Syracuse Basketball Draft Stock Report


After the first third of the season, does Syracuse basketball have any true NBA draft prospects?

The Syracuse basketball team is sitting at 8-3 after beating Cornell last week. For the most part, that leaves the Orange in a good position heading into ACC conference play. At the same time, it leaves a lot to be desired as well. I find myself asking one question when I watch them play: Are any of these guys actually going to play in the NBA? That’s a hard question to answer.

On one hand, the undisputed leader on this team is Michael Gbinije. It’s not even close. Before the season began, he was considered the best draft prospect and most pundits had him listed as a late first or second rounder, with some thinking he could very well go undrafted. Since the season started, Gbinije has actually out performed many of his pre-season predictions.

If you look at how well Syracuse is represented in the NBA right now, you may find yourself surprised at how few Syracuse basketball players are currently around and contributing. Here is the list:

Carmelo Anthony – F, New York Knicks

Michael Carter-Williams – G, Milwaukee Bucks

Tyler Ennis – G, Milwaukee Bucks

Jerami Grant – F, Philadelphia 76ers

Wesley Johnson – F, Los Angeles Clippers

Dion Waiters – G, Oklahoma Thunder

As a guy who deals with data all the time, I like to believe I have an eye for trends that others may miss. One thing I noticed in just writing the names was that only one of them is still on their original team (Jerami Grant). One of them has been on four teams (Wesley Johnson). The other four are all on their second teams. That’s interesting to me as it shows that, aside from Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse has not exactly been a beacon of talent at the NBA level in the last decade.

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When you look at the current Syracuse roster through the eyes of NBA-level talent, the future doesn’t look so bright. Aside from Gbinije, there is little chance anyone else on this roster could get drafted in 2016. There is an outside chance that the Tylers (Lydon and Roberson) may develop into draft-worthy prospects in the future, but this probably is not the year.

Lydon has actually outperformed my expectations for him to this point in the season. I was expecting a longer learning curve, but he has delivered to this point. He is living up to his billing as an advanced freshman this season. If he plays this way all season, shows improvements in strength and his low post game, he could be a wildcard in 2016 and someone may take a chance on him. The thing getting in Lydon’s way right now is that he is many times the third or fourth option offensively and in the NBA, if you can’t prove it offensively in college, you don’t get drafted. If he grows into the mold of a guy who can take over a game by the 2017 draft, he very well could be the next Syracuse lottery pick.

Nov 13, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Lydon (20) drives to the basket against the defense of Lehigh Mountain Hawks guard Devon Carter (4) during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse defeated Lehigh 57-47. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As for Roberson, his shot at getting drafted is directly related to his ability to play both forward positions defensively and rebounding ability. He is small for a power forward (remember Hakim Warrick’s NBA problems) and almost perfectly sized to play small forward. The problem is, he doesn’t shoot from any significant range and in the NBA a wing needs to be able to shoot. Roberson may have an outside chance to be drafted as a Raja Bell type of guy. A guy who can give you the hard 12 minutes a game guarding the big guards or penetrating forwards while your scoring is off the floor.

As for the others, Trevor Cooney isn’t draft-worthy, but he very well may sign with a team and get stashed in the D-League. Malachi Richardson is not a 2016 draft option since he doesn’t shoot well enough yet. Dajuan Coleman is too small to play center in today’s NBA (Etan Thomas may have been able to do it at that height, but that doesn’t work so well now) and doesn’t have the chops to be a power forward. As is Syracuse custom, no one else plays enough to be considered for the NBA.

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As for Michael Gbinije, he really is playing his best right now. He is hitting .500 from the field and .474 from beyond the arc. Those numbers are extremely good for a guard/forward/wing. He has shown a better passing eye this season and more willingness to mix it up down low and get in the way of penetrating offenders. My prediction is that if he keeps playing like this and adds some gusto to his ability to take over on offense, he could even play his way into the lottery. That would go a long way toward improving the Syracuse Orange rep in the NBA.