Basketball season is just around the corner. But before we get to college hoops, the NBA will tip off in mid-October. With early regular season games just weeks away, teams still need to finish sorting out rosters, and regain some chemistry before a handful or preseason contests, which start on September 30.
There are quite a few former Syracuse Orange players in the NBA this year. So which training camp battles should you keep an eye on? And which preseason games are worth tuning into before the real ones begin? Take in our full guide to Syracuse in the NBA below:
Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder
Finally free from the purgatory that was the New York Knicks (/sobs), Hoodie Melo joins an OKC team with a championship in mind. They’ve traded a few pieces in the offseason, sure. But Sam Presti didn’t really yield big assets to acquire Anthony or fellow big addition Paul George. Both will team with Russell Westbrook to potentially challenge the Warriors for league supremacy. Expect Melo to have a bounce-back season after Phil Jackson crushed his will to live at MSG.
Michael Carter-Williams, Charlotte Hornets
MCW put up a modest 6.6 points, 2.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last year as a reserve with the Bulls, which was enough to earn a one-year deal with the Hornets. In Charlotte, he’ll back up Kemba Walker. But the team will need a production increase out of the former Rookie of the Year if they want to improve upon last season’s disappointing lack of postseason play.
Tyler Ennis, Los Angeles Lakers
After languishing on the Rocket as a minimally-used reserve, Ennis was traded to the Lakers and regained some of the energy that made him a first round pick to begin with. In his final seven games last season, he averaged over 11 points per contest, including a 20-point outbreak against the Timberwolves. He’ll be the primary backup to rookie Lonzo Ball now. And if the UCLA standout falters, it could be a huge break for the former Orange point guard.
Michael Gbinije, Golden State Warriors
After one injury-riddled season with the Detroit Pistons, Gbinije moves to Oakland where he’ll be hard-pressed to find a ton of minutes on a veteran-laden Warriors squad. He could very well end up playing for the franchise’s G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz. But if the shooter Silent G is going to make himself an NBA fixture, this is one of the best teams to prove yourself on.
Jerami Grant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Around the time he was resigned on a one-year deal this offseason, writers praised his versatility and progress with OKC. He’d been traded shortly after the year started, but made a name for himself on both ends, despite some diminished offensive numbers. The team loves his athleticism, and that’s another big plus. He could actually learn quite a bit from veterans like Melo and Paul George.
Wesley Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers
Wes started 2016-17 hurt, then never really recovered. He averaged just 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, making for his worst year as a pro. There’s room in the Clippers’ rotation for him to get minutes, but Sam Dekker’s arrival likely pushes him back a spot at the small forward spot. He’ll be battling for playing time now unless he proves last year was a aberration.
Tyler Lydon, Denver Nuggets
Even when the Nuggets picked Lydon in the first round, the team already had enough power forwards. Now he’ll be forced to work his way up that ladder, or make the unlikely switch to small forward, where Denver could actually use some help. Lydon’s shot-blocking and athleticism should give him a strong chance to avoid the G-League, but he needs to show more consistency as a shooter.
Chris McCullough, Washington Wizards
McCullough had turned a strong G-League season last year into a reserve spot on the Nets. And while it wasn’t a regular role on the floor, he was getting a shot. Since being traded to the Wizards, though, he’s hardly used at all. He’s trapped behind veterans at the power forward spot unless they opt for him to move on (which may be better for him).
Andy Rautins, Toronto Raptors
Surprised? Ends up Rautins impressed with his shooting while in Turkey, and that provided enough for the Raptors to take a chance on the Canadian three-point specialist. He’s not guaranteed anything with a training camp contract, and he’s too old for the G-League. But it’s great to see Andy get another opportunity with the NBA.
Malachi Richardson, Sacramento Kings
Richardson was sidelined with an injury before really taking off with the G-League’s Reno Bighorns, but in the limited time he did get to play, he was averaging 21 points per game. After an offseason of roster moves, that could mean a starting role for the former Syracuse star in his second season. Even if the Kings are bad again, it’s valuable experience that could mean bigger things down the road.
James Southerland, Golden State Warriors
Following a strong TBT performance, Southerland received a training camp invite for the Warriors, though it’s unlikely he’s making the roster this season. Still, he’ll have opportunities to prove himself further playing in Santa Cruz (with the Warriors’ G-League affiliate), which could be more valuable. He averaged 13.7 points per game with Santa Cruz last year, and shot 39 percent from three.
Dion Waiters, Miami Heat
The contract year to end all contract years put Dion back in a Heat uniform with a fat, four-year $52 million deal. He’s now one of the leaders on this Miami roster that could challenge for the top half of the East if only due to the conference’s stars all rushing toward the exit this summer. He might even improve upon last year’s 15.8 points per game.
Andrew White III, Boston Celtics
After a strong Summer League stint with the Cavs, he landed in Boston but is unlikely to make the opening night roster due to the glut of young talent already on the Celtics. However, if he shoots well in the G-League, that could open doors elsewhere. Boston’s able to develop talent, but is also competing for a title. As high as White’s upside as a jumpshooter may be, he probably doesn’t help the “right now” aspirations this franchise has.
Even more Syracuse alums are playing basketball abroad right now, but there’s a possibility some make their way back to NBA circles. Rakeem Christmas and Arinze Onuaku, in particular, were both good enough to make opening night rosters last year.
Any predictions for how the players above might perform this season? Share your own picks below.