The greatest transition in the history of former Syracuse Orange becoming NBA stars occurred during the 2018 NBA Playoffs. While the Utah Jazz threw Carmelo Anthony on an island, with Donovan Mitchell torturing Melo repeatedly in pick-and-roll sets, Jerami Grant emerged for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Grant’s rise was a late, yet wildly impactful one. It drove Anthony to the Thunder’s bench, then to the Rockets where his (at this juncture) final NBA season quickly fizzled through similar defensive issues. Yes, it’s safe to say last season, even as Anthony pursues the perfect ending. Baxter Holmes profiled Anthony’s demise and discussed it further on The Lowe Post.
In Melo’s place, Grant led the Thunder to the top of the NBA’s defenses in tandem with Steven Adams. He developed an effective three-point shot and scored off Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
After the Thunder lost George, then traded Westbrook, Grant quickly fell victim to the rebuild. Though Oklahoma City shipped him to the Denver Nuggets in one of the offseason’s low-key moves — far from a castaway. Denver acquired another shooter, a possible defensive anchor and bolstered a team in play for the west title after the Golden State Warriors dismantled.
Grant is a most-improved player candidate for 2019-20. That potential parlayed into 48 points (12.0 PPG), 14-of-28 shooting and 7-of-12 (58%) success from three-point land. Denver outscored opponents by 36 points with him on the floor. He’s also 25-years-old.
Grant will never reach Melo’s star power, limiting his ability to positively impact Syracuse recruiting the same way Anthony once might’ve, but he’ll be a visible former Orange who starts for a team built to go deep in the playoffs.
That helps, as Syracuse’s NBA presence folded in recent years. Now, several players give the SU a chance to stand out in the league on prominent teams. A chance (Dion).
Here’s where former Orange will play in the U.S. and around the world as the NBA kicks off this week:
Michael Carter-Williams — Orlando Magic
Carter-Williams joined Orlando on a 10-day flier in March. Since the Magic folded in five games to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in the first round, it probably took some people until this past week to realize the former rookie of the year is still in the league.
Heat rookie Tyler Herro took a tumble as Carter-Williams drove through him to hit a layup. Herro — who’s killing it in the preseason — drilled a three in response and the two barked at each other all the way up the floor. In a move that’ll thrill older fans who saw Larry Bird and Dr. J choke each other, the refs ejected them for sharing words.
Like Melo, Carter-Williams fizzled out with the Rockets last season. He netted Houston a second-round pick in January from the Bulls, who released him. Despite shooting 34% from the field, he record 5.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 4.1 APG in positive minutes upon joining the Magic. They retained him for the playoffs, where he posted 6.6/4.0/2.4 on 38.7% shooting.
The performance earned him $2-million for 2019-20, where he’ll compete for rotation minutes with DJ Augustin, former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, former Syracuse guard BJ Johnson and Terrence Ross — among others for guard run.
Orlando projects to return to the playoffs in a weaker east. They host Cleveland on Wednesday.
Dion Waiters — Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler shook up the East by bouncing from the 76ers and returning the Heat to prominence. Miami averaged 41 wins since LeBron James spurned Pat Riley. It left the city with little to root for, but allowed Waiters (signed in 2016) to shoot 13 shots every night.
Waiters could’ve either fit comfortably as a floor-spacer alongside Butler. Herro’s (14.2 PPG) preseason potential posed a lethal four-way scoring back court between those three and Goran Dragic on a team that already defended well. That appeal apparently did not resonate with Waiters, who averaged 22 minutes in the preseason, but only 10 in Friday’s finale.
After the game, Miami suspended Waiters for the opener, and possibly longer.
Waiters’s days in Miami could be over. He’s owed $24-million through the end of next season, but for a Heat team with aspirations to win the east, they may deem it worth the trouble to minimize locker room discontent and pay to dump him. Butler reportedly butted heads with Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota.
The suspension holds him out of Miami’s opener against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. His next chance to play is Saturday in Milwaukee.
Tyus Battle — Minnesota Timberwolves
Battle officially rejoined the Timberwolves on an affiliate contract last week. The deal will send him to the Iowa Wolves, leaving Minnesota with rights to call him up throughout the season. He’ll cash in on up to $50,000 in bonus money by remaining with the organization, but fall far below the guaranteed millions his borderline first-round status promised in 2018.
His situation places him within reach of NBA opportunity. Instead of fizzling with first-round expectations, he begins with nowhere to go but up in a rebuilding organization. The Timberwolves tout Wiggins, Robert Covington, among others at Battle’s position, but as the year progresses Minnesota could present opportunities to younger players.
