Men's Basketball

NBA Draft: The case for picking Tyler Lydon

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Spacing the floor and shooting the 3 is more important than ever in the NBA. Tyler Lydon fits right in.

Tyler Lydon is headed to the NBA after two seasons at Syracuse, and he’s a near certainty to have his name called at some point in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-9 forward finished his collegiate career with per-game averages of 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He also shot 40-percent from deep while drilling 93 3-pointers.

Currently, several mock drafts have him projected to go near the end of the first round, down from the mid-first round he had been projected in the early and middle portions of his sophomore season. Here are three reasons why teams should consider drafting Lydon.

Stretch four

It’s no secret that 3-point shooting is at an all-time high in the NBA. Two seasons ago, there wasn’t a single team in NBA history that had made 1,000 or more 3s over the course of the 82-game season. In the last two years, three different teams have done it. Twelve teams had at least 800 3-pointers made this year, while in the five seasons between 2008 and 2013, there were only five teams who made that many.

Lydon’s biggest redeeming asset is his 3-point ability, and he showed in college that his range can extend out to NBA levels. His added advantage is his size for the position he projects to play. Out of the top 50 3-point shooters in the league this year, based on percentage of 3s made, only eight were 6-foot-9 or taller. Lydon’s ability to space out the floor away from the ball and play in the pick-and-pop game should translate very well to the next level as a shooting power forward.

Where Lydon really excels as a big is his ability to position himself before the shot. Take this example from a game against Wake Forest this season, starting at the 30-second mark of the video. Lydon walks toward the left wing, motioning as if he’s going to set an off-ball screen to free up a shooter.

But as Frank Howard dribbles hard to the right, Lydon comes back around a Dajuan Coleman screen at the top of the key. As Lydon runs toward his spot on the top of the key, from left to right, his feet are pointed out toward Howard and the Syracuse bench. In one stride, while catching the ball, Lydon pivots both feet toward the basket. When he lands and sets to shoot, he’s already squared up to the hoop. This allows him to get off the shot almost immediately. An extra second to twist his body around after catching the ball might have been just enough for the Wake Forest defender to get over the screen. But Lydon’s talent to get ready before the shot resulted in three points.

Quickness and footwork are skills that will help define Lydon’s game at the next level, mastered by some of the games best shooting big men. Milwaukee Bucks forward Mirza Teletovic, who is also 6-foot-9 and who last year set the record for most 3s made by a reserve in NBA history with 181, has mastered that skill. Below is a video of him doing it as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Starting at the 0:34 mark, Teletovic curls off a screen toward the key. He jumps as the pass is thrown, and by the time he lands, he’s readjusted his feet to face toward the basket, ready to jump right back up and start the shooting motion.

Lydon’s ability to drain shots and open up the floor should fit right into most modern NBA schemes.

Active hands

Lydon shifted around a lot in his two years at SU. His natural position seems to be the power forward. Sometimes though, SU head coach Jim Boeheim bumped him down to small forward when playing alongside two other bigs, like Tyler Roberson and Coleman. Other times, Lydon played as an undersized center.

He didn’t let that impact him at the defensive end though, where Boeheim frequently praised his play. Playing out of the Orange’s zone, Lydon was one of just five players in the Atlantic Coast Conference to average both a block and a steal per game. He timed his jumps in the passing lane correctly, even when playing right in the middle of the zone. His shot-blocking prowess was highlighted on a country-wide level against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 two seasons ago.

Of course, Lydon will be playing almost exclusively man-to-man defense at the next level, but defensive IQ usually carries over regardless of system. Lydon should be able to adjust quickly.

Upward trajectory

A typical knock on some four-year players is that by the time they come into the NBA, they’ve already reached the peak of their development. It was one of the concerns a few years back for former Orange center Rakeem Christmas.

But Lydon just recently turned 21. And while he didn’t necessarily develop into the bona fide scoring threat some projected him to be, he still improved many aspects of his game. His freshman season, as a more minor part of the offense, he had more turnovers than assists. He improved his passing this season, even as he was tasked with shouldering a larger load of the offense and with SU struggling to find consistent point guard play during nonconference play. He also improved his free throw percentage while taking more attempts.

If Lydon can continue growing the supporting assets in his arsenal, while deploying his NBA-ready 3-pointer, he could be a great fit for most NBA teams in the short and long term.

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