Andre Dawkins redshirt: is Duke still the ACC favorite?

After Duke released their bizarre statement in the fall announcing that Andre Dawkins was still with the basketball team, rumors went viral about his future with the Blue Devils. Most centered around two things: his young age for his class (he’s now a 20 year-old senior), and the tragic death of his sister during Andre’s freshman year. Whatever it is, Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced yesterday that it is time for Dawkins “to step away,” and that he’ll be redshirting this season.

This – of course – was widely reported. Most stories went with a headline like Yahoo: “It’s official: Duke’s Andre Dawkins will redshirt next season.” Well, it’s not official. It’s a redshirt, not a contract. They could decide tomorrow, or in the fall, or in March for all we know to start playing Dawkins. There’s too much time between here and there to consider anything “official,” but for the purposes of this article I’m assuming that he will, in fact, redshirt.

In the recent past I’ve made no attempt to hide my thoughts that the NC State hype is overblown. Duke and North Carolina are still the class of the ACC, while NC State, Miami and Florida State are the three potential challengers for the ACC’s regular season in 2012-13.

But does losing Dawkins leave UNC alone atop the ACC, or is Duke still clearly better than the second tier?

Coach K’s teams rely heavily on the 3-point shot. Only once in the past decade have they not attempted significantly more than the average NCAA team, and they’ve finished amongst the nations top-85 teams in 3-pt% in nine of ten years as well. Including Dawkins (who made 39% last season), Duke would have been returning three players who made at least 38% of their attempts from beyond the arc. Now they’re down to Seth Curry (38%) and Ryan Kelly (41%). The importance of having multiple 3-point threats is obvious, and last season Dawkins made 6-10 in a close win over Michigan State, and 6-9 in their lone win in three tries vs Florida State. To fill this gap Tyler Thornton needs to step up (35% last year), or incoming freshman Rasheed Sulaimon needs to be the player everyone thinks he is.

Duke will look different on offense, but Sulaimon is a far more versitile player than Dawkins, and they should be fine.

What about defense? For the first time in recent history Duke’s defense wasn’t elite. In the previous nine seasons (in which tempo free data is available) Duke had finished amongst the nation’s top-10 defenses six times, and amongst the top-20 every season. Last year? No. 70. A lot of that porous defense is attributable to a week perimeter. Austin Rivers – who is about to join the NBA – developed quickly over the season and finished the year as Duke’s best perimeter defender. Andre Dawkins? Not so much. His effort is notoriously variable, and when he gets lazy feet on defense he ends up on the bench. Tyler Thornton, unfortunately, hasn’t shown much on defense either, which again leaves Sulaimon to fill the gap. Sulaimon needs to add strength, but by all appearances has the IQ, the tools, and the desire to be a good defender.

So will Duke miss Dawkins? Obviously. But they should still be the favorites in the ACC.