We need Dion Waiters to be the real deal.
No pressure, D-Dub. You simply represent the newest hope in Syracuse basketball succeeding at the next level. All of us in Orange Nation are kinda tired of trying to defend the critics that point to the wreckage of former players on the side of the NBA road.
With the news Jonny Flynn is not only a lightly regarded free agent just three years after being drafted 6th overall, but that his summer’s big news is a workout with one of the worst teams in the league, the Orange pro stock continues to take a hit.
Jonny Ice will run through drills for the Cavaliers in Vegas this weekend, ironically the team that drafted Waiters in the top 5. Flynn has also gotten a look from the Hawks and Bulls. Jonny was one of the most charismatic and beloved players ever to don the Orange, even if it was only for two seasons. But like most SU players, his NBA stock has crashed.
Wes Johnson was drafted even higher a year later by the same Wolves team, 4th overall in ’10. But his game actually took a step back in his sophomore NBA season, dropping from 9 points per game to 6.1 last year. Maybe the Wolves are just a place lottery picks go to die.
Waiters needs to be dynamic at the next level for two reasons. First, it would be nice to have an NBA player outside of Carmelo to point to and be proud of. A player that doesn’t carry the Syracuse stigma of NBA bust.
Second, you never want league scouts to be scared of drafting Orange players high. Why? Because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Recruits see SU players drafted in the lottery, and say to themselves, “I want to be like him. I’m heading to the Hill.” The more talent you turn out, the more talent you bring in. Witness Kentucky.
But even Carmelo is criticized as a me-first diva who refuses to play defense and can’t share the ball.
Hakim Warrick: Drafted 19th in ’05. Four teams in 7 seasons. Averaging 9 points, 4 boards for his career. Flynn: Will be on his fourth team in just 4 seasons. Production precipitously dropped off after his rookie campaign in Minny. Andy Rautins didn’t play in the league last year. Paul Harris is playing for the Text n’ Talk Tropang Texters of the Philippines League. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.
The laundry list of undiscovered potential of former SU players in the Jim Boeheim era is long and winding. Pearl. DC. Billy Owens. Lawrence Moten. John Wallace.
Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, Jason Hart and Etan Thomas found decade-long NBA careers through hard work and high basketball IQ. But none of those guys were drafted in the last dozen years, and too often the narrative goes the other way. Syracuse star drafted high, then goes bust in the league.
Is there something about Boeheim’s program that doesn’t lend itself to producing great pros? Or is this just the normal attrition rate for college stars jumping to the next level?
Fab Melo may turn into a servicable starting center. There are plenty of reasons to believe he can succeed with the Celtics. But his breakout potential isn’t nearly as high as Waiters.
Dion has the personality, game and drive to become a star. No pressure, bro. But don’t let us all down.