The popular narrative nationally is that Mike Krzyzewski is the new master of the one-and-done system pioneered by John Calipari; however, for the second straight year, Duke didn’t make the Final Four despite having the most talented team in college basketball. Not only that, Coach K may be damaging his players’ draft stock because he’s so committed to the zone defense.
The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks has an interesting article out today about how Krzyzewski used the zone this season to mask Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley’s weaknesses on defense, specifically the pick-and-roll, and now, NBA scouts may be questioning when to draft them.
Even the best defensive big men need significant reps in the NBA before they are able to translate their production from college. [Karl] Towns combined the athleticism of Bagley and the instincts of Carter into one package without any of their weaknesses, and he was still a defensive liability at the next level for two and a half years. Since both Duke big men will be starting from a significantly lower point than Towns, it will likely take them much longer to become even adequate NBA defenders, and their ceilings are much lower. They will have to throw away almost everything they learned at Duke, since they spent the last two months guarding spots on the floor instead of individual men.
Calipari is famously not a fan of the zone defense, although Kentucky did use it briefly this season. In an October appearance on KSR, he said one reason he doesn’t like to use zone is because he knows his players won’t use it at the next level.
“Second thing: when they leave us, how much zone are they going to play? So, am I just trying to win college games? If I don’t have to, why would you play zone? I mean, if you have to surrender and play some zone, okay, maybe I would.”
“I don’t need to be a genius and, ‘look at him coach ’em up’ and ‘he put in a zone, this guy’s a genius. That’s Cal Ball.’ I don’t care about that. Am I helping these kids get better? Are we playing a way that we can win?”
Hmm. Can somebody show this to EJ Montgomery?