Syracuse Orange in the Pros: 2013-14 Season Update

Who knew? - Mitchell Leff

This past week marked the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, which is a good time to check up on the status of former Syracuse Orange stars playing professionally in the NBA and elsewhere.

Michael Carter-Williams: Typically this list will start with the reigning big dog of SU alums, Carmelo Anthony. But not this year. In only his first week in the NBA, Carter-Williams has taken the league by storm like no rookie since Blake Griffin (remember him?) three years ago. MCW, the 13th 11th pick in the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, has led the team to a 3-0 record with wins over defending champion Miami, Washington, and Chicago. That means he and his team have bested opposing point guards like former league MVP Derrick Rose, budding all-star John Wall, and Mario Chalmers. So, two out of three isn’t bad.

MCW literally had one of the best rookie debuts ever last Wednesday, dropping 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals and 7 rebounds in the win over the Heat. To put into perspective, only two four players have EVER posted quadruple-doubles in a single NBA game, and MCW came close in his first. He is averaging 20.7 points, 9 assists (to only 2.3 turnovers), 4.7 rebounds and 47% shooting from the floor in 35 minutes a game. It’s a little too early to hand him the rookie of the year award just yet, but this red-hot early start has certainly helped to justify leaving SU after his sophomore season.

Carmelo Anthony: ‘Melo has started his fourth season with the New York Knicks, and eleventh overall. He led the NBA in scoring last year at 28.7 PPG, splitting time between small forward and power forward, and made his sixth All-Star and sixth All-NBA team. He made some waves recently when he announced that he plans to test free agency this summer, but also said that he wants to stay in New York… so look for that story to not go away anytime soon.

Dion Waiters: Dion had a successful rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, starting 48 games and scoring 14.7 PPG (on 41% shooting… not great) and making the NBA All-Rookie Team. He has started all three games for the Cavs so far this season, averaging 10 points on a slightly better 43% 34% shooting over 24 minutes a game. In the few chances I have had to see him play, Dion’s game seems similar to how he played at SU – explosive athlete and streaky shooter who has trouble with his consistency and shot selection. The Cavs seem to like him though, and are giving him plenty of opportunity to justify the #4 overall selection they used on him in last year’s draft.

Wesley Johnson: Wes plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, which as a lifelong Boston Celtics fan means he is temporarily dead to me. But the ghost of Wes Johnson has come off the bench in all three games and is averaging a respectable 8.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 24 minutes a game at shooting guard. He’s also shooting 30% from the field, which even Waiters thinks is low. Wes only played in 50 games for a terrible Phoenix Suns squad last year, and since he’s on a one-year deal with the Lakers he’ll need to take advantage of this early playing time before Kobe Bryant returns from his Achilles tendon tear later this season.

Arinze Onuaku: In one of the best stories of the NBA preseason, former SU center Onuaku made the New Orleans Pelicans (formerly the Hornets) after nothing more than a non-guaranteed invitation to training camp. Onuaku was consistently one of the top performers in the NBA Development League last year, and though he only has made two brief appearances for the Pelicans so far he brings size, strength, and low-post play to a team loaded with perimeter-oriented forwards like Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. We all remember the devastating knee injury he suffered at the end of his senior season, so to see him finally make it to the NBA at the age of 26 is a lesson in perseverance that we can all take to heart.

James Southerland: After coming into his own as a shooter in his senior year at SU, Southerland turned down an opportunity to be drafted by the San Antonio Spurs so he could become a free agent and choose the team he wanted to go to camp with. It was reported that the Spurs wanted Southerland to spend at least a year playing overseas, but James clearly thought he could do better. It appears, at least for now, that he was right. Southerland made the Charlotte Bobcats’ roster out of training camp, albeit on a non-guaranteed contract. He has yet to play in a game for his new team, but hopefully he’ll soon get a chance to prove his worth at the NBA level and make a name for himself either in Charlotte or elsewhere in the league.

While I have your attention, here are some quick hits on other former SU players who are still making a living playing the game they love:

Brandon Triche: After being bypassed in June’s NBA Draft, Triche played for the Bobcats’ summer league team. He signed with Aquila of Trento, Italy in August and is putting up 15.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 6 games.

Scoop Jardine: Scoop was selected in the third round of this past Friday’s D-League draft by the Tulsa 66ers, after a brief stint with KK Zadar of Croatia last year. The 66ers’ season starts on November 22. If that team sounds familiar to you, it’s because…

Andy Rautins: …Rautins spent some time in Tulsa last season after being cut in training camp by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He put up some decent stats in three games with Tulsa, averaging 10 points in 22 minutes. He is currently playing for the Frankfurt Skyliners (great name) in Germany’s Bundesliga – their top league – averaging 19.3 points and 33 minutes in 7 games.

Fab Melo: After spending his rookie season bouncing between the Celtics and their D-League affiliate in Maine, Melo was traded in August to the Memphis Grizzlies for fellow former Orange man Donte Greene. Melo was cut by the Grizzlies and spent training camp with the Dallas Mavericks, but did not make their roster. He is currently a free agent and part-time door frame safety tester.

Donte Greene: A month after Greene was traded to Boston, he was also waived in a salary cap-related move. He is currently playing for the Chinese Basketball Association’s Dongguan Leopards, and had a successful run when they took a trip to New Zealand for a series of games in late September.

Johnny Flynn: Speaking of both Chinese basketball and the Land Down Under, Flynn spent last season playing for the Melbourne Tigers of Australia’s National Basketball League. He participated in training camp with the Detroit Pistons, but did not make the team. He reportedly signed with the CBA’s Sichuan Blue Whales in September, but I can’t find any stats for him so far this season.

Kris Joseph: Kris was invited to the Orlando Magic training camp, and was one of the final cuts last week. He really got hosed this summer when he was part of the huge Celtics-Nets trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. Because the trade couldn’t take effect until after the free agent signing period began in July, Joseph couldn’t play for either the Nets or the Celtics in summer league – an extremely valuable time for fringe NBA players to show their stuff for prospective employers. So he was behind the 8-ball when training camp opened, and apparently wasn’t able to make the Magic. I couldn’t find any information on where he is currently playing.

Hakim Warrick: The eight-year NBA veteran was traded twice last season, from New Orleans to Charlotte in November, and from Charlotte to Orlando in February. He never played for the Magic and was waived. He is currently a free agent.

Demetris Nichols: Nichols made the D-League All-Star team last year, and leveraged that effort into a contract with Krasnye Krylia of the Russian Pro League. He’s averaging 11 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes per game so far in the young season.

Eric Devendorf: Devo is currently playing for Hapoel Afula of the Israeli National League, where is appears he is starting. He is scoring 22 points per game in three games, and his team is 2-1 in the early going.

Rick Jackson: Rick is also playing in Isreal, suiting up in three games for Galil Gilboa. He has averaged 10points and 5 rebounds in two games after spending last season with the D-League’s Austin Toros.

Paul Harris: Harris is playing in France for SLUC Nancy. In four games he has averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds. He has played in the D-League and the Philippines over the past couple of years.

Josh Pace: Josh is also playing is Australia as a member of the NBL’s Nelson Giants. In 4 games he is averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds per. This is his third season in the NBL after spending parts of three others playing in Texas and New Zealand.

If I missed any Orange alums who are currently playing professionally, tweet me @JeremyRyan44 or leave a comment below and I’ll try to include them in my next update.
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