One of the biggest question marks for Syracuse basketball, as far as a lot of the pundits are concerned, is point guard play. With Michael Gbinije off to the NBA and Kaleb Joseph gone to Creighton, the Orange are seriously lacking in experience at the position. But despite some of the reservations folks have had about the position, it should be one of the strengths of the team in 2016-17.
I’ve talked a bit about both Frank Howard and John Gillon, the two players battling for the starting point guard gig, in the past. Howard, the 6-foot-4 sophomore, played sparingly last year and, while he showed flashes of being a dynamic playmaker, struggled to become anything resembling an offensive threat. Gillon, meanwhile, is a fifth year transfer from Colorado State who can fill it up from deep, but is both small, and brand new to the program.
As we get closer to the season, the battle for the starting position is going to get tougher and tighter. Both players have pros and cons, but the reality is they complement each other well. One is tall, rangy, and a particularly savvy passer. The other is a waterbug who can really fill it up and find his own offense. Now, if only we could find some way to fuse the two together, we’d be in serious business.
But until someone invents a new technology (and if you have, don’t bother speaking up…just proceed to the Melo Center and try to be…convincing), we’ll just have to take the pluses and the minuses each player brings to the table. Still, Syracuse is in a far better position than many might have predicted when basically the entire guard pantry was emptied over the course of the offseason.
Word coming in all summer was that Howard is back bigger, stronger, and better than ever. He looks like a different player altogether, is the word on the street. Early practice reports have echoed this feeling. Where Gillon was once presumed to be the favorite to start based on his scoring ability and experience, it turns out that Howard – based on both his knowledge of the 2-3 zone and his improved all-around game – is making a strong statement for the gig.
And I haven’t even touched on the third option for the position, either. Tyus Battle isn’t going to get a ton of run at point guard this year, but he’s certainly capable of running the point in a pinch. This is the first time in awhile that Syracuse has boasted three players who all have the ability to run the show, albeit with the third option being a guy who’s best suited playing off the ball and creating his own offense, rather than trying to create for his teammates.
Now, that said, I’ll forever believe that Syracuse would have been much better off over the past two seasons had Michael Gbinije been able to play off the ball 100% of the time he was on the floor. While Silent G turned into an adequate player at the point guard position, it’s no secret that his best attribute was his scoring ability. That’s one of the good parts about the addition of Gillon this season, by the way: it virtually assures that Tyus Battle will get to play most of his minutes at his natural shooting guard spot.
Still, the Orange boast unprecedented (for us, anyway) depth at point guard this season. Hell, while the team only has 10 rotational players, it’s arguably one of the strongest top-to-bottom rotations in years. Depending on how the season goes, that could wind up being expanded to decades. There are no positions at which Syracuse is lacking talent or depth this year.
Good things are most assuredly ahead, assuming things come together and the pieces of the puzzle fit together well. The good news is that, while some of the national talking heads are under the impression that point guard is a big question mark for the Orange, frankly I have zero doubt it’ll become an absolute strength.