It’s only August, I know. Fall camp hasn’t even started for the Syracuse football team, yet here I am, talking about Orange basketball. I grew up in a basketball house; sue me. Actually, please don’t sue me. Don’t take that as an open invitation. I just say nonsense words, you shouldn’t take me seriously.
Except, of course, when I start talking about how Tyler Lydon could very well challenge for the title of ACC Player of the Year in the 2016-17 season. When I say that, please know that I’m deadly serious.
Look: we all know that this award is going to be Grayson Allen’s to lose. Despite having the most punchable face this side of some annoying character from a Kids in the Hall sketch, Allen is a terrific basketball player who averaged better than 21 points-per-game last year and will be the go-to guy on what should be the best team in the nation next year.
But after Allen, the Trip Master General himself (who will also be one of the frontrunners for the Wooden Award), there exists another tier of excellent basketball players who could potentially vie for Player of the Year honors. Included in this group are Duke freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, UNC swingman Justin Jackson, Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton, Virginia’s London “Holy Shit, I’m Still in College?” Perrantes, and yes, our very own Tyler Lydon.
I think that Newton and “Smell My Fingers” Perrantes are probably the longest shots out of that group. Carolina seems like they’ll always have someone in the mix, and Jackson is the safest bet. And as for Lydon, Syracuse has a chance to be anywhere from a Final Four contender (again) if they add Andrew White, to a team in the top 15-20 range (if they don’t add Andrew White). No matter the configuration of Jim Boeheim’s lineup this season, Lydon will certainly be front and center.
Look, it’s no secret that I’ve been on the Tyler Lydon bandwagon longer than just about anyone whose name isn’t also “Lydon.” I called him the best pro prospect on last year’s team; I said the same about this year’s team. He’s probably going to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and deservedly so.
At about 6-foot-9 with deep range (and accuracy), he’s also more athletic than he gets credit for and is both a disruptive shot blocker and, as he continues to get stronger, an emerging rebounder. Hell, last year he averaged 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and shot 40.5% from three point range. That’s all without starting a single game last year, and at times looking a little hesitant to take open jumpers.
With an additional year, some additional muscle, and a lot more confidence stemming from his increased national profile and importance to the team, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see his numbers increase even more. I don’t expect his blocked shot numbers to stay quite so high, with the emergence of Paschal Chukwu and the fact that he won’t need to play center much, if at all, this season. But I fully expect his scoring to jump up a good four or five points, and his rebounding to increase a few notches as well.
Basically, numbers right around 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and continued 40% shooting from deep are extremely realistic for the sophomore forward. Now that he’s going to get a chance to play his more natural position and be arguably the top scoring option, he’s only going to get better. Chances of Lydon being a preseason First Team All-ACC pick are pretty solid, and he’s perhaps the program’s best chance since CJ Fair for postseason accolades as well.
Syracuse is going to have a number of exciting players on this year’s roster. I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I think Tyus Battle could be among the most talented guards Jim Boeheim has ever recruited. But at the end of the day, this is Tyler Lydon’s team. And it may just be Tyler Lydon’s year, too.