Syracuse men’s basketball: a look at Judah Mintz’s NBA draft decision

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
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Between now and Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., Syracuse Orange men’s basketball’s Judah Mintz will need to decide whether he’s staying in the NBA Draft or returning to the Orange. The countdown is on.

Mintz shined right from the jump during his freshman year in Syracuse with his athleticism and crafty scoring around the rim. Over the course of the 2022-2023 campaign, he flashed more promise as an individual defender and playmaker while getting more comfortable as a pull-up shooter.

That improvement manifested especially once the Orange began facing off against ACC opponents:

Judah Mintz’s freshman year by the numbers

Mintz (2022-2023; overall) Mintz (2022-2023; ACC only)
Mintz (2022-2023; overall) Mintz (2022-2023; ACC only)
32 20
16.3 16.7
2.3 2.6
4.6 4.8
1.8 1.8
44% 46%
30% 33%
75% 74%

And now, that same productivity puts Mintz squarely in the NBA Draft conversation. The latest mock drafts project Mintz to be taken somewhere as a mid-to-late second round pick in the 2023 draft. That includes as early as 41th per Bleacher Report and as late as 55th per ESPN.

From a fan perspective, it’s easy to desire Mintz returning for his sophomore year especially with his past social media posts teasing a comeback with the Orange. Trust me: a lot of ‘Cuse Nation would kill to have Mintz under new head coach Adrian Autry’s wings with a whole system potentially catered around his abilities. At the same time, there’s also a lot to break down over his future playing career.

Let’s start with the basics: how are NBA personnel viewing Mintz as a prospect in the context of this year’s draft?

Mintz received an invite to the NBA Draft Combine and participated in scrimmages. Per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, Mintz’s strengths as an on-the-ball slasher, interior finisher, and playmaker shined during scrimmage play. His biggest weaknesses, per Wasserman, are the outside shooting (approximately two three-point attempts per game at a 30% clip) and how his body could hold up defensively (Mintz has good guard size at 6-foot-3 but only weights around 176 pounds with a 6-foot-3-ish wingspan).

Looking at the bigger picture, a few hurdles stand in Mintz’s way from a higher draft selection. For starters, especially in today’s NBA, positional versatility matters. NBA teams are looking for (ideally) multi-positional, bigger players (especially forwards) who can slide up and down the positional ladder, switch on defense, and do enough offensively.

Take a peak at Wasserman’s most recent mock draft. Out of the 58 total selections for the 2023 draft, half of them (27) are small forwards who can either slide down to the four or move up to the two. On the contrary, just 10 point guards are projected to be drafted per Wasserman (counting Mintz), with eight of those prospects (also counting Mintz) also projected to play shooting guard.

Mintz has the tools to surely be a productive player. The defense, playmaking, and ability to get his own shot up are important tools to have, but he’ll need to either improve either as an individual defender or as an outside shooter.

If that’s the case, why doesn’t he return to Syracuse, boost his draft stock, and take a second chance in the 2024 draft?

There is some potential in that decision. A few things would be in Mintz’s favor if he did so.

First, the 2023-2024 Orange project to be a versatile, defensive-minded team that can get out in transition and play at a tempo Mintz thrives in. Since this team appears to be unproven with its half-court offense, Mintz could shoulder a bigger offensive load without having to be the only ball-handler.

The 2024 draft class projects to be a weaker one compared to this year’s per Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who has Mintz 50th on his top-100 draft board. In theory, could Mintz return to Syracuse this upcoming season and move his way up?

Yes... but, that’s also the nature of taking a chance in the draft, like how Mintz is.

We’re not in Mintz’s shoes, so we don’t know the full perspective coming from the player himself. Regardless of what spot, getting drafted into the NBA is a once in a lifetime scenario. Who wouldn’t pass that up, especially when most mock drafts project Mintz squarely in second-round consideration?

The known outweigh the unknown as of now. How much will his draft stock really improve between this summer and the next? What if the shooting is still a question mark in 2023-2024 with the Orange and on a bigger sample size? If he’s projected as one of the best 10-15 guards in the draft, is the leap from there to possibly top-10 really worth an extra year in college?

So, it makes sense if Mintz opts to ride this out and stay in this year’s draft cycle. Plus, you can’t discount the value of working in an NBA facility, getting quality reps in the G-League, and spending time with NBA trainers, management, and other personnel to improve his current limitations as a player against NBA-quality competition. If this is the dream Mintz wants to pursue, it appears he’s gonna take his gamble now while he can.

Is that the right call for him? That’s up for Mintz to decide over the next couple of days.

And, let’s be clear: this is not an easy decision whatsoever.

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