The success of this Syracuse team will inevitably add to many players’ NBA draft stock. Fans are already projecting Fab Melo to leave for the pros if he has a big March. How will the current members of the Orange fare at the next level? It’s a question worth pondering after a high-ranking front office executive for an NBA Western Conference team indicated to The Fizz Kris Joseph “isn’t worth following,” and will not be a quality NBA player.
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That inspired The Fizz to make our own projections. Here’s our prediction for each scholarship player minus the freshmen, who are still untested. Feel free to let us know if you agree or disagree below.
- Kris Joseph: F – Senior, 6-7, 210 lbs
Joseph’s style of play would seem to prove he can’t be much more than a role player in the NBA. His offensive game lends itself to inconsistency because he’s not a great ball-handler. He’s capable of producing the occasional offensive explosion (see: Georgetown), but he can’t take over games with any regularity. That’s because he can’t get to the rim at will, which goes back to his ball-handling. There are times when he looks out of control trying to drive in the lane. He’s an athletic slasher who can get inside frequently, just not whenever he wants. That’s the distinction between him and a player like Dion Waiters, who we’ll get to later.
Joseph’s three-point shooting has drastically improved since he arrived at SU, but this is the NBA we’re talking about. The standards are pretty high. Joseph can only connect from long range in a stationary catch-and-shoot situation, but he’s not going to curl around screens and hit jumpers, or knock down a three off the dribble.
Granted, there are plenty of NBA players who can’t do those things, but K-Jo is also an average defensive player. He might have the makings of a nice role-playing small forward in the NBA, but role-playing forwards must bring something to the table defensively. At best, Joseph is an unknown on defense. He plays in a zone that is completely incomparable to anything he’ll have to play in the NBA.
Joseph is a tremendous college player because of his athleticism, above average rebounding, and his ability to drain open shots. He’ll need to prove himself in other areas in order to succeed in the NBA. But a deep SU run could certainly help his draft stock, and a contender might take a shot on him to compliment its depth.
Draft Prediction: Late 1st round
- Scoop Jardine: G – Senior, 6-2, 190 lbs
Things are simple with Scoop. SU’s leader can look forward to guiding teams to victory somewhere in Europe, or perhaps the NBDL. He’s on the slower, less athletic side for a point guard, and possesses a “chuck-it-and-pray-it-finds-
It’s mostly savvy that gets it done for Scoop, as opposed to athleticism, and that’s why the NBA won’t come calling.
Draft Prediction: Undrafted FA
- Brandon Triche: G – Junior, 6-4, 205 lbs
Triche will be called on to lead the team next season as a senior, which would seem like a slam dunk. The hometown star has played significant minutes since his freshman season. But it still seems like there’s some sort of mental barrier that’s holding him back from really blossoming. He’s a terrific shooter with a solid handle. His strength and athleticism could potentially translate to elite finishing ability.
He has to prove he’ll be there when his team needs him the most. Is Triche a big game player? It’s tough to say right now. The good thing for BT is that even though a breakthrough might be the key to his college career, it might not matter as much to his professional aspirations. His talent alone may end up being enough to someday land him a spot on an NBA roster. He has the tools to be a quality role player.
Draft Prediction: (2013) 2nd round
- James Southerland: F – Junior, 6-8, 210 lbs
Mentally, Southerland just can’t hold it together for an entire season. He pours it on against the mid-majors and has occasional success against Big East foes, but too often he returns to the same old disappearing act. And it’s a shame – “Big Game James” would be a catchy nickname if he were more of a clutch player.
He’s got good length and defensive instincts to go along with that beautiful shooting stroke, but why would a front office expect him to produce against NBA talent if he can’t do it in college? It would also help if could rebound better. Without that, he really becomes a one-dimensional player. At best, he turns it on during his senior season and earns an invitation to an NBA training camp.
Draft Prediction: (2013) Undrafted FA
- Dion Waiters: G – Sophomore, 6-4, 215 lbs
Maybe the highest NBA upside of any Orange player. He’s extremely talented, and once Dion masters his outside shot (which admittedly isn’t a given), he won’t have too many weaknesses. His ball-handling is superb, he can finish at the rim with the best of ‘em, his defense has improved by an infinite amount, and he has supreme confidence in himself. He could average 20+ points per game as a pro.
He’s headed to the NBA sooner rather than later. Waiters may decide to leave early this spring. Judging by his personality, it would seem unlikely he would return if the NBA wanted him.
Draft Prediction: Mid-1st Round or Late Lottery Pick
- C.J. Fair: F – Sophomore, 6-8, 203 lbs
The same NBA executive that wasn’t buying Joseph at the next level was actually very high on Fair. And it’s not that hard to see why. Fair does all the little things well. He’s a solid defender, the team’s best rebounding wing, and a crafty scorer. He’s proven to be one of the most consistent players on the Orange over the course of his short career.
Fair must grow stronger and work on his outside shot in order to bolster his NBA resume, because right now he can’t throw his weight around inside nor spread the floor. Luckily, Fair has two more years to improve his game. It’s okay that he’s nowhere near becoming a finished product.
Draft Prediction: (2014) Late 1st Round
- Fab Melo: C – Sophomore, 7-0, 244 lbs
Fab and Dion have the highest NBA upside. The popular theory being tossed around is that Melo’s academic issues are a strong sign he’ll bolt for the NBA following this season. Basketball-wise, he could definitely use one more year in school. His offensive game is developing but he’s only able to produce in spots on that side of the ball. His range is impressive though. Watching him knock down three deep jumpers in succession against UConn was a reminder of how far he’s come.
He has been phenomenal in other departments, including rebounding, shot-blocking, and taking charges. And as much as his conditioning improved from year one to year two, it can still get even better. If he sheds a few more pounds and refines his offensive game, then watch out. He’ll be a force at the next level.
Draft Prediction: (2013) Mid-1st Round
- Baye Moussa Keita: C – Sophomore, 6-10, 213
A four-year player for Jim Boeheim that will likely wind up in Europe. He needs to get much stronger and right now can hardly even catch a basketball. However, he makes scrappy plays and his effort is admirable.
Draft Prediction: (2014) Undrafted FA
Just remember to check back in with The Fizz in three years, after two more Final Four trips and another National Championship for Boeheim. At that point we can debate how accurate our projections were, and revel in UConn’s banishment from D1 hoops. Feel free to send us your comments in 2015 from your flying car, or whatever becomes of our Twitter feed.
Posted: Andrew Kanell