Over the last couple years, I’ve made it a habit of going through the Syracuse basketball roster and assessing who I think are the best potential pro prospects for the upcoming season. Now, this is based entirely on NBA intangibles, skills, and potential. Basically… who has the most upside?
So, what do you say? Let’s dive right into the rankings.
11. Howard Washington
This isn’t a slight on Howard Washington, by the way. I like his game, and think he’s got a chance to be a quality contributor for Syracuse in the coming years. But he’s coming off of an ACL injury, and while he’s an adequate athlete, he’s not exceptional. He’s a guy who I think could be a good college point guard, but not really an NBA-level guy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, Washington’s ceiling is probably around Scoop Jardine or Allen Griffin, which is pretty damn good. I know I’d happily take that… wouldn’t you?
10. Buddy Boeheim
If Buddy isn’t done growing, then he could jump up a few notches. But unless he sprouts up to 6-foot-7 or taller, his NBA potential is pretty limited. The good news for Buddy is that he does possess an elite skill: he’s absolutely one of the best shooters in the entire class of 2018. That said, like Washington his playing time this season will likely be limited, and without elite athleticism he’s going to have a tough path to the NBA. But it’s certainly not out of the question – look at Andy Rautins, who came to Syracuse with a very similar game as Buddy and wound up being a second round pick by the Knicks.
9. Paschal Chukwu
If Paschal Chukwu ever sniffs the NBA, it’ll be because you simply can’t teach height. He’s 7-foot-2 and could become an elite shot blocker, and that’s a skill that a lot of NBA teams covet. It’s a big reason that Mo Bamba is going to be a top 5 pick tonight. But Chukwu has been in college for awhile now, and hasn’t gained much strength. His offensive game has never really come around, either. He’s a nice college center in the middle of the zone, but it’d be pretty surprising to see him play in the League.
8. Bourama Sidibe
I actually think Bourama Sidibe has a chance to work his way into being an NBA player – at least, an end of the rotation guy at the next level. The key for him, though, is going to be whether or not he can stay healthy. But he’s got solid size, the potential to be a good shot blocker, and an offensive game that is much better than he’s given credit for. Sidibe is a talented kid, but until he can prove he can stay healthy, I just can’t rank him any higher than this in terms of NBA Draft potential.
7. Robert Braswell
This one is pretty tough to project, really. So little is known about Robert Braswell that he’s a bit of a mystery. But what we do know about him is that he’s got great size, length, athleticism, and an above average perimeter game. He really, really needs to get stronger, though, before we can start talking about him as an NBA Draft prospect, and while we think he’s got good skills on a 6-foot-8 frame, we won’t know exactly how advanced he actually is until we see him in action… which probably won’t be a lot this year, with three forwards ahead of him on the roster.
6. Jalen Carey
The only reason Jalen Carey isn’t ranked in the top four this year is because I’m basing this only on 2019 NBA Draft prospects, and I don’t know that Carey will get enough run to establish himself as a one-and-done type of guy. But next year when I’m making this list, he’ll absolutely be in my top three prospects for the 2020 draft. Carey is a dynamic player who can score at all three levels, and at 6-foot-3 has good size for the point guard position. His game has a chance to be similar to Kyrie Irving’s, in terms of being an elite scoring point guard. I’m not saying he’s Kyrie, mind you… but that’s the kind of player I could see him emulating and playing like moving forward. Carey is going to be a good one.
5. Frank Howard
The combination of size, athleticism, and occasionally great passing has always been tantalizing with Frank Howard. He’s also been one of the most frustrating players to watch in Orange in awhile. For every great play he makes, it feels like he makes one or two head-scratching decisions. But the improvements he made from his first two seasons to last year were remarkable. He turned himself into a reliable three-point shooter, and if he can continue to improve that skill and become a better decision maker, he has a chance to become a second round pick in 2019.
4. Elijah Hughes
Elijah Hughes is an interesting guy. He’s 6-foot-6 and around 220 pounds, and is terrific physically. He’s a solid athlete, and despite his freshman year shooting numbers at East Carolina, he’s got the potential to be a lights out perimeter player. No, his three point numbers weren’t great at ECU, but he’s got a nice looking stroke and came into college with a strong reputation as someone who can stretch the floor. With his ability to play either shooting guard or small forward, he’s versatile and has a ton of potential. If he was a little taller he might be a little bit better of a pro prospect, since he’d be able to play the three full-time, but as is, Hughes has a chance to be a really, really nice player. Word is he was fantastic in practice last year, and gave Tyus Battle all he could handle on a day-to-day basis.
3. Marek Dolezaj
This was a tough one. I think, longterm, Marek Dolezaj may have the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster. He’s 6-foot-9, long, athletic, and highly skilled. Now, he doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well yet, but I think that’ll come with time and confidence. He looked scared to shoot last year, but he’s crafty and a fantastic passer. His release looks like he could add a perimeter game in time, though his shot is pretty flat most of the time. The more he works on his shooting, however, and the stronger he gets, the better a pro prospect he’s going to be. The sky is the limit for Marek, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him completely blow up this year.
2. Tyus Battle
Surprised? You really shouldn’t be. I love me some Tyus Battle, and I’m thrilled he’s coming back for his junior campaign. He would have been a second round pick this year, most likely, and he’ll absolutely be drafted in 2019. But he’s more of a finished product than my top prospect (gee, who could it be?), though he could improve his shooting and efficiency and vault up the draft board. Next year is a weaker draft class, particularly at guard, so I think he’ll likely be a first round pick. He’s a really good athlete and has a knack for making big shots, and with his strength and size he could potentially become a lockdown defender at the next level.
1. Oshae Brissett
But as much as I love Tyus, he simply doesn’t have the pro potential of Oshae Brissett. Now, this is assuming that Brissett gets better at finishing around the rim, because at times he was pretty woeful in that area. His shooting overall needs to improve, though his perimeter game really started to come around as the season progressed. Another year of adding muscle and learning to finish through contact should make him a legitimate top 15-20 prospect heading into next year’s NBA Draft. He’s an animal on the glass, has a talent for getting to the free throw line, and is a terrific athlete. At 6-foot-8 he still has more of a power forward’s game in a small forward’s body, but he’s got the basic skillset to turn himself into a pure three at the next level.