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Projecting Marek Dolezaj’s Senior Season Improvement

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On his 22nd birthday, let’s examine what role Marek Dolezaj will play for the Orange next season. 

The rising senior will be one of the team leaders for an experienced team. If Alan Griffin is cleared to play, Joe Girard will likely be the youngest starter. In his freshmen campaign, Girard was already a team leader according to Quincy Guerrier. 

In all likelihood, Dolezaj will continue to improve from a junior year where he averaged 10 points and six rebounds. That was a big jump from a sophomore season where the Slovakian averaged just four points.

If we’re using a linear trend line, that would presume that Dolezaj is ready to take off and become one of the best players in the ACC. That’s not necessarily unattainable. But instead, let’s take a more conservative approach in this hypothetical and project that Dolezaj doesn’t take as big of a jump as last season.

So far Syracuse has not added a transfer big man, or even an incoming freshman center. Instead the Orange have whiffed on both options. 

As the roster sits right now, Dolezaj will continue to play close to 40 minutes a game. Another year in the program should improve his offensive game and, fingers crossed, his rebounding. Sure SU would greatly benefit from Dolezaj averaging around 14 points per contest. The last SU big to do that was Rakeem Christmas, when he led the team with 17.5 points in 2014-15.

Without a certified star on the roster, everyone should see a boost in shot attempts. And since he has seniority, Dolezaj should call for his own shots. He started to do it to an extent this past season. He needs to do it more next year. 

Granted he’ll probably be a third option at best behind Girard and Buddy Boeheim. But he’s the most offensively skilled post-player on the roster. Bourama Sidibe improved towards the end of the season but Dolezaj has more moves. He’s also got something of a shooting touch. 

Dolezaj probably won’t average 15 a game, but if he puts up 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, that’s nothing to scoff at. 

Averaging those numbers next season would mark just a slight improvement in Dolezaj’s game. Unlike this past season, it wouldn’t require a big jump for the senior. Like other European bigs, Dolezaj is a terrific passer and often finds open players on the perimeter. For a team as focused on the three as SU is, setting up an inside-out offense could be beneficial. Put the ball in Dolezaj’s hands and let him run the offense, finding open shooters. Who better to trust than your veteran leader who doubles as one of the best passers on the squad.

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