Is Rasheed Sulaimon the key to success for Duke Basketball?

I am about to ask Duke Basketball fans to do something they may find rather difficult to do; forget about Jabari Parker for the next few minutes. There is so much more to talk about in regards to this season’s Blue Devils squad other than their fabulous freshman. The most interesting thing about this team so far in my opinion has been the inconsistent play of sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon.

Expectations for this team at the beginning of the season appear to have been a little too high. People seemed to forget that the Blue Devils were losing their three best players from last season to graduation, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee. As excited as I was about the arrival of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood I was also skeptical; neither player had played a single minute for Duke until this season; hardly a quality desired in your team’s two best players.

Despite lofty expectations Hood and Parker have played extremely well for a majority of this season carrying the scoring load for the Blue Devils’ offense so far. However, if Duke wants to seriously contend for an ACC championship this season they need a consistent third scoring option.

No disrespect to junior point guard Quinn Cook, but the best candidate to be that third scorer for the Blue Devils is indeed the aforementioned Rasheed Sulaimon.

As a freshman last season, Sulaimon proved that he could carry the team’s offense when leading scorers Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly were either unavailable or struggling. Unfortunately, Sulaimon has been a little inconsistent this season leading to a decreased role and fewer minutes during a very important time in his development as a player.

Thankfully, Sulaimon has seemingly sorted out some of his issues, such as a poor shot selection, that have led to his decreased role on the team and is playing much more consistently. Sulaimon almost single handedly saved the Blue Devils from a devastating loss at the hands of Virginia on Monday  night by draining a clutch three pointer to hold off the Cavaliers on his way to a season-high 21 points.

The main reason that I would prefer Sulaimon as the third option over Quinn Cook is that Cook already has a very important role on the team, that being the team’s leader and facilitator. Cook is a great offensive player in the open court but in terms of three point shooting Cook is light years behind Sulaimon. Cook is shooting only 34% from behind the arc compared to Sulaimon’s 48%. Both players are very capable when it comes to finishing around the hoop but Sulaimon’s size and superior jumping ability make him slightly more dangerous around the rim.

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Another option besides Cook and Sulaimon is three point specialist and graduate student Andre Dawkins. There simply is no denying Dawkins’ ability from behind the three point line but he is the perfect example of a catch and shoot shooter. Dawkins has yet to prove that he can create his own shot off the dribble in his four years on the team; because of this Sulaimon seems like the logical choice over Dawkins to be the team’s third scoring option.

The bottom line is that all three players, Sulaimon, Cook, and Dawkins are very capable scorers and Duke is very fortunate to have them as their third fourth and fifth options. In order for this team to compete for the ACC championship all three need to continue to play well but the most important of the three without a doubt is Sulaimon.