Last year I wrote a lengthy and well-researched (if I say so myself) column about the yearly absence of Syracuse Alumni in the NBA Playoffs. I was optimistic that the ‘Cuse representation would trend upward in the following seasons.
I was wrong.
I know, I am as shocked as you. But, despite talent like Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams leading teams in the weak Eastern Conference, and players like Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, Chris McCullough, and Rakeem Christmas floating around the NBA, there are only two former Orange ballers in this year’s playoffs, both playing in the Western Conference.
Wesley Johnson is getting his first taste of playoff action in his sixth professional season, his first as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. In his first game he logged nine minutes and scored just three points, grabbed two boards, and dished out one assist.
After averaging 20.8 mpg in the regular season as a reliable bench contributor, Johnson will see about half of that, at best, the rest of the way, as teams tend to play their stars more during the playoffs. Don’t expect much from Wes during his first foray into championship contention.
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Another postseason first-timer, Dion Waiters is playing a much bigger role for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The fourth year guard is seeing the court at the same rate he did during the regular season, averaging 27 minutes during the first two games against Dallas.
Thus far, the scorer off the bench has not found his range, connecting on a putrid 23.5% of his field goal attempts. Still, the Thunder rely on Waiters for energy off the pine, and he’ll continue to get his fair share of playing time throughout the Thunder’s run.
Considering the Clippers and Thunder wouldn’t meet until the Conference Finals, it’s very unlikely we’ll be seeing a ‘Cuse vs ‘Cuse battle this postseason. Thanks to the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs standing in the way, it’s also very unlikely that we’ll see our first NBA Champion that once wore Orange, in over 35 years.
Alas, there’s not a lot more to say. Make sure you read last year’s column if you want some fun facts about Orange futility in the NBA.
Otherwise, continue to hold out hope that Carmelo Anthony ends up with a contender next season, or one of the draft picks ends up on the Warriors. If not, June will continue to be fruitless for the Orange.
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