Thursday, July 25, 2024

Realistic expectations for Duke’s 2024 transfers: Roles for Maliq Brown, Sion James, Mason Gillis

Maximizing the one year of Cooper Flagg is of utmost importance for Duke. It’s started in the transfer portal. Jon Scheyer didn’t hit the 2024 portal cycle looking for a star. Flagg, the ballyhooed, No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2024 and a candidate for No. 1 overall in the 2025 NBA Draft, will fit the bill.

Returning sophomore Caleb Foster is expected to make a major jump, and getting point guard Tyrese Proctor back for Year 3 was vital.

But Duke desperately needed veteran role players to upgrade a supporting cast that will look far different in 2024-25 after multi-year starters like Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell hit the transfer portal.

Duke did just that, reeling in the ACC’s best-rated transfer haul, per 247Sports. Let’s dive into the scouting reports and realistic expectations for each of Duke’s transfer additions

PF Maliq Brown, from Syracuse

Expected role: Likely starter, frontcourt rotation

Outstanding multi-positional defender who might be even better now that he’s not guarding some bruiser 5s. Everyone wants to be a switch-everything defender, but Brown actually is one. He will help douse so many fires, and his cutting and playmaking off the short-roll will be a massive asset to Duke’s offensive attack. Brown is such an elite role player.

Sion James, from Tulane

Expected role: Wing rotation, potential starter

James is another elite role player who Jon Scheyer smartly has added to this rotation. James does not miss games and he barely came off the floor at Tulane. He’s not some sharpshooter, but 39% on 81 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers will play. He makes defenses pay for leaving him open. But it’s all the little things that make James a stud. He’s an excellent defender who is absolutely chiseled. He can hound shooters, big wings or lead guards while providing a little secondary rim protection, too. James might not start but he’s going to carve out a major role for Duke.

PF Mason Gillis, from Purdue

Expected role: Frontcourt rotation

If Gillis gets his feet set for a catch-and-shoot trey, forget about it. The veteran Purdue transfer benefited from all the attention on Zach Edey and drilled 46% of his 122 catch-and-shoot treys. That’s pretty much his whole game offensively when he’s not crashing the glass for putbacks. He’s really useful in “Spain” pick-and-rolls because he’s so physical and will make contact, but if you forget about him, he’s quick to get behind the line, square his shoulders and fire a triple. Gillis is another rock-solid, team defender with real, high-major size at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds. Gillis, like James, puts his time in the weight room.  

Duke also landed Rice transfer Cameron Sheffield, who redshirted after a foot injury last season. Sheffield provides depth behind Duke’s prized wing corps but faces an uphill climb to playing time.

More: Realistic expectations for every ACC program

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