After losing their promising post player in Taurean Thompson last summer via transfer, the Syracuse Orange were looking forward to a positive off season this year—it didn’t last long.
The news broke on Thursday that Darius Bazley, Syracuse’s prized five-star recruit and potential top 10 draft pick, was opting to play in the G League, and leave his scholarship to Syracuse University behind.
This news came out of nowhere, as the dynamic forward was expected to be on campus next season after showing out in the McDonald’s All American game the night before. Bazley scored 11 points in the prestigious event, but it was the news he made less then 24 hours later that broke the internet—and a lot of Syracuse fans’ hopes for a return to dominance too.
But, what does Bazley’s sudden change of heart really mean for the Syracuse offense next year?
The Orange were excited to potentially throw a lineup out there with Bazley and Oshae Brissett at the forward positions, which would’ve given them as dynamic of a frontcourt as there could be in the nation. Both players are freak athletes, and any team would have an extremely difficult time if they had seen these two coming in transition.
Bazley’s freak athletic ability would have fit perfectly for the Orange, as his ability to take his man off the dribble would’ve opened up perimeter shots for the incoming shooters on the Orange (Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes). The defense needs to respect Bazley’s ability to get to the rim, which would leave them either giving up open threes, or being the end result of a posterizing dunk.
Bazley isn’t known for his perimeter shooting, but the five star recruit did hit two three pointers in the McDonald’s All American game, which shows that he does have that weapon in his repertoire. If there was one thing the Orange missed this past season it was perimeter shooting, so just imagine what an athletic forward who is a monster in transition and can also test the defense with his three could have done for this team.
With Bazley gone, the Orange will now look to Marek Dolezaj to continue his late season success from this year. With Brissett likely returning, Dolezaj will lineup next to him, giving the Orange a versatile, but less athletic lineup compared to Bazley in it. Dolezaj proved he was able to make smart plays inside the paint late in this season, but the Orange are going to need him to take that next step from a role player to a viable scoring option if they want to replace what Bazley would’ve brought to the team.
If Tyus Battle ends up heading to the NBA, Brissett will likely take over lead scoring duties, which will now be amplified even more with Bazley’s decision. Brissett proved he can score in a multitude of ways this season, but he will need to come in with an improved jump shot if he wants to pick up the scoring slack the Orange will miss from Bazley (and maybe Battle).
Frank Howard and Jalen Carey will run the point guard position next year, but they are going to need to do more playmaking than before due to Bazley not joining them next year. Not only will the Orange need them to score, but coach Jim Boeheim will be relying on his floor generals to create open shots for their teammates too.
Bazley’s decision to forgo college turned what looked like a stacked frontcourt into a possible shallow area for the Orange. This was looking like a top 10 team next year with Bazley’s dynamic skillset coming into the picture, but now the Orange will look to their returning players to carry the bulk of the scoring once again.
The talent is still there to be a dynamic team next year, but for yet another year, a Syracuse Basketball off season is tarnished with some more bad news.