That’s Debatable: Impact of Kyrie Irving’s Injury on Duke

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at

This Week’s Topic: News was released yesterday that Duke superstar point guard Kyrie Irving could be out from a month to the rest of the season with a toe injury.  How will this impact the nation’s #1 team and its team chemistry?  Does this mean that the way-too-early undefeated season talk is now ludicrous?  Give us your thoughts.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

An injury to the starting point guard of the best team in the nation? Yes. That matters. The argument could be made that Kyrie Irving had been the best player on the Duke team in the early going, and now without him for the near future, or potentially the whole season, the Blue Devils will have adjust their roles on the fly. Luckily for Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has a couple of excellent guards in reserve – look no further than sophomore Andre Dawkins’ excellent first performance in the absence of Irving – but while the loss of Irving in the short term could be dealt with, the potential loss of Irving for the season would be a blow to their national title hopes. Sure, Duke still has enough talent on that roster to remain the favorite for the national title, but anytime you lose one of the most dynamic players in the country, that’s an awful blow. Until more is known, the Devils will need to plan for the rest of their season as if Irving will be unavailable, with their backcourt taking on new roles and new minutes, but if there is anywhere around the country where the potential loss of such a player is manageable, it is in Durham.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

The way-too-early undefeated talk was always ludicrous, but that’s why it’s fun.  The truth is: Duke is a very good, arguably great, team that’s won eight good games.  To go undefeated they’d have to win 32 more in a row.  That alone is ludicrous.  Talk shouldn’t get serious until February.  I don’t think Irving’s injury will hurt “undefeated” chances unless he’s out for longer than a month.  Right now Duke is looking at cupcake city until Miami (home) on January 2.  Miami is a pretty good, although inconsistent, team, but I don’t think they’re good enough to go into Cameron and win with or without Irving.  He seamlessly integrated into the offense to start the season, and I think he can do it again.  If anything this could help Duke’s team mature: especially guys like Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee.  Curry especially could see a lot of extra time at the point spot, which should make the team run better without Irving (so far they’ve struggled at times without his presence).  Duke won’t be better without Irving, that’s ridiculous.  But the time without him could really help some of the role players improve with in-game experience.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

It doesn’t matter much if he’s out for a month or two. If Kyrie Irving is out for the entire season, the primary impact will be on Duke’s NCAA title chances. They’ll still win the ACC and probably get a top seed in the tournament but the loss of Irving will be felt in the later rounds when they run into similarly talented opponents. The schedule between now and the end of January isn’t tough at all, even without Irving. The toughest games are road trips to Florida State and NC State, two games in which the Blue Devils will still be strong favorites. As has been pointed out by many, Duke does not play a currently ranked team for the rest of the season though I have a feeling North Carolina and possibly Temple will find their way back into the rankings at some point. In all likelihood, Coach K will turn to Andre Dawkins as his fifth starter and shift Nolan Smith over to point guard. That shouldn’t be a problem for the experienced Smith, already averaging five assists per game. As for the undefeated talk, I’ve maintained it has been ludicrous from the beginning. Duke is not some otherworldly team. They are the best but they’re going to lose at some point during the regular season. I don’t know who will beat them but it’s going to happen. This is college basketball where anything can happen on any given night.

