In what’s surely a symptom of the new college basketball roster construction timetable, it took until the very month players are due to arrive on campus for Jon Scheyer to finalize his first Duke squad.
That’s the new reality, with the transfer portal, the increasingly common practice of high school players reclassifying, and the ability for players to explore entering the NBA Draft with the possibility of returning to college if they make a decision by June 1.
In one way or another, all three of those options led to the Blue Devils remaining in player-acquisition mode until last weekend.
Jacob Grandison, a 6-6 transfer from Illinois, picked Duke on June 11 after visiting campus two days earlier. His arrival from him, along with Australian guard Tyrese Proctor’s June 2 decision to reclassify into this year’s class, gives Scheyer’s team a backcourt boost.
Now that the roster is set, here’s a look at what Duke has as it transitions fully into the Scheyer era following Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement.
Team will be tall
The players have changed, but for the second year in a row, the Blue Devils will have height and length all over the court.
Dereck Lively, a 7-1, 215-pound center, enters as the No. 1-rated recruit in the class of 2022. The No. 4-rated recruit is 6-11, 220-pound center Kyle Filipowski, who is all -in on playing in conjunction with Lively in what should be a terrific interior pairing.
Duke also added 6-10, 240-pound transfer center Ryan Young from Northwestern. He’s played the past three seasons in the Big Ten with the Wildcats.
But wait, there’s more.
Another five-star recruit arriving is Mark Mitchell, a bouncy 6-8, 215-pound power forward who can drive to score and power inside.
A third freshman center, 6-11 Christian Reeves, isn’t as highly rated as his classmates. But, while developing his game, he provides needed depth.
Even on the perimeter, the 6-6 Grandison, the 6-5 Proctor, 6-6 Harvard transfer Kale Catchings and 6-5 freshman small forward Dariq Whitehead give the Blue Devils a size advantage.
Duke took a hit when Trevor Keels remained in the NBA draft at the June 1 deadline. But the coaching staff reacted by adding Grandison.
A starter and key contributor at Illinois the past two seasons, Grandison will join junior guard Jeremy Roach in giving Duke a pair of experienced, reliable ball-handlers to build around.
A 41% 3-point shooter with the Illini last season, Grandison makes good decisions with the ball that keep his turnover rate low, according to KenPom.com and Synergy Sports.
Synergy gives him an overall excellent rating on offensive efficiency. His offensive rating of him on KenPom was No. 101 nationally among players used on at least 28% of their team’s possessions.
Roach played some of the best basketball of his Duke career in the NCAA tournament, particularly in wins over Michigan State and Texas Tech. The challenge for him is to become even more consistent in all areas of his game, similar to how Wendell Moore developed between his sophomore and junior seasons the past two years.
Jaylen Blakes, a 6-2 sophomore guard, played sparingly as a freshman, but at least has a year of college experience. That could earn him a few minutes in the rotation as a reserve.
Another experienced transfer who looks to be a deep reserve, 6-4 guard Max Johns from Princeton, has also joined the team.
Scheyer and his staff were diligent about adding a proven, experienced shooter to the roster whether Keels returned or not. That’s why they were heavily involved with two-time Missouri Valley Conference player of the year AJ Green in the transfer portal before the Northern Iowa star opted to stay in the NBA draft.
Grandison fills that need. The unknown is 6-5 freshman shooting guard Jaden Schutt. He has the reputation as a sharp-shooter from his schoolboy days in Illinois, and on the grassroots circuit, but he has to show he can do this at the college level.
Roach is the X-factor here. He hit 32.2% of his 3-pointers and 41% of his shots overall last season. If off-season work can get those numbers up a tick or two, Duke would have another shooter to count on. That’s acknowledging that Roach doesn’t need to be a volume shooter or scorer given all the talent around him.
While Whitehead is a solid scorer via drives to the basket, he also has a good pull-up jumper that figures to be effective.
What rotation looks like?
The caveat in projecting this is that Scheyer, not Krzyzewski, is fully in charge. He’s never had this role, so there’s no history to consider.
The players most likely to be key contributors are Roach, Grandison, Lively, Filipowski, Whitehead, Young, Mitchell, Proctor and Schutt.
A starting five of Roach, Grandison, Whitehead, Filipowski and Lively would have offensive firepower and defensive prowess.
Proctor is an explosive talent on the perimeter, as well, who is likely to get some starting assignments. But even if he, Schutt and Mitchell come off the bench, that’s a nice dose of firepower.
Young can spell either Lively or Filipowski and provide solid minutes and production.