What will Syracuse basketball’s starting lineup look like in 2017-18?

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Syracuse will need Chukwu to improve this season

With Taurean Thompson out, what does Syracuse basketball’s starting lineup look like? Let’s take a deeper dive below.

THE GIVENS:

  • Tyus Battle: If Syracuse is going to continue its streak of first round picks in the NBA Draft, Battle is the most likely candidate. Battle averaged 11.3 points last season, and became a key cog of SU’s lineup down the stretch. The question is not if Battle starts, but where he starts.
  • Geno Thorpe: The graduate transfer can play both guard positions and led USF last season in points (15.1) and assists (4.6). He’ll carry a huge part of the offensive burden much in the same way that Andrew White did as a grad transfer from Nebraska. Like Battle, it’s not a question of if he’ll start, but where.

LIKELY:

  • Paschal Chukwu: Though Chukwu was a non-factor for Syracuse last season after suffering a freak eye injury, and the coaching staff seems hopeful that Chukwu will be a Baye Moussa Keita type player with more of an offensive game. You can’t teach length, and Chukwu at 7’2″ has plenty of it. You could’ve made the argument for Chukwu coming off the bench with Thompson still at SU. But with Thompson gone, it’s hard to imagine Chukwu not starting.

» Related: With departure of Taurean Thompson, will Syracuse basketball use three-guard offense?

PERHAPS:

  • Frank Howard: After a promising freshman year off the bench, Howard took a step back last season. Some of that can be attributed to a middle-body injury that required offseason surgery. He lost his starting job to Jon Gillon last season, but he is the most seasoned pure point guard returning to the team.
  • Oshae Brissett: Tyler Lydon’s departure opened up a large amount of playing time, and Brissett seems to be the biggest beneficiary at wing. He’s considered one of the best players from Canada, and we all know how well that worked out for SU with Kris Joseph and Tyler Ennis.
  • Marek Dolezaj: The 6-9 forward was one of the most prolific scorers at the FIBA Under-20 European Championships, posting 16.9 points per game. He also stuffed the stat sheet with 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

ALSO IN THE MIX:

  • Matt Moyer: During his redshirt year, Moyer worked on his shooting stroke and vastly improved his strength. He’ll be among the names considered to start at wing.

I envision two different kinds of lineups that Jim Boeheim will choose between.

THE BIG LINEUP: Thorpe/Battle/Dolezaj/Brissett/Chukwu

Thorpe at 6’4″ would be the smallest player on the court, and handle point guard responsibilities. The 6’6″ Battle and Brissett will take the 2/3 spots, leaving the rangy Dolezaj and Chukwu at the 4/5. Talk about length in the zone.

GO SMALL: Howard/Thorpe/Battle/Brissett/Chukwu.

This lineup shifts Battle to the wing in a three-guard lineup, with Brissett at 6’6″ playing power forward. A swap of Howard for Dolezaj gives the Orange more quickness around the perimeter, and also better outside shooting (Dolezaj shot just 25 percent from distance in the U-20 FIBA Championships).

To be sure, losing Thompson’s length, athleticism and scoring ability hurts Syracuse in the upcoming season. But that also allows Boeheim to get his younger players more experience heading into the 2018-19 season, with five-star recruit Darius Bazley set to come to SU.

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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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