David Ely, RTC contributor

If Irving’s injury turns out to be less severe than what’s currently being reported, then his time out affects us the viewer a lot more than it will affect Duke the basketball team. Have you seen Duke’s schedule for the next couple of weeks? It’s a joke. The Blue Devils leave the state of North Carolina only twice before February (Jan. 12 at Florida State and Jan. 30 at St. Johns), and their instate road games aren’t exactly murderer’s row. Duke will not be tested on the perimeter until it faces Wake Forest on Jan. 22, and the Blue Devils won’t have to face a game-changing point guard until they travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech at the end of February. By then Irving should be back to his normal electric self or darn near close. This could actually be a positive for Coach K & Co. as Irving’s absence will send more minutes to Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry. The more crunch time action those two get under their belts before March, the better off the Blue Devils will be.  BUT … if Irving is out the whole year then that’s a tremendous blow to Duke’s title hopes. Without Irving Duke is in the same boat it was in last year — the Blue Devils become a plodding halfcourt team. That formula did lead to a title last year, but Coach K doesn’t have Jon Scheyer around anymore to extend the defense. Dawkins and Curry definitely are talented, but Duke’s not winning another championship unless Irving’s there to speed up the tempo and wreak havoc.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The news that Mike Krzyzewski released last night revealing that Kyrie Irving’s toe injury could be a serious situation requiring the dynamic young point guard to miss the entire season is a blockbuster event.  Let’s get one thing straight — if Irving is out for the remainder of the season or if he comes back at half-speed, Duke will not win the national championship.  This is a fact.  You’re probably shaking your head because you recognize that Duke still has two All-Americans in its lineup, and that’s two more than most teams have.  It won’t matter.  Remember that Duke won the national championship last season through a synergistic relationship between players who were very good at certain things — notably, Brian Zoubek dominating the offensive glass and anchoring the post defense, Jon Scheyer always finding the right person in the right spot, and Kyle Singler/Nolan Smith making shots when needed.  Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are nice players, but they’re not up to replacing the value that the Zoubek/Scheyer combination brought to bear; Irving’s talents at creating, penetrating and keeping defenses honest (the holy trinity) mitigated those losses.  It won’t become apparent until ACC play hits next month, but with Irving in the lineup Duke is a clear and present #1 team; without him, they’re simply another of a group of 8-12 who have a reasonable shot at cutting down the nets. 

Ned Reddick, RTC contributor

If Kyrie is only out a month, it makes the undefeated talk a little premature, but not completely unreasonable as the Blue Devils are entering an easy part of their schedule after a brutal opening stretch. If he is out over a month and he misses some time during ACC play it becomes much more problematic as even though the ACC is down and the Blue Devils are very good you have to figure that the Blue Devils will come out flat one night and every team will be bringing their “A” game against them. Without a transcendent player like Irving, which he appears to be, the Blue Devils don’t have another player (neither Singler nor Smith are quite that good) who can put the team on his back on that night. Having said that, if Irving misses a significant amount of time it is uncertain if he will come back as the dynamic player that he was before the injury due to both deconditioning and any lingering effects of the injury. If Irving is out the entire season, the undefeated talk is out the window and the question of who the favorite to win the title becomes much more interesting. The Blue Devils would still be one of the favorites, but would no longer be the undisputed favorite.

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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5 responses to “That’s Debatable: Impact of Kyrie Irving’s Injury on Duke”

  1. Ben says:

    Question: Suppose Irving’s out for the year, who’s the FOY in the ACC?

    How about Joe Harris? How is no one talking about this kid?

    I mean, he’ll probably come to earth during the ACC slate, but he was pretty sick in the wins over Minn and VT. Seriously. No one has said word one about him.

  2. greg says:

    so when they lose they’ll drop 10 spots in the polls. Precedent already set with Purdue.

  3. Matt B. says:

    I don’t think that Purdue is a good comparison. First, Hummel was also Purdue’s emotional leader, which Irving is not. Second, Injuries or not, the polls are much more fluid in the preseason than they are in January (likely time of Dukes first loss). With Hummel, there was already president with just how bad they were without him, as they struggled with bad teams at first. If Duke’s first loss isn’t to a terrible team, they will stay in the top five.

  4. tallguy says:


    “if Irving is out for the remainder of the season or if he comes back at half-speed, Duke will not win the national championship”

    Followed by this:

    ” without him, they’re simply another of a group of 8-12 who have a reasonable shot at cutting down the nets. ”

    make up your mind (the correct response is the latter, by the way).

  5. Tom W says:

    TG: the first statement is my claim, whereas the second is referring to the general consensus in terms of Duke’s odds. My fault – shoulda been clearer.

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