Ryan Kelly might not be Duke’s best player or the flashiest, but he might be its valuable.
The junior forward missed the ACC tournament because of a sprained right foot. Without him, the Devils lost to Florida State in the semifinals in a game where they could’ve dearly used Kelly’s 3-point shooting (40.8 percent) and savvy (only Andre Dawkins has a lower turnover rate among Duke’s regulars).
But it’s easier to say Duke needs a 6-11 guy who can shoot the 3. But here’s a better detail, from coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“With (Kelly) out, you can load up better on the three. You can hedge better or step in better on ball screens because you can protect the lane and you’re not worried about two or three guys. You might be worried about one other guy and you can match up with him,” Krzyzewski said. “Quite frankly, you become an easier team to defend.”
That’s from a fantastic post from One Game at a Time, which breaks down how Duke uses the “Stretch 4” and how the position emerged through the years. Danny Ferry? Stretch 4. Mike Dunleavy? Shane Battier? Luol Deng? All Stretch 4s. Go read it. If nothing else but for the position’s influence on the game.
“If you’re a chess player, it’s like having the queen. That guy could do anything,” Krzyzewski told the blog. “He could go anywhere on the court and as a result, you have a lot of unpredictable movement, which gave space to your other guys. That’s why we’ve been such a good driving team and usually, a team you can’t double in the post.”
For Duke to make a tournament run, it’ll need Kelly’s ability to stretch a defense. Otherwise, teams will just sag and concentrate on stopping Austin Rivers.
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