One of the most noteworthy aspects of Jalen Carey’s recruitment has been his desire to get to the NBA, with an eye toward selecting a program that will help him get there. The elite point guard from New Jersey is down to three schools: Syracuse, Miami, and Connecticut; all good programs with varying degrees of success in sending guys to the NBA, particularly at the guard position.
So this morning I got to thinking about whether or not Syracuse truly does have a better recent record of sending guards to the league. Obviously, if you go back far enough you can find great NBA players from all three schools. Miami had Rick Barry, Syracuse had Dave Bing, and Connecticut had Ray Allen, for example.
But none of those three has any impact on how good the three programs currently are at sending players to the pros at the guard position. So with that in mind, I decided to narrow the scope to the past decade. Since 2007, how many guards has each program sent to the NBA?
It’s actually be a pretty barren stretch for the Hurricanes (though that’s about to change in the next year or two, with Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker and, potentially, Ja’Quan Newton). Since 2007, as far as I can gather from some admittedly brief research that was more or less limited to a combination of RealGM and Wikipedia, the U has sent two guys to the NBA: Shane Larkin and Sheldon McClellan.
McClellan (now known as Sheldon Mac) was an undrafted signing by the Washington Wizards, who completed his rookie season in 2016-17 averaging 3.0 points in 30 games.
Larkin, meanwhile, was a first round pick of the Atlanta Hawks (and quickly traded to the Mavericks) in 2013. He spent a year with the Macs, a year with the Knicks, and his most recent season was spent with the Brooklyn Nets. In 202 career games, he’s averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 assists. Larkin played last season abroad, before returning to the NBA to play for the Celtics this year.
Connecticut has a deeper history of sending guys to the league than does Miami, of course. That shouldn’t come as any surprise. Of course, outside of Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton (both of whom fall outside the 10 year window we’re looking at), there hasn’t really been a ton of success. At least, outside of Kemba Walker.
Yes, Kemba is the gem of the five guards that UConn has sent to the NBA since 2007. The 2011 Lottery pick has played for the Hornets throughout his career, and has one thing that stands out above anyone else I’ll be talking about for any of these teams: he’s the only guard of the bunch to have been named an NBA All-Star (which happened this past season).
Other players the Huskies have sent to the league in the past decade include Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Jerome Dyson, and AJ Price. Dyson only played one season after being signed by New Orleans as an undrafted free agent. Napier, a late first round pick in 2014, has averaged 4.3 points in his three seasons, playing for three different teams.
Price was a second round pick and spent six seasons in the NBA, averaging 5.8 points and 2.2 assists over that span. Lamb, meanwhile, was a Lottery pick in 2012 and spent three seasons with Oklahoma City before landing in Charlotte, where he averaged 9.7 points last year. He’s averaging 8.0 points-per-game for his career so far.
Since 2007, Syracuse has had seven guards play in the NBA, and all seven were drafted. Michael Carter-Williams, Dion Waiters, Jonny Flynn, Tyler Ennis, Andy Rautins, Malachi Richardson, and Michael Gbinije were all either first or second round picks, with Flynn, Waiters, and MCW all Lottery picks.
Flynn is often pointed to as an all-time Lottery bust, though that’s a bit unfair given his career ended early due to a pretty debilitating hip injury that sapped his explosiveness. He averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists as a rookie before his injuries just completely changed the kind of player he could be. In three NBA seasons, he averaged 9.2 points-per-game.
MCW, meanwhile, was the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year after averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 6.2 rebounds. Like Flynn, his career since his rookie campaign has been filled with injuries, though he’s still kicking around the league and has averaged double figures in the scoring column in three of his four professional seasons. Overall, he’s averaging 13.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 5.2 rebounds so far in his NBA career.
Waiters, another Lottery pick, has become by far the most well-known Syracuse guard in the NBA thanks to his bravado and big-shot ability. The fourth overall pick in 2012, Waiters has averaged double digits in four of his first five pro seasons, and put up 15.8 points and a career-best 4.3 assists last season with the Miami Heat.
Rautins was a second round pick but only played five games for the Knicks, and is now playing in Europe. Gbinije was also as second round pick, drafted by the Pistons before being cut this summer. He did sign with the Warriors, however, so we’ll just have to wait and see if he can stick there. Silent G only played nine games for the Pistons, spending most of the year in the D-League.
The jury is still out on Syracuse’s most recent NBA guard, Malachi Richardson. As a rookie last year, he averaged 3.2 points in 22 appearances, and like Gbinije, spent much of the year in the D-League. Finally, there’s Tyler Ennis – the point guard who had one of the most surprising freshman seasons in Syracuse history before leaving for the NBA and becoming the No. 18 pick in 2014. Ennis has bounced around the league pretty consistently since getting to the NBA, but his strong performance down the stretch for the Lakers got him re-signed for the upcoming year. Ennis averaged 7.7 points in 22 games for Los Angeles last year and could wind up becoming a solid backup point guard in the league before it’s all said and done.
So which of these three programs has the best track record of sending guards to the NBA? Well, no offense intended to Miami, but they’re pretty clearly a distant third at the moment, and it all comes down to UConn versus Syracuse (and doesn’t it always seem to wind up UConn versus Syracuse?).
As mentioned, UConn certainly has the top individual player in the mix here with Kemba Walker. He’s averaging 18.4 points-per-game for his career, including 23.2 last year, when he was an All-Star. But UConn’s NBA production falls off pretty dramatically after Walker.
At this point, it all comes down to whether Syracuse having seven guards drafted, compared to four guards drafted for the Huskies since 2007, is a big enough factor to overcome UConn having the biggest star. Add in whether Dion and MCW combined can trump Kemba, and that’s really the crux of the argument. Does a former Rookie of the Year combine with a burgeoning star, in addition to five other NBA Draft picks, trump an All-Star and three other Draft picks?
For me, the answer is yes, simply because of the consistency with which Syracuse has gotten guys drafted. Look at it like the “best football conference” argument: in this scenario, UConn is the SEC and Syracuse is the ACC. Kemba is Alabama, while the rest of his “conference” is thoroughly mediocre. Syracuse has a deeper roster of players/teams, and that, for me, is enough to give the Orange the edge.