Syracuse received the best news for the 2023-24 season, its first under new head coach Adrian Autry when star guard Judah Mintz withdrew from the NBA Draft and announced his return to the Orange for his sophomore season. Undoubtedly this makes the Orange better in the short term and gives the program legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations after failing to make it for the prior two seasons.
However, there are still a couple of caveats with Mintz coming back in the long-term outlook of this team. This will surely be his second and final season with the Orange, as he hopes to make a further impression on NBA scouts and executives this season. So, the return of Mintz might take away playing time and opportunities from those who were expecting it thinking that he might not return, such as Quadir Copeland and Justin Taylor, members of last year’s roster. Plus, Kyle Cuffe Jr., who transferred in from Kansas, now slides down the at best the fourth guard on the roster instead of the third.
This can have a harmful domino effect, either with current players deciding to transfer out after the season, or it dissuades high school players from committing to the Orange because of a clear logjam. This wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, such as the departures of Jalen Carey and Brycen Goodine from the 2019-20 team because of the nature of Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim getting all the playing time at the guard position.
On the flip side, competition is a good thing to have, and depth is excellent. Giving Autry different pieces to work with is helpful for a first-year coach because SU is trying to be as versatile as possible in the upcoming season. Summer practice is starting soon if it has not already, and there is plenty of time before the season starts for Syracuse to figure out who will be a major contributor on this team, and who might be the odd man out.
It’s just about how the odd man out responds to being put in that position. Last year, Copeland got sparing minutes, if any, but he never quit, he was always supportive and made plays when his name was called upon. That’s what players who don’t initially start in Autry’s rotation will have to do, and there will be plenty. With at least four guards (Mintz, JJ Starling, Chance Westry, Kyle Cuffe Jr.), five wings/forwards (Chris Bell, Justin Taylor, Quadir Copeland, Benny Williams, Maliq Brown), and four centers (Naheem McLeod, Mounir Hima, Peter Carey, and Williams Patterson), there is going to be a lot of competition at every position.
The roster will unequivocally be very different a year from now, with players likely to move because of the NBA and transfer portal, plus two high school recruits at least (Elijah Moore and Donnie Freeman) entering the fold. Now, it’s just about determining if Autry and his staff’s recruiting endeavors will be positive or negative because of the current roster construction, and how Mintz’s return fits into that picture.