Among the Syracuse blogosphere, you won’t find a bigger advocate for Tyler Lydon than me. I mean, you just won’t. I’ve been shouting praise about Syracuse’s sophomore forward since well before he ever suited up for the Orange, and continue to believe he’s got the talent to be an NBA lottery pick.
But I’m also very well aware of the fact that, right now, something is very wrong. Well, maybe “wrong” isn’t the correct way to phrase it. All I know is that when I watch Tyler Lydon play right now, I join so many other Syracuse fans – and Jim Boeheim himself – in growing more and more frustrated.
That’s because right now, Tyler Lydon looks flat out scared to be a star.
After the game last night, Jim Boeheim was quoted saying, “He’s got to look to shoot the ball. I think he took seven shots tonight and he passed up 10.”
And Boeheim is absolutely right. His 6-foot-9 stretch four is one of the most skilled big men in the nation, with one of the purest shooting strokes in recent memory at Syracuse. He’s not hitting his shots at the clip any of us would like, but it’s also hard to break out of a shooting slump when you get inside your own head and start refusing to take open looks.
Throughout the dreadful loss to UConn last night, Lydon would continually pass up open shots. He’d pump fake and take a couple dribbles, taking himself away from an open jumper and putting himself into a position where he no longer had a clean look. The entire offense was stagnant last night, with far too many instances where players dribbled aimlessly, the possession winding up in a forced, contested jumper as the shot clock expired.
Syracuse was tentative across the board in last night’s game. No one seemed to want the ball, which is yet another example of this roster lacking an alpha dog to take charge and make plays when they’re most needed. Tyler Lydon should be that guy.
But unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to want that title. At least, not right now. Looking back at his young career, he’s always been pretty tentative when it comes to looking for his own offense.
Think about this for a second: through eight games this season, Syracuse’s preseason All-ACC forward has reached double digits in shot attempts exactly one time, and even then, he took only 12 shots. He’s averaging just over eight field goal attempts per game, which is what you’d expect of a second or even third banana. He’s second on the team in shot attempts, but that’s not saying a whole lot considering Syracuse has 25 fewer attempts than its opponents this year.
For his career so far, Lydon’s always been reluctant to look for his own shot, averaging just 7.3 field goal attempts per game despite playing 30.6 minutes per game through his first 45 contests. Including his one double digit shot game of this year, he’s only had eight games out of those 45 in which he’s taken at least 10 attempts. Boeheim said last night he’d like to see Lydon take 17, but he’s never taken more than 12.
This is a problem. Syracuse is struggling mightily on offense, and its (theoretical) best player has been far too willing to defer. The good news is that Lydon acknowledged this last night. In that same Syracuse.com article I linked earlier, he’s quoted saying, “I think I’ve got to be more aggressive. There’s no doubt about that. I’ve got to take more shots. But at the end of the day, I try to make the right plays and some of those times, I thought I could get a better look for another guy on the court and try to get them a better shot than what I had. It just wasn’t that way. I just have to be more aggressive.”
And look, I get it. He’s a team player, and likes keeping everyone involved. But his mindset has got to change for Syracuse to have any hope of righting the ship after this disappointing 5-3 start. When you’re arguably the best shooter on the team, passing up a slightly contested shot in order to get the ball to a teammate who doesn’t shoot it as well but is a little bit more open isn’t helping, it’s actually hurting. A 15 footer with a defender closing out on you, when you’re a shooter like Tyler Lydon, is a better shot than an open corner jumper from, for example, Tyler Roberson. There is such a thing as being too unselfish, though.
Sometimes, you have to be a little selfish and look for your own shot. That’s just part of the job description when you’re the best player on the team.
Of course, the question really becomes whether or not Lydon’s got confidence issues with his jumper right now. He’s struggling to make shots, shooting just 38.5% overall, including hitting just 39.4% of his two point attempts. But a good number of those two point attempts have been when he tries to attack the rim. That’s not really his game. He’s a jump shooter, and should be thriving in the midrange, out to the three point line.
Hopefully, sooner than later, Lydon begins to realize what he needs to be, and what he needs to do, for this team to succeed. He needs to be a jump shooter, and he needs to start taking open jump shots. It’s simple, in theory. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see how simple it is in execution.