After a regular season that didnt garner much attention outside of the Atlantic 10, Josh Duncan
made himself known during an Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament. His offensive output increased nearly 50% in the four games he played, while his rebounding numbers went up slightly as well. By far the most encouraging thing we saw from Duncan in his two week run in the tournament was the increased diversity in his means of scoring. While the main staple of his game is as a catch and shoot type of player, the senior showed flashes of other aspects of his game.
At 69 and a rock solid 238 pounds, Duncan has a strong frame that reminds of Oklahomas Blake Griffin
. He is slightly undersized for the post at the next level, but his versatility makes him appealing as a face the basket-type power forward. The biggest limitation for Duncan is his lack of tremendous athleticism. He doesnt possess a great vertical leap, which severely hampers him in the post, as well as on the glass. While he may be able to take mismatched post players off the dribble in college, his first step isnt all that impressive, and he doesnt appear to have the necessary quickness to guard perimeter players in the NBA. With that said, though, Duncan does possess a bruising frame, one that is capable of handling and dishing out punishment.
Duncan is really an anomaly for the college game, in that we dont often see players that are so physically imposing, spend so much time out on the perimeter, but this is where he makes his living. Duncans shooting form is unorthodox to say the least; he pushes the ball and has a tendency to contort his body when he shoots. Despite the less than picture perfect form, you cant really argue with a 42% shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Duncan is a smart player who knows how to maneuver without the ball to get himself open looks. He likes to pick and pop, stepping back behind the play to set up. Duncan also does a nice job of rotating behind the play working as a safety valve when teammates find their drive to the basket stalled. If left open on the outside he can do some damage, but he isnt a player that is going to create his own shot from the outside.
In the four tournament games Duncan drove to the basket a lot more than he did during the regular season, this is an area that he excels in though, connecting on 70% of his shots around the rim, excluding post moves according to Synergy Sports Technology. While his quickness off the dribble isnt tremendous and his ball handling skills are just average, if given a line to the basket, Duncan showed that he can attack the rim and score, aided greatly by his chiseled frame, soft hands, nice touch and excellent feel for the game. This added aggressiveness is particularly evident in the number of free throws he attempted. After averaging just 3.4 free throw attempts per game during the regular season, the senior upped his attempts to nearly 8 per game during his four tournament games. In general, Duncan was much more aggressive during the tournament, something we didnt see during the regular season, partially due to the tremendous amount of offensive balance Xavier has.
From what we have seen of Duncan in the post, it is clear he needs to improve on this area of his game. His back to the basket game is pretty underdeveloped, consisting of an inconsistent hook shot and facing up on his defender. While he was able to operate well enough against defenders of equal or smaller stature in the tournaments early rounds, he clearly struggled against Kevin Love
in the Elite 8. Duncans lack of explosiveness really hurts him here; since he doesnt do a great job of creating separation and he cant elevate over most defenders, he often has his shots blocked or altered in the post.
There is no question though, Duncan can score. When his number are adjusted to a 40 minute pace, he scoring output jumps to over 22 points per game, and we saw in the tournament what happens when he becomes a little more selfish on the offensive end. While his shooting percentages did drop somewhat, he still shot a solid 42% from the field.
Where Duncan does lose points though is with his ability to rebound. His 4.7 rebounds per game arent very impressive, not for a player with his frame, even when adjusting for minutes played. Playing in the Atlantic-10, there really is no reason why he shouldnt be doing a better job on the glass, as its not like he was going up against NBA post players every single night. It was pretty evident in the UCLA game just how much he needs to improve here, as Kevin Love
dominated him on the boards, often taking rebounds right out of his hands. Even though he doesnt have a tremendous vertical leap, with his strength, he should be able to outwork other players for the ball.
Defensively, there are going to be a lot of questions surrounding Duncan in regards to the NBA. Ignoring the fact that he doesnt get many blocks or steals, the real conundrum lies with just who will he match up with at the next level? He isnt fast enough laterally to cover most small forwards on the perimeter, and while he may be strong enough to hold his own against many power forwards, his lack of size, quickness and leaping ability will hurt his ability to alter shots and rebound. Duncan really looks like he will have to be the type of player that just busts his tail on the defensive side of the floor and develops into a scrappy defender.
At the end of the day it was a nice run in the tournament for Duncan and Xavier, but it may have been too little too late for the senior. While he certainly has drawn some intrigue, he still has a tremendous amount to prove. There is plenty to like about a strong 69 player who is a threat from the outside, but he will have to continue to prove his perimeter shooting prowess, as it looks like this will be how he makes his living at the next level. Duncan will have to be a guy that does all of the little things well in order to draw further interest from scouts. He certainly has shown that he has no qualms about deferring to teammates on the offensive side of the floor, now he must become a better rebounder and defender. A deep run by Xavier helped his stock, if for no other reason than the extra chances scouts had to see him on the national stage. Now Duncan needs to put together strong showings at events like Portsmouth (which hes already been invited to) and the Orlando pre-draft camp.