This was a very good year for Syracuse players in the NBA. Here is a look at how the six players who played on an NBA roster this year that bleed Orange performed.
What a season it was for Syracuse legend Carmelo Anthony. Statistically, it was one of the best seasons he has had in his whole career and arguably his best as a New York Knick in his third full season with the team. Anthony finished second in the NBA in scoring with 27.4 points per game and tallied a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game. He also shot 40 percent from three-point range this season for just the second time of his career and tied a career second-best by averaging 3.1 assists per game. It was just another great year for the 29-year-old superstar, but the performance of his team and the drama surrounding them was something Anthony had never faced in his career. The Knicks finished 37-45, a complete shock to many who thought they were guaranteed one of the top four spots in the Eastern Conference. this marks the first time of Anthony’s career that he didn’t make the playoffs. Now he plans to use his option on his contract and become a free agent for the first time in his career as well. He has expressed that he wants to stay in New York with the Knicks, but he is also not interested in rebuilding and wants to win now. It will be interesting to see how this offseason pans out for Carmelo Anthony.
What an incredible two years it has been for Michael Carter-Williams. It is amazing to see how much he has improved after sitting on the bench almost all of his freshman year, then bursting out onto the college scene and leading the Orange to their first Final Four since 2003 in 2013. Now he is tearing it up in the league and he is the pick of many to win this year’s Rookie of the Year award. MCW led all rookies in points per game (16.7), rebounds per game (6.2), assists per game (6.3) and steals per game (1.86). He also led all rookies in double-doubles with 16 (next closest was Victor Oladipo with 9) and was the only rookie to record two triple-doubles. He had quite the start to his season, too, after putting up a near quadruple-double in his NBA debut victory over the defending champion Miami Heat (22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds). Despite all of his individual successes, his Philadelphia 76ers team finished with a 19-63 record, the second worst in the NBA, including a 26-game losing streak. This team is clearly in rebuilding mode, so that will give MCW a lot of time to develop because he also struggled in some areas. He only shot 40 percent from the field and 26 percent from three. He also turned the ball over 3.5 times per game. He has the confidence and is learning how to lead a team early in his career, so as he gains more experience and more talent surrounds him I think he will continue to improve.
Another former Syracuse player that had a very good year individually was Dion Waiters. Waiters played the sixth man role for the Cleveland Cavaliers most of the season and he saw increases in points per game (14.7 to 15.9), rebounds per game (2.4 to 2.8), field goal percentage (41.2 percent to 43.3) and three-point percentage (31 percent to 36.8) from his first year to his second. Waiters’ assists, steals and turnovers per game all stayed around the same (three, one and two respectively) and his free throw percentage dropped dramatically from 74.6 percent his rookie year to 68.5 this past season. It is early in his career, but his stats stayed very similar compared to his first season, so it will be interesting to see if he is near his ceiling or if he will continue to improve gradually. Anybody with the strength and athleticism that he possesses definitely has the potential to become a great player in the NBA. Many rumors buzzed around the league all year that Waiters and Cavalier All-Star Kyrie Irving didn’t get along because of their conflicting styles of play and that Irving was holding Waiters back from his full potential since he has the ball in his hands most of the time. The two dismissed any hard feelings towards each other at a late-season practice where they addressed reporters together. It will be interesting to see how not only Waiters improves but this Cavaliers team as a whole, who had playoff aspirations headed into this season.
It is hard to believe that Wesley Johnson is already in his fourth year in the league and even though things haven’t gone as planned so far, he had arguably the best season of his career. Johnson averaged a career-high 9.1 points per game with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also tallied career-highs in rebounds per game (4.4), steals per game (1.1), field goal percentage (42.5 percent) and three-point percentage (36.9 percent). Johnson will be a free agent this offseason and after playing 79 games this season on an injury plagued Lakers roster, the numbers he put up showed that he can be a solid role player on any roster, even a contender, next season.
Onuaku played a little bit in the 2013 Summer League and received a chance by a couple of NBA teams in the 2013-2014 season. The 26-year-old played in a total of five games this season, three for the New Orleans Pelicans and two for the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring just three points on 1-4 shooting, seven rebounds and three assists in 30 total minutes. Onuaku now plays with the Canton Charge of the NBA Developmental League. In 32 regular season games, he averaged 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Southerland had a similar season to Onuaku. He appeared in just four NBA games all year, but finished the season on the New Orleans Pelicans roster and played in three of their final four games. He finished the season with 14 total points on 5-15 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and made three of his six three-point attempts. On April 11th, Southerland scored a career-high 10 points in 10 minutes in the Pelicans 114-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That performance might help him stay on the roster for next year or get him more attention around the league.