As the Blue Devils start to wrap up their regular season, this is the time of year to start developing the “go-to” lineup for tournament season. While the last month has been exciting with the rapid maturation of Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton, neither are the caliber player Duke needs to make a deep run into the tournament. With a concrete identity still lacking, head coach Mike Krzyzewski faced some tough decisions. Enter Seth Curry.
Curry has played most of his minutes off the bench for the talented Blue Devils, a role that he accepted and thrived in for the most part. Curry averaged 8.2 points and 1.8 assists per game coming into this week, before he took his game to another level. Not only did his point and assist totals explode (19 points and 3.5 assists per game) but he also averaged higher steal (1.3 per game before, 3 per game this week) and rebound (1.5 to 5 per game) totals.
The sudden increase can be attributed to a number of reasons. The easiest one to understand is the enormous boost in minutes played. Before this week, Curry averaged 22.1 minutes per game with only a handful of starts. Curry played 37 minutes per game against North Carolina and Miami and started the game against the Hurricanes. For those who are struggling to catch up with the logic, logging 15 additional minutes per game generally leads to more opportunities to make plays on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
However, the added playing time came because he earned it. Curry, who was in a shooting slump for a long stretch in the middle of the regular season, has started to heat up again from the field. Curry shot 59 percent from the field this week, in contrast to his season average of 39 percent. Curry’s specialty is his ability to shoot three-pointers, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc thus far this season, but he shot even better this week with 50 percent accuracy from deep.
Perhaps the biggest difference maker for Curry has been something unexpected—dribbling. Yes he is traditionally a three-point shooter, but Curry also has a great mid-range jumper. Curry had been very one-dimensional, settling for three-pointers or passing it away most trips on offense. 84 of his 138 field goal attempts (62 percent) had been from behind the arc, but this week only 12 of his 22 attempts (55 percent) came from downtown. Curry shot a handful of mid-range jumpers with success in each game this week, highlighted by clutch shots against North Carolina. He also drove the lane a few times, scoring easy layups.
The impact of Seth Curry’s improved play has the potential to be huge. Not only does it boost his personal confidence at the most important time of the year, but it also puts less pressure on Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, two players that have had to put the team on their backs since Kyrie Irving went out with an injury. One can only hope Curry continues to play this way, but in a season full of outstanding performances by role players, anything could happen on this Duke team.