The Syracuse Orange relied on their guards to carry the bulk of the scoring this year, as their big men struggled to contribute on the offense end due to injuries and undeveloped post games. However, Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe showed this year that they have the ability to help on offense, and that a full off season of improvement could lead to breakout seasons.
Chuwku and Sidibe were able to showcase their defensive prowess with their size in the paint, but just imagine how good next year’s team can be if they work on their ability to score the ball down low.
Let’s first take a look at how Chukwu can improve on his second season playing for the Orange, where he had his fair share of highs and lows. Chukwu will never be able to have the ball thrown down to him on the block where he will be asked to score with his back to the basket. However, the Orange do need their big man to improve his ability to catch lobs, which we saw him fail to down multiple times this year.
The Orange run an offense that has its fair-share of pick and rolls, so they need their 7’2” center to be a weapon when he rolls to the basket; improving his hands will allow the Syracuse guards to feel confident when they throw the ball up to Chukwu, rather than holding their breath with the rest of the Syracuse faithful.
An area where Chukwu surprised his fans this year was at the charity stripe, where after missing all nine attempts last year, shot 63% on 110 attempts this year. Improving that percentage even more will make it a tough decision for the inevitably smaller defender down low who will need to decide whether they want to be dunked on by the 7’2” center, or send him to the free throw line.
Chukwu’s improved play this year made up for the injury bug that hit Bourama Sidibe. Sidibe came into his freshman season as a promising young big with not much known about him. He was looked at as primarily a defensive force, but in the few games he was healthy in, primarily the Pittsburgh game on the road, he looked like a crafty offensive mismatch.
Sidibe had his only double-double of the year in that Pittsburgh game, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Sidibe recently had surgery on his knee to take care of his tendinitis, so this off season will be one that will focus on health.
Sidibe proved when healthy that he can really impact this team on both ends of the floor, but adding a consistent 18 footer this summer could make him even more lethal. If Sidibe can add that consistent jumper, a pick and roll involving him could become truly dynamic. Try guarding the attacking Oshae Brissett while also having to worry about Sidibe popping out or rolling to the rim for an easy finish—that’ll be nearly impossible to defend.
With the recent decommitment of Darius Bazley, the Orange are going to need their two centers to come into next season ready to contribute on both ends of the floor. A full off season to heal and improve their individual games will go a long way for Chukwu, Sidibe, and the 2018-2019 Syracuse Orange.