We’re back to our top returning guards in the Pac-12 countdown and we’re coming back with our second straight Oregon Duck. Yesterday, we slotted St. Johns transfer L.J. Figueroa at #5 in our rankings, and today, Chris Duarte is the man of the hour, coming in at #4 in the countdown. Duarte, like Figueroa, is a premier defender, coming off a season in which he ranked second in the Pac-12 with 1.7 steals per game. With Figueroa, the defending steals leader in the Big East, and Duarte, the Ducks have possibly the most fearsome defensive backcourt in the league. Duarte’s offensive numbers in 2019 didn’t pop off the chart, as he played second-fiddle in the Oregon offense to Pac-12 player of the year Payton Pritchard. However, Duarte still averaged 12.9 points per game, while crashing the boards for 5.6 rebounds a contest, both marks ranking second on the team. With Pritchard off to the NBA, Duarte will be the go-to-guy in Eugene, and expect his numbers to take a jump across the board.
Duarte didn’t always get the most opportunities last season, but when he did, he showed what he’s capable of, and that should have Oregon fans for this coming winter. In an early-season overtime loss to #6 Gonzaga, Duarte posted 16 points and 9 rebounds, and when conference season picked up, so did Duarte’s numbers. In a three-game Pac-12 winning streak against Utah, Arizona State, and #24 Arizona, Duarte combined for 51 points and 21 rebounds. Three games later, he put forth his signature effort of the year, facing Pac-12 contenders USC in a game that went to two overtimes. Duarte dropped 30 points on the Trojans, while collecting 11 rebounds for his lone double-double of the year. If that wasn’t enough, the junior guard was a terror defensively, notching eight steals. He followed it up with 24 points and 6 steals against UCLA. Those two efforts against the two next-best teams in the conference should thrill Oregon fans, who were looking primed for a Final Four run behind Pritchard, but Duarte looks up to the task.
Duarte’s biggest hindrance to big efforts were his three-point shot. He shot 34% from deep on the year, but in an 8-game stretch that lasted from the Utah game to the UCLA clash, he shot 44% on his 3-point offerings and averaged over 18 points per game. If he keeps that type of consistency in 2020-21, both he and the Ducks have an extremely high ceiling.