Syracuse Basketball had two pieces of good news yesterday. Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins will officially take over for Coach Jim Boeheim when he retires in 2018. Second, Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas are now going to the pros. The Brooklyn Nets picked McCullough at 29th and Christmas by the Minnesota Timberwolves at 36th, but will play in Cleveland as a result of a trade between the ‘Wolves and Cavs.
What impact will they have for each team? McCullough played only sixteen games before injuring his ACL in mid-January. McCullough listed at 6’9″ 199 needs to build more strength and muscle to compete at the next level. He will need to work on various aspects of his game when his injury heals. McCullough needs a more physical presence and battle for rebounds, make better shot selection from outside, and will need to adjust to Lionel Hollin’s defensive schemes over the 2-3 zone run at Syracuse.
The Nets gambled on him, but his early season performances impressed NBA scouts. He has good hands going for steals and can shoot well from within 15 feet, but if McCullough has not improved his defensive play or decision-making, he may end up in the D-League he shows improvement.
The Net roster could see changes since Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez are opting for free agency. Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News reports:
Source: Brook Lopez has opted out of his contract.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 26, 2015
Rakeem Christmas will come off the bench and attempt to fill the role of retiring guard-forward Shawn Marion and Kevin Love, who has opted out. Christmas evolved in his senior year and improved his game substantially. Christmas needs more arc in his release when shooting against taller guys. He performed well in the NBA Draft Combine which improved his chances to compete in the pros.
The learning experience of playing with Lebron James will be good for Christmas. The benefit of James as a teammate could help Christmas become a starter in a few years. James only has one more year and the return of Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao make them a favorite to contend next season. Since he also played center at Syracuse and could be used in the middle and battle with NBA back-ups.
Both guys could become contributors in a few years, but overall Christmas will be better suited in Cleveland as opposed to Minnesota where losing more than 50 games is possible again next year. McCullough has to make the stronger impression because he was a higher risk. Could he be traded if the Nets are able to re-sign Young or will McCullough be the first step in the Nets future?
Next time, I will preview a member of the class of 2016 Syracuse recruits and give updates on the schedule for the upcoming year.