With Buddy Boeheim gone, can the senior guard step up his role on offense?
It’s another year of Syracuse Orange men’s basketball, and with that comes another round of player profiles for the 2022-2023 season. Christian did the honors of kicking off our ‘Cuse men’s basketball team profiles with freshman Justin Taylor. For our second profile, let’s shift to one of the team’s veteran seniors and well-known names: Joe Girard III.
You could easily make the case Girard was the most underrated player for Syracuse this past season, which is crazy given how important of a role he has served since he joined the team back in 2019.
Last season, Girard’s impact was overshadowed by the 1-2 Boeheim brother punch and Cole Swider. In 2021, his minutes were down compared to his other two seasons, mainly because of how much guard depth ‘Cuse possessed during their March Madness run from two years ago. When the train fell off the tracks in 2022, many were quick to blame Girard when in reality, there were many factors that led to Syracuse’s regression this past season.
Amidst all the chaos and subtle disappointment from this past season, Girard quietly took a leap as a playmaker and a three-point marksman in 2022.
In his 2021-2022 campaign, Girard ranked third on the team in points per game, first in assists, first in steals, and first in three-point percentage. Compared to the rest of the ACC, Girard was top-7 in the conference in assists, steals, and three-point percentage while remaining one of the ACC’s best volume scorers (ranking 20th in points per game).
In other words, he may not have been the Orange’s best player, but other than maybe Jesse Edwards, Girard was Syracuse’s most irreplaceable player. Compared to the other guards on the roster, no one topped Girard’s ability to shoot the lights out from three, get the rest of the team involved, and keep defenses honest as a respectable scorer.
As he approaches what could be his last year for the Orange, Girard will look to build off of what I believe was a promising performance last season.
Vitals: 6-foot-1, 190 lbs.
Statistics (2021-2022): 13.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.
Strengths/Weaknesses: As most fans saw last season, Girard’s off-the-dribble shooting and ability to play off-the-ball helped guide Syracuse to the 4th-best scoring offense in 2022. Having a guard who can attack the basket (and more importantly, make teams pay at the foul line), create some stability in the offense, and set the tempo either in transition or in the half-court is a must. In a conference as talented as the ACC, having players who can pop on offense is all but a necessity.
While not the most athletic guard, Girard’s pesky defensive style, quick hands, and IQ allowed him to be one of the best turnover-forcing players in the ACC. Part of the reason why Syracuse looked good on offense was Girard’s active hands on the defensive end.
Girard’s shooting from three is both a blessing and a curse for Syracuse, and that will be the biggest x-factor for the team heading into this season. In his first two years with the Orange, Girard was a below-33% shooter from three. In 2022, his three-point percentage ballooned north of 40%. Shooting waxes and wanes all the time in basketball. Given the sample size, there’s a likelihood Girard regresses more to the mid-thirties from the three-point line. How that will impact the team’s offense remains a concern.
Speaking of offense, the biggest concern for Girard is his role moving forward. One of the major reasons why Girard did so well last season was that he fit within the context of the team. Buddy Boeheim led the ACC in scoring, while Cole Swider (19th) and Jimmy Boeheim (21st) gave Girard more options on that end of the court. With all three of those players gone, who steps up for the Orange remains a glaring concern for Syracuse. Can Girard step up into a larger role as a scorer for Syracuse? For now, that remains to be seen.
Ceiling: Girard maintains his hot shooting from behind the three-point line, but takes a leap as an interior scorer and playmaker. I think most fans would be pretty content if he got up to like 15-17 points per game and 5-6 assists. More importantly, in the most ideal of worlds, he can be a go-to scorer that keeps Syracuse’s offense afloat in the ACC.
Floor: At a bare minimum, Girard’s shooting takes a slight (but not significant) dip across the board, but maintains his efficiency at the foul line. The playmaking and defense stagnate, but if you’re rooting for the Orange, an experienced guard who can give you consistency on offense is always a blessing and rarely a curse.