There was hardly any doubt to begin with, but after last night’s demolition over LSU, there’s no debate that Judah Mintz is Syracuse’s top offensive threat. The Orange’s starting point guard tallied 33 points, but Chris Bell also had another great game. It’s the latest in a recent stretch of strong performances for the sophomore, which poses one heck of a question. Should Bell be the secondary scoring option behind Mintz?
If there’s one thing Bell has proven over his first season and the first six games this year, when he’s hot he is red-hot. Our first glance of it was on January 14 in the Dome when he tallied a then career-high 17 points on 5-8 3PT shooting in a comeback victory over Notre Dame. It was the best game of Bell’s freshman campaign and it wasn’t particularly close. This year, Bell has taken the “when you’re hot you’re hot” philosophy to another level, playing a big part in helping SU rally back from a 24-point deficit against Colgate. Then on Tuesday night, Bell knocked down five threes in succession to propel the Orange to a blowout victory. He’s probably the best three-point shooter on this team, when he’s on it’s at another level.
That being said, for as high as Bell’s peaks are, the valleys are pretty low too. Jim Boeheim hampered on it with regularity last season, when Bell isn’t knocking down three-pointers he doesn’t do a whole lot. His rebounding is and has been a work in progress, as is attacking to the basket via a dribble drive. When he wasn’t knocking down shots, Boeheim simply put him on the bench. Adrian Autry has given him a significantly longer leash, and while some results have been good, others not so much. Against Gonzaga in Honolulu, Bell shot 2-18 from the field and 1-10 from beyond the arc. If Bell isn’t making shots, it could be troublesome.
When it comes to evaluating the other options, Bell appears to be a favorite. JJ Starling’s jumper has been an adventure offensively, and it’s led to some underwhelming results like zero field goals against LSU. Justin Taylor has shown flashes, but can go ice cold at times like we saw in the Maui Invitational. The same inconsistency issues that have plagued Benny Williams for years are back, neither Naheem McLeod or Maliq Brown can stretch the floor, and Kyle Cuffe and Quadir Copeland don’t take the shots to fill the role of a #2. So there are some highlights among these other options for the number 2, but does Bell triumph them all?
So is Chris Bell the best option to be the Robin to Judah Mintz’s Batman? If the tip of the mountain is higher than the canyon is low, then absolutely. The question is, will they?