bubble team. What I said was that (back when Dawkins was not coming to Duke) that I could imagine a worst case scenario where Duke WAS a bubble team. But now that Dawkins is (presumably) coming I no longer see that as a possibility. Duke is a Tournament team, the only question is how good they'll be.

Honestly, right now I have Duke in the range of a 4-5 seed in the Tournament (assuming Dawkins can play). So that may be "down" on Duke, but you know your program is doing something right when you can be "down" on them and still project them as a viable Sweet 16 team.

DMoore said...

I haven't actually seen Dawkins play. However, his coach (not clear if it was his high school coach or his AAU coach) has said that Dawkins has improving to do defensively.

"[S]aying that Duke returns four starters who played the bulk of the games of a 30 win team is a deceptive statement"

No, I really don't think so. Yes, Henderson was clearly the best player. However, I do stand by my statement that Duke returns Four starters. Duke started off 18-1 with Nolan Smith as the point guard, and his defense was one of the primary reasons. Smith hit a slump, and Duke eventually turned to Williams as part of the solution. But after he got over his concussion, Nolan Smith finished the season strong.

In general though, your assessment seems about right. My hope is that Duke will end up a 3 seed, but 4 or 5 is more realistic.