Syracuse has been a proud and prestigious program, and the legacy lives on in Orange who made it to the NBA. Since Carmelo Anthony seems to have practically ended his NBA career this year, could some of those players who are currently active make history?
Granted, while Anthony’s career may ultimately be disappointing, he’s almost a lock to make the Hall of Fame. Melo’s career fizzled in some ways since he never won a title, but his stats are undeniable. He was the most promising freshman to ever play for Syracuse, leading the Orange to its only title in 2003. Despite showing great potential, some bad choices, unfortunate injuries, and a questionable attitude toward coaching and adapting kept Melo from achieving what he was capable of. After signing with the Rockets last summer, it seemed like his best chance to get to an NBA Finals, even after the difficult season with Thunder and the awkward end with the Knicks.
But even the Rockets couldn’t turn Carmelo’s luck around. The team that gave the Warriors a run for their money last year has fallen from its high perch because of a changing roster and injuries. Even though last year the Rockets were consistently placing in the top spots to win the Finals in NBA betting, which is very popular both within the US and abroad and a great indicator of which team will be crowned the champions, this year they are ranking much lower. While James Harden has been incredible, the Rockets are stuck in the middle of the Western conference pack. While they may still ultimately be the Warriors biggest threat in the West, the Rockets were certainly not the right fit for Melo. Demonstrating weak defense and with Chris Paul seemingly distracted since the season started, Houston couldn’t possibly nurture Melo at this point in his career back to stardom. They gave up on him at the beginning of the season, traded him to the Bulls who waived him in early February. Even though Melo fans in Syracuse don’t want to believe this, this is it for Melo. He will always remain the favorite son of Orange Nation, but he is no longer a capable player.
Who’s the next SU star in the NBA? Tyler Lydon has shown a lot of promise. A steady forward with strong rebound skills, he seems eager to get better and better. Picked by Utah at the 2017 draft, he was almost immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets. His potential never materialized with the Nuggets. The team was already full with some great forwards, and then they added two more at the 2018 NBA draft.
Lydon was overshadowed and never really given a chance to prove himself. He played just three games during his time with the Nuggets, averaging six minutes of play. And, after the Nuggets declined to use their third-year option this year, he will go hunting again when free agent season begins. Malachi Richardson, who played for the Raptors last season, suffered an even worse fate. The Raptors kept him in G League for most of his time, just like the Nuggets did with Lydon. They then declined their team option and he is now a free agent.
Michael Carter-Williams, once a rising star and 2014 Rookie of the Year was also waived in January, which makes him a free agent up for grabs. Veteran Wesley Johnson, who was just traded by the Pelicans to the Wizards, seems to have had a better run. He was solid with the Lakers and the Suns, yet seems to have faded into the background in the past four years – and he is already 31 years old. Dion Waiters in Miami seems to have had a mixed performance, marred by recent injuries.
SU’s best player right now seems to be Jerami Grant. The 24-year-old Thunder role player has been consistently reliable and scored a career-high 25 points against the Spurs last January. Combined with Thunder’s rising star Terrance Ferguson, he could complement Russell Westbrook and Paul George as an asset for Thunder. Perhaps the next SU star in the NBA is on the college court right now, someone to take the baton from Melo.