The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball offseason has already seen two departures from the roster, and could see a third if Tyus Battle decides to declare for the NBA Draft.
That doesn’t create more upheaval than normal for SU. But it does make for some questions about what the team looks like for 2018-19, especially in terms of the starting five.
This year’s starting five was pretty cut-and-dry, with very few options outside the guys Jim Boeheim sent out there each night. To determine next year’s, though, we went ahead and asked a larger group.
Below, TNIAAM makes its picks for the most likely starting five. Agree? Disagree? Make your own in the comments.
Point Guard: Frank Howard
Shooting Guard: Elijah Hughes
Small Forward: Oshae Brissett
Power Forward: Darius Bazley
Center: Bourama Sidibe
This starting five is under the circumstance of Tyus Battle leaving for the NBA, leaving an opening at the shooting guard position. Frank Howard will be the senior leader of this team, but don’t be surprised if freshman Jalen Carey takes over at some point if Howard struggles. With Brissett likely returning, him and Bazley form one of the most athletic forward duos in Syracuse history, fitting the Syracuse zone to perfection. If Sidibe is able to get healthy this off season, we should see him sliding into the center position with his versatility on both ends of the floor.
C: Paschal Chukwu
No matter what you think about his play this year, Howard improved enough to return as the starting PG. I’m assuming for this that Battle gets a 1st rd promise and stays in the draft so Hughes slides in based upon his familiarity with the system after practicing this season. Brissett and Bazley will be the starting forwards and the players that the offense runs through next year. Chukwu was a strong presence in the middle of the zone and will be asked to do the same in 2018-19.
Elijah Hughes and Jalen Carey are going to give Frank Howard a run for his money, but it’s hard to take that starter spot away from Howard with his overall performance this past season. He was one of the top three reasons the team made the tournament; him becoming a shooter, keeping turnovers low and navigating so well through angles on the ball. My hunch is Tyus Battle stays, and that combination at the top of the zone was lethal in one of Jim Boeheim’s best 2-3 zones ever. Both are long, tough and physical on the ball and losing Battle at the top was one of the primary reasons Boeheim shied away from small ball. With a tight four guard rotation (Howard Washington likely redshirts in his return from ACL surgery), Syracuse could effectively run two whole lineups. Darius Bazley and Bourama Sidibe as a mobile, offensive unit that doesn’t sacrifice a ton on offense, then Paschal Chukwu and Marek Dolezaj who will grind teams down with their length and size. If Dolezaj scores as he did late in the season, that group doesn’t sacrifice a ton on defense. If Battle heads to the draft, I’d say Howard-Brissett-Bazley-Dolezaj-Chukwu, but we’lll cross that bridge when we get there.
SG : Battle
You can almost certainly lock in the starting front court for next season but the guard situation is still very much fluid. Some have hinted at the idea of Jalen Carey starting at the point but I just don’t see a scenario where Boeheim gives that role to an unproven frosh over a pretty solid senior who has been there and will look to lead this syracuse squad next year. Should Tyus come back for his junior campaign he has the starting two spot on lock. Should he leave however, I like Elijah Hughes to step into a starting role and help spread the floor with his shooting ability. I think Jalen can come off the bench and play either guard position while Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe round out the 8 man rotation.
Hughes has range, and even if Battle’s back (unlikely), he’ll see significant time off the bench as a sixth man. Bazley’s here to start from day one, so even if Dolezaj takes a significant step forward on the strength of this year’s late efforts, it would be tough to unseat a potential lottery pick. Bazley and Brissett should make for a more potent frontcourt duo than this year’s, and that could more than make up for Chukwu’s slight struggles on that end. Don’t bother worrying about Howard. He’ll be fine.