Let’s get this out of the way first. It’s early. It’s incredibly early. Yes, Syracuse has played just two games. And yes, those two games were against Bryant and Niagara. But Kadary Richmond looks good. Really good.
Starting in place of Buddy Boeheim who will be out the next two games after coming in contact with a player who tested positive for COVID-19, Richmond scored 16 points in 35 minutes. But besides scoring, Richmond poked away four steals and had three blocks.
He’s already the best defender at the top of the zone, since Joe Girard doesn’t have the length — and Boeheim the athleticism — of Richmond. Last season, the top of the 2-3 zone was horrendous. It was the main reason Syracuse finished 116th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.
Too often teams were able to pass the ball inside the 2-3 zone, and facilitate offense from the charity stripe. By facilitating at the free throw line, the zone collapses, leaving open men from three point range. With Richmond’s length, he should be able to deter easy passes to the soft spot of the zone.
Against Richmond, Niagara didn’t shoot many threes. Instead, shooters went over to Girard’s portion of the zone for a better matchup. Another reason Syracuse’s defense struggled last season was because teams were getting too many open looks from three. That’s still going to be an issue this season with Boeheim and Girard. And while those two are better shooters, Richmond deters shots.
Besides defense, Richmond may be the best of the three at getting to the bucket. He has yet to make a three for SU, but that’s not his game right now. Besides, SU has plenty of other options from deep.
Instead, Richmond gives the Orange who can penetrate in the lane and get to the bucket. With Elijah Hughes gone, it wasn’t clear if Syracuse had a guard who could do that this season. Maybe Alan Griffin can consistently, but that didn’t happen much at Illinois.
When Boeheim comes back, Richmond will continue to play. His strengths and weaknesses mesh well with those of Boeheim and Girard. Now, it’s more of a decision of how much he should play, and if he will crack the starting lineup if Girard’s struggles continue.