We'll get our first look at the 2015-16 Syracuse Orange tonight at Orange Madness, which will include an intrasquad scrimmage. Before that, here are scouting reports on each of SU's scholarship players eligible to play this season:
Position: Point Guard
With Rakeem Christmas' departure to the NBA, Gbinije returns to Syracuse as the team's best player. After a slow start in 2014-15, he exploded during conference play. Against Atlantic Coast Conference teams, he had the highest effective field goal percentage of any SU player -- and that includes Christmas. He shot 42 percent from 3 during that stretch and averaged 15.2 points per game, second on the team only to Christmas.
Gbinije finished the season with an offensive rating of 108.0. He was especially effective in non-transition offense. According to Hoop-Math, he shot 42.4 percent on 3s in non-transition sets, whereas he made just 30.3 percent of his 3s in transition.
In addition to his prolific scoring, Gbinije was solid in a number of other areas last season. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 4.1 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He also had a defensive box plus/minus of plus-3.3 and accounted for 2.0 defensive win shares, second on the team to Christmas' 2.3 defensive win shares.
That's not to say he was perfect; he struggled to score at the rim and was very unreliable at the free throw line. Near the rim, he shot 57.8 percent -- slightly below average, though it was up from his 48.3 percent clip at the rim in 2013-14. He also made just 57.1 percent of his free throws, which was one of the more perplexing things about last season.
Gbinije also fell into a slump at the end of the season. In the last five games, he shot 23.9 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3. He played an average of 39.0 minutes per game during conference play, and those minutes seemed to catch up to him.
Still, Gbinije was very good last season and should be again this season. Not all that surprisingly, he's going to start at point guard instead of at small forward, where he saw the most time last season. This is likely because it will make room in the starting lineup for Malachi Richardson, the talented freshman small forward. Gbinije was less effective at point guard than he was at small forward in 2014-15, but with more time running the offense, that could change.
Position: Shooting Guard
By now, you know who Cooney is as an offensive player. He doesn't do a whole lot other than shoot 3s. He's a shooter who goes through his hot and cold streaks, and he went through quite a few of those cold streaks in 2014-15. And like with Gbinije's shooting issues toward the end of the season, I'd argue that was due at least in-part to the minutes he played.
Cooney played an average of 37.3 minutes per game last season, 5.2 more minutes per game than he played in 2013-14. With that increase in minutes came a dip in efficiency; he shot just 30.9 percent from 3 after shooting 37.5 percent in 2013-14. Syracuse should have the depth this season -- thanks to the arrivals of Richardson and Tyler Lydon -- to slightly reduce the minutes Cooney and Gbinije play, if that's what head coach Jim Boeheim chooses to do.
On defense, Cooney is probably Syracuse's most underrated player. That likely wouldn't be the case if SU played man-to-man, since he wouldn't have the athleticism to thrive in that system. But he does fully seem to grasp the 2-3 zone and its intricacies. Last season, Syracuse's biggest strength defensively was defending the right wing three, an area that is primarily defended by Cooney in the zone. Teams shot just 27 percent from that spot, per Shot Analytics.
Position: Small Forward
We won't know much about Richardson until next month, when he plays in a college game for the first time. But from what I've seen of him, he's the real deal. He's a pure scorer who can shoot lights out from just about anywhere. Boeheim recently told CBS Sports' John Rothstein that he hopes the Orange will shoot between 25 and 30 three-point shots per game this season, and Richardson figures to factor into those plans as much as anyone.
In the past, some of Syracuse's freshmen have struggled to master the 2-3 zone immediately. It happened with Kaleb Joseph last season and it could very well happen with Richardson this season. Either way, Richardson, at 6-foot-6, certainly has the physical tools to excel in the zone.
Position: Small Forward
Roberson began last season in Boeheim's dog house, often finding himself sitting on the bench. But he ended the season playing as well as any of SU's players. He scored in double figures in five of the last seven games, averaging 14.8 points per game in those five contests and pulling down 9.2 rebounds per game.
Throughout the season, Roberson wasn't quite as effective offensively as he was in those games; he averaged only 8.3 per game and shot just 44.3 percent. But Roberson did plenty of other things well and was a positive player on the offensive end when he wasn't trying to do too much.
Roberson's biggest contribution to the Orange was his ability to crash the boards. He averaged 8.4 rebounds per game in conference play. And with an offensive rebound percentage of 11.1 percent, he was also the most effective rotation player on the offensive glass.
