Syracuse lost three of its top four scorers from last season with CJ Fair, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant all leaving the team. Fair was the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. Ennis was second at 12.9 ppg, and Grant was fourth at 12.1 ppg.
With that much turnover, Syracuse will need contributions from a relatively unproven group of players. Here are some of the candidates to take over as the team’s top offensive option:
THE TOP RETURNER: An obvious choice here would be the team’s third leading scorer, Trevor Cooney. He was third on the team at 12.1 ppg, and had a torrid start to the season, connecting on 43 of 86 shots from beyond the arc in non-conference play. But in conference play, Cooney’s percentage dropped to 30.9 percent from downtown. If Cooney could find more consistency in his junior season, then he could be the team’s leading scorer next year.
THE RISING SOPHOMORE: Tyler Roberson showed flashes of potential throughout the year, but could never quite crack the rotation. Part of that had to do with his eligibility issues, which cost him the ability to go to Canada in August for those exhibition games. That certainly stagnated his progress, but with a full year of SU’s system under his belt, Roberson could be in line to start, and should be one of the Orange’s top offensive options.
THE FRESHMAN PHENOM: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim rarely heaps praise on freshmen who don’t deserve it. So it’s telling when Boeheim told McCullough during his recruitment process that he saw McCullough as a “one-and-done” player. McCullough certainly has a wealth of athleticism, and also has the ability to score in the post.
THE POINT GUARD: Ennis’ defection to the NBA has opened up a significantly larger role for incoming freshman Kaleb Joseph to fill. Joseph’s style of play is more uptempo compared to Ennis, and he also has more of a scoring mentality than his predecessor. Boeheim’s guards are given plenty of opportunities to score, and Joseph has the ability to take advantage of that.
THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE: Michael Gbinije did a little of everything for Syracuse last year. He played backup point guard, slid down to the wing and also moonlighted at the shooting guard spot. In Syracuse’s third round loss to Dayton, Gbinije scored eight points in 22 minutes while shooting 4 of 5 from the field. He only played 14.6 minutes per game last year, but he’s certainly in for a bigger role on this year’s team.
THE DARK HORSE: I preface this with saying that Rakeem Christmas won’t lead the team in scoring, but Christmas should play a larger role in the offense in the 2014-15 season. Christmas started to develop a baby hook last season, and was the team’s best offensive player in a narrow win over NC State on Feb. 15. If that hook shot becomes more consistent, then he should be able to produce more than 5.8 ppg.