NBA training camps started up this week. With less than a month to go until the regular season kicks off Oct. 19, a handful (five to be exact) of former Syracuse players will suit up on NBA rosters. In fact, it’s the same group of five that ended last season on NBA rosters.
Who changed teams? Is anyone due for a breakout season? What are the expectations for each of the guys? I’m so glad you asked…
Carmelo Anthony. Beginning this season, Anthony is 10th all-time in NBA scoring, by far the most accomplished of any former Syracuse basketball player. But Anthony begins this season as the only former Syracuse player on a different team this year, and it may be his best chance yet to win an NBA championship.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony is united with one of his Banana Boat brethren, LeBron James. With the Lakers’ Big Three of James, Anthony Davis and newcomer Russell Westbrook, this is the most talent Anthony has played with in the league. Once again, Anthony will come off the bench, a role he embraced and served well in with the Portland Trail Blazers the last two seasons.
Expect Anthony to maintain a 10- to 12-point scoring average and provide an offensive spark off the bench for a team with title hopes.
Oshae Brissett. After last season, Indiana head coach Nate Bjorkgren was dismissed and replaced by long-time Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who returns to a team he has coached already in his career. That change right there could be the biggest factor in determining Brissett’s forecast this season.
Ending last season with a scoring average of 10.9 points per game, Brissett had solidified a role on the team. But, will Carlisle see the same value in him that Bjorkgren did?
Carlisle may not have a choice. With TJ Warren’s recovery from a stress fracture in his foot not going as planned and Caris LeVert recently suffering a stress fracture in his back, there may be a path to regular minutes for Brissett at the start of the season.
However, in the offseason, the Pacers added fellow wings Torrey Craig and rookie Chris Duarte, who may cut into Brissett’s minutes. After seeing the success Brissett enjoyed last season, it would be nice to see him carry that momentum into the upcoming season.
Michael Carter-Williams. While Carter-Williams continues to nurse a left ankle which he had surgery on just a month ago, he will certainly miss the start of the 2021-22 season. By the time he returns to action, he may be no more than a veteran leader on a young Orlando Magic roster.
New head coach Jamahl Mosley will be sifting through his young roster to see who to build around and who doesn’t fit in Orlando’s future plans. Among the young guards on the roster are Markelle Fultz (still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in January), Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton and the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, Jalen Suggs. With development being key for Orlando, Carter-Williams will be depended on more for his tutelage than his playing time this season.
Jerami Grant. At 27 years old, Grant is the elder statesman of the Detroit Pistons projected starting lineup, more than five years older than the next oldest starter (Saddiq Bey). Those two, along with 20-year old No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and last year’s two first round picks Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart (also both 20) give the Pistons the start of a nice, young nucleus.
Grant was the subject of trade rumors over the summer as his breakout season of 22.3 points per game. But, those were distributed more by people outside the organization who thought Detroit should capitalize on his season and exchange him for a few young(er) pieces and/or draft picks.
To start the season, Grant figures to be the first option again for Dwane Casey before giving way to Cunningham, who looks to be a superstar in the making. If/when that happens, Grant still fits any NBA roster as a long combo forward who can fill the bucket and defend. Not many in the industry understood why the Pistons gave Grant $20 million a year last offseason. They do now, though.
Elijah Hughes. Averaging just 3.6 minutes per game in 18 games last season for the Utah Jazz, Hughes probably has the biggest room for improvement this season. However, on a Utah Jazz team that has championship aspirations, Hughes may not be afforded the opportunity to develop further.
As I mentioned at the end of last season, the biggest motivation for Hughes should be his former Orange teammate, Oshae Brissett. If Hughes could find a way to carve out a role for himself and force his way into Quin Snyder’s rotation like Brissett did last season in Indiana, that would be considered a huge success.