After losing to Kansas in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament, it is time to look ahead at next season for Duke Basketball, specifically at the starting lineup.
The recruiting period is technically not over yet, with some players still undecided, but it’s relatively safe to assume that Duke’s 2018 class is completed, and what a class it is.
The No. 1 small forward R.J. Barrett, No. 2 small forward Cam Reddish, No. 1 power forward Zion Williamson and No. 1 point guard Tre Jones will all be attending Duke next season.
These enormously talented freshman will step into Cameron Indoor Stadium with national championship expectations, especially considering the top-three overall players of the 2018 class will be lining up side by side.
Here is an extremely early prediction of the starting lineup for Duke next season.
*Note: This lineup assumes that all five starters from the 2017-18 season will have graduated or declared for the NBA Draft.
Point Guard: Tre Jones
Many thought that Tre Jones, younger brother of ex-Duke player and current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones, would have been a better fit on this season’s team because of his defense, shooting and on-court leadership.
The 6 feet 2 inch guard out of Apple Valley, Minnesota, will be instrumental in controlling Duke’s offense and making sure Barrett, Williamson and Reddish are on the same page. With so much athleticism on the floor at one time Duke will often look to push the ball up the court. Jones is a good rebounder for a point guard and will look to find his fellow freshman streaking up the court.
Jones was also the first player in this class to commit to head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke.
Shooting Guard: Cam Reddish
By far the best shooter of his freshman teammates, Cam Reddish will give drivers like Barrett and Williamson space to go to work on their defenders. Reddish, however, is more than capable at putting the ball on the floor and finishing inside. Reddish has a 7-feet-1-inch wingspan, according to SB Nation, and that length will help on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Reddish might be the most offensively polished player on Duke’s roster with some people already comparing him to NBA players like Paul George and, ex-Duke player, Jayson Tatum. Reddish is versatile player that Coach K will use at different positions.
Small Forward: R.J. Barrett
The hype surrounding R.J. Barrett is on the same level as Marvin Bagley III. The No. 1 overall player in the 2018 class and the godson of NBA Hall of Fame inductee Steve Nash, recently led Montverde Academy to a championship in the Geico High School Nationals Tournament in New York City.
At Duke, Barrett will be a star. With his size, handle and driving abilities, Barrett could start at shooting guard or small forward. The Canadian prospect also has the skill bring the ball up the court after grabbing defensive rebounds and distribute to his teammates.
Barrett will be the focal point of Duke’s offensive attack and thrive in that role because of his versatility. His 6-foot-7-inch frame will allow Barrett to operate on the wing, down low and in the free throw line area.
Coach K will have a field day against opposing defenses with Barrett on the floor.
Power Forward: Zion Williamson
At only 6 feet 6 inches tall, Williamson will rely on his athleticism, soft touch around the basket and his absurdly massive frame to battle with taller defenders in the paint. Williamson will more than likely attempt to bring his man away from the basket, giving himself more room to drive and finish with force.
On the defensive end, Williamson might be a little under-sized against some top power forwards. Those attributes that benefit Williamson offensively, however, will also help him handle any potential size disadvantage on defense, especially his strength. Williamson is also an extremely skilled shot blocker. Opposing players driving to the basket will be on the lookout for Williamson soaring over or meeting them in the air.
Center: Marques Bolden
With Bagley already announcing his decision to enter the NBA draft and Wendell Carter, Jr. more than likely to follow, Bolden can take over at center for the Blue Devils. In this purposed starting lineup, Bolden is the only true big man, whose role will focus primarily on defending opposing centers and blocking shots. Bolden will score on the occasional hook shot in the post but will not have to contribute too much on offense with so much other talent around him.
Much like this season, Duke will feature a group of star-studded freshmen, three of whom are potential lottery picks. Whatever lineup Coach K and his staff decide to implement, Duke will give opposing defenses nightmares with their versatility, athleticism and shooting.
Cameron Indoor Stadium will not be welcome place for visiting teams.