Elijah Hughes was drafted 39th overall by the Utah Jazz five days ago. That’s great news, but it leaves a huge question mark on Syracuse Basketball. The newest member of the Jazz led the ACC in scoring last season with nearly 20 points each contest, he was this team’s go-to bucket. Not something that’s easy to replace.
One way to deal with this loss is to bulk up on defense. In 2018, the Syracuse defense was superb. The Orange ranked 10th in the country and had plenty of success well into March. Last year wasn’t nearly the same story. A defense graded 174th in the country isn’t usually the product of a Boeheim-led squad. The famed 2-3 zone is often what keeps opposing teams stifling for points, last season that wasn’t the case. If this 2020-21 team can come out with a much better defense they’ll be fine, but that’s most likely won’t be the case, we saw last year’s team struggle, almost all of them are back.
So what are the options for this offense, who will Boeheim lean on? It comes down to three guys, Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim, and Alan Griffin.
Girard scored 12 points per game as a freshman. Freshmen don’t often have a huge impact on a team led by Boeheim, so that’s a great sign for his future. There’s a good chance he takes that much-needed step up this season and provides those points this offense will need. It’s not like we haven’t seen him do it before, don’t forget the NC State game last season in which Hughes was hurt early and Girard had to take over. It ended in a 79-74 loss, but Girard showed he could score. 30 points from the freshman that he called his, “worst 30-point performance” ever. There’s no reason not to be hopeful for what Girard brings in 2020.
Boeheim is another option for this team offensively. 15 points per game in the sophomore season proved to be a great compliment to Hughes’ game. The coach’s son was always able to be a killer from the three-point line, shooting 37% from distance last season. Athleticism has been the biggest critique of his game while on the hill, but if he can take advantage of more shot opportunities it won’t matter. This team needs scoring, if he can provide it fans won’t care if he looks a bit awkward with the ball in his hands.
The third option to fill the hole this team has offensively is transfer, Alan Griffin. The 6’5’’ wing transferred from Illinois back in April of this year. In only 18 minutes played and one game started last season, Griffin scored nearly nine points every time out and shot the ball very well, over 48% from the floor, and 41% from the arc. As a starter on the Orange, griffin will play a lot more than 18 minutes per game. In doing so, his number will shoot up. If he can keep those shot percentages high, the scoring will come with more opportunity. Now don’t get your hopes too high, don’t expect him to walk in and be Elijah Hughes because he won’t. Though you can expect him to come and make a big difference, hopefully, one that makes Orange fans forget the team lost a big-time scorer.