We know that the 2-3 zone isn’t an NBA translatable defense. But that doesn’t mean Jim Boeheim and Syracuse haven’t produced quality pros. There won’t be any SU players picked in this Thursday’s NBA Draft for the first time since 2011, which gives us here at The Fizz a great opportunity to look back at Syracuse in prior NBA Drafts. Instead of the traditional list of the best NBA players to once don the Orange, I decided to take a look at the value of some picks. Keep in mind, there will be some overlap between the two.
Now before you scream and yell, let’s consider a couple of things. This list is strictly for these players’ NBA careers. So throw out anything they did inside the Carrier Dome (or Manley Field House). I took a number of factors into account. First is their career as a whole and the legacy they left on the pro game and how long they did it for. Next was their draft slot. Where were they picked and who were they taken before or after? Tough to be Michael Carter-Williams and Jonny Flynn for this exercise.
Carmelo Anthony: 2003, 3rd overall to Denver
SU’s best NBA product also came at the best value as well. After leading the Orange to its lone national championship, the Nuggets received a gift when Anthony dropped to three. There is a possibility that this pick could have never happened. He admitted on “The Dan Patrick Show” a fews years ago that he actually wanted to come back to Syracuse (for reasons that may have been more than basketball), but Boeheim told him to go pro. Who knows? Maybe there would be multiple championship banners hanging in the Carrier Dome. Regardless, Melo will probably go down as the second best player behind LeBron James from arguably the most talented draft of all time. However, his legacy as a winner is probably closer to fifth than first. Regardless, Anthony is one of the best pure scorers of this generation and the Pistons are still kicking themselves 15 years later for passing on him to take Darko Milicic.
Dave Bing 1966, 2nd overall to Detroit
Nearly 40 years earlier from its 2003 botch, the Pistons did cash in on an SU guy at number two. Bing was one of the most prolific scorers in the league throughout his career and was the highest scoring player in the 1966 Draft. While Bing also had an interesting career outside of basketball as a businessman and mayor of Detroit, he was named a top 50 player of all-time. That alone is enough value, no matter where you’re drafted, when you’re in company like that.
Derrick Coleman 1990, 1st overall to NJ
The beloved SU big man is the only Orange player to go first overall in the NBA Draft and gave production through his entire career. D.C. averaged a double-double five times in his first six seasons. Coleman was a force in the league right from the get-go after he won Rookie of the Year, followed up by a pair of All-NBA nods and an All-Star appearance. As the top overall pick, Coleman lived up to the hype by being the leading scorer in the 1990 draft class, but doesn’t have the legacy as the top player. That belongs to Hall of Famer Gary Payton.
Sherman Douglas 1989, Round 2 Pick 1 (28th overall) to Miami
You’re probably thinking up to this point, “where are the value picks?” With those three, it didn’t matter where they were picked. They were all either the best or second best player in their respective classes. They’ve earned their value and then some. But Douglas is where we really start to see the value. 1989 was a draft littered with role players and he was certainly solid throughout his NBA career as one. He averaged 11 points per game throughout his time in the league and earned All-Rookie First Team honors with the Heat. He was an undersized guard, which is a trait that usually spells doom for players before they even get into the NBA. But the journeyman played for five teams over a dozen seasons and played pretty consistently throughout.
Danny Schayes 1981, 13th to Utah
I don’t care how many points you score or how many minutes you log. When you spend 18 seasons at the top of your profession, that screams value. Schayes is tied for the lead in service time amongst his 1981 draftmates. No SU player has logged as many games in the league as him, although Melo is less than two seasons away from reaching that mark. While never a world-beater, Schayes provided tremendous value throughout his time in the league with 10 different teams. His best days came in the middle of his career when he averaged double digit points with the Nuggets and Bucks. He played until he was 40, which is super impressive given the injury problems you see with a lot of big men. All it takes is one inadvertent collision to the knee or getting a foot stepped on that can derail a career. For context, there are only four active NBA players that will be at least 40 years old for this upcoming season. He certainly wasn’t the best player in a draft that featured Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre, but Schayes’ service time makes him one of the best picks that SU produced.