Each of the last couple years, I’ve decided to go ahead and make myself look potentially very, very dumb by projecting who the best NBA prospects on Syracuse’s roster will be during the upcoming year. With the 2017 NBA Draft coming up on Thursday, why not make myself ripe for mockery yet again?
This year, the Orange roster is going to feature 10 players (with Elijah Hughes sitting out due to transfer rules), and obviously, it remains to be seen how the playing time is going to shake out. Obviously, only a few of the players on this year’s team (at best) will ever hear their names called at the NBA Draft. And it’s worth noting that, for the sake of this discussion, we are only talking about the 2018 Draft, and not longterm potential. So with that in mind… let’s jump right into this, shall we?
10. Howard Washington
This isn’t anything against the 6-foot-3 point guard from Athlete Institute, who I think has a good chance of becoming a very solid player for the Orange over the years. He’s got good size and a nice feel for the position, and he’s a good perimeter shooter. But he’s got to work on his quickness, and he’s the fourth guard in what will likely be a three-guard rotation, meaning his playing time this season will probably be limited.
9. Paschal Chukwu
I know, it’s bizarre to put a 7-foot-2 potential defensive game changer this far down the list. But after seeing Chukwu on the court prior to his eye injury last year, I just can’t put him any higher. He’s much more of a project than I ever anticipated, even with a year at Providence and a year sitting out as a transfer under his belt. If, after two years of college ball, last year is as good as we’re going to see… well, I’m just not sure the NBA is realistically in his future.
8. Bourama Sidibe
On the other hand, Bourama Sidibe is a guy who I fully expect to exceed expectations this season. He’s got great length at 6-foot-10, and by all accounts he’s an animal on the glass, with a much better offensive foundation than he’s credited for. Still, at his size he’s a little bit between positions for the NBA, and right now he doesn’t have the skillset to play power forward in the league. We’ll revisit Bourama in a couple years and see how his career and game are evolving.
7. Frank Howard
This is a weird one for me. On the one hand, Frank Howard’s on-court production hasn’t been anything to get too excited about. He’s not a particularly good shooter, he doesn’t finish all that well around the rim, and he’s often reckless with the ball. But it’s easy to see why he might develop into a player that scouts take a look at, given his size at 6-foot-4, his solid athleticism, and his occasional flashes of being a dazzling passer. For now, though, I just can’t see him getting much of a sniff at the league, let alone getting drafted.
6. Matthew Moyer
Matthew Moyer is going to be a very, very successful human being sooner than later. Will that be in the NBA? Maybe. It’ll be interesting to see his development from his first year in Syracuse’s program. He’s in better shape and his offensive skills have been honed a bit more over the past year, but it’s almost impossible to project what he’s going to look like as a potential NBA prospect. And for the 2018 NBA Draft, it feels like there’s almost no chance that he’ll make enough of an impact to be a consideration.
5. Geno Thorpe
Geno Thorpe is a tremendous addition for Syracuse heading into the upcoming season. He’s got solid size at 6-foot-4 and he can play either guard position. He shoots it pretty well from deep (just under 38%) and he’s a good free throw shooter, as well. But he turned the ball over quite a bit last year, and shot under 40% overall on his field goal attempts. Particularly for an older guy, if you’re not efficient or just freakishly athletic, I simply can’t imagine NBA scouts being willing to risk a draft pick on you.
4. Marek Dolezaj
From a pure potential standpoint, the 6-foot-9 Slovakian could certainly be higher on the list. He’s a good athlete, he’s aggressive in attacking the rim and the glass, and he handles the ball surprisingly well for a kid his size. But he’s remarkably skinny, and for right now lacks the ability to consistently stretch the floor enough to make too many waves in NBA circles. That said, he’s a tantalizing pro prospect, and unless he completely crashes and burns this season, he’ll get looks from scouts sooner than later.
3. Oshae Brissett
I don’t think I could possibly be higher on Oshae Brissett. Hell, I strongly considered making him my number two prospect on this list, but decided to wait and see him compete against ACC-caliber players before going quite that far. That said, the 6-foot-8 forward is a silky smooth athlete who hits the boards hard, and wants to punish the rim every chance he gets. He’s also got a better handle and jumper than people seem to think, and he looks good doing both. Brissett most definitely has NBA potential, but almost certainly not for the 2018 Draft.
2. Taurean Thompson
I’ve been trying to think of a Syracuse post player whose offensive game was as advanced as Thompson’s at the same stage of his career. How far back do you go to find someone with the patience, the post moves, and the midrange game that Thompson’s got? John Wallace? Even Hakim Warrick took a few years to add the offensive skills to match his freakish athleticism. On the other hand, Thompson isn’t a freakish athlete. He’s just a good athlete, and obviously, his mind is 99% on offense, and the 1% on defense still struggles. He’s got NBA potential, but until he proves he can protect the rim and dominate the defensive glass, his pro future is going to have a big question mark.
1. Tyus Battle
Duh. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be anyone else. I’ve been raving about Tyus Battle for a couple years now, and continue to think that, in a few years time, we may look back at him as the best – or at least most prototypical – shooting guard that Jim Boeheim has ever brought in. He checks off pretty much all the boxes: he’s got great size at 6-foot-6 (or maybe a shade more, even), he’s a terrific athlete, he handles the ball well, his perimeter game was far better than anticipated, and he can score at all three levels. He’s also a solid defender who can quickly turn that defense into offense. I’ll be positively stunned if he’s not a first round draft pick in 2018.