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Duke 2013-14 Position Previews: Small Forward

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Our third installment takes any early speculative look at Duke's 3-men for next year.

Welcome to Mr Hood's neighborhood
Welcome to Mr Hood's neighborhood

Alex: All right time to dive into the messy messy three man discussion. As we have alluded to already, the concept of 'positions' for Duke on the offensive end do tend to get fuzzy. But for the sake of the remaining individual discussions maybe it's best to consider each position as which opposition guy the Duke player would be guarding.

Now on the one hand, the presence of Rodney Hood (and all the buzz that surrounds him being talked about at times as the best player in practice this year) might make the discussion of small forward position seem pretty clear cut. He is a prototypical wing/three with great size and a scorers mentality. So it would seem he will be plugged in as a starter at that position and Duke will finally have a great true wing again. I don't know much about him as a defensive player, but he was plenty impressive at the Blue/White game last November on the offensive end. I really liked his game and his offensive aggressiveness.

Backing him up most clearly in line will be some combo of Alex Murphy and newcomer Semi Ojeleye. Bart and I saw Semi play last summer and he was probably at the top of my 'want' list of all the players we saw (and were in the running for). He just seemed like a Duke guy. He is not quite as cut up as Nate James - but that is a good comparison: good shooter, hard nosed defender, great rebounder for his 6' 7" height, and strength to spare. He had many monster scoring games this season in high school season. I don't know how he doesn't see the floor some next year (10-15 minutes) probably because he will be strong enough to guard some bigger guys. Murphy seems a bit of a tantalizing mystery who conventional wisdom would say is not likely to get much PT. I don't know what to expect, but before we all write him off, consider the huge development of someone like Ryan Kelly: from freshman to senior was hugely dramatic, but also made a big leap soph to junior year. He got the team's defensive MVP award at the banquet last week - and no one would have even taken that bet for him as a freshman. I'm not suggesting a similar leap for Murphy, but he will be in his third year of college next season.

The muddiness of the three position is really more about who would be the 3 man when we have some unconventional lineups. It's certainly possible we are going to have a lot of time with 3 guards and two 'bigs'. Jabari also has the skill set to play SF minutes - and on a team with more size he might get more there. But I see him guarding more 4 and 5's next year - which will be a great advantage defensively with him able to switch.

Scott: Great points, Alex. I agree this is Rodney Hood's position to lose, and if he is solid, he should be here 27-30 minutes a game at the 3 when the real rotation is set. We'll see lineups with Hood having to guard the 4 sometimes, though, with a guy like Dawkins (or Semi or Alex) at the three, as well. If Dawkins can earn minutes, you'll see him on the floor with Rasheed and Quinn on occasion, I gotta believe. I am not as high on Semi simply because of the level of competition he played against in Kansas (and the fact KU didn't even offer, as far as I'm aware), and that there are just so many minutes to dole out next year. I know AAU can flesh that out a bit more so that you don't end up with Taymon Domzalski types that struggle when they aren't the best guy on the floor by a mile. If Tarik Black comes in, though, it will be even harder for him to get in. But anything that Semi or Alex Murphy give Duke next year is gravy.

I'll be interested to see how good Hood is defensively. K has an immaculate record with transfers, as far as I'm concerned, so I've gotta believe this guy is going to live up to the hype. If he puts up the same numbers he did as a freshman at Mississippi St., that will be very strong. I think he'll do better. I agree also that Jabari will be playing the Ryan Kelly role and at the 4 usually. He even said as much. So I guess we'll talk about him later!

Bart: So Duke will be using a 3 guard lineup when Hood is in (as noted , his NBA position will actually be at SG). Nearly half of his shot attempts at MSU were from three, and, while he is a good rebounder for a guard (as any 6'8" guard should be) this is a perimeter oriented guy by all indications, not a slashing, dynamic wing. The SF and SG positions will be indistinguishable from each other on the offensive end with a rotation of Sulaimon, Dawkins, Hood, and Jones. Dawkins and Hood are 2's that can play the 3, with Hood having more defensive versatility (as noted ,ability remains to be seen). The complexion of the team would completely change with Alex and/or Semi at the 3. Murphy IS that slashing athletic wing while Semi is a combo 3/4. That theoretically gives K a lot of flexibility in terms of looks and style of play from the SF spot (should he actually be inclined to use said flexibility).

Scott, I understand your reticence on Semi, but trust me, we didn't watch him play against a bunch of 6-foot tall Kansan farmboys. If Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins were tier 1 at the AAU tourney last summer, this guy was tier 2. He's legit. That being said, you figure at least 30 minutes for Hood at the 3, which leaves 10 minutes to distribute between Dawkins, Murphy and Semi. Because of his style of play (and the fact that he's been here for two years) I project Murphy ahead of Semi here. I think it more likely that Semi sees minutes at the 4 behind Jabari because of his strength and a willingness to bang down low that Duke fans will appreciate.

As much as I like Semi, Alex's prediction of 15 minutes at the top end is hard to imagine. I see Andre playing no less than 10 minutes per game at some combination of the 2 and 3 with Jones and Murphy picking up the remainder. Semi will have to make himself valuable as a rebounder and a strong post defensive presence on a team without either in order to get minutes.

McCleod: I think we’re starting to see as we move from positions 1 to 5 how the uncertainty around playing time grows as we move closer to the paint, whether it’s an embarrassment of riches at the 2 or untested/unproven options at the bigger positions that affect one another. Will there be a solid presence in the post that allows Jabari, Amile, Semi, Murph, etc. to slide to a smaller position, or will the 5 basically go away, forcing the 3 guard, 2 forward lineup? That conversation is obviously coming soon in our series, but it’s nearly impossible to treat these positions in a vacuum, as has been pointed out below.

At the 3 we’re going to see players that have not logged many, if any, minutes in a Duke uniform. Hood comes in with a lot of hype, and, as Scott pointed out, K has a good record with transfers. And if the kid’s a competitor, you know he’ll be ready to play after sitting out last year (and not even traveling to away games). If we remove the option of Dawkins for now, the second option could be Murph based on seniority alone. My fear with him is that he’ll end up like Marty Pocius – flashes of brilliance, lots of anxious play, lots of pine time, early exit. If he can rest his nerves and play savvy, that could give him an advantage over a newcomer like Semi. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Semi play and only know that he set the Kansas record for scoring. If Semi can bring some of that scoring, he might jump over Murph in the rotation.

Dre’s place in the 3 rotation I think will be mainly contingent upon his consistent ability to score. If he’s instant offense off the bench, then he gets in at the 2 or the 3. Otherwise I think it’s matchup-dependent. Flash to a future game – when we play Syracuse, imagine their zone against a 1-4 of Quinn, Sheed, Dawkins, and Hood…