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Recapping '05 and Lookin' Ahead -- Duke

Hey, I'll admit it. I thought this was (finally!) the year in which Devils' lack of depth would catch up to them. Turned out to be wishful thinking. Duke wasn't an elite team, but it wasn't nearly as beatable as I thought it would be, either. The Blue Devils finished 27-6 (11-5), winning another ACC tournament title (after other schools kindly dispatched UNC and Wake for them), and earning another #1 seed (albeit undeserved) in the NCAA tournament.

After underestimating the Blue Devils all season, I decided to pick them to reach the Final Four. Oops.

Despite the presence of Shelden Williams--who, if any Duke player was going to win the award, should have been ACC Player of the Year--the Blue Devils were very much perimeter-oriented. About 40% of Duke's total field goal attempts were three-pointers...only NC State posted a higher percentage. JJ Redick attempted 300 threes by himself.

Here are the numbers:

Blue Devils 2004-2005PlayerO Rtg% PossMin/GPPGFG%3FG%Floor %Pts Prod/GPPFGAJJ Redick12624.5%37.321.840.840.30.5019.81.23Shelden Williams11722.2%33.615.558.200.5815.11.24Daniel Ewing10823.9%34.515.342.734.70.4715.41.07Lee Melchionni11516.4%21.77.740.639.60.467.11.14DeMarcus Nelson9920.2%19.26.24031.90.486.60.96Sean Dockery11812.3% Randolph10016.1%18.94.439.323.10.495.20.89David McClure10515.7%7.41.743.633.30.512.10.94Reggie Love11012.1%10.21.646.900.532.30.94

Redick's ORtg looks great (among ACC players, only Jawad Williams had a better ORtg), especially considering the amount of possessions he used, but keep in mind that ORtg tends to be a little bit biased toward jump shooters like JJ. Redick led the ACC in scoring (but also led the ACC in minutes played) and was therefore a shoe-in for ACC Player of the Year. He averaged a meager 3.5 rebs/40 minutes and 2.7 assists/40 minutes, but he's here to shoot, right?

I don't mean to sound down on Redick's season. He had a great year, giving the Devils a lot of points scored in an efficient manner. He hit 40% from behind the arc and made over 93% of his free throws.

I love me some Shelden Williams. Pretty much the only worthwhile forward on the team (I don't really count Shav because he's obviously still searching for his position, whatever it may be.), SheWill was superb at both ends of the court. As you can see from the chart, he scored the ball at a good percentage; he also gobbled up a lot of rebounds. Only Sean May averaged more rebounds per 40 minutes. Williams also averaged 4.4 blocks per 40 minutes, which is, you know, better than good.

Daniel Ewing was the third member of the Triumvirate. Ewing's shooting percentages weren't the best, but he had a low turnover rate (below 21%) as the team's default point guard. Like Redick, Ewing was required to carry a heavy possessions burden. An ideal setup would have Ewing using fewer possessions, but Duke couldn't afford to do that in 2005.

Lee Melchionni had a solid year, though he wasn't of much use if his jump shot wasn't falling. I don't think the Devils could have asked for more than what they got from Melchionni this past season.

Rough rookie campaign for DeMarcus Nelson, who missed plenty of free throws to go with his missed field goal attempts. Rumor has Nelson transferring to another school, so we'll see how that works out.

Dockery was an afterthought at the offensive end, so he made the most of his opportunities to score. Even with Ewing gone, I'm not sure if his role will expand next season. Incoming point guard Greg Paulus could be an instant-impact player who will play a lot of minutes alongside JJ Redick.

I try not to go too long in between Shavlik Randolph jokes, but I'll lay off of him here. Coach K has apparently convinced him not to transfer, and honestly, I think it's better for Shav if he stays in Durham. He is rightly concerned about playing time next season.

Duke's recruiting class is, naturally, one of the best in the nation, and it includes three McDonald's All-Americans. Depth doesn't look to be as much of an issue next season. Ewing is the only impact player the Devils are losing to graduation, and Redick/Paulus/Dockery should be able to fill the void. Assuming Shelden Williams sticks around, Duke's frontcourt will be impressive. Boateng and McRoberts are supposed to be big time, and I expect at least one of them to be productive immediately. It won't be difficult to match Shav's production, that's for sure.

With relatively little departing, it's hard to see much in the way of regression for Duke next season. The Devils ranked in the top half of the ACC in each of Dean Oliver's Four Factors (Shooting, Offensive Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, Getting to FT Line). While they weren't spectacular in any one category, that could change next season.

More height on the front line (McRoberts is 6'10" and Boateng near 7'0") could mean better rebounding. More low-post talent could also lead to an increased team FG% as more guys will be capable of getting good high-percentage shots. Turnovers could be a problem if Paulus is running the point; other than that, it's hard to find much to worry about.