The forward position for Duke is one of the team’s weakest positions because it doesn’t really have backups that can be relied upon. The starters should be fine, but if any injuries occur, or fouling becomes a problem, they are going to have to hope that the bench can step in and play well. This could be a problem if they can’t give rest to the starters. If this position gives them a great surprise this could make them a hard team to face going into the season. The forwards on this year’s roster are Rodney Hood, Alex Murphy, Semi Ojeleye and Jabari Parker. Hood will start at the small forward position, while the highly touted Parker should man the power forward position. That leaves just Alex Murphy and Semi Ojeleye off the bench.
Murphy is going to be a red-shirt sophomore this year at Duke and hopefully can develop his game so he can be trusted to come off the bench this season. He didn’t get much playing time last year, but did have some bright moments. He played tentative when games were on the line, but he should feel more comfortable in his second season.
Murphy has immense upside to his game. He can stretch the floor with his ability to shoot and can drive to the basket. Offensively he should only need the confidence in his game to improve it and could be a key off the bench if he can trust his decisions.
On the other hand, his game on the defensive side of the ball needs improvement. His footwork is often times poor and his confidence is low when the other team has the ball. If he can improve on that end of the floor, he could be a reliable player off the bench for the Blue Devils.
Ojeleye is a player that could get major minutes in his first year because of Murphy’s confidence level. He also has great upside in his game. Ojeleye is an incoming freshman that had a great high school career in Kansas. The one thing Ojeleye can do is score. He proved that over his last year in high school and can bring that to Duke.
Ojeleye will have to have the confidence going into college and improve on his defense at the next level. Going from high school to college is never easy, and he will have to learn to adapt his game to the college game. He has great finishing ability but will have to know when to get his teammates involved or know when to attack. He will also have to learn how to play team defense at the next level just like all incoming freshmen playing in college.
Ojeleye has upside but he is only a freshman, so you don’t know exactly how well he will play in his first year. They might be asking Hood to play a bunch of minutes this year, but if Murphy can increase his confidence level and/or Ojeleye is ready to contribute, the small forward position may be all right. If neither of them is ready to help, the Blue Devils may try Parker at that spot for short periods.
The bench will be a crucial part for Duke this year. They have a great starting five but to keep them from getting too many minutes, the bench will have to play well to give the starters a break. If the bench comes through this year Duke will be a tough out of the NCAA tournament. Duke has experience and depth off of the bench which makes their bench a great one for this season. Their bench will have guys who can stretch the defense and also some that can come in and bring in an added boost for their defense.