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The Ringer: Coach K’s zone damaging his players’ draft stock

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?

[The Ringer]


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

28 Comments for The Ringer: Coach K’s zone damaging his players’ draft stock

  1. trumpetguy
    5:36 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    OK, I’ll bite. Which UK big guy will be drafted ahead of Dukes Marvin Bagley because Duke employed too much zone?

    • BBNDan7
      7:31 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

      None, but it still effected their stock. If you look Bagley started to “fall” as soon as duke went zone

    • Cokely53
      7:38 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

      It’s not about just UK players. It’s about any player that might pass them. Bagely was a lock at number 1 before the season. Is that the case anymore? Maybe not.

  2. Catlogic15
    5:38 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    Will affect their draft position not one spot.

  3. oruacat2
    5:46 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    I have my problems with Coach K and Duke, but putting team success ahead of individual players’ draft positions isn’t one of them.

  4. Catcasey1
    5:47 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    Trumpet go back to ur Dookie web site

    • trumpetguy
      6:31 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

      Catcasey, ouch that Duke comment hurt. I along with most on this site have NEVER watched a Duke game unless they were playing UK at the time. I, also with many on this site, have seen more UK games than Cal has. That being said, my question still stands. Article insinuated NBA guys will not draft Duke guys very high because they play zone defenses? So again, which UK big guy will be drafted ahead of Duke’s Marvin Bagley?…….seriously…..Now off topic, ESPN hoops analyst Seth Greenberg said twice today that for the THIRD year in a row, NO impact freshmen were in this years Final Four! His point being that maturity and experience are indeed big factors toward being among the last four standing. Clearly everyone wants talent, but let us not forget that both Derrick Willis and Dominique Hawkins were big contributors last year. Without naming Cal or Coach K, he inferred at least, that it is very difficult to win at the highest level with a predominant freshmen cast.

    • makeitstop
      8:18 am March 27, 2018 Permalink

      I agree with Greenberg. Apart from Michigan led by Chris Webber and our 2012 Anthony Davis team I can’t remember a freshman dominated team that won the title, and I may be forgetting someone but that goes back 25 years. I give Bill Self some credit because he was all in on the one and done system early on if you recall, he was our primary competition – but watching Kansas I was surprised at how many upperclassmen and how few freshman contributors there were – I think the first freshman off the bench is the sixth man. Im not suggesting Cal abandon it but it is worth tweaking bc unless u have an NBA all Star big man whose already ahead of his time u aren’t winning championships if history is a guide ( and it usually is). I love watching Duke flame out w freshman, and I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but I just wonder if part of Coach K‘s motivation in getting these top recruits is making sure we don’t get them? bc w Bagley, this team would’ve been young but way better. Like making sure ur in conference rival doesn’t get that pitcher u can’t hit. In that sense, blocking us, he’s been successful. Zion won’t fit his style, but he would’ve made a big difference for us especially on a more experienced team.

  5. KYJelly
    5:48 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    I could see this coming into play in a more stacked draft class, perhaps.

    The better comparison to show high school kids would be Jahlil Okafor & KAT. Okafor was a lock for the top draft pick all year, but Cal helped develop him and pushed him past the Duke big man while Coach K used zone that year to attempt to mask his limitations.

    • makeitstop
      8:29 am March 27, 2018 Permalink

      Excellent point. And where are they now? KAT is an all star and mega star and Okafor is odd man out. Of course u could argue K’s zone and his offense masked okafir’s liability and he fell less in the draft than he would’ve, but I’d use this pitch w big men for sure. Capel may have an an$wer if asked – oh shoot that was a typo my bad.

  6. catsarerunnin
    5:50 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    I doubt it hurts but it would be great if it did. Cal would definitely take advantage.

  7. FlatTopsAndBlockedShots
    5:57 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    The Ringer’s article also shines light onto Bill Self. Self says in more PR appropriate words that these kids are stupid and you don’t need to teach them since they are just here for a year. Also, going to dook you get worse apparently, the book Duke Sucks also has an entire chapter dedicated to this phenomenon.

    • symphonist41169
      8:13 am March 27, 2018 Permalink

      I’ve read that book and highly recommend it.

  8. RealCatsFan
    5:57 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    Any disadvantage this could present to dook for attracting future recruits will be quickly rectified by another duffel bag full of cash.

  9. Smyrna_Cat
    6:05 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    This article seems a bit silly. And yes, we already know Duke big guys can’t play D.

  10. bruce122767
    6:10 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    He should coach his team to win games and not worry about draft stock. If kids don’t like that philosophy then they can choose another school to attend.

    • Cletis75
      9:03 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah, I think that’s what the point of the article was.

  11. BBN_strive_4_9
    6:11 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    Do defense actually matter in the NBA tho

    • symphonist41169
      8:14 am March 27, 2018 Permalink

      No, but grammar do.

    6:13 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    How come not one post about Matt Jones politics has a report section?

  13. kybirdieman
    7:00 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    What a joke. He is still outrecruiting us!

    • timbo
      7:41 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

      You got a mouse in your pocket?

  14. timbo
    7:39 pm March 26, 2018 Permalink

    “Draft position” isn’t the point, knucklehead. The point is that the zone was used to prop up the coach and the program, it was the easy out. If he cared about the kids, he would have gone the hard route and forced them to learn to play defense, even if it meant they lost 10-12 pointless games from Oct. to Dec. Do you get it yet? It’s not “team success”, it’s masking or attempting to hide weakness, instead of making them better…which benefits them AND the team. Do you get it NOW???

  15. jameehkyfan
    12:01 am March 27, 2018 Permalink

    Seems the rat looking guy is springing his own rat trap. He spoke so bad about cal and the one and done, yet now look. Was it fear that he knows they have to stay for years to seem like better players by hiding their weakness with zone to make him seem to be a better coach? He is old, times have changed and his ways weren’t working but now he is attempting the very thing he spoke out against. Does this not prove he is a hypocrite? Players have even spoken how he has spoken ill will against cal and uk to try to gain advantage in recruiting yet it didn’t work. The sudden change in recruiting doesn’t make me think it’s cal losing it, it makes me think of the rat trying to get the cheese anyway he can. Maybe the fact is he has one foot in the basketball retirement grave. Just my thoughts.