Duke wins exhibition finale as it looks like starting point guard has emerged

2 Comments

Duke made quick and easy work of exhibition opponent Central Missouri on Saturday, winning 87-47 as the Blue Devils went to 2-0 on the preseason.

But the national title contenders destroying a lower-level opponent at home for a tune-up isn’t the big story. While Justise Winslow (17 points) and Jahlil Okafor (15 points) continued strong preseasons, it appears that Duke has found a new starting point guard, as freshman and heralded McDonald’s All-American Tyus Jones started once again at lead guard on Saturday over senior Quinn Cook.

The 6-foot-1 Jones has now started both games this preseason, and showed well with the team’s offense in his hands. In 50 minutes this preseason, Jones has dished out 17¬†assists and limited himself to two turnovers. Jones also contributed 12 points, seven steals, and seven rebounds over that time and has already aided the Duke offense by showing advanced passing ability that leads teammates to easy baskets.

Jones’ particularly adept ability to throw passes ahead on fast breaks for easy baskets is nearly unrivaled in college basketball and its a skill that not many can match.

This means that Cook, a senior and former part-time starter, will be a nice piece to lead the bench. If Cook comes off of the bench alongside shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon — if Matt Jones starts like his has in preseason — it gives the Blue Devils incredible experience off their bench and should give them a boost overall.

It’s not surprising that Jones won the starting point guard battle, but it’s worth monitoring a couple of things going forward. How is Jones going to look once he wants to hunt his own offense? In high school, Jones was a capable scorer and shooter, but has focused more on distributing at Duke. Will we see that side of Jones?

And how will Jones fare on the defensive side of things? Playing on-the-ball defense has never been a strength for Jones, although seven steals during the preseason is a nice bonus, it comes against meager competition and they don’t pose much of a threat on offense.

Either way, I think this is the right move for Duke. Jones might have some inexperienced hiccups, but Cook now leads an improved second unit, Jones is offensively gifted getting others the ball and seems like more of a steady presence with the ball in his hands.