Looking for intra-squad conflicts to gain insight into a basketball team’s prospects is often a fool’s errand. The task has become even more difficult since the advent of Countdown to Craziness: while it is a fantastic recruiting tool, the center of attention for players and the overall event, extracurricular content can distract from the action of the game itself.
We sure saw that Friday night.
The 16-minute scrimmage we were treated to was more notable for what was absent than what was present: namely, two of Duke’s most prized freshmen (Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead) and any semblance of consistent outside shooting. There were a few highlights, and the most impressive player may not see the field for the Blue Devils this season.
Still, the event unofficially marks the start of the season, and in turn, the start of a cycle of hot takes. Some of them are gross overreactions given the circumstances, but others not so much. Among the most significant:
Christian Reeves will make an impact at Duke one day. With that “one day” this is for sure not an overreaction. Reeves took advantage of Lively’s absence to display better-than-expected defense and firm control of his seven-foot frame, leading to easy moves in transition and off opportunities created by Jeremy Roach. Reeves still plans to redshirt this year, but fears in some parts of the fanbase about the lack of a true center in the 2023 class have been legitimately assuaged by Reeves’ performance. A second-year Reeves, perhaps complemented by sixth-year Ryan Young, would be a good fit at No. 5 on the team for the 2023-24 season.
Shooting from outside will be a problem. This is the biggest one overreaction come from action on Friday night. Yes, projected shooters Jaden Schutt and Jacob Grandison went a combined 0-for-7 from deep, and yes, no one besides Roach took more than one shot from beyond the arc. But this kind of sloppiness is to be expected not only in combat, but in one where the players may have been more concerned with their opening dance than the game itself. Take archery numbers with a grain of salt.
Tyrese Proctor will be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. While not a sure thing, this is not an overreaction when he combines his rumored performance in practice with what he showed in Cameron on Friday. Proctor was the clear leader of Team White, showing the ability to get to the line (where he shot 3-for-3), making a nice three-pointer, and also had the biggest highlight of the night with a beautiful juke move for an easy layup:
Proctor looks like the type of player who can create his own offense, especially crucial given that some fans remained concerned that:
Duke will struggle to score without Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead’s presence must have been missed, but I think this is it overreaction for one simple reason: Proctor and Roach were in opposing squads. If this Duke team had been healthy and played a more traditional blue-and-white “starters vs. bench” game, we could have gotten a glimpse of the nightmare that Roach and Proctor’s backcourt would pose for opposing teams. Both can shoot, both can penetrate, both can pass. It will be difficult for opposing defenses to get inside any of Duke’s guards, especially with a healthy Lively (held out as a precaution) and with Duke’s offense up to speed.