Jim Boeheim learned quickly last season that Syracuse could not survive without Tyus Battle on the floor.
Now he faces the prospect of replacing him entirely.
Battle, who averaged 39 minutes per game last year, is testing the NBA draft waters, declaring but not signing with an agent. The 6’6 guard now has until Jun. 11th to withdraw his name if he wants to return for his junior season.
A fringe first-rounder at best, Battle faces a tough decision: stay in the 2018 draft and probably go in the top 45, or return to school and attempt to become a top-20 pick in next year’s significantly weaker draft class.
Battle was in the first round of many early 2018 mock drafts, but has seen his stock fall somewhat in later editions. The Ringer has him as the no. 36-ranked prospect while Sports Illustrated has him going at no. 47 to the Lakers.
Others have him going undrafted, including NBADraft.net.
The sites on this top list of sportsbooks will be offering props on the NBA draft a little closer to the date (Jun. 21st), sometime after the Jun. 11th deadline for withdrawal. If Battle does stay in the draft, the over/under on his draft position is going to be in the high 30s or 40s.
His status as a likely second-rounder does not bode well for the value of his first contract. The end of the first round is like a cliff for rookie deals. While returning to school would delay his first paycheck, it’s entirely possible that he makes up the lost earnings in one fell swoop next year if he turns himself into a more highly-touted prospect.
Is it feasible that he would? Yes.
Battle was asked to do so much last year that it crushed his efficiency. His scoring average skyrocketed compared to his freshman season (from 11.3 PPG to 19.2 PPG) but his field-goal percentage dropped precipitously (from 43.3% to 39.9%) as did his three-point percentage (36.6% to 32.2%).
Criticized for poor shot-selection, many of his low-quality looks were a product of the team having such a lethargic offense. How many times was he forced to create for himself with the shot clock winding down?
Admittedly, that would not have happened so much if he was a better creator for his teammates, but his playmaking is better than his 2.1 APG suggest. That number was deflated because his teammates were such poor shooters. No one on the Orange averaged double-figures in scoring and shot better than 40% from the field.
Additionally, Battle doesn’t project as a true point guard at the next level; he’s more of a combo or two-guard. Yes, NBA teams will want him to be able to facilitate to some extent, but they won’t be looking to him to run the offense the way Boeheim needed him to,and playing off ball will play to his skill-set.
If Battle returns, he’ll be surrounded by a better supporting cast, yet should still be the focal point of the offense. Both of those are positives for a player looking to boost his draft status. That dynamic should lead to a more efficient season and, in all likelihood, a higher stock heading into the 2019 draft which, as mentioned, is weaker on the whole.
Perhaps this is wishful reasoning from a Cuse fan, but it makes sense (financially and otherwise) for Battle to return.