Yesterday, Elijah Hughes made official what was long expected. He’s going to the NBA.
Hughes finished first in the ACC in scoring at 19 points per game this past season. He also averaged almost 3.5 assists, almost five rebounds and a steal. Hughes was also named to the First-Team All-ACC.
Without Hughes, Syracuse’s season would have been an absolute disaster. The only reason SU ever had a chance to prolong its season was because of its star. Whether it was from three – where the redshirt junior shot 34 percent – from midrange, or on devastating dunks, Hughes did it all. He was the only complete scorer for the Orange. If the threes weren’t falling, he could drive the lane. If lanes were clogged, he could pull out his patented turnaround J. And more often than not, Hughes had the range to score from anywhere on the floor.
ESPN ranks Hughes as the 57th best player in the 2020 NBA Draft class, which places him near the end of the 2nd round. That’s around the same area Tyus Battle was projected before he went undrafted. However, Matthew Gutierrez of The Athletic spoke to one executive who said “he would love to draft Hughes and see what he can become as a pro.”
For Hughes, going pro is the right decision. Whether he gets drafted or not, he will be nabbed by some NBA team to see him develop in the G League. Returning to Syracuse does nothing to improve his stock. He already led the ACC in scoring. Scouts know his offensive prowess, and SU’s 2-3 zone doesn’t give NBA teams much of an indicator of how good a Syracuse player is defensively.
Staying at Syracuse would hurt Hughes’ stock since he would be another year older. Remember, he’s been in college for four years and would have his degree at the end of this semester. Some might say that an NCAA Tournament appearance would help Hughes. But scouts already have plenty of film of Hughes throughout this season leading the Orange. And besides, no one’s stock will improve from an NCAA Tournament appearance this season anyway.
All in all, it’s the right time for Hughes to chase his dreams. He gave Syracuse a fantastic season. Without the star forward, this season may have been the worst in Jim Boeheim’s tenure. Now SU fans should root on Hughes’ hopes in the NBA.