Jim Boeheim has been coaching championship-caliber basketball teams for Syracuse University throughout his head coaching career, which began in 1976. After serving as an assistant from 1969 to 1976, Boeheim and the Orange appeared in their first Final Four in 1987, and four more times after that in 1996, 2003, 2013, and most recently as 2016. Syracuse was able to win it all and add an NCAA Championship to their resume in 2003. The 2003 team was led by star freshman, Carmelo Anthony. The team also featured future NBA player Hakim Warrick, as well as college star Gerry McNamara.
With all the success, Syracuse and Boeheim have experienced in recent years, the college stars have not translated into the NBA in a big way. There is of course Carmelo Anthony, but the rest of the talent has had struggles becoming NBA starters or staying in the NBA for the long term.
The former Syracuse Orange players have gotten minutes at the next level, and of course getting to the NBA is a goal in itself. During our countdown we will give credit to alumni who were able to represent the university at the next level, and take a look at some of the talent who fizzled out before their career was able to gain traction. Stick with us, as we dance the fine line between the eight best, and the seven worst Syracuse Orange alumni to play in the NBA in recent years.
15 Best - Jonny Flynn
Flynn was a borderline pick here. He declared for the draft out of Syracuse after two years at the university, where he earned Big East Rookie of the Year, and the Big East Tournament Most Valuable Player. It was good enough to see him taken sixth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Perhaps he is noted as being one of two point guards the Minnesota Timberwolves would select before two-time MVP Stephen Curry.
While his NBA career was a disappointment, Flynn's rookie year was good enough to earn him a spot on the right side of our list. In a rookie season where he started all 81 games of the 81 he appeared in, Flynn averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. It seemed Flynn had a game that translated to the NBA, but after an array of injuries and a dip in productivity, Flynn found himself out of the NBA by 2012.
14 Worst - Tyler Ennis
The Canadian-born Tyler Ennis spent just one season at Syracuse before entering the NBA Draft. He was on a Syracuse team that failed to make the Sweet 16. Still, the Phoenix Suns used the 18th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft on the Syracuse point guard. After bouncing to and from the D-League, Ennis played eight total games and scored 22 total points for the Suns before being traded in February of 2015. He would end up in Milwaukee. There he would post career highs of 7 starts and 14.2 minutes per night. Again, he would be traded in the offseason of 2016 to the Houston Rockets where played 31 games before again being moved, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the Lakers are one of the worst teams in basketball, Ennis has appeared in just 15 games and averaged 13.2 minutes per game.
13 Best - Jerami Grant
Jerami Grant sports an athletic game that consists of blocking shots, defending the wing, and offering up the occasional highlight reel dunk. After two seasons at Syracuse, Grant entered the NBA Draft and was selected in the second round, 39th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. A key part of the tanking days of the 76ers, Grant averaged a career high 26.8 minutes his second season. In that season, he also posted career highs in points, blocks, steals, rebounds and assists.
He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder two games into the 2016-2017 season, and has supplied the playoff-bound Thunder with 19.3 minutes per night. The son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace, Grant will look to again increase his role in the upcoming seasons, and will experience his first taste of the NBA Playoffs in the next few weeks.
12 Worst - Michael Gbinije
Gbinije actually spent his first collegiate season at Duke University before transferring over to Syracuse. As a senior, Gbinije averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists for a Syracuse team that would play their way to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. Following his collegiate success, Gbinije was selected with the 49th overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Due to a mix of injuries and D-League stints, Gbinije has played just 32 NBA minutes in 9 games. He has scored four points, recorded three rebounds and managed two assists in his rookie season.
It may be too soon to write off the athletic guard, but the former Syracuse standout will have to improve his game in order to see his playing time improve.
11 Best - Etan Thomas
Drafted in 2000, Thomas is the eldest player on our list, last having played in the NBA during the 2010-2011 season. Following his senior year where he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, the Washington Wizards used their 12th overall pick on Thomas. There he would play the first seven years of his nine-year career, averaging 6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1 block per game. During the 2003-2004 season, Thomas posted career highs in points with 8.9 per game, rebounds with 6.7 per game, blocks with 1.6 per game, and minutes with 24.1 per outing.
Thomas would go on to play two more years after his departure from the Wizards. His last appearance would be in the 2010 NBA Playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks.
10 Worst - James Southerland
James Southerland went undrafted in 2013 after spending four years at Syracuse University from 2009-2013. Upon his going undrafted, Southerland joined the 76ers for their 2013 Summer League, only to not make the team. This was in the midst of the Sam Hinkie rebuild, when he was signing random college players to the roster. Even then, Southerland couldn't crack that roster. He was signed by the Charlotte Bobcats, where he played three NBA minutes and took three shots, making zero and not recording a point, rebound, assists, block, or steal. After the Bobcats waived Southerland, the Pelicans gave him a shot, where he appeared in three games. Those three games would prove to be the last Southerland has played on an NBA floor, and he finished his career with 14 NBA points.
9 Best - Wesley Johnson
Johnson may not be living up to being the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he has carved out a supporting role in each of his seven seasons in the NBA. Johnson started his college career with Iowa State before transferring to Syracuse and eventually forgoing his final year of college eligibility. During his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Johnson started 63 games and averaged nine points en route to a NBA All-Rookie Second Team. After two years in Minnesota, he has played one season in Phoenix, two with the Lakers, and is in the midst of his second with the Los Angeles Clippers. Johnson is posting career lows across the board his year, but is poised to make his second postseason perhaps with his best team to date.
