We know Syracuse Orange fans are always eager to get to basketball season. Last month, we looked at what the roster needed and now at the request of commenter AgentOrange44, we answer these questions: “Who do we start, and at what positions next year in basketball? Benefits of possible lineup variations?”
Before we get started I’m going to be clear about some assumptions being made. I think Elijah Hughes is going to stay in the NBA Draft and Alan Griffin will be eligible to play next season. I don’t pretend to know anything about Kadary Richmond or Woody Newton other than what I’ve read, so their usage is really an unknown. We’re also not going to consider any other players who aren’t on the Syracuse roster at this time.
Now let’s get down to the projected starters first. There are four locks at this point: Joseph Girard III and Buddy Boeheim at the guards and Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe in the frontcourt. That leaves us with one open position and I have a feeling it’s going to be Quincy Guerrier’s to lose as he gives the Orange help on the boards at both ends of the floor.
That’s important because this group is going to need to rebound well to overcome what certainly looks like another season with defensive issues. This group is going to need to play better as a unit if the Orange are going to improve on last season’s 116th rated defense according to KenPom. The backcourt might get better at their communication and reads but they aren’t going to make up for mistakes with athleticism. The back line will have to do a better job of controlling the paint as Syracuse was also vulnerable on the interior.
Offensively this group is going to be run to get shots for Boeheim and Girard. I think we’ll see Dolezaj in the high post where he’ll be a screener and facilitator as it will allow the guards to work off the ball a bit more. Dolezaj was also effective in ACC play when he drove and looked for Sidibe at the rim.
If the Orange can design more looks around the basket for Sidibe and Guerrier it might open up better looks from 3, an area where Syracuse struggled down the stretch. Despite him shooting over 70% from the field in ACC play, Syracuse didn’t look to get the ball to Sidibe often during games. He was scoring on lobs or offensive rebounds and a focus for next year should be getting him some post opportunities. Working on getting the ball inside the arc was an area that the Orange found success in last year and playing inside-out next year seems to be the way to go.
Griffin should be the first player off the bench and a likely candidate to see heavy minutes because of his shooting. His rebounding numbers last year at Illinois means he’d likely play the back of the zone but will be used on offense to bring more long-range shooting. Jesse Edwards’ offensive promise should give him the edge as the second center and Robert Braswell’s experience should earn him time as a reserve forward.
The Orange could put a shooting line-up on the floor of Girard/Boeheim/Griffin/Braswell and Dolezaj. This is a group that you could see against a smaller team or if Syracuse needs to stage a big comeback. It’s a smaller group that might struggle to defend the paint or rebound but it would have four shooters around the best Syracuse playmaker. This unit could stretch the floor and provide opportunities for drives to the rim and swapping Braswell for Guerrier would help the rebounding.
If Griffin can show some ability to handle the ball he could play up top with Boeheim and give the Orange a taller group on defense. With the regular frontcourt you’d have a much taller squad who could potentially address some of the issues Syracuse faced against players like Luka Garza this year. Team speed would be a problem so it would be tough against opponents with quick backcourts.
Need to throw on the full-court press? Well how about a bench unit of Griffin/Richmond/Newton/Braswell/Bol Ajak? This might be the chaos unit who could break up a team’s rhythm against the zone but if they don’t get turnovers/transition can they score out of the half-court? Could Guerrier become a go-to inside player and be utilized instead of Newton or Braswell?
There are a lot of unknowns about next year’s Orange. A consistent shot from Guerrier or the ability of one or both freshmen to contribute would address some of the weaknesses in these possible line-ups. However it’s more likely we’re looking at a rotation that only goes seven deep once we get into ACC play. If Griffin’s the sixth player then the bigger question might be who that seventh spot goes to when the conference schedule hits full speed.
What are some groups you think we might see on the floor together?