Point/CounterPoint – Installment #3 … Thoughts After Michigan State

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Tonight, Rowan Shiell and Bermuda Bob talk about what we learned from the Michigan State game, as we look forward to the “Coaches vs Cancer Classic” in Brooklyn over the weekend …

Here we go:

QUERY #1:                 

So Duke has had their first test of the season, Can you summarise what you have learned ???

Rowan:

The Good Stuff:                   Duke can count on Okafor to score at any time. Tyus Jones (no turnovers in 31 minutes) is a boss and Justice Winslow can get to the rim any time. Quinn Cook is really focused. As a whole, the team made 76% of their free throw attempts. Marshall Plumlee is growing up.

Needs Work:         Duke got out rebounded 35-25. MSU did a great job crashing the boards, even their guards got in on that action. Jahlil Okafor is susceptible to foul trouble.

Bermuda Bob: 

Good Stuff:         I love the chemistry this team exhibits. Duke has been hurt every season since Kyre Irving, because the team was subverted to a kid who had no interest in being a team player. There is no indication that this exists. I credit the Upperclassmen and Coach Scheyer and Coach James who had them all summer long.

Needs Work:         I thought a few of the Fouls on Okafor were of the “ticky-tack” type. He’s going to have to expect that lesser opponents will try to lure him into such calls.

I agree that rebounding is a concern, especially off the offense side of the court. Five (5) of their 25 Rebounds were on the offensive side. This means they need to concentrate on “boxing out” their opponent more instead of presuming every shot goes down.   About 48% didn’t !!!

QUERY #2:                 

The Freshmen are getting a lot of due credit, but what do you think of the Upperclassmen, and who amongst them stands out for you ???

Rowan:  

Quinn Cook is doing great.  Hopefully he can keep this up. Marshall Plumlee is a great defensive anchor.

When Okafor went to the bench with foul trouble, Coach K went with Plumlee, Winslow, M. Jones, Cook, and Tyus Jones. They held MSU scoreless, extending a single-digit lead to a double-digit lead.

Tyus Jones scored six (6) points during that stretch, but defensively, it was a team effort, and they rebounded well during that stretch. Shockingly, Marshall Plumlee only played nine (9) minutes the entire game but it seemed longer during the game.

Bermuda Bob:

I was pleased to see Amile’s play. He is the benefactor of double-teams on Okafor. He stayed out of foul trouble and contributed four (5) Rebounds and a Blocked Shot in just 21 minutes.

Quinny has been rock solid. He got open for good shots and led the team with 19 Points. He logged in six (6) Assists, a Steal, and no TurnOvers !!! That’s impressive, and a performance he ought to consider his standard. A wonderful standard it would be !!!

QUERY #3: 

Who else stood out ??? 

Rowan:

Coach K said Rasheed was sick as he had a flu virus and was throwing up all day. That’s why he was limited to 12 minutes but Matt Jones did OK. I would have liked to have seen more of Grayson Allen, who had about a minute in the second half, but I can’t say at whose expense. If Allen wants to crash the line-up, he and Semi Ojeleye have to be ready as soon as their feet touch the floor.

Amile Jefferson was held in check even though he only had two fouls but I suspect Coach K didn’t want him picking up more fouls in case Okafor got disqualified.

Bermuda Bob:   

I’m sorry to hear about Rasheed being ill, but I’m strangely relieved because I wondered why he did not get more floor time. I like Matt Jones and hope that he continues to get solid minutes, giving him opportunities to contribute. He did an excellent job, even though his Box Score stats were unremarkable.

I was concerned that Grayson and Semi didn’t get more time. I agree that they need to be ready to make an impact when they hit the floor, but let’s face it, they have to get more than what amounted to “stolen minutes” (3 between both of them). These guys can be impact players if they are given the chance. Both are tough nosed and capable of scoring, while not giving anything away on the defensive side of the Court.

QUERY #4:                 

According to Mike DeCourcy, over at Sporting News, Coach k thinks that Jahlil Okafor has a chance to be better than Carlos Boozer or Elton Brand, two of the better post players during the Coach Krzyzyewski’s era at Duke, can you see this ??? 

