At this point, it’s clear who Duke’s five most effective players are: Brandon Ingram, Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Matt Jones on the perimeter and Marshall Plumlee as the lone big man. With Kennard replacing Derryck Thornton in the starting lineup for Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, the above quintet is now Duke’s starting five.
When Thornton decided last spring to forgo his senior year of high school and graduate early to come to Duke, the hope was that he would be the starting point guard. That hasn’t materialized. Thornton, like most freshmen point guards, has struggled with his decision making and made too many untimely, costly errors.
Against the Fighting Irish, he only played 14 minutes – and five of those came when Ingram was forced to sit with four fouls. The only other time he played in the second half was with four seconds left, when Duke needed a player who had fouls to give.
With Thornton not playing well enough to take the point guard job, the Blue Devils have gone to more of a guard-by-committee approach.
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“There are not many teams that have point guards and there are a lot of teams that have committees,” Mike Krzyzewski said. They just have offenses that are geared toward a number of different people handling the ball.”
Any of the four guards on the floor are capable of grabbing a defensive rebound and bringing the ball up the floor. In a halfcourt set, Krzyzewski said either Jones or Thornton would start the offense, but he specifically said he doesn’t consider Jones a point guard.
Early in the season, Duke’s biggest worry was whether Thornton would develop fast enough to be the true point guard for the team. That concern was quickly overshadowed once Amile Jefferson broke his foot over the holiday break and left Duke with six capable players.
Now the goal is just to keep people out of foul trouble so the Blue Devils can have a chance to stay in games (and win them). Worrying about point guards is a luxury Duke can’t afford.