Syracuse Basketball: Assessing SU's potential remaining portal needs this off-season

We go in-depth on what the biggest remaining off-season needs could entail for Syracuse basketball via the transfer portal.
We go in-depth on what the biggest remaining off-season needs could entail for Syracuse basketball via the transfer portal. / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

At this juncture in the off-season, Syracuse basketball has 10 scholarship players ahead of the 2024-25 season, based on departures, incoming transfers and 2024 pledges at the high school level.

The current transfer-portal window in college basketball closes on May 1, meaning that players who wish to ultimately transfer to a new school must be in the portal by then. That doesn't mean these transfer prospects have to commit to a new school by May 1, so recruiting developments via the portal, whether at the 'Cuse or elsewhere, could carry on for additional weeks or even months.

So far this off-season, seven players from the Orange's 2023-24 roster have hit the portal. Sophomore point guard Judah Mintz is headed to this summer's NBA Draft. That's eight departures.

On the flip side, five guys are expected to return, at least for the time being. The 'Cuse brings in two high school seniors, and Syracuse basketball to date has secured three commitments out of the transfer portal.

As such, the Orange coaching staff has three open scholarships available. I don't necessarily think that the 'Cuse will end up with 13 scholarship players for 2024-25, but the team could potentially add another guy or even two ahead of the next stanza.

What are the biggest remaining off-season needs for Syracuse basketball? Let's discuss this.

Here's the 2024-25 roster, as it currently stands, sorted by positional groups:
Sophomore J.J. Starling
Sophomore Chance Westry (can also play small forward)
Redshirt sophomore Kyle Cuffe Jr.
Junior Jaquan Carlos, a transfer from Hofstra
Incoming freshman Elijah Moore

Sophomore Chris Bell
Senior Jyáre Davis, a transfer from Delaware
Incoming freshman Donnie Freeman (could possibly play spot minutes at center)

Senior Eddie Lampkin Jr., a transfer from Colorado
Junior Naheem McLeod

Based on this current roster, my best guess at a starting rotation is Starling, Carlos, Bell, either Davis or Freeman, and Lampkin.

As I noted in another recent column, I think the biggest remaining need for the 'Cuse this off-season is bringing in another big man for depth. Rolling with just two true centers makes me a little nervous, especially since McLeod was injured for a sizable portion of 2023-24.

The tricky part for the Orange staff is finding a reserve big man who can play power forward and/or center but would want to join a team where he's not likely to see a lot of run, unless there are significant injury issues in 2024-25 ("knock on wood").

I guess the 'Cuse staff could look at a big man who is in the portal and likely an underclassman not anticipating big minutes in 2024-25, or possibly from the junior college ("JUCO") or even the high school level.

When Orange guard target Dakota Leffew, a four-star transfer prospect, announced his commitment to Georgia on Saturday, I noted that despite this miss for the 'Cuse, the squad's backcourt still holds a ton of promise.

But to that end, I do think that if there's one potential need for Syracuse basketball, other than an additional big man, it's to bring in a 3-point specialist, whether he's a guard of some sort or even a small forward (i.e., a wing player).

Bell, in 2023-24, was the Orange's best 3-point shooter, and he was one of the top long-range snipers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He's a little streaky, I'll acknowledge.

Beyond Bell, though, if we're talking about 3-point shooting in 2024-25, we'll have to center our attention on guys such as Moore, Carlos, Starling, Cuffe, Westry and Freeman.

Here's the deal, though. Moore is a fabulous 3-point shooter, and Freeman has significantly improved from the perimeter, analysts say. However, they're both new to the collegiate game.

Starling shot about 32 percent from deep in 2023-24, but he was better in the second half of last season. Cuffe connected on about 34 percent in limited attempts; Carlos' 3-point shooting percentage was similar. Westry was injured for all of the last stanza, and he's not known as a 3-point specialist.

My point with all of this background is that the Syracuse basketball staff could - I repeat, could - possibly look to add another 3-point shooter, whether via the portal, the JUCO route or even at the high school level.

The challenge here, similar with finding a big man, is convincing a player to transfer to the 'Cuse for 2024-25 (and beyond) when minutes are likely going to prove hard to come by, at least in the upcoming campaign.

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