Rowan: 

Coach K clarified that Okafor is not iconic and he has to win to be iconic, so the bar is set very high against Boozer and Brand because one played in a Finals and the other won a Championship. Okafor is a blank slate, though, and is heading in the right direction.

Bermuda Bob:

I think the first differential is that Okafor is a true Center where Boozer and Brand played back in the day where Coach K did not like to “pigeonhole” his players into positions. That was PC speak for the fact they were not traditional Centers.

It’s a natural thing for all fans to try and liken new players to graduated favourites.   I’ve compared Justise Winslow to Kyle, Lance, Shane, and Grant. I think that as the season continues and Okafor meets different opposition, he will distinguish himself in his own style. Let’s face it, Duke has only had one (1) other guy who played effectively with his back to the basket. That was “Zoubs” and we know how he and his teammates finished !!!

Coach K also noted, in his on the Court post-game interview, that his players are evolving and that confidence comes thru experience. In essence, he’s telling us all to wait and see. I’m there with him because I think this year could be a wonder ride !!!

QUERY #5:                 

In that same article, Mike DeCourcy wondered why Okafor doesn’t touch the ball more often on offense, because he is shooting a whopping 85%, and since he is a great passer that should be their point of attack.

Do you think Okafor touches the ball enough ???

Rowan:

I like the inside-outside game, Post-and-Repost. They did that in the first two games but went away from that against MSU. Coach Tom Izzo was clever enough to realise that by doubling-down on Okafor he was leaving some lethal Three-point shooters with free shots. That’s why Duke surpassed 100 points in their first two games.

I am happy with Okafor’s touches. Yes, he could touch the ball more on offense but that is lazy basketball. If Duke becomes accustomed to that style of play what will happen if Okafor is unavailable due to foul trouble again ? Duke has to let other players be themselves at times. Great teams do not rely on one player.

Remember Jared Sullinger ? He was a dominant player until overuse, which led to injuries that slowed him down. The season is young so we don’t want to ride Okafor in November and December knowing that a tough ACC is looming !

Bermuda Bob: 

I admit that I grew up with the great back-to-the-basket Centers. Wilt, Bill, Nate, and “Bells” to just name a few. I loved the dimension that “Zoubs” added to the offense as a “throw-back” Center.

So, what makes a back-to-the-basket Center so effective is the double threat ???   It’s being able to dish to shooters but also to score.  Yes, Okafor has an incredible shooting percentage right now, but if he does nothing but shoot he disrupts what makes him optimally effective – the dish.

Personally, I’m exceedingly pleased with what I’ve seen in his play. I kinda wish some of the recent great shooters were still around to benefit from his dishes. In one of our previous installments, I noted that Quinn shot best when uncontested. Well, this game was yet another case for Quinn getting uncontested shots for lead the team in scoring.

The bottom line is that “ … if it aint broke, don’t fix it …” !!!

 QUERY #6:                 

Any personal observations you might like to add ???

 Rowan: 

Sometimes in basketball, it is the action off the ball that sets up great plays. I love the way Okafor and Jefferson work together under the rim. Okafor can operate in any Post position he wants, but when Jefferson screens off his defender, the Freshman Reposts in prime position. Occasionally, Jefferson’s man rushes to double-team Okafor leaving Jefferson free for a layup or the offensive rebound.

Bermuda Bob:     

I’ve been impressed by how those double-teams on Okafor set up both Amile and Justise. Amile is never going to be a scoring sensation, but Justise makes the most of each and every “touch,” and so his Box Score will be more impressive.

I tend to see little things that most don’t. I’m really impressed that these kids, especially Tyus, are comfortable using both hands. When I see guys making Lay-Ups with their weak hand, I’m happy as a clam. Last year, you could give Hood weak-hand shots because you knew he could not use his right hand to score. I’m not seeing anyone this year who has that impedance, and that converts to more fluid scoring and drawing fouls. Essentially keeping your body between the defense and the ball will always pay premiums !!!

 

OK, so there you have it for this installment …

Remember to submit questions you want to have us address !!!

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