Is Coach Mike Krzyzewski Playing Favorites?


Coach Mike Krzyzewksi of Duke and Team USA cut three players to get down to ‘16’ on their roster recently. Those cuts were Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal and Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap. These cuts bring questions of themselves, but they also bring attention to two Duke players who were not cut. Those players would be Kyrie Irving and recent addition Mason Plumlee.

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Paul Millsap

Millsap was a recent addition to the team, and was brought in when Blake Griffin pulled out due to a back injury. Then Kevin Love dropped out, leaving Millsap as one of four bigs on the Team USA roster. That might have guaranteed his spot, since a four man post rotation makes sense on any team. His counterparts were Andre Drummond, Boogie Cousins, and Anthony Davis.

Millsap was a different skill set to the other three. Millsap could operate in the midrange area and even shoot from the outside. In some ways his skill set was perfect for the international game. Now it could be that he was not in game shape, but Millsap’s skills should have kept him on the roster once he was invited.

It could be Coach Mike Krzyzewski is figuring on playing more small ball, which team USA has done in the past. Yet, Millsap could fit there too. And it does not explain why Millsap is gone, but Plumlee is still there.

Aug 1, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; USA Team Blue guard John Wall (30) dribbles the ball during the USA Basketball Showcase at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall

I have less concern with the subtraction of Beal than I do than I do the cut of John Wall. Wall was brought in when Paul George went down with his broken leg. Like Millsap, it is possible that Wall was not in game shape when he arrived.

Team USA is point guard rich. They will probably use lineups with multiple point guards at times (Stephen Curry). However, Wall brings some skills that the other points don’t necessarily have. Outside of Chris Paul are Derek Rose, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving. Wall is a better creator for others than either of those three. He is also a strong on ball defender.

Wall only became an acceptable three point shooter last season and that could be something that worked against him. Also, the presence of Jim Boeheim on the coaching staff means that Team USA will be playing zone a fair amount. That slightly devalues Wall’s individual defensive skills.

Again it is hard to miss that Wall is gone, but Kyrie Irving remains.

Home Cooking?

Giving Coach Mike Krzyzewski the benefit of the doubt here requires knowing what he is looking for. One thing he prizes in international play is shooting. This could explain Irving over Wall, except last year Irving was a 36% 3-pt shooter and Wall was a…gasp…35% 3-pt shooter. It does not explain Millsap at all.

I do not think that Coach Mike Krzyzewski is intentionally promoting his former Blue Devils over others because they are Blue Devils and it makes his program look good. I think he is promoting his former players because he is comfortable with their games and he knows what they can do and can’t do. He doesn’t have to guess. The question is, how much of that is acceptable at the cost of superior talents on the court?

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