Plenty of Syracuse Orange basketball fans don’t care about the NBA. And while I vehemently disagree with all of your reasons for ignoring the highest level of the sport, you’re well within your rights to do so.
That said, former Syracuse players do play in the NBA, whether you watch it or not. For 2018-19, the number of players stands at seven total, with no new faces after no one was in line to be drafted this past June.
So where can you watch these former Orange standouts? And what can we expect of them? A quick primer before the season begins on Tuesday night...
Carmelo Anthony, Houston Rockets
After a nightmare of a season for all parties involved last year, ‘Melo heads to his preferred destination in Houston. The switch won’t de-age Anthony’s game necessarily, though the team could use a mid-range threat and also plays more isolation basketball than OKC ever did. This could fit well with Carmelo’s strengths and lead to a mild resurgence for the former scoring champ. He’ll play off the bench, so minutes will be down from career averages. However, he looked solid enough in preseason action that he’s more accurate from three and the field. If he can shoot somewhere around 45 percent overall, the Rockets are probably happy with it.
Michael Carter-Williams, Houston Rockets
Bobby covered what MCW brings to the Rockets a week ago, but it’s worth repeating that this could be a very good fit for the former rookie of the year. He’s a quality passer and defends well on the perimeter. The Rockets are happy to shoot from outside, and he has the size to potentially pull defenses in by driving and kicking. He hurt his knee in preseason — not the best sign for the often hurt guard — but when healthy, he was averaging 17 points and shooting well from the line. He’ll find a place in the deep rotation.
Jerami Grant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Most importantly this offseason, Grant got PAID. And now, he’s an essential cog to the Thunder’s new Russell Westbrook/Paul George era. His eight points and four boards per game from last year may not pop off the stat sheet, but he’s still as athletic as ever and a great defender who’s very switchable (key in today’s NBA). His preseason numbers showed a decline in shooting accuracy from 2017-18, but you can potentially chalk that up to a small sample size for now.
Wesley Johnson, New Orleans Pelicans
After spending the last five years in Los Angeles (two with the Lakers, three with the Clippers), Wes was just traded to the Pels this week for Alexis Ajinca. Though relatively healthy last year (played in 74 games), he still sunk to career-lows in points per game and rebounds. It’s not a great sign, but he could have better opportunities for consistent minutes in New Orleans. Johnson will likely compete with Darius Miller for minutes as the Pelicans’ backup small forward.
Tyler Lydon, Denver Nuggets
Lydon played pretty sparingly in the preseason, with just a few points in a handful of minutes. He did seem to break out during Summer League, however, so there’s hope for him yet — it just may not be with Denver. He could be G League-bound for 2018-19, where he can actually get some minutes. The Nuggets are still littered with forwards and are contending for a playoff spot. That leaves little time for player development in many cases.
Malachi Richardson, Toronto Raptors
Malachi put up middling numbers to start the preseason this year, but closed with a torrid 21-point performance in a week over New Orleans last Thursday. He donned the three goggles once more, hitting 4-of-9 from outside and 8-of-15 overall in 27 minutes. The Raptors would like him to be less of a gunslinger, and that may still be a work in progress which he’ll likely be sorting out with Raptors 905 of the G League. Simply too many experienced bodies in front of him in Toronto right now to get any minutes.
Dion Waiters, Miami Heat
After signing one of the more astounding contracts in the post-1999 lockout NBA, Waiters hurt his ankle just 30 games into the 2017-18 season and is still suffering some of the ill effects. He did not suit up in the preseason and may be absent for some of the early portions of this year now. Miami made the playoffs without Waiters, and now he could be on the trading block if production doesn’t rise back to what he was posting in a “breakout” pre-injury 2016-17 season (15.8 points, 4.3 assists on 42.4 percent shooting).
G League honorable mention: John Gillon, (likely) Erie Bayhawks