Syracuse basketball has had some of the best success in the NCAA when it comes to getting players drafted in the first round. The Orange has had a player picked in the first round of the NBA Draft in every year since 2012 (when both Dion Waiters and Fab Melo got to hug David Stern), and nine former SU stars have been picked in the first round in the last decade. But with those nine first round picks there have also been six picks in the second round, and none of them are doing making much noise in the NBA now (although a few are still waiting for their chance). There’s the possibility of more coming in tonight’s NBA Draft, but given the track record, should a Syracuse player drafted in the second round expect a short-term career?
Since the draft was shortened to two rounds in 1989, 13 Syracuse players have been taken in the second round. They are listed below:
Sherman Douglas – 1989; Pick 28
Keith Hughes – 1991; Pick 47
Conrad McRae – 1993; Pick 38
Rich Manning – 1993; Pick 40
Lawrence Moten – 1995; Pick 36
Jason Hart – 2000; Pick 49
Damone Brown – 2001; Pick 36
Demetris Nichols – 2007; Pick 53
Andy Rautins – 2010; Pick 38
Kris Joseph – 2012; Pick 51
Jerami Grant – 2014; Pick 39
Rakeem Christmas – 2015; Pick 36
Michael Gbinije – 2016; Pick 49
Sherman Douglas easily had the best career of any second-rounder from Syracuse whose playing days are over. He played 11 seasons, started almost 500 games and averaged 11 points per game. Nobody else on the list has averaged double-digit scoring. He even played significant minutes in the playoffs during three seasons with the Celtics and another with the Nets. He is the exception to the rule. No other second round pick out of SU has come close to matching the length and success of Douglas’ NBA career, and it isn’t looking like anyone will soon.
Two of the names on that list – Keith Hughes and Conrad McRae, never made it to the NBA. Hughes played in the Continental Basketball Association (the D League of its time) for a year before starting a 12-year career overseas, and McRae also played a year in the CBA before heading to Europe. Everyone else at least played in an NBA game, but that doesn’t mean the numbers are pretty. Only Lawrence Moten (6.3) and Jerami Grant have averaged more than five points per game, and Moten’s career lasted for two seasons and change. Jason Hart managed to make a 10-year career out of the game, but jumped around to nine different teams in that span and only started 56 games. Grant is the only active player to start an NBA game, and even his numbers and playing time come from seasons with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers. After being traded to OKC, he started just four games and averaged 5.4 points per game.
Most recently, Michael Gbinije played in nine NBA games this year and scored four points, while Rakeem Christmas has 2.1 points per game through 60 games in two seasons. Other than Hart and Douglas, no Syracuse second-rounder has made it more than four seasons in the NBA, though 2017-2018 would be Grant’s fourth.
Second round picks are tough. Nobody is expecting you to become a fundamental piece to an NBA team, and the road to the show is much longer. Plus, the leash is often so short that you have to start producing right away if you want to keep a job before the next crop of second-rounders come in. There have been great players found in the second round (Isaiah Thomas, Manu Ginobli, Draymond Green), but they’re the diamonds in the rough. Only 17 second round picks have gone on to be All-Stars since 1989, and even less have done it more than once. Has Syracuse had success with players taken in the second round? No, but there’s no rhyme or reason behind an argument claiming any other school has done better.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson