Ryan Kelly aggravated a right foot injury in Duke basketball’s 68-40 win against Clemson on Tuesday and the team announced he will be sidelined indefinitely.
We took to our twitter account @dukebasketball to ask fans for questions on Kelly’s injury as the No. 1 and undefeated Blue Devils prepare to play N.C. State on Saturday night. Off we go:
— Nicole Mobach (@NMobach) January 10, 2013
Andrew Beaton: There hasn’t been any official word on this, but the logical answer is Josh Hairston. The junior has been the first forward off the bench for Duke this season and has been really the only forward on the bench to receive regular minutes, playing 11.3 per game.
The question is, how much will his minutes really increase? Can he step up to replace Kelly’s 30 minutes per game? Unlikely. He’s a willing rebounder and can body up on defense, but he also doesn’t have a versatile offensive game, which could limit his time.
Hairston also deserves credit for his ability to draw charges—he seems to pick one up every time he’s on the floor.
— stephan tarpley (@StephanTarpley4) January 10, 2013
AB: Now, that’s really the million dollar question and something we won’t know for sure until Saturday. But the options are: Hairston, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Hairston we addressed above and MP3 we address in the next question so let’s focus on Jefferson and Murphy.
Jefferson can be more of a traditional four compared to Murphy and has probably had more shining moments in his limited time this season. He made a couple great plays against Clemson, finishing with five points and three rebounds in just nine minutes. That included a beautiful steal and fastbreak layup, which he converted into a three-point play, and he has quickly become a favorite of the Cameron Crazies. That being said, his offensive game isn’t that developed in the half court offense—from the limited action we’ve seen—and can’t necessarily stretch a defense with his shot yet.
Murphy also had some bright spots against Clemson, including a three-point play of his own, collecting an offensive rebound and putting one home. And after people expected Murphy to be one of the team’s starters at the beginning of the year, his playing time has been extremely sparse. He does possess a versatile offensive game, however, and the ability to stretch a defense with his shot. That’s something that really separates him from Hairston, MP3 and Jefferson.
The question with Murphy is: Can he really body up on the boards and on defense against true post players if he’s playing the four? N.C. State features two strong post players in C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell. Guarding one of them is a tall task for anybody, and would be tough for Murphy, who is more naturally a small forward.
The answer to replacing Kelly might not be so simple, though. So far, the lineups this year have pretty consistently featured three guards and two post players. Maybe to replace Kelly’s size and offense, two of Jefferson, Murphy and Hairston will be on the court together, along with Mason, giving Duke a real small forward on the wing who will be able to help out on the boards.
— Josh Johnson (@JJohnson2224) January 10, 2013
AB: Marshall Plumlee has seen limited minutes since he returned from his own foot injury. The coaches were clearly thrilled with him in the preseason, often saying that he could have been the team’s sixth man if he weren’t injured. But it’s tough to break into a rotation midseason, especially when this year’s rotation has been so tight. Since he returned to action, he has played at most seven minutes—in Duke’s blowout win against Wake Forest—and has sat on the bench for two full games.
Now that Kelly is hurt, it seems as if MP3 is destined to get more playing time, but how much more is really up in the air. He should be the go-to sub when his older brother Mason Plumlee needs a breather, but Mason is also capable of playing 35 minutes per game if he doesn’t get in foul trouble. That said, we have no idea if Coach K is going to experiment with a lineup that has both Plumlees in at the same time. We haven’t seen that lineup yet, and if we don’t see that regularly it’ll be tough for MP3 to get more time.