David Duke – Summer 2020

David Duke is an up and coming guard prospect who has made considerable on-court progress in the past year at Providence. Continued growth as a player can put him into the first round of next year’s NBA Draft. Duke stands out in several categories beginning with his defensive acumen.

Defense

Duke does a great job mirroring smaller quicker guards, constantly applying pressure and funneling opponents into help defenders inside. When beaten he uses his size and length to recover and bother their shot attempts. He often utilizes his strength and aggression to overpower and displace the balance of the players he is guarding.

Listed at 6’5″, 205 pounds with long arms and a strong frame, he keeps opponents off balance with his physicality. While he has the quickness and agility to stick with smaller players, Duke is also capable of defending bigger wings and he consistently matched up with the best perimeter offensive players in the Big East, regardless of their size and skill level.

In the clip above, he does an excellent job using size and strength to bully the likes of Markus Howard and Ty-shon Alexander. Duke then uses his mobility to anticipate 6’8 Naji Marshall’s next move on the floor, beats him to the spot and gets the charge call. Besides athletic and physical talent, Duke’s energy and activity also stand out. His feet and hands are consistently active and he is always getting into opponents, making them uncomfortable and forcing them off their spots. Duke’s ball denial is excellent as well, as he sticks with his man through screens and is constantly engaged and focused. He does not allow passes to be easily made to his man and forces the players he is guarding to catch the ball far away from the rim and in other uncomfortable spots.

Besides his ability to limit the impact and effectiveness of different individual players that he matched up with, Duke also did a very good job executing within Providence’s system and performing his duties as a team defender. Along with the aforementioned denial of passes to his own man, he did a very good job denying passes as a help side defender, switched promptly and with good timing and intelligently but actively disrupted passing lanes.

He even showed the ability to make quick decision switches in the moment. In the video above, he funneled his man into the big man’s help defender and instantly switched over to the big man in order to steal the drop off pass and prevent an easy lay in. He showed his athletic ability and anticipation as a shot blocker, rotating over and acting as a rim protector when necessary. Duke also forced opponents to put more air under the ball when executing passes due to his length and leaping ability that allows him to jump up and tip and deflect passes. 

Athleticism and Physical Talent

Duke has excellent size for a point guard and even an NBA off-guard. Listed at 205 pounds, he is one of the strongest guard prospects in the country and has very good length, as well. Duke also showed his ability to keep defenders off balance with abrupt changes of speed and direction off the dribble. He has the burst to beat defenders to the rim, turning the corner and flying through open driving lanes.

When opponents were able to stay in front of him at the rim, Duke simply bullied them with his powerful body, removing them out of his way and going up for easy finishes. This ability comes from not just speed or physical strength but also Duke’s incredibly assertive mentality and his mental approach to the game. Those are huge assets for him as a player going forward and are defining traits of his game on both ends.

Besides being a quick and agile mover on the horizontal plane, Duke is also a very good vertical athlete. He gets off his feet fluidly, lightly and quickly. His length and reach are also virtuous in this regard but he is doubtlessly an explosive leaper, well capable of playing above the rim on both ends. 

The body control, effort and energy he shows in the clips above is just as impressive as the actual dunks and blocks. His motor and activity are also a major part of what makes him a successful defensive player. He provides maximum effort on every play and seems to will himself to great finishes, blocks and other impact plays. This mental fortitude forms the basis of Duke’s appeal as an NBA prospect and is likely where his great defense and aggressive attacking offensive style come from.

Budding Guard Skills

While Duke’s athletic ability, motor and defensive upside have been his main draws as a prospect since the moment he stepped foot on the floor at Providence, he took his status to the next level this season due to his development on the offensive end. His free-throw and three-point efficiencies both went up by more than ten percent. Duke was never thought of as a poor shooter in scouting circles, nor is he considered to be an elite one now but he has nevertheless made significant strides.

He shows good footwork on the catch, often utilizing a 1-2 step into the catch and shoot attempts. His wind up is fluid and he has a high and difficult to contest release. Since last year, he has greatly improved his rhythm. Duke no longer shoots on the way down and, instead, shoots with a more fluid, single motion. He also shows improved alignment, no longer having his elbow stick out away from his body on some shots, along with much improved follow through at the end of the shot. Holding his shot and making sure to flick his wrist at the end of each shot and not pulling back or releasing the ball too early, therefore adding improved touch and accuracy to his attempts. 

