Men's Basketball

Syracuse Orange in the Summer League: How each player fared

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Malachi Richardson was one of nine former Syracuse standouts that played in the Summer League.

With the 2017 NBA Summer League set to wrap up Monday night, here’s a look at how several former Syracuse standouts fared. Nine former SU players made rosters this summer, including a handful of first-round picks, undrafted free agents and a couple of older players trying to make late runs at an NBA roster spot.

Collectively, SU players didn’t fill the stat sheets during the summer league, which ran in Orlando (July 1-6), Utah (July 3-6) and Las Vegas (July 7-17). Here’s a rundown of they did, along with a look at what their futures may hold.

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse 2011-15, Indiana Pacers

Christmas was drafted 36th overall in 2015 by the Minnesota Timberwolves after picking up First Team All-ACC and Third Team All-America honors at Syracuse. He averaged 17.5 points per game as a senior at SU after three seasons in which he didn’t average more than six points per game.

Later, he joined the Cavaliers for the 2015 NBA Summer League, averaging eight points and 4.5 rebounds in four games. He played in the G-League for much of the last two seasons and was a 2016 NBA G-League All Star. Last season, he averaged two points per game in 29 contests for the Pacers.

In two Summer League games in 2017, Christmas averaged 6.5 points, blocked four shots and added a pair of steals to his line. On July 7, he was waived by the Pacers.

The upshot: Christmas had a golden opportunity to prove himself with Indiana last season in 29 games. With both that and the 2017 Summer League now past him, he may be searching for another G-League assignment this fall.

Tyler Roberson, Syracuse 2013-17, Milwaukee Bucks

The 6-foot-8 forward played in only one game this summer, grabbing four rebounds and shooting 0-for-4 from the field in 17 minutes. At Syracuse, Roberson, who bulked up to about 225 pounds by the end of his career, showed flashes of a dominant rebounder and rim protector who could run the floor fairly well.

As a junior, he posted 20 rebounds in a victory at Duke, and he played a key role in an SU team that made its run to the Final Four. As a senior he played every game, though he held a diminished role. He averaged only 5.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in his 20.4 minutes per game off the bench.

The upshot: Roberson had a mediocre senior year at Syracuse and since he barely saw the floor this summer, he’ll likely be fetching for a G-League contract.

James Southerland, Syracuse 2009-13, Utah Jazz

Southerland, who went undrafted in 2013, dunked twice in a consolation round game this summer, but he averaged just 13 minutes in only two games. The 6-foot-8 forward earned 11 starts as a college senior on Syracuse’s 2013 Final Four team, averaging 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He went undrafted in 2013 before joining the Philadelphia 76ers in the Orlando Summer League, then joining the Golden State Warriors for the Las Vegas Summer League.

As a Santa Cruz Warrior in the G-League last season, he averaged 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3. That earned him a Summer League spot with the Jazz, with which he hit on 50 percent of his shots, going 6-of-12 from the field. He averaged eight points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

The upshot: Considering he’s bounced around NBA Summer League squads and overseas, Southerland has a long shot at making a roster come the fall.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse 2015-17, Denver Nuggets

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Lydon was on “cloud nine” after the Utah Jazz selected him 24th overall. (His rights were traded to the Denver Nuggets.) Lydon, who worked out for 11 NBA teams, led the Orange in rebound average (8.6) and placed second in scoring average (13.2). A 6-foot-9 forward, Lydon converted on 39.9 percent from 3-point range in two seasons at SU.

Yet this summer, he played 24.2 minutes per game in five contests. He averaged just 2.4 points on a 4-for-20 showing from the field. He averaged 4.2 boards, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals.

The upshot: Because he’s a first-round draft choice with length and an ability to stretch the floor, Lydon still has upside. Despite his rough Summer League performance, he should see some opportunities in the preseason to earn some minutes off the bench.

Kris Joseph, Syracuse 2008-12, Charlotte Hornets

A former forward at Syracuse and second-round draft pick, Joseph earned his first Summer League gig in four years. And he made it count, averaging 6.6 points and 2.8 boards across five games. It’s been a rocky path for Joseph after he starred at SU and went No. 51 overall by the Boston Celtics in 2012. He spent time with the Celtics G-League team and played overseas the last three years.

The upshot: His performance this summer was one of the best things to happen to his career in years. That he’s now five years removed from college, though, makes it hard to believe he’ll earn more than another roster spot in the G-League.

Michael Gbinije, Syracuse 2012-16, Detroit Pistons

After transferring from Duke, Gbinije rose to the starting point guard role for the Orange. As a senior, he scored in double figures in each of Syracuse’s 37 games, and he averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game on a Final Four team. The Detroit Pistons selected him with the 49th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

This summer, he played more than any other former Syracuse player, averaging 29.4 minutes per game. He had 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, a nice line for Gbinije, who represented Nigeria at last summer’s Olympic Games.

He didn’t have any luck last summer, when he suffered a sprained ankle and was ruled out for the entire summer league. He signed with the Pistons July 14 and played for the Pistons G-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.

The upshot: On Saturday, the Pistons declined the partial guarantee in his Gbinije’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent. That points to what’s probably round two in the G-League — if someone picks him up.

Chris McCullough, Syracuse 2014-15, Washington Wizards

The 2017 NBA G-League All Star averaged seven points and 5.6 rebounds over five games this Summer League, but he shot only 14-for-48 (29.2 percent) in his 22.2 minutes per game. McCullough, a 6-foot-10 forward selected No. 29 by the Brooklyn Nets in 2015, has appeared in 40 NBA games between Washington and Brooklyn.

In his lone season at Syracuse, 2014-15, McCullough started the first 16 games before a season-ending knee injury. He averaged 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds.

The upshot: McCullough most recently played for the Wizards G-League team and with an inefficient showing this summer, he could find himself right back there this fall.

Malachi Richardson, 2015-16, Sacramento Kings

Richardson, a McDonald’s All-American who made a name for himself when he scored 21 second-half points in Syracuse’s 2016 Elite Eight upset over Virginia, scored eight points in 25 minutes. Besides that, he didn’t play this summer for Sacramento.

The 6-foot-6 wing went No. 22 overall in last year’s draft and appeared in 22 games as a rookie. In February, he suffered a right hamstring injury and by March was shut down for the remainder of the season. He also played for the Reno Bighorns of the G-League.

The upshot: Richardson has yet to prove himself at the professional level and should find himself back in the G-League, looking to work back to where he spent part of his rookie campaign: Sacramento.

Andrew White, Syracuse 2016-17, Cleveland Cavaliers

White may have out-done each of his former SU counterparts this summer by playing in five games and averaging seven points for the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

The sharpshooter played only one season with Syracuse after stops at both Kansas and Nebraska. He stepped right into a starring role with the Orange, leading the team in points per game (18.5) and setting the program’s single-season record for 3-pointers (112). As SU head coach Jim Boeheim said in March, “He doesn’t miss many.”

The upshot: He’s 6-foot-7, but already 24. He can really shoot, but he can’t do much else. He played well this summer, but does an NBA franchise see his one-dimensional game as a fit at the next level? All of it creates a tough predicament for what his future entails and likely points toward a G-League contract.


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