Syracuse Basketball: J.J. Starling sleeper pick for draft’s 1st round – expert

Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Syracuse basketball sophomore guard J.J. Starling is a sleeper pick to get selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, according to a top national analyst.

On3’s Jamie Shaw, in a recent article, looked at 10 “sleepers who could hear their names called in the first round of the NBA Draft,” and he included Starling in this piece.

The 6-foot-4, 206-pound Starling, a Central New York native, spent his freshman season at fellow Atlantic Coast Conference squad Notre Dame before transferring to the Orange this past spring.

The Fighting Irish, in the 2022-23 season, mightily struggled. Starling was a bit inconsistent with his shooting, but he did get named to the ACC’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23 after averaging 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

In the off-season, J.J. Starling was one of the highest-rated transfers across the country, according to numerous recruiting services. Looking ahead to the 2023-24 term, he and sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, who is also garnering 2024 NBA Draft buzz and was on the ACC’s 2022-23 All-Freshman team, are expected to form the Orange’s starting backcourt under first-year head coach Adrian Autry.

J.J. Starling is poised to have a significant impact on Syracuse basketball in 2023-24.

Autry is high on his 2023-24 backcourt, and it’s understandable why. Led by Mintz and Starling, the team’s guards group runs six deep, and it is filled with athleticism, talent and versatility.

Prior to college, Starling was a standout at Baker High School in Baldwinsville, N.Y., and he played his final two seasons at the powerhouse La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., where he was a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. On the AAU circuit, Starling competed for a program quite familiar to the Orange coaching staff, the Albany City Rocks in Nike’s EYBL league.

He received a scholarship offer from the ‘Cuse in August of 2019, took two official visits to the Hill and had Syracuse basketball in his final five before committing to Notre Dame.

A former five-star, top-25 national prospect in the 2022 class, Starling certainly showed flashes of his potential with the Fighting Irish, but the team wasn’t good and he only connected on 42.1 percent from the field, 29.9 percent from deep and 63.8 percent from the charity stripe.

When it was revealed that long-time Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, who recruited J.J. Starling, would step down after the 2022-23 stanza, it didn’t surprise me that Starling decided to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal. He has had a long-time relationship with Autry, so it also didn’t surprise me when Starling transferred to the ‘Cuse for his sophomore year.

"Shaw, in his recent write-up, said in part that “Starling is a microwave-type offensive weapon. He is capable of creating space for his shot as well as getting downhill toward the rim. Starling will have to shoot the ball better (29.9 percent from three and 63.8 percent from the free throw line), but a lot of that had to do with balance and footwork; the form is there, and so is the release. He has a strong frame with good length and nice pop.”"

In an article from early September by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Starling checked in at No. 31 overall, just outside of the first round, in a composite mock NBA Draft in 2024. In this 2024 aggregate mock draft, J.J. Starling had a best rank of No. 26 and a worst rank of not being included.

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