That’s right: Judah Mintz - who decided to return to the Orange for his sophomore season after originally declaring for this year’s draft - is not the only Syracuse prospect to land a spot as a projected 2024 draftee.
Mintz and incoming transfer J.J. Starling are both considered early-to-mid second round picks, according to ESPN’s 2024 mock draft. Starling is expected to be selected 35th overall to the Houston Rockets, while Mintz is not too far behind, currently slated to go 42nd overall to the Los Angeles Clippers.
We know a lot can happen between now and next June, but, based on the potential two-way upside for the guard pairing, Orange fans should be excited. This new mock draft signals what is expected to be a very promising and productive Mintz-Starling backcourt.
Mintz averaged 16.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game in his freshman year, gradually improving his on-court IQ and feel for the game over the course of the season. From day one, however, he proved to be a legitimate isolation scorer, pesky defender and flashy point of attack guard.
While barely missing out on an All-ACC selection, Mintz will definitely be expanding his role heading into next season. He’ll most certainly be securing greater responsibility as the lead initiator and offensive hub for a Syracuse team who lost both Joe Girard (16.4 points per game, 38% from three) and Jesse Edwards (14.5 points per game, 59% from the field) to the transfer portal.
The other big question mark for Mintz’s sophomore season and his future NBA draft stock will be the outside shot. Mintz shot just above 30% from three on roughly two attempts per game last season. Even with the impressive athleticism and noteworthy attributes, it was the glaring hole Mintz’s game still needs work on.
However, Mintz’s other skills will certainly get more shine within the context of the draft. Given the current market for versatile, multi-positioned wings in the 2023 draft and the lack of interest from NBA teams to take more chances at guard, Mintz will have a golden opportunity under new head coach Adrian Autry to flash some other aspects of his game.
Sticking away from the outside shooting concerns, two of those skills to watch for include his defense and playmaking. Mintz looked confined in the 2-3 zone, and while he was great at pestering opposing guards and generating steals, Syracuse fans didn’t see what he could do as a one-on-one defender. Also, with Girard out of the fold and uncertainty surrounding how the team’s offense will look, Autry is counting on Mintz to be the lead decision-maker this season.
Some of that responsibility will also fall on the shoulders of Starling, Autry’s most impressive transfer portal acquisition since he took charge. Starling averaged 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in 28 games for Notre Dame last season. The former five-star recruit and now incoming Syracuse guard brings a lot of upside to the table, which explains his current status as an early second round selection in 2024.
Starling shares a similar archetype to Mintz: an athletic guard with some craft when he has the ball in his hands who can get his own shot up or play within the flow of a team offense. Starling has less of a defensive reputation compared to Mintz, but his blend of size and speed make him an intriguing two-way prospect down the road.
Like Mintz, Starling’s biggest question mark is the three-point shooting. He entered college basketball with a reputation as a solid to good outside shooter, but he finished with a three-point clip of 30% on around three attempts per game with the Fighting Irish.
How the Mintz-Starling duo pairs together on the court ranks as one of the most important questions facing the Orange heading into next season. Individually, improvement in Mintz’s and Starling’s game will also determine whether either can keep their current draft projection or even move higher as the season goes on.
Regardless, pairing up a potential NBA draft-worthy backcourt means next season is already giving Autry and Orange Nation lots of optimism.