A month into the NBA season, it’s a good time to take the pulse of the Syracuse basketball alumni and see how they’re faring at the next level. This time around, among others, we have a star on the back end of his career adjusting to a new team, guys toiling on the end of the bench and a rookie trying to find his way.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Carmelo Anthony – He is still the shining star when it comes to former Syracuse players currently in the NBA. But, this season, he’s got a good problem to have: trying to fit alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City. With a 7-8 record (as of Nov. 19), it is proving harder than expected so far. Anthony’s 20.1 points per game is second on the team. But, it’s 0.7 points per game lower than the worst scoring season of his career. His scoring can be expected to rise as he and the other two Thunder stars get more acclimated with each other.
Dion Waiters – After signing a 4-year, $52 million contract to stay in Miami, Waiters checks in at No. 2 on the list of most accomplished Syracuse players currently in the NBA. On his third NBA team, Waiters Island seems to have found a home in South Beach. Now a full-time starter, Waiters is averaging a career-best 16.3 points per game.
Jerami Grant – Now a teammate of Melo’s, Grant has been a pleasant surprise for the Thunder this season. Missing a big man off the bench with Enes Kanter being traded to New York, Oklahoma City has turned to Grant to provide some punch. After averaging 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last season, Grant has nearly doubled both, raising those averages to 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. Taking advantage of an opportunity with Steven Adams hurt, Grant went for a season-best 15 points and 11 rebounds against Chicago on Nov. 15.
Wesley Johnson – Like Grant, Wesley Johnson has used an injury on his team as a way of contributing. In Los Angeles, the Clippers have been without Danilo Gallinari for the last six games. In that span, Johnson has averaged 8.0 points, including a 15-point, 7-rebound, 4-assist, 4-block, 3-steal effort on Nov. 17 against Cleveland.
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STILL ON THE ROSTER
Michael Carter-Williams – After missing the first 11 games of the season with issues in both knees, Carter-Williams’ first season with Charlotte has gotten off to a slow start. The former Rookie of the Year has seen his stock fallen drastically over the past three seasons. Brought to the Hornets to be a defensive option for coach Steve Clifford, MCW is averaging just 13.5 minutes per game. He is a non-factor right now, but has the best chance (albeit a slim one) in this category of becoming a rotation player.
Malachi Richardson – The Sacramento Kings have started a youth movement. But, they also have a strange blend of veterans (George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter) that were brought aboard this offseason. Richardson has only appeared in nine games to this point and, of his 41 points, 18 of them came in just two games. If he is to make his mark, it will be as a shooter. Richardson is shooting 34 percent on the season.
Tyler Ennis – Speaking of youth movements, there is a ton of young talent on the Los Angeles Lakers these days. Chief among that talent is some guy named Lonzo Ball (heard of him? Or maybe his dad?). Despite, Ball’s struggles, the team is committed to him as the point guard for the long haul, leaving few opportunities for Ennis. Ennis is averaging just over six minutes a game.
Chris McCullough – McCullough completes this list of guys who probably left Syracuse a year or two early. McCullough just has no opportunities on a Washington team that expects to compete in the Eastern Conference. McCullough has touched the floor for just 17 minutes through the Wizards’ first 15 games.
Tyler Lydon – The 24th overall pick in the most recent draft, Lydon has yet to make his NBA regular season debut. Stashed in the G-League, Lydon does not figure to be part of the Denver rotation this season.
Overall, it’s a mixed bag. Anthony continues to be the crown jewel of Syracuse’s current batch of NBA-ers. Others have, perhaps, surprised with the amount they have been able to contribute at the NBA level. And there remains a cloud of “what if” for those that left Syracuse early to pursue an NBA dream and have not been able to maximize their opportunities.
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