As the Syracuse Orange prepare for tonight’s NIT game against UNC Greensboro, there are a lot of questions about how they will respond to missing the NCAA Tournament. Some have questioned what value this tournament can provide a Syracuse team which features three seniors in their seven-man rotation. I think that one of the players who stands to gain the most from the extra playing time is Taurean Thompson.
Thompson was inserted into the starting line-up to start the ACC schedule and provided a lift to the Orange, especially on the offensive end. The freshman has showcased an inside game that has helped space the floor and give more openings for the perimeter players. While his outside and free-throw shooting have plenty of room to grow, Thompson has shown an ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim in his first season. He was a big key in the Orange’s win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and had his best performance at Georgia Tech when he provided 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Where Thompson really needs developing is on the defensive end. It’s not just zone rotations and strength. Thompson gets caught with his arms down by his side which prevents him from using his wingspan to clog passing lanes and deter opponents shots near the rim. As he gets more minutes, he’ll learn to use his 6’10” frame to his advantage.
If the coaching staff can get him working this summer with former Orange Baye Moussa Keita, Thompson can learn that he can disrupt opposing offenses without leaving his feet. The extra playing time afforded by the NIT can help Thompson’s progression on both ends of the floor.
Next season Syracuse loses Tyler Roberson and Dajuan Coleman and with Pascal Chukwu returning from injury, so it’s important that Thompson can develop into a consistent player on both ends of the floor. He’ll be counted on to help replace the scoring lost by the departures of Andrew White and John Gillon, and will need to provide the defense and rebounding to give the Orange closer to 30 minutes per game.
Thompson’s ability to hold down the center spot would also allow Tyler Lydon the ability to spend more minutes at his natural PF position. It looks like the 2017-18 Orange are going to be featuring the Triple T’s (NunesMagician patent pending) on offense, so from tonight forward it’s time for Thompson to elevate himself into a more consistent player. Syracuse’s going to be counting on him a lot more and I think next year he could find himself taking a big step forward like Wake’s John Collins this year.
What do you think Syracuse might get from Taurean next season? Do you think he emerges as an All-ACC player? Let us know in the comments.