What many have hypothesized since he was initially ruled out before the Boston College game has come to fruition. Naheem McLeod’s first season in an Orange uniform has come to an end. The Florida State transfer started all 14 contests he played in this year, averaging right around four points and four rebounds over 14 minutes per contest. His 7-4 frame led to sky-high expectations that may have been too lofty, and he’s done for the year now.
The major change this brings (for good now) is the starting lineup. Maliq Brown was starting to see an increase in his playing time right around the new year as Syracuse went up against more versatile ACC bigs like Guillermo Diaz Graham and Kyle Filipowski. Those minutes came at McLeod’s expense for the most part, but he was never taken out of the starting lineup. When he got hurt, Brown started in his place. It’s safe to say Brown will remain in that role for the rest of the season, barring any sort of injury.
Ever since his media day press conference back in October, Adrian Autry has been big on preaching his team to play with spacing. That’s something Syracuse couldn’t do in full force with McLeod on the floor. Make no mistake, this is not meant to be a knock on him, because he’s perfectly fine for what he is. McLeod played as an interior presence meant to crash the glass and be a threat to reject shots. He couldn’t play on the outside. Brown can. Not only can he defend bigs on the wings and in the corner, but he’s taken remarkable strides in improving his offensive presence outside as well, whether it be putting the ball on the deck or shooting from distance. Again, not a dig at McLeod’s skillset, but there’s a lot more offensive freedom for Syracuse to work with now.
The biggest effect from McLeod’s injury is that Brown is even less expendable than he already was. Under no circumstances can the sophomore sustain an injury that would keep him out for an extended period of time. If Brown goes down, your options are extremely scarce. You’ve got Peter Carey, who moved around fairly well in seven minutes against Pittsburgh Tuesday night despite the foul trouble, but is very inexperienced. Mounir Hima is solid… in a backup role. And Autry has made it clear the plan is for 7-2 freshman William Patterson to redshirt. Get the picture? Brown’s play alone makes him very important. The lack of depth of bigs with McLeod’s injury makes him even more so.
From experience talking to him, Naheem McLeod is a pretty nice guy that never gave a bad answer, so it’s more than easy to root for a full recovery. There are plenty of butterfly effects from his injury, some good, some bad.