The college basketball season just ended last week, but that does not mean it is time to rest. The transfer portal is going absolutely nuts, players are declaring for the draft, and freshmen are re-opening their commitments. With all of that happening, rosters start to become more clear. Duke is no exception. The 2023 Duke roster is much clearer today than it was last week, but there are some major looming questions.
2023 Duke Roster: What to do with Jeremy Roach?
Jeremy Roach, Dereck Lively, and Dariq Whitehead all declared for the NBA draft in recent days. Roach is the only one that has maintained his college eligibility. Lively and Whitehead are sure-fire draft picks and extremely likely to hear their name called in the first round. Roach, on the other hand, is very unlikely to hear his name called so his decision will be much tougher.
Kyle Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor, and Mark Mitchell made Duke fans jump for joy with their announcements to return. Proctor will immediately step back into the lead guard role and is poised for a monster sophomore year. The incoming class is the one Proctor was initially part of and now he rejoins that class with a year of college experience under his belt.
Mitchell is a great all-around player without any dominant skills so it makes sense for him to come back and polish his game. There was some concern considering how many freshmen wings were joining the Blue Devils, but now that has also changed.
Filipowski returning seemed to be a given from day one. Yes, he was absolutely dominant this year and by far the best freshman in the ACC. However, he has to get stronger and quicker with a more consistent jumper to be a lottery pick. All of those things should happen in Durham this year. Most importantly, he made it clear that he wanted to be the player to establish the regime of Jon Scheyer and that would require him to spend some more time at Duke.
Caleb Foster and Jared McCain enter the Duke backcourt as excellent scorers and above-average playmakers. It seems like, at best, only one of them will start. They are both smaller and Proctor is clearly locked into one of the starting guard spots. If Roach returns, both of these stud freshmen may have to come off the bench.
TJ Power and Sean Stewart are both intriguing bigs. Power is more of a three and a floor spacer. He will likely replace Mitchell when he needs a break but can also play a stretch four spot behind Flip. Stewart is a do-everything, high-energy big but is slightly undersized. He is very likely to play the four and in some situations can be a small-ball five. It’ll be hard to keep him off the court because of his energy and skillset.
Mackenzie Mgbako recently announced his release from his Duke NLI. Mgbako was the most talented incoming freshman in this Duke class but he also may be the most replaceable. Mgbako is a great shooter and a big wing that would have had a ton of success. However, he is a guy you would like to play through and that is just not what Duke needs. If Duke can replace his roster spot with a starting center from the transfer portal, all is well.
Jeremy Roach: The Biggest Question Mark
So, Roach is testing draft waters. He likely will test poorly at the combine as he is not a great athlete. It would seem clear that all the advice he gets from the NBA would be to return to Durham. But, is that what is best for Duke? No matter what, Duke is going to highly feature Filipowski. Surrounding Flip will be as many shooters as Duke can put on the court.
In his career, Roach has been a high-volume shooter but struggled with efficiency. With him starting, Duke would have three average shooters on the court with Flip and another big (assuming Scheyer continues to utilize two bigs). That could shrink the floor quite a bit and cause Duke to have to make several tough contested twos. With Roach leaving, McCain or Foster step in and suddenly the court is much more spaced.
Of course, veterans are invaluable in college basketball, especially from the guard position. However, Duke will have 3 high-minute returning sophomores and ideally a veteran center. There is going to be a ton of experience already and floor spacing is going to be more important.
However, to give Roach his credit, any late game situation last year saw Roach get the ball in a pick-and-roll at the top of the key and navigate his way to the elbow or rim to close a game. That clutch attribute he clearly holds may be irreplaceable. If Flip can be that guy, then Roach leaving should not change the Duke floor. However, it should allow for Duke’s ceiling to be even higher. As we know, in college basketball, even if you have ten great players, only six to seven can play big enough minutes to make major impacts.