As the NBA Playoffs have reached the conference finals, there are officially no former Syracuse players left playing. Thus, it is time to look back and assess how they fared in the 2020-21 season.
Jerami Grant. As one of three finalists for the Kia NBA Most Improved Player, Grant did more to improve his status in the league than just about anyone this past season. Averaging 22.3 points per game, Grant added more than 10 points a game to his average from a season ago. His name has popped up in trade rumors and may stay there throughout the summer. But, that is far more a byproduct of him being able to accelerate Detroit’s rebuild by bringing back multiple assets than it is indicative of any desire for the Pistons to move him. GRADE: A.
Oshae Brissett. If you thought Grant’s addition of 10 points per game was impressive, feast your eyes on the fact that Brissett scored 10 TIMES more than he did a season ago. Now, to put it in perspective, Brissett scored just 1.9 points per game in in 19 games during the 2019-20 season. But, still…to go from there to 10.9 points per game this season is quite the jump. He found stability (both financially and in his role for the Indiana Pacers). However, will whoever Indiana hires to be its next head coach and/or his or her staff value Brissett the same way Nate Bjorkgren did? GRADE: B+.
Carmelo Anthony. After making the West semis last season and seeming to improve their team this season, the Portland Trail Blazers exited the playoffs in the first round. Anthony, in his 18th season, played in all but 3 of Portland’s 72 games in the regular season. With his minutes down to a career-low 24.5 per game, he tied his career low in scoring at 13.4 points per game (which he equaled with Houston in 2018-19 in over 29 minutes per game. Anthony’s role and productivity are both still solid, if unspectacular. Having accepted a lesser role has prolonged his career and improved the perception of him along the way. GRADE: B-.
Michael Carter-Williams. I could just sum up Carter-Williams’ season with just one word: “eh.” But, I will put forth more context than that. At this point, he is what he is. A backup point guard, capable of starting in a pinch. He continues to battle injuries year after year, having not played more than 54 games in a season since his rookie year in 2013-14. Worse yet, Orlando is planning on embracing its young talent such as Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, R.J. Hampton…and the list goes on. Further, they have two lottery picks this season, thanks to the Nikola Vucevic trade to Chicago. All of this is to say that the future for him in Orlando next season may not be so bright. GRADE: C-.
Elijah Hughes. Utah’s second round exit ruined any chances of Hughes becoming just the third Syracuse player to win an NBA championship. That certainly would have catapulted his season grade. As it is, though, Hughes averaged just 3.6 minutes per game in 18 games for the Jazz, making it difficult to get any sort of exemplary grade. His biggest motivation should be Brissett, who is a similar player with a similar skill set who carved out a decent role on an NBA roster this season. Maybe Hughes can do the same next year? GRADE: D.