With the start of the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season nearing, anticipation looms over how this team will perform under first-year head coach Adrian Autry.
Fortunately, Autry will start this upcoming season off with a foundational bedrock in starting point guard Judah Mintz. With a new coach at the helm and a busy offseason behind the Orange, Mintz will find himself at the forefront of the Syracuse program moving forward. If that’s the case, expect Mintz to start shooting up the NBA Draft boards as the 2023-2024 season progresses.
Mintz (16.3 points, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game this past season) is projected to be selected 27th overall in the 2024 NBA Draft, according to the latest mock published by Sam Vecenie of The Athletic on Monday. Vecenie said Mintz has a likely chance to be a second-year breakout candidate for the Orange, especially given his athleticism and creativity as a shot-maker.
As we discussed before, Mintz’s scoring ability around the basket and in transition were known positives entering his freshman year, but he also saw pretty notable improvement in his playmaking compared to his high school tape (nearly five assists per game as a first-year player on last year’s team is nothing to shy at). Ditto for Mintz’s defense, which turned into an intriguing asset towards the second half of this past season as he grew more comfortable versus college-level athletes and shined as an individual defender particularly against the ACC.
Vecenie noted that Mintz’s most biggest need will be improving his strength, which would help further his ability to finish around the rim against NBA-style defenders and be above-average on the defense end. He’ll also need to become a more consistent outside shooter (30% on 2.1 attempts per game), both in terms of volume and efficiency. But, as Vecenie said in his recent mock draft, “the talent is there for him to be a first-round pick.”
Keep in mind that Mintz’s offensive production (points, field goal percentage and three-point percentage) all increased versus the ACC, once he finally started to get going in the second half of last season. His production in 2022-2023 was great, but getting the on-court experience was even better as he enters what seems to be a promising upcoming season.
At a bare minimum, Mintz looks like he’ll be commanding most of the offense load given the departures of Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard, especially given the current construction of the current roster. That will go a long way towards improving the draft stock for the borderline All-ACC candidate.
For context, other current mock drafts are all over the place with where Mintz will be taken in 2024. ESPN projected Mintz 42nd overall immediately following the 2023 NBA Draft, just above his projection as a late-second round pick that most mocks had him as in May. But the mock draft from USA Today forecasted Mintz 13th overall (!!!) once the draft in June wrapped up. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report slotted Mintz in mid-to-late first round territory (22nd overall) in his most recent mock from July, more in line with Vecenie’s board than the rest of the field.
Barring disaster, Mintz will likely fall around Vecenie’s and Wasserman’s projections as a late first round selection. Keep in mind that it is still incredibly early to forecast the entire list of prospects for the 2024 draft. While Vecenie previously noted the lack of upside at the top of the draft, sleepers will emerge from out of nowhere and enter the picture. And, as On3 recently explained, you can’t discount the influx of international prospects, the number of returning players who chose to return to college or incoming talent who will emerge once the upcoming season finally gets going.
One example of a potential draft riser could be J.J. Starling, who was mocked at 35th overall in ESPN’s most recent mock draft update, seven spots ahead of Mintz. Starling (11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game last season) brings upside to the table as a former five-star recruit with decent on-ball shot creation and athleticism, but he didn’t get much of a chance to shine as a freshman with Notre Dame.
That helps to explain why he didn’t appear on any of the recent boards published by USA Today, ESPN or Bleacher Report. There is lots of potential with where Starling can improve heading into his second-year, but with that comes a lot of unknown. He’ll likely be one of those breakout candidates to monitor over the 2023-2024 campaign.
There will be a lot to watch for this season with the Orange given all the change over the course of this offseason. Where the draft projections for both Mintz and Starling end up heading into next summer will easily be at the top of the list.