Catastrophe really does strike in threes. With Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney graduating, Malachi Richardson became the third domino to fall from SU’s starting lineup after officially declaring for the NBA Draft. The freshman’s jump to the Association leaves Syracuse scrambling to replace 13.4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and a tournament performance for the ages against top seeded Virginia.
While Richardson’s departure leaves Orange fans pulling their hair out, there are benefits from the McDonald’s All-American’s premature exit. For starters, the incoming players are capable of filling the void left by the Trenton native. Part of that comes from a fellow New Jersey product in Tyus Battle. The state’s top player is regarded as a shooting threat who can also put the ball on the floor a la Richardson. Along with Battle, fellow newcomer Matthew Moyer has similar qualities to Richardson with his length and athleticism. Couple Battle with Moyer and you’ve created a Richardson-esque player sans the wild head of hair. The Orange is further supported on the scoring front with the addition of Colorado State’s John Gillon. The guard put up 13.2 points per game for the Rams, an eerily similar number to that of the former Orange. The pieces are present to replace Richardson, but it will be a group effort comprised of three new arrivals.
However, there are definitely holes that need filling. The most notable quality Syracuse fans will miss from the 20-year-old’s game is his unparalleled confidence and poise that not many freshmen exhibit. While this was a lowlight in his SU career, the guard’s 0-11 shooting performance from deep against St. Johns showed he was not afraid to shoot the ball, regardless of the circumstances. Few, if any, first-years would have had the audacity to keep firing from deep and that confidence ultimately paid off in the NCAA Tournament against Virginia. The other component of Richardson’s game that Syracuse will desperately search for next season is his shot creating ability. The four star recruit’s jab step and crossover moves made opponents defensive efforts look silly. With Richardson and Gbinije’s departures, no one on the Orange’s roster is particularly reliable to create their own shot.
Syracuse still returns the majority of its integral pieces from last year’s Cinderella run and has added talented parts to replenish the losses, but Richardson’s NBA endeavors definitely cloud SU’s future.