The time has come. Maybe it’s sooner than everyone thought, but it was going to happen eventually. After watching him play in person two nights in a row at the Barclays Center, Judah Mintz is the most talented player Syracuse had in a long time, and Jim Boeheim’s Jonny Flynn comparison has never looked more true. Sure, maybe Mintz doesn’t make that dunk against Rutgers, but he is a special player.
It seems that we here at The Fizz aren’t the only ones taking notice of Mintz’s play over the past couple of nights. Yes, he ran out of gas a little in the second half and overtime last night, but Boeheim said after the game that he’s in tremendous shape and that when you play 35+ minutes on back-to-back nights and two overtime games, that happens. He shouldn’t have to be the only offense on the team until Jesse Edwards finally starts getting going late in the game.
For over 30 minutes, Mintz was the only person creating shots. He was setting up Benny Williams and Chris Bell (even if it didn’t show up in the assist column), and then he got the ball to Edwards. With Joe Girard III struggling mightily, Mintz stepped up big-time in the first half with 16 points. The freshman phenom averaged 18 points a game over two nights in Brooklyn, and also totaled six assists and four steals. But, as he ran out of gas the turnovers showed up on Tuesday night. Six of those derailed the Orange offense late, and having to bring the ball up the court against high-level pressure defense wore on him.
There were many more negatives than positives, including the fact that he seems to shine bright in the biggest moments. Multiple times over the past few nights he stole a pass at the top of the zone a la Tyus Battle, Trevor Cooney, Michael Carter-Williams, and Flynn among others who have been terrific atop the zone, and then slammed on the other end. His one-handed hammers are electric.
Now, he’s already being mentioned in NBA circles. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman has him going 26th overall in his latest mock, and says about the Syracuse star, “Mintz should creep his way onto NBA radars with his ball-handling and off-the-dribble footwork for creation, mid-range shot-making, secondary playmaking, rim pressure, and defensive energy. Scouts will presumably want to see more three-point shooting to buy a 172-pound guard for the next level.”
That’s a really good description of who Mintz is as a player. His two biggest weaknesses right now are outside shooting, and control when going up in the lane. Sometimes he gets a bit out of control going to the basket and throws up a wild shot or turns the ball over. When he consistently starts finding the rolling/flashing big to the basket (Edwards, Williams, or Hima), he’ll stand out even more.
But, this is not the time to criticize Mintz. Williams said in the locker room after the game that the two of them were talking about how cool it was they were starting for Syracuse in a game in New York City. That’s pretty awesome to hear and something that should make Orange fans happy. They have players who are buying in, and despite the loss, have a bright future ahead. Colgate may have demoralized SU, but it’s clearly got more fight than ever, and Mintz is leading the charge.