Syracuse basketball is coming off of another impressive season, finishing the 2011-12 campaign as the regular season Big East champions before making an Elite 8 run during the NCAA Tournament. As with any solid squad, players graduate and underclassmen make the jump to the NBA – and this year was no exception.
With a quartet of former Orange hoopers available during tonight's NBA Draft, we take a look at where each fits best and the range one should expect to hear their names called.
The reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year and consistent offensive spark for the Orange will hear his name called before any other Syracuse player on Thursday night. There has been speculation as to which team provided Waiters with a promise of selecting him, which may have led to him not working out for the better portion of the pre-draft process. Still, Waiters figures to be selected sooner than later with several teams in need of a do-it-all guard.
Waiters fits in with several teams early in the draft but maybe none better than with the Golden State Warriors. Monta Ellis is in Milwaukee, leaving a certain void in the backcourt next to Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson is a nice complimentary player, but Waiters' potential ability to play off of Curry would be tough to bench. With Golden State selecting at No. 7 overall, other solid guards like Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers may also be on the board, so it will be a toss-up at that point. Other solid fits include the Toronto Raptors, who need offensive firepower in the worst way with pick No. 8, and the Suns at 13 – who will be a team in transition looking to move forward beginning in the backcourt depending on what Steve Nash decides to do.
Most agree that Melo is a first round talent, but maybe not a first round prospect in his current situation coming off of a pair of academic suspensions to go along with several other question marks about his work ethic and off-the-court habits. Still, let's remember that this is the NBA – where 7-footers and good point guards are rare commodities. Because of Melo's size and instant ability to help protect the basket combined with his above average rebounding ability, expect a team in need of frontcourt depth to take a shot at the Brazilian.
Unlike Waiters, who fits in best with a young team on the rise, Melo is better suited to be selected by a contender. Not necessarily for the ability to win ball games early in his pro career, but because of the culture of teams that are selecting towards the end of the first round. Experienced rosters with veteran leaders and coaching will help to develop Melo into that first round talent most consider him to be. In terms of fits, the Boston Celtics at pick 21 or 22 would be ideal considering Kevin Garnett's age and defensive prowess. Several teams picking in that range, including the Indiana Pacers (No. 26) and Miami Heat (No. 27) most notably, could use a big to pair with seasoned centers and power forwards already on the roster.
Note: If Melo is taken in the first round along with Waiters, it would be the first time a pair of SU players were selected in the same first round.
The versatile wing from SU has done it all while wearing Orange, and that is his ticket to the NBA. Joseph won't be a flashy scorer or a lockdown defender at the next level, but his ability to do a little bit of everything should help him land on a professional roster. At 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Syracuse's all-time winningest player can make it happen on both ends of the floor in limited doses of playing time.
Any young team with the need for a versatile player will fit for Joseph, the only problem is that wings his size are a dime a dozen. That said, why not Toronto? The Raptors are in the market for plenty of positions and small forward is one of them, so why not take a Canadian hooper that can give you good minutes off the bench? Toronto picks 37th and 56th in the second round, and Joseph may have that No. 56 pick written all over him.
The toughest news for Syracuse fans leading up to the NBA draft was about Jardine's injury. He suffered a broken foot this week and had surgery soon after, all but solidifying his status as a player that won't be selected on Thursday. It would have been an uphill climb even if healthy, but Jardine showed solid work ethic in losing over 10 pounds while auditioning for several NBA teams over the last few weeks before the unfortunate injury while displaying his skill for the Utah Jazz.
Jardine fits in best with a developmental plan, likely the NBDL or even in overseas leagues. There, he would have ample time and minutes to work on his overall game before trying at the NBA again in the coming years. Jardine's defensive skills, consistent table-setting ability and overall athleticism don't project for the association just yet.