8 Worst - Chris McCullough
After just one season that was cut short by injury, McCullough forewent his last three years of college and entered the NBA Draft. He was selected by the lowly Brooklyn Nets with the 29th overall pick in the 2015 Draft. Although he played for a rebuilding team, McCullough was unable to find consistent playing time. Due to the injury that cut his college career short, McCullough missed the first half of his rookie year. Following his return, he appeared in 24 games including four starts. He played 15.1 minutes per game and scored 4.7 points per contest. That would end up being the peak of his success to this point. After D-League stints and 14 NBA games for the Nets during the 2016-2017 season, McCullough was traded away to the Washington Wizards. There he has appeared in just two minutes of NBA action and has found himself again as a member of the D-League.
7 Best - Michael Carter-Williams
After breaking out during his sophomore season at Syracuse, Michael Carter-Williams was selected by the 76ers with the 11th overall pick. It looked like he was going to be the future of the franchise, winning NBA Rookie of the Year and averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists his first year in the league. He was traded in a three-team deal his second year in the league, ending up with the Milwaukee Bucks. There he played 79 games, while starting 62 before again being dealt, this time to the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls, MCW is filling a backup role consistently for the first time in his career. With the 76ers and Bucks, he had never averaged under 30 minutes per game. This season with the Bulls, he is looking at 19.9. While the backup role may better suit MCW, he can carry on with his NBA career as long as he accepts it. That's more than the flip side of this list can say.
6 Worst - Rakeem Christmas
After four years at Syracuse, which included a senior season which he averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 boards, and 2.5 blocks per game, Christmas was drafted by the Minnesosta Timberwolves with their second round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. After a series of trades following the draft, Christmas found his home in Indiana. Since signing with the Pacers, Christmas has spent more time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League than time with their NBA affiliate. After appearing in just one game his rookie season, Christmas has upped his appearances to 25 in year two. In 8.7 minutes per game, he is posting a stat line of 2.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, .2 bpg, and .3 turnovers per.
At 6 foot 9, Christmas' power forward game has not translated over to the NBA in his first two seasons.
5 Best - Hakim Warrick
During his sophomore season at Syracuse, Warrick played and integral role for the 2003 NCAA Champions. That year he helped the Orange with 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, while supplying shot blocking and an athletic down-low presence to compliment star Carmelo Anthony. By his senior season he was averaging 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds en route to the Big East Player of the Year and All American honors.
The Grizzlies used their 19th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft on Warrick. He had a solid four year start to his career in Memphis, posting career numbers of 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 82 starts while with the Grizz. In his final four years, he floundered around the league a bit, playing for five teams. It's not quite the All Star career that could've happened, but a solid NBA stay nonetheless.
4 Worst - Andy Rautins
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Whether the injuries he experienced in college continued to plague him, or the NBA game was just too fast for him, Andy Rautins played just five games in his NBA career. After earning Honorable Mention All-American honors his senior year at Syracuse, Rautins was selected by the New York Knicks with the 38th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. After appearing in five games for New York, he was traded in December of 2011 to the Dallas Mavericks. He was waived by the Mavericks five days later. In 2012, he spent a month with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and added a stay with the Tulsa 66ers that same year. His last taste of the NBA came in the form of the 2013 NBA Summer League as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
3 Best - Dion Waiters
Waiters actually never started a game for Syracuse University, but still he was good enough to be taken fourth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After showing flashes of brilliance his freshman year, Waiters took on the scoring load off the bench. He finished that season with 12.6 points per game and earned Big East Sixth Man of the Year, Third Team All-Big East, and Honorable Mention All-American.
He continued his scoring ways at the NBA level. Waiters came to the Cavaliers following LeBron James' departure and posted averages of 14.7 and 15.9 points in his first two seasons in the league. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Thirty-three games into LeBron's return to the Cavaliers, Waiters was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. There he played just over a season and a half before signing with the Miami Heat in 2016 off season. There he has thrived, starting 43 out of 46 games while averaging 15.8 points, and propelling the Heat into an unprecedented playoff spot.
2 Worst - Kris Joseph
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Like the previously mentioned Dion Waiters, Joseph earned a Big East Sixth Man of the Year award during his stay at Syracuse. Unlike Waiters, Joseph stayed all four years. Following his four years, the Boston Celtics used their 51st pick on the small forward. And unlike Waiters, Kris Joseph's career never really got started. He played just six games for the team that drafted before being waived in January of that same year. He was able to be picked up by the Brooklyn Nets, where he appeared in even less time that his first home. In all, the former Syracuse 1,000-point scorer played 54 NBA minutes, recorded nine points, seven rebounds, one assists, three steals, and three personal fouls.
Joseph has continued his professional career in Italy.
1 Best - Carmelo Anthony
This one was easy. We danced a thin line up until the very end of our list, but there's not much argument against Melo. After leading the Syracuse Orange to the 2003 NCAA Championship, Melo was selected with the third pick in the legendary 2003 NBA Draft. During his one year of college basketball, Anthony earned NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Second Team All American, and National Freshman of the Year.
In his NBA career Carmelo Anthony has accomplished the following:
- 10 x NBA All Star
- 6 x All NBA
- 2013 NBA Scoring Champion
- Three Olympic Gold Medals as a member of the U.S. men's national basketball team
Melo is stuck in a uncomfortable situation with the New York Knicks as of now, but expect his career to continue to trend upward as he chases a NBA Championship to add to his accomplishments.