If I told you a basketball team at any level was only going to use three guys on the court at a time, what would you say its chances of winning would be? Not very good, right?
Well, for all intents and purposes, the Syracuse basketball team is playing 3-on-5 on the offensive end in most games.
Tyus Battle (308), Frank Howard (256) and Oshae Brissett (242) have taken 806 of Syracuse’s 1,074 shot attempts this season. If I do the math (…carry the one…), that comes out to 75 percent of the Orange’s field goal attempts. Collectively, they have shot just 39 percent. The other nine players that appeared in games for Syracuse this season have put up just 268 shots and shot 52 percent.
With the starting five on the floor, Syracuse has two players in Matthew Moyer and Paschal Chukwu that total less than seven shots a game. With a portion of those coming off offensive rebounds, why would opposing defenses game plan to guard anyone other Battle, Howard and Brissett? With one defender focusing on each of those guys and two others always able to help out, it makes it tough for Syracuse to create shots. The amount of times where Syracuse has had to shoot tough shots with the shot clock winding down is more than a team should take in order to maintain success.
So, have Syracuse teams of the past had such an uneven distribution of shot attempts from its main scorers to its role players?
Here’s a breakdown of previous Syracuse teams, the three players that shot the most and what percentage of the team’s shots they took:
- 2016-17: Andrew White / Tyler Lydon / Tyus Battle (54.5%)
- 2015-16: Michael Gbinije / Trevor Cooney / Malachi Richardson (63.9%)
- 2014-15: Cooney / Rakeem Christmas / Gbinije (58.8%)
- 2013-14: C.J. Fair / Tyler Ennis / Cooney (63.9%)
- 2012-13: Fair / Brandon Triche / Michael Carter-Williams (56.7%)
- 2011-12: Kris Joseph / Dion Waiters / Triche (47.9%)
- 2010-11: Scoop Jardine / Joseph / Rick Jackson (52.4%)
- 2009-10: Wesley Johnson / Andy Rautins / Joseph (47.9%)
- 2008-09: Jonny Flynn / Eric Devendorf / Rautins (54.5%)
- 2007-08: Donte Greene / Flynn / Paul Harris (61.8%)
Within the last 10 years, no trio of shooters has even been within even 10 percent of Battle, Howard and Brissett. Even in the championship season of 2002-03, Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara only took 62 percent of the team’s shots. To have so many shots come from so few players is not a recipe for success.
In non-conference play, the Orange could get away with it. Superior talent led to easier shots, whether it be from creating turnovers that led to easy layups, being able to drive by defenders or attacking the offensive glass and getting second-chance points.
In conference play, the playing field has been leveled. It has led to less forced turnovers and transition opportunities, less success in isolation and fewer offensive rebounds. Aside from defense, rebounding had been the calling card of this season’s Syracuse team. Through six ACC games, Syracuse’s total rebounding margin is -6.
All teams want the ball in the hands of its best players. But if the opposition knows only a couple players on the court are really threats to take shots, it makes them easier to guard. Syracuse has become too easy to guard as of late and it has made things very difficult for them in conference play.