Five things we learned from Duke's domination of its exhibition games in Canada
Duke crushed each of its opponents and got big time performances from Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett in Canada
The Duke basketball team polished off its Canadian exhibition tour on Sunday by routing McGill, 103-58, giving the Blue Devils a decisive victory to cap off an impressive 3-0 trip abroad.
As expected, Duke had no trouble with any of its Northern foes, disposing of its opponent, on average, by 33.3 points per contest. It was the type of exertion of sheer talent and dominance you'd expect a Duke team to show, especially given its weighty expectations in 2018 as one of the top three preseason programs in the.
Let's recap the trip with five things we learned.
1. Zion Williamson can do it all
We already knew Zion Williamson, the human highlight reel, was going to flash some jaw-dropping jams if given the opportunity. As we expected he might, he showed his athleticism in spades. What we didn't know, however, was how he may fare strictly from a skill perspective.
Consider that question largely answered for now. Williamson averaged 29.6 points in three contests, including a trip-high 36 points Sunday against McGill. Williamson shot a more than respectable 65.6 percent from the floor, too, and dominated both ends of the floor with his high energy attack and versatility.
Williamson's best production was in his last performance, but his best overall outing was in Game 1 of the trip. Against Ryerson, he scored 29 points, but most impressively, went 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
Williamson would go on to shoot 0 for 5 from the 3-point line over the course of the next two games, but as it turns out, dunks and layups lead to efficient scoring nights. It seems Williamson is going to make a ton of hay on both of those this season.
2. Duke will need Tre Jones to make things go
The lack of a true point guard has been a thorn in Duke's side for several seasons. If Duke is to reach its full potential, it will need to keep Tre Jones, a five-star freshman, healthy all season.
Jones sat the trip to nurse a lingering injury, but is likely to be back in time for the season. But his absence was notable; in three games, Duke turned it over, on average, more than 13 times per contest. It didn't have a go-to option to kickstart its offense, either, with R.J. Barrett, Jordan Goldwire and others trying their hand at running the point.
Jones is the guy for Duke, though. He may not be the top stat-producer in 2018-19 among a crowded roster full of stars, but his role may be of equal importance to Zion and Barrett's for the Blue Devils to truly be a title contender next season.
3. Lack of a true 3-point scorer could be weakness
Unlike Kentucky, which that shows great promise, Duke didn't exactly find answers in that department. As a team, Duke shot just 31.9 percent from beyond the arc, and its best player, R.J. Barrett, hit only 6 of 21 (27.5 percent) from deep.
Steady-handed 3-point shooter Alex O'Connell may be the team's most reliable option from outside, but he broke a bone in his face and missed much of the trip which contributed to the lackluster outside shooting. Also factoring into the less-than-stellar 3-point numbers: Cam Reddish joined Tre Jones as a projected key contributor who did not play as he nursed a lingering injury.
At full strength, Duke's efficiency in that department may improve, but it's still a question mark entering the season.
4. R.J. Barrett is the go-to option
As impressive as Williamson was on the trip, R.J. Barrett still topped it. The Canadian product, who was the No. 1 overall recruit coming out of high school, averaged 30.7 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game en route to a homecoming-to-remember.
Barrett's biggest weakness -- his lack of consistent shooting -- showed up mostly in his 27.5 percent 3-point average. But on the whole he played fairly well, knocking down 49.2 percent of his shots from field-goal range and proving himself a Swiss Army knife on defense. He's going to be a load in the ACC, and I foresee him developing into an unquestionable alpha on a Duke team that has four five-star freshmen.
5. Lob city -- Duke edition?
I'm not saying Duke has a Hall of Famer running the point, but I'm definitely saying Zion can play the Blake Griffin role he shined in during the Lob City days in L.A. Anyone who can dunk from the free-throw line is a pretty special talent, and Zion showed he's willing to try to break rims on dunks if afforded the chance.
If the chemistry between Tre Jones and Zion is even half that of what CP3 and Griffin shared, Duke fans are going to be in for quite a treat this season until teams learn not to overplay Zion.
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