The comprehensive guide to Syracuse basketball alumni in the NBA playoffs

Waiters
Feb 11, 2012; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Dion Waiters warms up prior to SU's game against the Connecticut Huskies. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online

By now, it’s been well documented that Dion Waiters is the first Syracuse basketball alumnus to appear on an NBA Finals roster in 40 years. The last time it happened, Marty Byrnes made a cameo appearance for the Los Angeles Lakers when they won the 1980 NBA Championship.

I did some research, and since Byrnes’ appearance, 19 Syracuse alumni have played in NBA playoff games. Some of those moments have been fleeting (LeRon Ellis saw the court for all of two minutes in the 1992 NBA playoffs), while some other players had more sustained success (both Danny Schayes and Carmelo Anthony have made the postseason in 12 different seasons).

Before I get to the raw data, here are some other observations:

  1. Of the 19 players, Carmelo Anthony has appeared in the most playoff games (77). Still, that number is slightly skewed since the NBA ditched the best-of-five format in the first round for a best-of-seven by the time Anthony joined the NBA (2003). Immediately behind him is Schayes, who appeared in 69.
  2. If you’re looking for the most successful Syracuse alumnus in the NBA playoffs, that title would have to go to Schayes. While he and Anthony both lead the Orangemen in playoff appearances since 1980, Schayes advanced beyond the first round five times, and one Conference Finals appearance in 1985. Anthony can only say he’s been beyond the first round twice.
  3. If you’re looking for most bang for your buck, that goes to Waiters. On top of being on the Los Angeles Lakers roster this season (and headed for a NBA championship ring whether the Lakers win or lose), his only other appearance was in the 2016 playoffs, where his Oklahoma City Thunder played in the Western Conference Finals. John Wallace would be the runner up here. He played with the Knicks in 1997 and 2000 (when the Knicks were not a laughing stock), and appeared in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals.
  4. Of the 19 SU players who have appeared in the playoffs, only 10 of them have played beyond the first round.
  5. Rony Seikaly has the worst resume of the group, appearing in the 1992, 94, 97 and 98 playoffs, but losing in the first round each time.
  6. Both Syracuse players who were in the playoffs this year, Waiters and Jerami Grant, are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Grant is emerging as Syracuse’s best pro, and should have his pick of destinations with multiple reports saying he will be declining a $9.3 million player option after a season where he averaged 12.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg in 71 games. If he stays with the Nuggets, he could be one of the most successful Syracuse post-season players in history. Meanwhile, Waiters, who has had multiple disciplinary issues this year, and is not currently in the Lakers’ rotation, has a more uncertain future.

Here is the raw data of Syracuse alumni who have appeared in the NBA playoffs since 1980:

» Related: The amazing longevity of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

Rafael Addison

  • 1991-92 (Nets): Lost in First Round
  • 1992-93 (Nets): Lost in First Round

Carmelo Anthony

  • 2003-04 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2004-05 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2005-06 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2006-07 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2007-08 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2008-09 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Finals
  • 2009-10 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 2010-11 (New York Knicks): Lost in First Round
  • 2011-12 (New York Knicks): Lost in First Round
  • 2012-13 (New York Knicks): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 2017-18 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Lost in First Round
  • 2019-20 (Portland Trail Blazers): Lost in First Round

Michael Carter-Williams

  • 2014-15 (Milwaukee Bucks): Lost in First Round
  • 2016-17 (Chicago Bulls): Lost in First Round
  • 2018-19 (Orlando Magic): Lost in First Round

Derrick Coleman

  • 1991-92 (New Jersey Nets): Lost in First Round
  • 1992-93 (New Jersey Nets): Lost in First Round
  • 1993-94 (New Jersey Nets): Lost in First Round
  • 1999-00 (Charlotte Hornets): Lost in First Round
  • 2001-02 (Philadelphia 76ers): Lost in First Round
  • 2002-03 (Philadelphia 76ers): Eastern Conference Semifinals

Sherman Douglas

  • 1991-92 (Boston Celtics): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 1992-93 (Boston Celtics): Lost in First Round
  • 1994-95 (Boston Celtics): Lost in First Round
  • 1997-98 (New Jersey Nets): Lost in First Round

LeRon Ellis

  • 1991-92 (Los Angeles Clippers): Lost in First Round

Tyler Ennis

  • 2014-15 (Milwaukee Bucks): Lost in First Round

Jerami Grant

  • 2016-17 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Lost in First Round
  • 2017-18 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Lost in First Round
  • 2018-19 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Lost in First Round
  • 2019-20 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Finals

Jason Hart

  • 2003-04 (San Antonio Spurs): Lost in Western Conference Semifinals
  • 2005-06 (Sacramento Kings): Lost in First Round
  • 2007-08 (Utah Jazz): Lost in Western Conference Semifinals
  • 2008-09 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Finals

Wes Johnson

  • 2015-16 (Los Angeles Clippers): Lost in First Round
  • 2016-17 (Los Angeles Clippers): Lost in First Round

Louis Orr

  • 1980-81 (Indiana Pacers): Lost in First Round
  • 1982-83 (New York Knicks): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 1983-84 (New York Knicks): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 1987-88 (New York Knicks): Lost in First Round

Billy Owens

  • 1991-92 (Golden State Warriors): Lost in First Round
  • 1993-94 (Golden State Warriors): Lost in First Round
  • 1995-96 (Sacramento Kings): Lost in First Round

Leo Rautins

  • 1983-84 (Philadelphia 76ers): Lost in First Round

Danny Schayes

  • 1982-83 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Semifinals
  • 1983-84 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 1984-85 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Finals
  • 1985-86 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Semifinals
  • 1986-87 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 1987-88 (Denver Nuggets): Western Conference Semifinals
  • 1988-89 (Denver Nuggets): Lost in First Round
  • 1990-91 (Milwaukee Bucks): Lost in First Round
  • 1994-95 (Phoenix Suns): Western Conference Semifinals
  • 1995-96 (Miami Heat): Lost in First Round
  • 1996-97 (Orlando Magic): Lost in First Round
  • 1998-99 (Orlando Magic): Lost in First Round

Rony Seikaly

  • 1991-92 (Miami Heat): Lost in First Round
  • 1993-94 (Miami Heat): Lost in First Round
  • 1996-97 (Orlando Magic): Lost in First Round
  • 1997-98 (New Jersey Nets): Lost in First Round

Etan Thomas

  • 2004-05 (Washington Wizards): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 2005-06 (Washington Wizards): Lost in First Round
  • 2006-07 (Washington Wizards): Lost in First Round
  • 2009-10 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Lost in First Round
  • 2010-11 (Atlanta Hawks): Eastern Conference Semifinals

Dion Waiters

  • 2015-16 (Oklahoma City Thunder): Western Conference Finals
  • 2019-20 (Los Angles Lakers): ***NBA Finals – still ongoing

John Wallace

  • 1996-97 (New York Knicks): Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • 1999-00 (New York Knicks): Eastern Conference Finals

Hakim Warrick

  • 2005-06 (Memphis Grizzlies): Lost in First Round
  • 2009-10 (Chicago Bulls): Lost in First Round

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2588 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.