The backcourt will be relying on a number of unproven guards next season.
No need to overanalyze Michael Carter-Williams’ decision to enter the NBA Draft. He’s known for awhile he was leaving, and we’ve assumed it as well. Just like Dion Waiters last year, MCW is a likely lottery selection. Disparaging anyone for seizing guaranteed millions and an NBA roster spot would be foolish. Carter-Williams helped lead the program to its first Final Four in 10 years, and solidifies future recruiting by reinforcing the message Syracuse can be an express line to the pros.
But now that Carter-Williams is officially gone, where does that leave the rest of the squad? Certainly, MCW’s departure makes the heads turn to CJ Fair. If SU’s leading scorer leaves as well, you’ll have major concerns from the fan base entering next season. That would mean Syracuse would have to recover from the loss of its top four players.
You could argue the Orange lost its top four players from the 2011-12 season (Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo), and you’d have good case. Syracuse responded by reaching the Final Four. But attempting that same feat again would be an intimidating task. Keeping the team’s most consistent player for his senior year would have a stabilizing impact on next year’s group.
With or without Fair, next year’s team will be forced to depend on unproven guards. There’s huge talent coming in, but they’ll have a huge void to fill with Carter-Williams NBA-bound.
Five-star recruit Tyler Ennis will be the starting point guard. The incoming freshman already has the maturity of an older player, but it’s still obviously tough to project how a true freshman will perform in that role.
Minus the Georgetown game in the Big East Tournament, Trevor Cooney never found his shot this season. Orange Nation will never forget his ill-fated final possession, down three, at the end of the Final Four loss to Michigan. It’s a microcosm of the limits of his game. Considered a disappointment as a redshirt freshman, he’ll have to work this summer on expanding his skill set. He was OK on defense atop the zone, but brought little to the table offensively outside erratic outside shooting. He’s not a very good ball handler, so when his shot isn’t dropping he isn’t very useful. He shot less than 27% on three-pointers on the year.
Three-star shooting guard Ron Patterson should see immediate playing time because Jim Boeheim won’t have much of a choice but to throw him out there. Like Cooney, he’s a shooter who plays good defense. The problem is, also like Cooney, Patterson has below average handles.
Duke transfer Michael Gbinije has the tools to contribute right away, but at 6-7 he’s a guard/forward tweener. He could be the first SU player in recent years to regularly switch between the wing and the top of the 2-3 zone. Or we’ll see if he mostly plays at the top this season due to depth concerns at guard.
Syracuse is at a point in its evolution as a program where Boeheim annually replenishes its recruiting cupboard. But new faces can often times mean speed bumps. En route to Atlanta, SU didn’t have to rely on freshman or new faces. MCW had a year under his belt, Southerland and Triche were seniors, Fair was a junior, and the pivot was manned by Baye Keita and Rak. Next season the Orange will be looking at two freshmen, one transfer, and one returning player in Cooney to prop up the backcourt. SU has to hope CJ returns, and on the inside Christmas and Dajuan Coleman refine their post game.
The key for guard play may come down to the super frosh, Ennis, who will be relied upon immensely for a true freshman. He’ll be the only elite dribbler on the roster. Better hope the Canadian and his fellow underclassmen guards step up to the task.
Posted: Andrew Kanell