Additionally, he was a plus defender last season. He aided Christmas in SU's defense near the rim, where opposing players shot just 56 percent. He accounted for 1.5 defensive win shares and had a defensive box plus/minus of plus-4.0.
Offensively, Roberson was as his best when he took shots near the rim. He shot 63 percent at the rim but only took 58.3 percent of his shots there. That wouldn't be a problem if he were effective elsewhere, but he wasn't. He shot just 27.5 percent on 2-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math. This season, the key for him will simply be to not take those shots. And with SU's abundance of 3-point shooters, the Orange likely won't need him to take any jumpers.
Potentially the most crucial player to SU's success is one who's been out of basketball for almost two full years. Knee injuries forced Coleman to miss most of the 2013-14 season and all of last season, but he's back now and will be anchoring the Orange's 2-3 zone.
The last time Coleman played, he was a great rebounder and a pretty decent defender. He averaged 12.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes in 2013-14. He also shot 80.8 percent at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
But it wouldn't be smart to use what he did against non-conference teams in 2013-14 to build expectations for this season. The truth is, nobody really knows what to expect from Coleman in 2015-16. But if he can protect the rim, rebound and provide occasional offense, it could make the world of difference for the Orange.
Position: Point Guard
Toward the end of last season, Boeheim said that Joseph's biggest priority in the offseason needed to be to add weight. He did that; Boeheim told Rothstein that Joseph added 16 pounds.
Joseph didn't seem ready for his role last season, but perhaps the added weight in addition to a year of experience will change that. He struggled on both ends in 2014-15; he shot just 37.6 percent from the field and was even worse in conference play, when he shot only 33 percent. He also shot just 20 percent on 3s, prompting Boeheim to say at one point that Joseph needed to "learn he's a point guard and not a 3-point shooter."
Joseph averaged only 3.8 assists per game last season, and that dipped to only 2.8 per game in conference play. He also turned the ball over 2.3 times per game.
Defensively, he struggled to learn the 2-3 zone, which Boeheim made sure to note on a few occasions.
Joseph isn't going to start this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean he hasn't progressed. He started last season largely because Boeheim had no choice but to start him. This season, Syracuse actually has guard depth, so someone has to come off the bench. That someone is Joseph. And as we've seen, Boeheim's starting lineups often don't mean much.
Since it's unlikely Coleman will average close to the 34.3 minutes that Christmas averaged last season, there's a good chance Obokoh will be asked to contribute in a larger role this season. That might not be the best news for the Orange.
Obokoh was, for all intents and purposes, useless as an offensive player in 2014-15. He never looked very comfortable on that end of the floor, and in 89 minutes played, he attempted only six shots. He also recorded just three assists.
Obokoh was pretty good defensively; he had a defensive box/plus minus of plus-5.7 and registered 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. Of course, he did that in very limited minutes, but it was a good indicator that at 6-foot-9, he can anchor the middle of the zone and grab some boards.
If he can't figure things out on the offensive end, though, it'll be hard to justify playing him for significant minutes this season. It's certainly possible that he's improved -- in college basketball, guys typically get better year-to-year. But just assuming he'll be a productive player offensively is a dangerous assumption to make.
Position: Power Forward
He wasn't considered a big prize in the class of 2015, but it sounds as if Lydon is going to factor heavily into Syracuse's rotation this season. Though Lydon seems to be a prototypical stretch-4, Boeheim told Rothstein that Lydon can and will play both forward spots and center.
When Lydon does log time at center this season, those spurts will be especially intriguing. Boeheim has never shown a willingness to play that small, but small-ball lineups are beginning to take over basketball and it could work for the Orange. It will certainly stretch the floor and create a number of good looks at 3, though it will likely also require Syracuse to adjust how it plays the zone. SU will need to resort to playing aggressively and trapping more to make up for the absence of a legitimate rim protector.
In any scenario, it's clear that Lydon has a lot to offer. He's a good shooter capable of creating his own shot, and he's willing and able to attack the basket and finish through contact. He's also a great athlete who likes to play above the rim.
Of course, those are things I know about Lydon based on tape I've watched of his high school games. It goes without saying that the college game is much different. As a freshman, he's going to have limitations, and we'll soon find out what they are.
On a team with a good amount of depth in its backcourt, Howard isn't likely to see much playing time this season. Behind Gbinije and Joseph, he'll probably be an emergency third point guard.
Howard is a pretty decent shooter and playmaker, but it sounds like he's still figuring out the 2-3 zone. Again, that's normal for a freshman, just as it would be normal if he spent most of his first season on the bench.