How Are Syracuse Basketball Players Doing in the NBA? (2nd Edition)

Michael Carter-Williams

Syracuse got knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Dayton — but behold! You can still watch some former SU players in the NBA!

I went over how every former player was doing in the NBA this time last year and concluded that other than offensive genius like Carmelo Anthony, the Orange don’t produce many productive rotation players.

How has the landscape changed one year later?

The following players are out of the league: Jonny Flynn (Australia), Hakim Warrick (China), Donte Greene (China), Andy Rautins (Germany), and Kris Joseph (France).

The following are in the D-League: Fab Melo (Texas Legends: Dallas Mavericks affiliate), Arinze Onuaku (Canton Charge, Cleveland Cavaliers affiliate), and James Southerland (LA D-Fenders, Lakers affiliate)

Players in the D-League have much better chance of making a career in the NBA than do players currently overseas.

Michael Carter-Williams – (Philadelphia 76ers 11th pick, 2013)

The Philadelphia 76ers selected MCW 11th overall last summer and he is the centerpiece of a major rebuilding project. The Sixers are deliberately undergoing an awful season to get a high pick in this summer’s highly regarded draft class. They are in the midst of a 25 game losing streak.

Williams won Rookie of the Month twice (November and February). He currently leads all rookies in points (16.7), assists (6.2), steals, (1.9) and remarkably, rebounds (6.1) and 34.9 minutes/game. He’s 6’6” and 185 lbs., which is excellent for a point guard.

That’s the good.

His numbers are skewed because this is a horrible rookie class, the Sixers play at a fast pace, and are really bad.

When he was at Syracuse, scouts loved his size but were concerned about his shooting. Those concerns are real. He shoots .393 overall and .263 from three – both wretched percentages. He leads all rookies with 3.8 turnovers per game.

His defensive rating is 107.2, (which is the number of points per 100 possessions that the team allows while that player is on the court). That places him 352 out of all 467 players that played a minute of time this season. (For context, Roy Hibbert leads this category out of players who average more than 30 minutes per game at 93.9).

That being said, along with rookie Nerlens Noel (who hasn’t played a minute and likely won’t all season), their own draft pick, and the New Orleans Pelicans draft pick (if it falls out of the top five — which is likely), Williams, and the two rookies will provide a very solid foundation for the future — which is exactly according to GM Sam Hinkie’s plan.

MCW needs to improve his shooting, defense and ball-handling, but he should stick around the league for a while.

Wesley Johnson – LA Lakers  (Minnesota Timberwolves 4th pick, 2010)

Now on his third team in four seasons, Johnson finds himself on an injury-depleted Laker team averaging 9.2 points (43% shooting, 37% from three), 1.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 28.4 minutes/game. He’s been starting, but since losing Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to injuries, he’s putting up below average numbers for a very bad team.

He’s not cutting it on the other end of the court either, as his defensive rating isn’t good (107.7 – 380/467), though defense is not to be expected playing under Mike D’Antoni.

I’m not sure how he’d do on a contending team, (he’s never been on one) but I’m guessing he’d be a 10-15 minute rotation player at best.

This good news is, that the Lakers are on national TV so much that you’ll have plenty of chances to watch him with six more national TV appearances.

Dion Waiters – (Cleveland Cavaliers, 4th pick, 2012)

Entering his second year with the Cavs, Waiters is putting up so-so numbers (15.1 points, 2.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 43% FG, 36% 3FG, 28.7 minutes/game).

The Cavs were supposed to push for the playoffs this season, but are currently six games out.

Oh, and he’s not an ideal teammate. It was reported that he was kicked out of practice but wasn’t punished for it. Him and All-Star Kyrie Irving have been the source a dysfunctional locker room all season.

His numbers are very similar to his rookie year, and for a player in his second second, where improvement is expected, he has been a disappointment — especially for being picked fourth overall.

He’s been in trade rumors all season, and a change of scenery would probably be beneficial.

Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks (Denver Nuggets, 3rd pick, 2003)

In his fourth season as Knick and 11th overall, Melo is having one his best seasons on a streaky Knicks team. He’s averaging 28.1 points (2nd in the league) on 45.3% shooting and 41.1% from three, 8.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

He’s still one of the best scorers on the planet along with Kevin Durant. He’s strong enough to back down small forwards, and quick enough to go past power forwards. He can hit threes, mid-range shots, and has an array of post-up moves. He’s simply unstoppable on the offensive end. His shot chart is a thing of beauty.

Despite his offensive repertoire, he still remains a suspect defender with defensive rating of 105.2 which is 284/476th.

The Knicks are in danger of losing Melo in free agency. Phil Jackson was brought in as head of basketball operations and will use his influence to convince him to stay, but nothing is guaranteed.

The Knicks are 2½ games out of a playoff spot so you may only have a month left of Melo-watching until next season, as they have four national games remaining on the schedule.

The Zone

I made a point to note the defensive deficiencies of all players. I theorized last year that Boeheim’s zone defense makes it more difficult to adjust to the man-to-man defense played predominantly in the NBA.

Daily Orange writer Jesse Dougherty in January goes into this theory in much greater detail.

Current Players

Tyler Ennis shot up draft boards as GMs and scouts love his poise, pace control and decision making. His lack of athleticism won’t isn’t an issue so far, but he’ll be challenged defensively in the NBA. Ennis is projected going 9th on ESPN and 14th on DraftExpress.

Scouts like Jerami Grant’s athleticism and explosiveness despite not being polished offensively. He’s ranked 18th on ESPN and 21st on DraftExpress.

I expect Ennis to declare. He’s already meeting with family and coaches to discuss his future.

Since Grant is also a projected first rounder, I’d bet goes as well. You may have seen them play their last Syracuse games.

Who’s bandwagon should you jump on?

The obvious choice would be Melo, but he’s an eleven year veteran and already 29.

Jump on the Sixers now. They can only go up, MCW will only improve, and you can say you got in from the ground up.


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