The 2014-15 NBA season has turned into quite the roller coaster ride for some former Syracuse basketball players thus far. Most notably, it was announced on Wednesday that All-Star and Syracuse legend Carmelo Anthony's season is over, and two of the six former-Orange players currently in the NBA were traded to the same team on Thursday and thrust into the thick of the playoff race.
Former Syracuse players have been making the league's headlines all year, maybe even more this week than they have the whole season. With the playoffs coming faster than we know, here is a look at how Anthony, Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, Wesley Johnson, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant have faired in the NBA this season.
As I mentioned before, New York Knicks president PhIl Jackson announced on Wednesday that Anthony's season is over, as he will have season-ending surgery on his left knee. He will undergo a procedure that "includes a left knee patella tendon debridement and repair". Jackson said he expects his star player to be off the court for four to six months.
The news, which many knew would be coming for weeks, was a little worse than expected, as Anthony had been playing through these problems even with the surgery looming. The announcement comes after he played 30 minutes in this past Sunday's All-Star game in his hometown New York City.
The decision to shut it down puts a cherry on top of what has already been a horrible season in the first year of his new five year, $124 million contract and the Phil Jackson/Derek Fisher rebuilding process. Despite his team-high 24.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, the Knicks' 10-43 record is the worst in the NBA. He lost two longtime teammates, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, to a trade and a third in Amar'e Stoudemire, who was bought out earlier this week and signed the veteran's minimum with the Dallas Mavericks. For the rest of the season, the Knicks will continue to lose some more for Jahlil Okafor.
Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis:
The NBA trade deadline was crazy up until the last second on Thursday, and amidst all of the craziness two of Syracuse's last three starting point guards, Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis, were both traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. What a coincidence!
Carter-Williams came from the tanking Philadelphia 76ers, who value cap space and draft picks over everything else. The move may come as a surprise since MCW is the reigning league Rookie of the Year, but since the Sixers are still rebuilding no player is really safe on that roster if the price of giving them up is right, in the mind of general manager Sam Hinkie.
MCW is averaging 15 points, 7.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting a woeful 38 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from three in 41 appearances after missing the first seven games of the season recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
The trade to the Bucks is a great fit for Carter-Williams, whose length and defensive prowess fits right in with the direction first year head coach Jason Kidd and the organization are going. The team is arguably the biggest surprise of the NBA season so far, holding a 30-23 record, placing them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and making them almost a lock for the playoffs. This move was obviously not to win now, but to continue building for the future, but this will definitely be a change of culture that MCW will be sure to like, especially since the Bucks have won more games this season than he has in his almost two years in the league.
As far as Ennis, he might have a chance to get some playing time in the NBA, after spending most of his time with the Phoenix Suns in the D-League or seeing little playing time behind their now dismantled three point guard attack. He has only played in 58 minutes in eight NBA appearances this season, but has played in nine D-League games for the Bakersfield Jam and played very well. He averages 18.4 points, 5.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting. Not too shabby. This trade might end up giving him some time in the big leagues, and a chance to learn from an all-time great NBA point guard in Kidd.
I was very excited for Dion Waiters heading into the season. LeBron James returned to Cleveland to join him and the Cavaliers, and I felt that he would have a breakout year, flourishing on a highly-talented roster.
Yep, I was wrong.
In 33 games with the Cavs, Waiters had career-lows pretty much across the board, averaging less points and rebounds per game while shooting worse from the field and from three than he had in his first two seasons. On top of that, he went viral with a couple of Vines showing him practically begging for the ball. If you haven't seen them, they are quite entertaining.
His poor play is what made him the centerpiece of the aforementioned Smith and Shumpert trade, which sent him to Oklahoma City in the three-team deal. Unfortunately, his poor stats have followed him to his new team, seeing only slight increases in his scoring and efficiency from the field. So too have the Vines.
Due to early season injuries of stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the Thunder see themselves barely in the playoffs, sitting in the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot with a 29-25 record. Waiters' play will play an important role in them getting over that hump, and sneaking into the top eight of the mighty west.
In his second year with the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson has appeared in 50 games, scoring 9.3 points per game while shooting just over 40 percent from the field. The Lakers are 13-40 and have the NBA's fourth worst record. They have a top-five protected pick that will go to the Sixers only if it falls outside of that range, so tanking looks like the best option for one of the league's most storied franchises.
Johnson, who signed a one-year deal this summer to remain in Los Angeles, will be a free agent at this season's end.
Grant, one of the few remaining players anybody has heard of on the 76ers, has played pretty well after missing the team's first 15 games with a sprained ankle. In 38 games off the bench, Grant is averaging 5.7 points and three rebounds per game. Believe it or not, he is shooting better from three (38.7 percent) than he is from inside the arc (36.8 percent). His 24 made three-pointers are four more than the 20 he attempted in his entire Syracuse career. Things seem to be going alright for the 39th overall pick.
Two former Syracuse players, Arinze Onuaku and C.J. Fair, are not on NBA rosters but are currently playing in the D-League.
In 27 games with the Canton Charge (his third year with the team and fourth in the D-League), he averages 18.4 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, while making field goals at a blistering 62.8 percent mark.
Fair, playing his first year of professional ball for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, is averaging just over 11 points and five rebounds per game in 33 appearances.
That's what's up with all of the former Syracuse players in the NBA and its Development League. I love talking about these guys and the NBA, so feel free to tweet me @mconstas41 or comment here if you want to keep the conversation going!