After losing his top three offensive options and nearly 64 percent of his team’s scoring from last season, Jim Boeheim is searching for guys who can put the biscuit in the basket. In clutch situations, in whose hands will the legend entrust the rock? The easy answer should have been Malachi Richardson, but let’s not talk about that right now. With last year’s Big Three gone, Syracuse needs a new go-to guy.
The last freshman to lead Boeheim’s team in scoring was Donte Greene, who averaged 17.7 points per game all the way back in 2007-08. Now, Tyus Battle has a chance to break the diaper dandies’ cold spell.
Battle has the skillset and mentality to take Michael Gbinije’s torch as the team’s tall, lanky, versatile go-to guy. The Orange’s top incoming recruit is a 6’ 6” combo guard without any real holes in his game. Here’s what ESPN lists as Battle’s two biggest weaknesses: he used to be a bad jump shooter (he’s since developed the perimeter J into a strength), and he now might be too muscular (a year ago, the knock on him was that he needed to bulk up). Gbinije’s 2015-16 usage rate — the percentage of a team’s possessions a player ends by shooting or turning the ball over while on the floor — was right around 25 percent; if Boeheim gives Battle the keys to a quarter of SU’s possessions, the five-star stud could easily pour in 15-plus every night.
Tyler Lydon could very well be Syracuse’s best overall player throughout this upcoming season. After averaging a shade over 10 points as a freshman, Lydon is the only double-digit scorer to return this season. Players who can both drain threes and block shots — providing the rare combination of floor spacing and rim protection — are extremely valuable in the current era of basketball, where we know that layups and triples are the game’s most efficient shots.
That doesn’t mean Lydon will score the most points, though. For a big man to lead the Orange in scoring, he has to feast on the block. Lydon didn’t flash much of a back-to-the-basket game as a freshman, so unless he gains a lot of strength and develops a few new post moves during the offseason, the Elizaville product likely won’t grab the team scoring title.
Franklin Howard, another sophomore-to-be, should take a huge step forward as SU’s presumed starting point guard, but is more of a distributor and was horrendously inefficient (28.6 percent from the field) last year. Transfer John Gillon dropped more than 13 points per game at Colorado State in 2015-16, but hasn’t seen a full slate of Power Five competition. If Tyler Roberson were going to develop a polished offensive game, it probably would have happened by now (although you could have said the same about Rakeem Christmas heading into his senior campaign).
If I had to wager, I’d pick Tyus Battle to lead Syracuse in scoring this winter.