Mixed Juice: Who will start for Syracuse basketball in the 2014-15 season?

In the latest edition of a multi-part series, editorial staff of The Juice Online discuss various topics on Syracuse basketball. Today’s topic: Syracuse has lost three starters with CJ Fair, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant moving on. Who will start in their place? The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wesley Cheng explored.

Wesley Cheng: Saugat, now that Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis and CJ Fair have left Syracuse, there are three spots in the starting lineup up for grabs. Who do you think the starting 5 will be in the 2014-15 season?

Saugat Sen: That is a tough question because there are so many moving parts. Let’s start with the front court. So much is riding on how DaJuan Coleman recovers, because if he is healthy and ready to go, then Rakeem Christmas slides to the 4 spot. The other forward will likely be Tyler Roberson. In limited minutes, he showed some huge potential. However, he was prone to some freshman mistakes that drew Boeheim’s ire from time to time. Hopefully he can take the next step this off-season. The guy that will give Roberson a run for his spot will be Chris McCullough. Wes, you have seem him play in person, what do you think of his chances of starting next year?

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Christmas will be one of two returning starters

WC: Perhaps this question should be broken into two parts. Who will ‘actually’ start versus who will ‘effectively’ start. Technically, DaJuan Coleman started last year over Jerami Grant, but we all know that Grant came in at the first whistle, allowing Christmas to slide back into his more natural central role. Boeheim always likes to have that spark off the bench and if you’ve started early in your career, you’re likely to continue to start no matter how effective or ineffective you are (see Craig Forth). I could see something similar happening this year with Coleman, McCullough and Christmas starting, with Roberson or Michael Gbinije coming immediately off the bench for Coleman. Still, it appears Coleman has lost a significant amount of weight, so perhaps he will be significantly improved in his junior year. Also, to answer your question, I think McCullough is good enough to start right away. As to the guards, Kaleb Joseph should take over for Ennis with Cooney keeping his starting spot.

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SS: I think I agree with this assessment. Boheim does likle to have that “spark” off the bench. Going back to Dion Waiters, then James Southerland and this year with Grant. I am actually going to disagree with most when it comes to the starting guards. I think Gbinije should get the nod over Joseph. This will be Gbinije’s third year playing at the college level. Last year he showed the ability to drive to the basket and step back to hit the outside shot. At 6 foot 7 he has the potential to be a nightmare matchup for any other back court in the ACC. Another off-season of “Point Guard Camp” and I think we can step in to that starting role. I will even make my bold prediction that he is one of the two leading scorers on the team next year. Please delete this chat if he ends up being a bust of course.

WC: Bold statement, Saugat! I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on this one. While I do think that Gbinije will be much more of an impact player this year, and could potentially be one of the team’s top offensive options as you just mentioned, Syracuse has needs at wing as well. As you saw last season, Gbinije slid down to the bottom of the zone on more than a few occasions. He’s the Swiss army knife of the team, and will probably be playing multiple roles, so to use him in the starting point guard role seems too confining to me. I doubt he strictly focuses on being a point guard over the summer. If he were to start anywhere, I would use him in a Joseph-Cooney-Gbinije-Christmas-Coleman lineup.

SS: Interesting observation. I think with the depth (still) at the forward position with McCullough, Roberson, BJ Johnson and possibly Christmas, next year’s ‘Cuse team will likely need more help at the guard position. This will leave Gbinije to take charge if he so chooses. Kaleb Joseph is good, but he isn’t Tyler Ennis good. He isn’t going to have the experience Ennis did over the summer playing for Team Canada before taking over for Syracuse. We may end up seeing a point guard by committee next year based on how the summer pans out for them. Either way, Christmas and Cooney will be the only true returning starters on this team and as scary as it sounds, the Orange will need them to become go to guys on the offensive end. My final prediction would be Coleman, Christmas, McCullough, Gbinije and Cooney.

WC: My final prediction is a starting lineup of Coleman, Christmas, McCullough, Joseph and Cooney, but after the first whistle, Roberson will immediately enter the game.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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