Syracuse Basketball: Predicting Orange's Stat Leaders for 2014-15 Season
The Syracuse basketball team will have a completely new group of leaders in 2014-15. There will be new trendsetters on the court as well as on the stat sheet.
Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair led the Orange in most statistical categories last season, and now they are all off to the NBA draft. That leaves the returning players and incoming freshman to work to fill the box score.
So who is going to fill the void left by the three future pros? Let's make some predictions and take a look at who could lead the Orange in the main statistical categories next year.
Points: Trevor Cooney
Trevor Cooney ended last season tied for third in scoring on the team.
The team's other three top scorers (Fair, Ennis and Grant) aren't coming back, which leaves Cooney as the team's lone returning scoring threat.
Naturally, that makes him the favorite to pace the Orange's scorers in 2014-15. If Cooney can hit the three consistently, he will easily lead the team in scoring. But Cooney also has to expand his arsenal, looking to score off the dribble and with pull-up jumpers from inside the arc.
There are few options after Cooney who will be able to score consistently. Cooney pretty much has to be the primary scoring option for the Orange, or they will be in for a long season.
Rebounds: Rakeem Christmas
This one is pretty easy.
Rakeem Christmas is going to get the bulk of the minutes at center considering he is the only proven player Jim Boeheim has at the position. Because of that, he will have no trouble cleaning the glass on both ends of the floor.
Christmas was third on last year's team in rebounding behind Fair and Grant. Now Fair and Grant are gone, so Christmas will have to pick up their slack.
Since Grant led last year's team on the boards from the forward spot, Chris McCullough is another option to consider for good rebounding numbers. But Christmas has loads more experience than McCullough, and he will be near the basket more consistently on offense and defense.
The key for Christmas will be to stay on the floor. He had a tendency last year to pick up a few early fouls and get taken out. With no experienced backups, that isn't an option for Christmas this year. If he stays out of foul trouble, he will rack up rebounds with ease.
Assists: Kaleb Joseph
Now things are getting a bit tricky.
It's hard to expect an incoming freshman to lead the team in assists, but it isn't unprecedented. Tyler Ennis did it in 2013-14, and while Michael Carter-Williams wasn't a freshman, he also led the team in dimes in his first year starting.
Kaleb Joseph will likely be the new starting point guard, so the smart money is on him to set up his teammates consistently. He will likely look to attack in transition, creating plenty of opportunity for him to find his teammates easy shots.
Joseph also plays with a pretty loose style, so if he attacks off the dribble and draws multiple defenders, it will leave his teammates open. Joseph's style may also cause high turnover numbers, but the assists will be there for him as well.
Steals: Michael Gbinije
Michael Gbinije will more than likely see a significantly expanded role in 2014-15, which will give him more opportunities to shine on defense.
Last year, Gbinije only averaged 0.7 steals per game, but that was only in 14.6 minutes a night. On a per-minute basis, that steal rate was comparable to Ennis' and Cooney's, which were No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC last year.
Now that Ennis is gone, Gbinije will see more minutes. Since Cooney will be shouldering more of the scoring load, his steal numbers might take a hit as he saves some energy on defense. That will leave Gbinije to handle creating the majority of the turnovers.
Gbinije's length will help him pick off passes at the top of the zone and jump passing lanes when he plays down low. That defensive versatility will help him turn plenty of steals into transition opportunities.
Blocks: Chris McCullough
Here's another category that could go to a returning player, but we are going out on a limb a bit and picking Chris McCullough to erase the most shots for the Orange.
Christmas is the other obvious choice to be the blocks leader, but shining on defense is what will earn McCullough a lot of his minutes.
McCullough has the length and athleticism to be a dominant shot-blocker for the Orange. His long arms will allow him to pin shots against the backboard even if the offensive player gets past him. He also has displayed the ability to go up and reject shots with players coming right at him.
Assuming McCullough is eligible to play, he will make a name for himself early sending shots into the seats.