More on Battle’s situation entering his rookie season here. Iowa begins its season on Nov. 8.
Oshae Brissett — Toronto Raptors
Brissett survived a round of cuts in Toronto over the weekend, all but guaranteeing he’ll remain with the organization. By Monday afternoon, he’ll know if his NBA aspirations will play out at home in Mississauga or with the defending champions.
Toronto could have awarded its final three roster spots to Brissett, Miami’s Dewan Hernandez, Chris Boucher, Malcolm Miller, or Isaiah Taylor. The team cut Taylor on Sunday, signaling that Hernandez and Team Canada’s Boucher will remain with the team. Josh Lewenberg reported that Miller will likely round out the 15, with Brissett earning a two-way contract.
The move would allow Brissett to make pro money for any of a maximum 45 days the team can use him in the NBA. The rest will be spent with his hometown Raptors 905, for $79,568, a step above most G-League salaries.
Former Orange guard Tyler Ennis will likely join Brissett in Mississauga after signing an Exhibit 10 deal with the Raptors this weekend. Brissett nearly made Canada’s FIBA World Cup squad, coached by Toronto’s Nick Nurse, before a knee injury ended his summer. Ennis suffered a severe ankle injury after four games in Turkey last season. His recovery will continue into the season.
Tyler Lydon — Sacramento Kings
Tyler Lydon’s sticking around in the NBA, one of three Orange with full NBA deals entering the 2019-20 season. NBC’s James Ham reported that he made Sacramento’s final roster after a pair of cuts on Sunday.
The opportunity gives Lydon a chance to win on a young team, rejuvenate lost potential from his Nuggets days and make up to $1.6-million this season. Only $50,000 is guaranteed for now, with that total increasing for each month he remains with the team through 2020.
Hip inflammation limited his participation in the preseason, but the Kings must’ve seen enough behind the scenes to believe their July signee can help them. He played only 26 games in two seasons for Denver, who selected him in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Lydon joins Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles, Harrison Barnes and Dewayne Dedmon in the team’s front court. Former Virginia sharpshooter Kyle Guy will also play in the Kings organization this year. They begin Wednesday at Phoenix.
Kris Joseph — ADA Blois Basket 41 (France)
Joseph, a French speaker, signed with the French second-division club in September to begin his return to basketball. Benfica, in Portugal, parted ways with him last fall following an injury. He played with three different French squads between 2013-2015 after his final stop in the NBA with the Magic.
He’s averaging 8.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 15.5 minutes through two games. The play next on Oct. 25.
Malachi Richardson — Hapoel Holon (Israel)
After a stint with the Raptors, Richardson received NBA champion honors, but his time in the league ended in February when Toronto shipped him to Philadelphia. The 76ers waived him, landing him in Israel for the 2019-20 season.
Michael Gbinije — Mitteldeutscher (Germany)
The Warriors retained Gbinije in Santa Cruz from 2017-2019, but his summer league appearances never translated to time with Steph Curry and company. This year, he turned to Germany’s top basketball league for opportunity.
Mitteldeutscher began 1-3, with Gbinije averaging 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 31.9 minutes.
Rakeem Christmas — OGM Ormanspor (Turkey)
Basketball took Christmas as far as New Zealand after the Pacers released him in 2017. His next stop is in Turkey, joining a team in August that’s beginning its first-ever stint in the country’s top division.
Wes Johnson — Panathinaikos (Greece)
Wesley Johnson narrowly avoided playing under Rick Pitino in Greece, after the former Louisville coach headed the country’s top team last year. A family matter occurred, so Johnson will fall under more traditional leadership in his first season abroad.
He bounced between the Clippers, Pelicans and Wizards last season —highlighted only by a demoralizing James Harden step-back he attempted to guard. Few would not have fallen in his place.
Johnson joins Jimmer Fredette and Team Greece standout Nick Calathes. He’s averaging 6.5 points on 56% shooting through four games.
Brandon Triche — Karşıyaka Basket (Turkey)
Paschal Chukwu — GS Lavrio (Greece)
Frank Howard — TBD
Had yet to play through four games with Atomeromu in Hungary, and it winds up he’s no longer with the team. We’ll see where he winds up next.
Hakim Warrick — TBD
Warrick was last with the Iowa Wolves, and it’s yet to be confirmed if he’ll be back and playing with Battle there. Last season, he averaged 12 points and 5.8 points per game over the course of 44 contests.