Gbinije: 35.0 min, 12.7 pts, 3.6 ast, 5.0 reb, 1.9 stl, 46.0 FG%, 39.2 3PT%, 57.1 FT%
The highest ranked incoming freshman for the Orange this year should get plenty of playing time at the three as the only true small forward on the roster. Malachi Richardson, ranked as the seventh small forward and 29th overall in the class of 2015, has plenty of success performing on the big stage, playing in the McDonald’s All-American game and in the Jordan Brand Classic.
The 2014-15 Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey, is going to bring a silky smooth shot to the team, something that will help with the spacing that Syracuse is famous. He should be an immediate asset in helping the Orange improve upon the .301 three point shooting percentage from last season. With his speed and quickness, Richardson will be able to draw larger defenders to the wing and drive by them for easy buckets in the paint, something he has said he has been working on during the offseason.
With his move set, if Syracuse decides to go with a bigger lineup, he could play alongside Gbinije in the backcourt, making what would be a nearly impossible pairing to get by on the defensive end. His length will really help in that department, especially when he is guarding smaller players.
During his senior season at Trenton Catholic Academy, Richardson averaged 20.2 points, 5.1 boards, 4.3 assists and nearly two steals per game. With this wide range of skills, Richardson could become one of the most versatile players in an Orange uniform this season.
If Richardson doesn’t pan out on the wing, then what? There are really no other players with his size and ability to get to the basket and draw mismatches on the wing with their shooting ability other than Gbinije. But with his running the show as the newly named starting point guard, what does that mean for the three? Will Boeheim be forced to run more three guard sets than we are used to seeing?
Another option could be turning to Tyler Lydon. While Lydon is the likely primary backup at power forward, he could emerge as a key contributor at small forward as well. His ability to shoot, stretch the floor as well as rebound gives Syracuse a versatile forward prospect.
There is a big lack of size on this team, mostly stemming from the reduced scholarships. But the frontcourt should be fine. It is the players on the wing that will be drained come the end of the season because of the lack of depth there. If Richardson is able to show he can shoot the three and attack the rim as well as playing the role of defensive stopper outside, he could become one of the most important players on the Syracuse roster.