The guard position for the Duke Blue Devils is the deepest on the team. Coach Krzyzewski will have flexibility with his lineup because of the guards, whether it’s going with a small lineup to create mismatches or combinations to match up more effectively with select teams. Hopefully having such depth can give guys some rest and help create matchup problems for other teams. The guards for Duke will be Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins, and Matt Jones. Cook and Sulaimon are returning starters, while the others will be key players off of the bench.
Tyler Thornton will back up Quinn Cook at the point guard position, and will be a senior this season. It’s amazing to think he came to Duke with Kyrie Irving. He is a 6-foot-1 and is known for his on-the-ball defense. He is a very capable backup and could help out this team a great deal this season. Thornton is a leader on a team that needs more than one this year. He can lead off the court and run this team while on it. He is very good on the defensive side of the ball but sometimes gets over anxious and commits fouls too often. Offensively he has his challenges, but he is good at taking the point and running the team. When he can make his shot, he can give this team an added dimension.
Where Thornton needs to improve offensively is his ability to penetrate the defense. He can’t break down defenders like great point guards can, he can only execute set plays and hit players in the right places. This hurts the team because they have to rely on other people to create their own shot. Last year this was hard for Duke since most of the players were not adept at creating their own shot either. This year they have a few players who can, which can help cover Thornton’s weakness.
Dawkins will back up Sulaimon. Dawkins will be a senior this year after taking last season off to deal with the death of his sister, who was killed in an automobile crash as she drove to watch her brother play at Duke. He will be the most experienced player on the team, and the only player left from the 2010 National Championship team. He is a great shooter and has the athleticism to drive to the basket. He can be a crucial part to the bench this year because he is a dual threat and can space the floor.
Dawkins will have to improve on his aggressiveness and decision making on offense. He should be much improved this year and feel very comfortable coming off the bench. He should have the opportunity to get more open shots than he has ever had at Duke.
Dawkins needs to improve his defense and hopefully after taking a year off he will have improved foot speed and competiveness he needs on the defensive side of the ball. He has been a liability on defense in the past, but hopefully this being his last year he will step up his game.
Matt Jones is the last guard that will come off the bench. Jones is a freshman and will see minutes as a shooting guard behind Sulaimon and Dawkins. Jones is a great shooter and has plenty of athletic ability. If Jones can establish himself as a better defender than Dawkins, he can earn more playing time, since Coach Krzyzewski has always valued defense over offense.
The guard positions are in such good hands with these five players that Duke basketball could even go to a three guard lineup if they wanted to. The guard position has immense experience and should be a solid part of this team weather it is the starters or the bench. This will be the position that will have to lead this team and make sure they stay focused on their goals and maximize their potential.