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Grading Syracuse men’s basketball: Forwards

The second of a four-part series reviewing all aspects of the 2019-20 season.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Going a bit stir crazy in the midst of a pandemic does have at least one advantage — plenty of time to think and write about Syracuse Orange men’s basketball!

In case you missed it, last week was part one of our four-part series, analyzing and grading the Orange guards. Part two is all about the forwards.

As a refresher, this article will cover an offense, defense, and overall grade for each player, as well as grades for the group as a whole. So without further ado, let’s grade the Syracuse forwards.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Hughes

Offense: A

When is the last time we have seen a player improve that much on offense from one season to the next? Season year Rakeem Christmas or Michael Gbinije maybe? While we all knew that Hughes could hit the three ball, I don’t know that anyone was prepared for just how good his game would be this year.

Hughes’s mid-range game and ability to post up were virtually unguardable. And while he wasn’t going to beat you off the dribble a dozen times a game, he seemed to always get a step on defenders with his shimmies and pump fakes.

He was also fantastic at drawing fouls and an excellent free throw shooter. Did I mention he also averaged five rebounds a game and 3.5 assists? Hughes had a truly outstanding offensive season. He deserved ACC player of the year. Well, him or Jordan Nwora, and certainly not Tre Jones.

But that’s a matter for a different article.

Defense: B+

Hughes made some sensational blocks on defense. He also had above average anticipation and did a decent job rebounding the basketball on the defensive end. Elijah usually quick to rotate and collapse, and often helped to cover for some of defensive inconsistencies at the top of the zone.

He wasn’t always as engaged on defense as he was on offense, and that’s why his grade here suffers. He occasionally “coasted” on the defensive end to conserve energy on offense. Let’s not hold that against him too much, considering how good he was offensively. There were also more than a few times throughout the season where he was slow to close on the wing shooters and it led to open looks.

Other than that, he was a plus defender on a historically bad defense.

Overall: A

We are going to miss Elijah so much next year. He was the glue holding this team together. To quote (always classic) Jim Boeheim, “we wouldn’t have won 10 &$*%ing games” without Hughes this year. He is a talent you can’t just replace. And now that Seth Towns has decided on Ohio State and Patrick Tape has picked Duke, that’s two fewer options to try and fill his shoes. Will we look for another grad transfer or be content with who we have?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Marek Dolezaj

Even though Marek Dolezaj played a solid number of minutes at forward, he’ll be graded with the centers so there is some semblance of balance to these things. So look for his grades in next week’s edition!

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Quincy Guerrier

Offense: C-

Guerrier showed signs of life on offense, and had one of his better performances against North Carolina in the ACC tournament. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t very consistent this year, and struggled mightily with his outside shot (he made only three of his 24 heaves from the perimeter). He also missed a fair share of bunnies.

There is certainly cause for optimism, however. He ended the season strong, and even with his abysmal outside shooting numbers and occasional missed bunnies, he hit just a hair under 50 percent of his shots for the year. Compare that to Oshae Brissett the year prior, who was an inefficient 39 percent from the field overall.

Guerrier has plenty of time to grow into himself, and he certainly has an NBA body. He will improve.

Defense: B-

Defensively, Guerrier struggled at times, but looked dominant at others. His biggest problem was with his rotations in the zone and being in the right spot at the right time. He was often a step slow to get into position and gave up a lot of easy looks on the interior, especially early in the season.

As the year went on, he got considerably better on the defensive end as his confidence grew. He played terrific on both ends against UNC, and pulled down some really impressive rebounds. He has a lot of potential to improve on this end of the court as well.

Overall: C+

I had fairly high expectations for Guerrier coming into the season, and they were certainly tempered a bit. However, I think Quincy is starting to turn the corner. If we don’t get another forward on the roster before the start of the season, look for Quincy to make a sizable sophomore leap next year.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Braswell

Offense: B+

“Big Bobby Braswell” only played seven games before leg injuries sidelined him. But in that time, he hit four of six three-pointers and showcased a buttery smooth stroke. I’d like to see a larger sample size with him, so take this (and his other grades) with a grain of salt.

Defense: C

Nothing stood out to me about Braswell’s defense in limited minutes. He didn’t look exceptionally good, and he didn’t look exceptionally bad on that end. I think his injuries really affected his mobility on the court, so that kept him from standing out more. Braswell certainly has the athleticism and size to be a great defender at the back of the zone, so hopefully we see more next year.

Overall: B-

I don’t even think it’s really fair to give him an overall grade, but I will because reasons. In the time he was on the court he was serviceable on defense, and a one-dimensional sharpshooter on offense. Hopefully we see more of him next year.

Overall Grade

Offense: B+

Hughes bumps this grade up significantly, but Guerrier had solid contributions as well. It also helps that a huge chunk of the Orange offense was run through the Hughes this year. Guerrier’s offensive rebounding was a great addition, especially in the second half of the season.

Defense: B-

With an overall defense as bad as the Orange were, no one on the team deserves a lot of praise. The only thing I’ll say is that, in general, I felt like the forwards were the least culpable position for the overall ineffectivity of our defense. While they were still caught out of position at times and got crushed on the offensive glass, they weren’t the open sieve that our guards and centers were.

Overall: B

This was a solid group of forwards. On offense, Hughes was quite efficient and did a great job of guiding the offense. Guerrier contributed on the boards and started to come on strong down the stretch. On defense, they did a (usually) passable job. As mentioned, I would have liked to have seen a bit more out of Guerrier and more in general from Braswell (obviously health got in the way), but there’s a lot of potential there for next year.

However, I certainly wouldn’t mind adding a seasoned transfer. I think that would make next year’s forwards a very tough matchup.