According to Synergy Sports, in his freshman year Duke made zero three-pointers off screens and just five jump shots off the dribble in the half court. In his sophomore year, he had almost four times as many total off-screen attempts, with three three-pointers made. Duke also made 18 jump shots off the dribble.

While some improvements still need to be made in his pull up and movement shooting, Duke’s trajectory of development has been encouraging and he is in a decent place overall. The ability to hit shots off the dribble is vital for guards in today’s NBA and Duke’s continued improvement in this regard will play an enormous role in the way he is looked at as a professional prospect going forward.

This past year, however, Duke improved not just as a shooter but as an offensive player overall. Duke added to his handle, decision making and passing skills. His ability to execute entry passes to the post and on some of Providence’s flex sets, especially stood out. This is an overlooked skill and one that many young guards struggle with and often neglect. 

Duke does a good job keeping defenders off balance, not allowing defenders to bother or intercept the pass. Duke also made the right type of pass to get the ball to his teammate on time and target. Of course, this is not the only way that he utilized his passing and ball handling.

Duke showed off the ability to drive, draw and collapse defenders and then find teammates open behind the three-point line. He was also capable of executing simple pick and roll sets, making the right play at the right time, getting the ball to the open player. Finally, he displayed flashes of crafty ball handling, using changes of speed and subtly timing his dribbles to get defenders off balance and create angles to get to the rim. 

Future Development

While Duke is a very good player, there is certainly still plenty of work to do to achieve his presumed goal of being a long term NBA player. As mentioned earlier, his spot up shooting is successful but his jump shot takes some time to get off and, when he is forced to take quicker shots, under pressure and/or without having his feet set, the results have been a lot less positive. He has an eFG% of 32.8 last year on pull up jump shots in the half-court, which put him in the 34th percentile nationally in that category. Becoming more consistent as a pull up jump shooter is paramount to his draft stock and future offensive development. 

Some of the issues Duke had on his spot ups as a freshman appeared to come back on his pull up jump shots this year. Moving forward, mechanical tweaks can be made to further his efficiency off the dribble. This would help his dribble-drive game as well, since defenders are comfortable sagging off of him and playing him in such a way as to not allow him to get to the rim.

This leads to the next area for improvement, Duke’s ability to finish at the rim. He shot just 41.7 percent at the rim in the half court which placed him in the bottom 15 percent of all NCAA players. While he is strong, athletic and more than capable of getting to the basket and finishing, for various reasons he was unable to complete many of his drive attempts. 

To be fair to Duke, his lack of success at the rim can partly be attributed to Providence’s lack of spacing and the way their offensive scheme positioned his teammates. Too often, the paint was clogged up and help defenders were left in position to rotate and bother Duke’s shots. However, Duke’s timing and recognition of where opponents are on his drives could use work as well. His craft and patience as a finisher is also inconsistent. His aggression is impressive and a huge part of his appeal as a prospect, but there is such a thing as being too aggressive at times.

While Duke has improved in his decision making, he, at times, still misses open teammates and needs to continue to work on his point guard skills. The ability to capably run the offense and make plays for teammates from the point guard position will be a huge advantage when paired with Duke’s size. However, Duke is still far from a pure point guard at this stage.

In the video above, the first two clips are of poorly placed and mistimed passes and the last one shows AJ Reeves cutting on the baseline with Duke seemingly missing him and instead of kicking back outside to Luwane Pipkins. Every modern NBA team would love to have a powerfully built, tall point guard who can switch across multiple positions. His ability to comfortably play the position on the offensive end would be a huge boost to his draft stock.

Overall

Duke is a highly competent defensive player who made huge strides on the offensive end this past season, vaulting himself into the draft conversation. NBA scouts and draft media overlooked him coming into the year. By the time scouts got around to seeing his newfound development as a player, it was too late and Duke did not receive the deserved amount of attention needed to enter this year’s draft. However, going into next season, he is undoubtedly on the radars of NBA front offices. That said, there is plenty of work to still be done, especially on the offensive end, where consistency on his decision making, finishing craft, and pull up shooting is necessary to take his game to the next level. Duke will likely be expected to lead next year’s Providence team. How he embraces and maximizes that role will determine his stock in the 2021 NBA draft.