Incoming freshman Tyler Ennis, who will take over Syracuse’s point-guard duties for Michael Carter-Williams next season, already has fans speculating what kind of leader he will be.
While playing for Team Canada in the FIBA U19 World Championships earlier this summer, Ennis led the tournament in scoring at 20.9 points per game. With the Orange losing three of its top four scorers from last year’s Final Four squad, a score-first point guard sounds pretty good.
But Ennis also only managed to dish out 2.8 assists per game while sporting a paltry 1.04 assist-to-turnover ratio in nine games at the World Championships. Will Syracuse go from having a point guard who nearly led the nation in assists to a scoring machine who can’t pass?
In a word, no. Ennis was Canada’s best player, and his scoring was part of the team’s game plan. Ennis can dish the ball when he wants to. ESPN’s recruiting service calls him a “terrific play maker,” Scout.com says he “makes every one of his teammates better,” and Yahoo/Rivals rates his passing as “outstanding.”
Last season while playing for the AAU team CIA Bounce, which also featured top recruit Andrew Wiggins, Ennis averaged 3.5 assists per game and just 1.6 turnovers. While playing for St. Benedict’s High School – frequently against lesser competition – he averaged more than 5.1 assists per game.
If Syracuse needs scoring, however, Ennis can oblige. He averaged 21.1 points per game for St. Benedicts and 13.6 for CIA Bounce. In 25 games for CIA Bounce, he made 53 percent of his 3s, 54 percent of his 2s and 78 percent of his free throws. Each of those percentages is more than 10 points higher than Carter-William’s averages last season.
Although Syracuse enters the season with few proven scorers, chances are that Ennis will need to distribute more than he scores. CJ Fair will be pushing 20 points per game, and Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman and Michael Gbinije all appear poised to emerge as go-to scorers.
This is, perhaps, for the best. Although Syracuse has developed several outstanding scoring points guards in the last decade, including Gerry McNamara and Jonny Flynn, there is evidence the team fares better when the point guard lets others do the scoring.
The chart below shows the percentage of shots SU’s starting point guard has taken while on the floor against the team’s final KenPom rank that season. For the 2009-2010 season, I averaged the stats of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine weighted by their minutes played because they essentially split the point guard role.
You can see that, even with Josh Wright’s incredibly low shot percentage in 2006-2007 on a pretty bad team, there is still a trend for greater success when the starting point guard shoots less often.
This summer the Orange will travel north to play three Canadian university teams, and Syracuse fans will get their first glimpse of where Ennis falls on this scale. After a high-scoring summer, SU’s point guard of the future should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his passing chops.