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Syracuse men’s basketball: the Orange will field a deeper roster in 23-24

The Orange possess a lot of depth.

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

Optimism for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team reached its peak this offseason following Judah Mintz’s decision to return to the program for the 2023-2024 season.

Mintz proved to be the last domino to fall for the Orange over the offseason. Bringing him back for his sophomore year following a strong freshman season means the Orange possess a promising foundation to build upon for 2023-2024.

That promise was reflected in Mintz’s comments to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin about his decision to return to Syracuse:

“There’s definitely a feeling of unfinished business. Last year we showed glimpses of what we can be as a unit and as a young team but right now I feel like, and the program feels like, it’s time for Syracuse to get back to where we belong. On top,” Mintz told ESPN.

With Mintz now back in the fold - coupled with new head coach Adrian Autry adding four transfers and a freshman while retaining eight players from last season - the Orange boast a legitimate roster loaded with depth, optionality, and quality.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Autry did add enough players with potential prior to Mintz’s official return on Wednesday to at least make this upcoming season intriguing. Mintz’s return bolsters what should be considered a promising roster moving forward:

Syracuse men’s basketball depth chart (2023-2024)

Guards/Lead Playmakers Forwards/Wings Centers/Bigs
Guards/Lead Playmakers Forwards/Wings Centers/Bigs
Judah Mintz (return) Chris Bell (return) Naheem McLeod (transfer)
J.J. Starling (transfer) Benny Williams (return) Mounir Hima (return)
Chance Westry (transfer) Maliq Brown (return) William Patterson (freshman)
Kyle Cuffe Jr. (transfer) Justin Taylor (return) Peter Carey (return)
Quadir Copeland (return)

It’s a wonderful sight to see, isn’t it?

There’s two immediate takeaways from the current roster.

First, it’s a pretty impressive crop of talent considering the Orange lost both Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards and have only one freshman in the 2023 class. Autry’s use of the transfer portal remains a fundamental reason why Syracuse possesses depth despite losing two of its core veterans.

Autry built a versatile, multi-positioned roster despite not knowing if Mintz would stay in the 2023 NBA Draft.

“I think you’ve got to plan for both (him leaving and coming back)... I think for us, we have to operate as if we don’t have him at times, and then obviously when you’re operating in that, you’ve got to still make sure that decisions that you make, if he does come back, can all fit,” Autry told in April.

Without knowing if Mintz would come back, Autry constructed a team with the potential to compete on the court. Now that his point guard is back, the Orange could take another step forward next season.

Autry addressed the Orange’s depth at guard and center. Three of the four incoming transfers were guards, with the most notable of that trio being Notre Dame transfer J.J. Starling - a former five-star recruit who earned a bid on the ACC’s All-Freshman Team alongside Mintz.

Autry possesses one of the most promising backcourts in the country and still has Auburn transfer Chance Westry and Kansas transfer Kyle Cuffe Jr. to back them up or play in three-guard sets.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Autry was also able to retain the wings from last season. Benny Williams looked increasingly confident as a three-point shooter towards the end of last season. Chris Bell, Justin Taylor, Maliq Brown and Quadir Copeland will come into their sophomore years looking to take a step forward with a year under their belts.

The Orange possess the roster depth and versatility at the guard and wing spots to play up and down the positional ladder.

We could see lineups with either Williams or Brown at the five with Autry throwing out an extra mobile, agile guard who can hold up on the perimeter. Bell could play up at the two and give Syracuse a lineup with solid athleticism, immense wingspan, defensive switchability, and enough offense to keep things afloat. Taylor can play off-the-ball as a floor-spacer at the two or three and next to either Mintz or Starling, while Copeland can be a spark plug if Syracuse needs some more intensity.

Three-guard lineups? Small-ball and/or big-ball? Staggered lineups? Matching up to different opponents? The possibilities feel like their endless with Autry’s potential on-court rotations, and that’s before considering Syracuse looking at the center by committee trio in 7-foot-4 center Naheem McLeod out of Florida State, 6-foot-11 junior Mounir Hima, and 7-foot-2 freshman William Patterson.

Autry’s team possesses the roster versatility the program hasn’t experienced in what feels like a while. As he told, Syracuse will “adapt to every game, every team and every opponent.”

The Orange had the potential to at least be interesting this upcoming season. Mintz’s return, however, means Syracuse has a solid fundamental building block to elevate the program in 2023-2024. For Autry, Mintz brings the Orange a higher floor with retaining one of college basketball’s most productive guards, but his return trickles down to the rest of the team raises its ceiling because his skill set compliments the athleticism, defensive philosophy, and style the Orange’s new coach and current personnel bring to the table.

There’s unfinished business to take care of, as Mintz said. The state of the roster, however, is complete.

That’s a welcome sight to see for this program.