At least one of this past season's Syracuse Orange players was able to claim a championship.
Under a revised format, former Syracuse
gunner three-point specialist James Southerland helped the Golden State Warriors summer league squad claim the Las Vegas tournament championship. On the losing side was Syracuse fan favorite Arinze Onuaku, suiting up for the Phoenix Suns.
Vegas was a veritable treasure trove of former Orange players looking for a shot at the big time. Let's see how they did.
James Southerland: After a pretty "meh" stint in Orlando with the Philadelphia 76ers, Southerland fared marginally better in Vegas. Aside from being on the title-winning team, Southie averaged 4 PPG and 1.7 RPG. J-Sizzle (TM) even made a brief appearance against the Charlotte Bobcats in the semi-final game. He scored 11 points in just 14 minutes, helped by going 3-3 from deep. He added five rebounds for good measure. Other than that, though, it was more of the same. Not great shooting and not much else to go along with it.
Outlook: Without having seen the games, it's impossible to say if Southie's performance was more impactful than his numbers indicate. But this is the James Southerland Syracuse fans have known for four years. Plays great when he's hitting shots but is lost when he isn't. That's not good enough for the NBA.
Brandon Triche: Triche, who was not invited to play for any team in Orlando, made is summer league debut in Vegas with the Bobcats. He had a solid run, averaging 7.4 PPG on 58% shooting overall and 50% from three. His assist to turnover numbers were sub par, though (almost 2:1...the wrong way). Triche is an intriguing prospect in that he can be a solid back up to both guard spots. He was never going to be a star, but has NBA value as a role-player. His performance in Vegas showcased those strengths. Outside of going on a blistering scoring tear for 10 days, Brandon couldn't have asked for a better performance.
Outlook: Triche has a good chance, even if not with Charlotte, particularly because he shot well from deep (he only shot 29% from three for Syracuse last season). Triche's value will be as a guy who can run a team, keep the ball safe and hit an open jumper. There's a good chance he gets an invite to training camp somewhere.
Andy Rautins: One of a few former Orange in Vegas who have played in the NBA before, Andy, Son of Leo, was with the Chicago Bulls this time around. His summer league campaign was nothing to write home about. A mere 5 PPG and 2.2 RPG. Like most fringe prospects, Andy's problem is consistency. He dropped 10 and 3 with two steals in 32 minutes against Portland then, two days later registered only a single point in 29 minutes against Dallas. Nobody expects Andy, Son of Leo, to be a scoring dynamo. But consistency is key and Andy doesn't have it.
Dion Waiters: Dion did what Dion do. Unlike some other high draft picks recently out of Syracuse, Dion has given the Cleveland Cavaliers no cause to grumble about his selection. After scoring only three points on 1-11 shooting in his Vegas debut, Dion went on a tear, scoring 66 points over the next three games. Of course, this being Dion, he wasn't terribly efficient (37% shooting overall, 15% from three). Still, he was aggressive (28 FTA) and even managed to get his teammates involved some (3 APG). It'll be interesting to see how he progresses in his second year in the NBA.
Outlook: Clearly Dion is in no danger of washing out of the League any time soon. But this is still a critical time in his career. Dion is a talented scorer. But if he want's to be a star in the league, he needs to be more efficient. He's not that good to the point where a coach will be willing to put up with a boatload of bad shots and wasted possessions just because Dion thinks he's feeling it. He's on the right track, but still has a long way to go.
Scoop Jardine: Joining his "cousin" with the Cavs was Antonio Jardine. Scoop was sidelined last season with a foot injury and, after sitting out a year, joined the Cavs after the Vegas session started. Scoop only played on game for Cleveland, logging three rebounds and an assist against the Miami Heat.
Outlook: The deck is stacked against Scoop. He's not going to wow anybody with his athleticism. He's not going to go off and drop 30 on anybody. His value is as a leader and a floor general. In order to show that, he needs time on the floor. Perhaps the best route for him will be in the D-League, a place where he can get some burn with almost NBA caliber teammates. If he can manage to rack up assists in the "me first" environment of the NBDL, perhaps he'll be able to draw attention from the big boys.
Jonny Flynn: Back for another session, Jonny suited up this time for the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately, a change of scenery didn't yield any difference in result. Jonny only logged a single minute for the Clips, scoring two points against the Atlanta Hawks. He was shut down after that.
Outlook: As previously mentioned, Jonny's NBA career is likely over. The Jonny Flynn that the Timberwolves selected sixth overall in 2009 could do this. That man no longer exists. It's a shame, but it's a hard fact of NBA life.
Donte Greene: Another part of the ill-fated Syracuse "Dynasty", Donte Greene took the court for the Memphis Grizzlies. After fracturing his ankle just days before signing a deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Greene made his comeback with Memphis. His performance was what Syracuse fans know and expect. He launched a ton of shots (69), many of them (26) from three. He made an underwhelming about of them (36% overall) while remaining virtually allergic to rebounding (3.2 RPG). So, basically, he was Donte Greene.
Outlook: He was Donte Greene, a 6'11" guy who isn't a terrible three point shooter and has four years of NBA experience under his belt. Considering Greene was on the Grizzlies roster that went to the Western Conference Finals this past season, it's a puzzle as to why he's even playing in the summer league.
Demetris Nichols: Another former Orange looking to make his way back in to the NBA, Nichols was with the Milwaukee Bucks in Vegas. Nichols was in the D-League last season and averaged 5.2 PPG and 1.2 RPG for the Bucks in Las Vegas. Much like Andy Rautins, consistency has been the issue for Demetris. The question for such players is what you're going to get when you put him in. Right now, there's not way for a coach to even guess at the answer.
Outlook: Nichols turns 29 in September. Granted, there have been career D-Leaguers that have made it to the big time in their mid-late 20's, but they're few and far between. Props to Demetris from sticking with the dream, but it may be time to hang it up and go make some cash overseas while he still can. His past NBA experience with the Knicks and the Bulls might help him land on the end of an NBA bench, but it's doubtful.
Arinze Onuaku: It's been a long road to Onuaku. From the leg injury that prematurely ended his Syracuse career to several years in the D-League since, the going has been tough for AO. Playing for the tournament runner-up Phoenix Suns, though, he reminded us that he's the same broad shouldered brute he was as an Orange. AO averaged 6.9 PPG and 6.4 RPG for the Suns, though he didn't shine so bright in the final game (6 pts, 1 reb). Normally consistency would be the issue again, but Onuaku is a difference case. He's a player where double digit scoring (which he did twice in Vegas) is a bonus. He's a player whose impact on the game is entirely defensive. He showed it in Vegas and perhaps it'll pay off.
Outlook: Averaging seven and six in the summer league is more like four and three in the NBA. Most NBA teams would fall over themselves for a big man who can given you four and three with solid defense for 15 minutes a night. AO has a good shot at a roster spot as a poor man's Reggie Evans. And if you think that's not praise, Evans got paid $1.7 million and was on a playoff team.
So, there it is. The summer sessions are over. Now it's time for coaches and GMs to decide who makes the cut.