The moment Syracuse fans have been anxiously awaiting all offseason has finally come, and sent fans into celebration. Judah Mintz will return for his sophomore season after testing the NBA Draft waters. By all accounts, Mintz had a good Spring, especially at the combine.
He seemed like a lock to get drafted at some point, likely in the later part of the second round and receive at least a two-way contract to play in both the NBA and G League next year.
Instead of fighting his way into the league that way, Mintz decided to go back to school for at least another year. Many talent evaluators and draft experts believe that could catapult him from the back half of the second round potentially into the first next year should he continue to develop, specifically when it comes to his ability as a perimeter shooter.
From a team perspective, this changes everything for Syracuse. Had Mintz not returned, the Orange would have gone into next year with just one player who had averaged double figures at the collegiate level, which was JJ Starling who scored about 11 points per game at Notre Dame last year.
In a statement to ESPN, Mintz said, “There’s definitely a feeling of unfinished business. Last year, we showed glimpses of what we can be as a unit and as a young team…it’s time for Syracuse to get back to where we belong.”
Mintz added that Adrian Autry’s presence played a big role in his decision, saying, “Coach Autry was heavy in my recruiting and the coach that I’ve connected with since day one. Coach Boeheim’s resume speaks for itself, but Coach Red is the perfect man for the job.”
With Mintz, Syracuse now has one of the best guards in the ACC leading the way, and forming an elite backcourt pairing with Starling. Not only does he provide about 17 points and five assists per game, based on last year’s totals, he makes everyone better by having a dynamic point guard on the floor.
Perhaps even more so though, he’s a player opponents have to game plan for. When he gets double teamed or the defense collapses on one of his lightning quick drives to the basket, it leaves someone open, whether that’s Starling, Chance Westry, Benny Williams, Chris Bell, Justin Taylor, Maliq Brown or Naheem McLeod. Mintz is a good enough passer to take advantage of that.
The blessing and the curse of basketball is how much one player impacts the game. After all, there are just five on the floor at a time. Mintz is so dynamic that he takes a Syracuse roster that had nothing but question marks outside of Starling and makes it top half of the ACC caliber. That’s just based on what he did last year. Mintz will certainly be an even better version of himself next season.
There are still a lot of questions surrounding this team. Can Williams prove to be the player he was towards the end of last season on a consistent basis. Is Westry healthy? Can Bell and/or Taylor become the shooters they were advertised as? Can McLeod develop from a backup center to at least a serviceable starter? All things that need to be answered. For Syracuse to compete in a meaningful way next year, at least some of those have to be answered in the affirmative. However, having Mintz back provides one giant positive answer and makes the other questions more likely to end up favorable.