Syracuse basketball has four players signed in the 2015 class who will arrive on campus and join the program for the 2015-16 season. Each brings a different skill set and hopes to make a big impact on the Orange. But how do they fit into things next year? We breakdown each to see how they can carve out a role.
Richardson is going to be the biggest name in the class, and for good reason. He is the highest rated, the lone five-star and the lone McDonald’s All-American. But none of those things matter when he arrives on campus. What does matter is what he can bring to the team right away.
Richardson is on the skinny side, but possesses something few on the roster have: a consistent, feathery touch from the outside. The 6-foot-5 wing will not start right away, but should find minutes off the bench. His ability to shoot will spread the floor for his teammates, which is valuable in Syracuse’s offense.
The most likely spot for Richardson is at shooting guard, though he could play small forward if needed. But as the primary backup to Trevor Cooney, Richardson will have minutes in nearly every game. This past season, that was a role that no one could snag consistently.
The key for Richardson is bulking up a bit before arriving on campus so that he cannot be pushed around by more experienced and developed division on players. To that end, he will have to prove he can play on the defensive end for head coach Jim Boeheim to give him consistent minutes.
With Richardson’s length, athleticism and quickness, he appears made for the top of the zone. Think about the impact Michael Carter-Williams had defensively. It may take time for Malachi to get there, but that is the kind of upside he has on that end of the floor.
Richardson will be a very good player for Syracuse. It will take time, but his immediate impact next season will be as a sharp-shooting offensive spark off the bench.
Diagne may be the forgotten man in this class. Richardson receives a lot of attention due to his accolades as the highest rated player, Lydon was the first to pull the trigger in the class and is looked at as a high upside player, while Howard is viewed as a potential star in the backcourt if he develops.
Moustapha Diagne, is viewed as a talented player, but seems to get the least amount of attention when discussing the class overall. He could be the second most likely to make an immediate impact. Not only that, his upside is very high.
The 6-foot-9 forward is exactly the type of player that Boeheim loves. Long, athletic and full of energy. No one will play harder than Diagne possession to possession. That effort, combined with his skill set, could force the coaching staff to get on the court sooner rather than later despite a somewhat crowded frontcourt.
Yes Rakeem Christmas is gone, but DaJuan Coleman and Chris McCullough return from injury to join Tyler Roberson, Chinonso Obokoh and Michael Gbinije, who can play the two or the three, up front. So where does Diagne fit?
Last season, McCullough backed up Christmas prior to his injury. It should be expected he could do the same for Coleman in 2015-16. When McCullough slides over to center, Roberson is likely to see significant minutes at power forward. But Syracuse could also elect to go big and play Roberson and McCullough together at the forward spots.
Coleman will play center primarily, leaving Diagne as the fourth guy in the rotation. That does not mean 20-plus minutes per game, but could mean five to ten. Typically, Boeheim does not do that with his rotation, but Diagne may be the exception.
He is much more polished on both ends than he is given credit for, and has natural defensive instincts. If he can learn the zone quickly, Diagne could carve out a role as a versatile reserve who can play the power forward or center position. Think about Baye Keita’s role as something Diagne could do early in his career. Provide energy minutes where he crashes the boards and protects the rim. Difference is, Diagne is a better offensive player.
Diagne has post moves, a baby hook, mid-range jumper and can attack off the bounce to some degree.
If every player fully develops, none of the four may have more upside at the college level than versatile forward Tyler Lydon. His ability to hit the outside shot and play inside make him a unique talent. Syracuse has not had a stretch four type in some time, and Lydon has that type of skill set.
The problem for Lydon is that he is long and wiry, but has to put significant weight onto his frame in order to be ready to play against ACC opponents. As it stands now, his body may prevent him from being ready right away. Given that there is a crowded frontcourt next season, he may be the one that suffers regarding playing time.
That is not to say he will redshirt. Chances are he sees time during the non-conference schedule. But once conference play starts, his minutes could take a big hit.
Long-term, Lydon will be an integral part of Syracuse’s success. He could end up being one of the stars of the team as a sophomore or junior. But his size will be a detriment in year one unless he puts on significant weight.
On the flip side, when Syracuse is in desperate need for offense in certain games, he could find himself on the floor to stretch the opposing defense. A lineup of Gbinije, Cooney, Richardson, Lydon and McCullough is scary offensively with the space that would create. But they lose too much size to play it regularly.
Lydon absolutely has the offensive game to play right away. But his frame and a loaded frontcourt may prevent a major impact in year one.
Howard could be pressed into action right away if Kaleb Joseph cannot get things going as a sophomore. Joseph struggled this past season, and Syracuse needs stable play from their point guard. Can Howard provide that, if needed, in year one?
It will be very tough for him to do so. Not only is Howard recovering from a torn ACL as a junior, but he is also transitioning from a scoring guard to a floor general who runs the offense. That is not an easy switch.
Howard, though, does have a desirable skill set. At 6-foot-6, he has Carter-Williams like size at the top of the zone. His ball handling is improving and he is skilled penetrating and making plays for himself or others. There is a lot of upside.
But as a true freshman, he may not be ready much like Carter-Williams or even Joseph needed more time to develop. His outside shot is improving, but is not on the same level as Richardson or Lydon.
Howard should see plenty of action down the road, but could benefit from a year in the strength and conditioning program as well as time to watch and learn. Another year would remove him even further from the torn ACL and allow him more time to work on ball handling and playmaking.