Duke’s got another freshman headed to the league. After entering the draft preliminarily last month, point guard Frank Jackson will remain in the draft and hire an agent after a strong performance at the combine likely upped his draft stock. Jackson, who averaged 10.9 points for game for the Blue Devils last season, was the most likely of the freshman trio (along with Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles) to return to school after his first season, but instead will become yet another one-and-done under coach Krzyzewski.
As surprising as the move was, it also has serious ramifications for the makeup of the team next season. Jackson provided a much-needed scoring out of the backcourt. His dynamic athleticism and shooting touch made him a threat to score on bigs at the rim or step out beyond the arc and stroke the three. Jackson was one of the most important and impactful players for Duke down the stretch, even making his way into the starting lineup by the end of the year. He was expected to be perhaps the most pivotal figure on Duke’s team next year after having a hypothetical summer to work on his game and get even better, particularly in terms of his ball handling and on the defensive side of the ball. Now, Duke is left without a true point guard.
This puts Duke in a tough position, and leaves next year’s roster even more inexperienced than anticipated. The absence of a true point guard almost certainly means that the onus will once again be on Grayson Allen to assume the ball handling duties and run the offense. Duke was arguably even more explosive when Allen was the primary ball handler as his ability to score and distribute the ball off the bounce fit well with the respective skill sets of his teammates.
That being said, his persistent inconsistencies throughout the course of the season didn’t exactly make him the most reliable option on the floor. The Blue Devils need Allen to take on a more defined leadership role, and lead by example. Duke will have he luxury of having another imposing post presence with incoming freshman Wendell Carter, but their success on the offensive end will ultimately depend on Allen.
Whilst Allen will need to lead with experience, Duke needs the youngsters to grow up fast. Recent four star signee Jordan Tucker adds even more depth on the wings, and Gary Trent Jr.’s pure scoring ability will be key in providing offensive output. Carter already possesses an NBA body and a two-way presence in the post, but like former Duke star Jahlil Okafor he will have to work out the kinks of the NBA game. If the young guys can stay healthy early and see a lot of action, it will be crucial to their chemistry come ACC play and all the way into March.
Duke is going to have to adapt in the absence of a true point guard. Jackson’s absence will be a loss, to be sure, but improvements from Antonio Vrankovic and Marques Bolden (with the addition of Carter) could make Duke’s frontcourt its driving force. There’s also still a chance that Duke could get a commitment from IMG Academy point guard Trevon Duval. Ultimately, though, much of the responsibility will fall on Grayson Allen. And after all he’s been through… it only seems fitting.