Monday, August 15, 2022

Duke basketball roster: Starting lineup prediction, bench rotation, depth outlook for 2022-23 season

For college basketball fans around the country yearning to see Duke suffer a drop-off following the retirement of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, there is some bad news to share: The Blue Devils’ 2022-23 roster is loaded with top-flight talent. As Jon Scheyer takes over for Coach K, the program will not be missing a beat in terms of the caliber of players it is putting onto the court in what will be a historic transition season for the program.

Even after seeing five players selected in last month’s NBA Draft, with No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero among four first-rounders, the Blue Devils figure to be factors in the ACC title race once again. How can that be? It’s because Duke signed the No. 1-ranked 2022 recruiting class that is headlined by three of the top four players in the class, according to the 247Sports rankings.

While there is no question about the caliber of talent that will be on Scheyer’s first squad, there are no guarantees that the Blue Devils will be able to replicate the success of last season’s team, which reached the Final Four and finished 32-7. With seven of the program’s 13 scholarship spots now taken up by true freshmen and no seniors with any experience in a Duke uniform around, the Blue Devils will have some serious gelling to do in the months ahead.

As that process begins, let’s take a look at Duke’s roster and try to decipher what the lineup could look like for the Blue Devils in the season ahead as Scheyer replaces the legendary Coach K.

Projected starting lineup

1. Jeremy Roach

6-2 | 172 | Jr.

Roach’s first two seasons at Duke included some valleys, but the junior played great basketball for the Blue Devils when it mattered most last season as he turned in consecutive 15-point outings in second round and Sweet 16 wins over Michigan State and Texas Tech. The former five-star prospect found himself coming off the bench for a portion of conference play last season, but as the only returner with meaningful Duke experience under his belt, Roach seems likely to be the opening day starter at point guard.

2. Jacob Grandison

6-6 | 210 | Sr.

Grandison hit the transfer portal late in the cycle after averaging 9.6 points on 41% 3-point shooting for Illinois last season. As a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible immediately despite his tardiness, and he should have a shot at cracking the starting lineup. With good positional size at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Grandison can be an off-ball, 3-and-D specialist for a lineup with plenty of others who will command touches.

3. Dariq Whitehead

6-6 | 190 | Fr.

Whitehead finished as the No. 3 overall prospect and No. 1 small forward in the 247Sports rankings of the 2022 class. With an athletic 6-foot-6 frame, he is regarded as a potentially elite defender. There are questions about whether he’ll be a proficient outside shooter as a freshman, but there’s little doubt over the rest of his game. Whitehead was pegged for years as a potential star from this class and handled the hype with maturity while solidifying a championship mentality at powerhouse Montverde Academy in New Jersey.

4. Kyle Filipowski

6-11 | 220 | Fr.

Filipowski is 6-foot-11 and was categorized by 247Sports as the No. 4 overall prospect and No. 2 center of the class behind teammate Dereck Lively, but his game is versatile enough that Scheyer will be able to deploy both five-star freshmen bigs together. In a recent Eye on College Basketball YouTube discussion, 247Sports director of scouting Adam Finkelstein explained why the “center” designation for Filipowski is nothing more than a label.

“I think, in Jon Scheyer’s perspective, when you talk about pairing Filipowski with someone like Dereck Lively, it’s clear Filipowski is not going to be a conventional center by any stretch,” Finkelstein said. “In fact, he’s probably going to be the four in most lineups. The fact that he and Lively are so interchangeable is what’s going to make that work. At 6-foot-11, Kyle Filipowski is an exceptional ball-handler, an exceptional passer. He has terrific hands and he is evolving as a shooter.”

So, there you have it. Filipowski is a true modern big man with great playmaking ability for his size. So long as he can handle business defensively when asked to guard on the perimeter, look for him to hold down a starting role.

5. Dereck Lively

7-1 | 215 | Fr.

At 7-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Lively finished the 2022 recruiting cycle ranked No. 2 in the class by 247Sports and No. 1 overall in the 247Sports Composite. In the minds of some, he could be the best freshman in college basketball next season. Replacing Mark Williams, who was the No. 15 overall draft pick after a strong close to his sophomore season, will be difficult, but Lively has many of the same elements in his game as a rim-runner and shot-blocker. Additionally, his outside game is expanding and he’s got enough agility to hold his own on the perimeter against the pick-and-roll on defense.

“In my mind, he has the highest floor in the class,” Finkelstein said. “That essentially means that his worst-case scenario is still very, very high.”

Bench

Mark Mitchell

6-8 | 215 | Fr.

The five-star freshman finished at No. 12 in the final 247Sports rankings for the 2022 class and is amply capable of becoming an impact player for Duke, even though he finished slightly behind Whitehead, Filipowski and Lively in the final rankings. Though cracking the starting lineup will be a challenge for Mitchell, he knew the landscape when he committed and chose Duke anyway. As a more nimble player, he could be the answer when opponents try and play small to exploit the towering tandem of Filipowski and Lively.

Tyrese Proctor

6-5 | 178 | Fr.

Duke’s battle for playing time in the backcourt got a lot more interesting after Trevor Keels decided to stay in the NBA Draft. On June 2, the school announced that five-star guard Tyrese Proctor is reclassifying from the Class of 2023 and joining the program for the upcoming season. Then, shortly after, Grandison announced his commitment to the Blue Devils. Grandison is penciled in here as the starter at shooting guard, but pencils have erasers and Proctor is talented enough to compete for a starting role. The 6-foot-5 Australian prospect is regarded as a combo guard, and his ability to play on or off the ball could make him hard to keep off the floor.

Jaden Schutt

6-5 | 175 | Fr.

Schutt is a four-star shooting guard from outside of Chicago who can really shoot it. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Scheyer could have been described exactly the same way entering his freshman season at Duke in 2006-07.

Depth

Jaylen Blakes | 6-2 | 208 | So.

Max Johns | 6-4 | 205 | Sr.

Kale Catchings | 6-6 | 220 | Sr. 

Ryan Young | 6-10 | 240 | Sr.

Christian Reaves | 6-11 | 210 | Fr.

In addition to Grandison, Scheyer wisely picked up three other veterans from the transfer portal in Ryan Young from Northwestern, Kale Catchings from Harvard and Max Johns from Princeton. None of the three were stars or even double-digit scorers at their previous schools, but each bring multiple years of collegiate experience to a young roster. Should injuries or foul trouble mount, Scheyer will have trustworthy options.

Blakes appeared in 21 games for Duke as a freshman last season and is the only other returning scholarship player aside from Roach. His path to regular playing time still looks like an uphill battle, but his decision to stay at Duke is a bet on himself, and his familiarity with Scheyer should help during a transition season for the program. 

Relative to the other frontcourt prospects who will be suiting up for Duke this season, Reeves will be a long-term project. But at 7-foot-1 and 238 pounds, the three-star prospect out of Oak Hill Academy could develop into a nice player for Duke over time.

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