Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Where Could Orange Players Land in Thursday's NBA Draft?

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With the draft just one day away, NBA teams are finalizing their scouting analysis on potential players they may pick. The Syracuse Orange have three players from their men's basketball roster that have a solid chance of being selected in Thursday's draft.

Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis is the favorite to be the first Syracuse player taken in the NBA draft. Ennis comes into Thursday's draft listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and the 20th ranked overall player. Ennis impressed many last season with his ability to run an offense at such a young age. Although Ennis isn't the offensive powerhouse many would like in their point guard, his maturity and command with the basketball is very rare to find, especially at his age.

Throughout the 2013-14 regular season, Ennis averaged 13 points per game along with 5.5 assists. Despite his inconsistent shooting ability, Ennis managed to hang around the 40 percent field goal mark. His ability to run an offense is probably his best quality, but teams may be reluctant to pull the trigger on him due to his inconsistency in shooting the ball.

Ennis can score though, recording 26 games with double-digit points. He only played in eight games in where he scored nine points or less and has come up with clutch shots to propel Syracuse to exciting victories. Overall Ennis would be a great addition for almost any team willing to draft him, which looks like any team with a pick mid-to-late in the first round.

There are many possibilities for Ennis' future, but here are some of the teams that have an opportunity to draft him with the picks they have (granted no trades):

• Boston Celtics
• Chicago Bulls
• Atlanta Hawks
• Toronto Raptors
• Oklahoma City Thunder
• Memphis Grizzlies
• Miami Heat
• Utah Jazz

The Boston Celtics currently have two first round picks with the sixth and 17th selections. The Celtics have a chance to take Ennis with one of these two picks. It would be a complete shock to everyone if Boston were to take the Freshman point guard with the sixth pick, but the 17th looks possible. Currently, the Celtics have Rajon Rondo and Phil Pressey listed as their point guards. With Rondo's future constantly up in the air, Ennis may be a player Boston selects to take over Rondo's reigns. He wouldn't take over immediately, but drafting Ennis could open up possible future trade talks with Rondo.

The Chicago Bulls will more than likely lose their starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, especially if they want to bring in a player like Carmelo Anthony from free agency. Derrick Rose will probably be healthy in time for the regular season, but with Rose's knee it's hard to say if and when he will play again. Chicago also has D.J. Augustine and Mike James to run point, which doesn't really intimidate opposing teams. Ennis would be a good fit for the Bulls, especially if they lose Hinrich. Chicago picks 16th and 19th, so either one of those picks could be Ennis.

Toronto has the 20th pick, which is where many experts have Ennis being taken. Only problem with that is that Toronto's point guards already include Kyle Lowery and Greivis Vasquez. The Heat may make a push for Lowery during the offseason; and if that happens, Toronto looks like a great possibility for Ennis. Utah and Miami could both use Ennis as a starter while teams who pick before them (Oklahoma City and Memphis) could use Ennis as a backup. The Thunder do not have a point guard backing up Russell Westbrook with Reggie Jackson moving to the two position and Derek Fisher taking the coaching job in New York.

Two other Syracuse players that could be selected on Thursday include power forward Jerami Grant and small forward C.J. Fair. Grant is currently listed as a top 30 prospect in the draft while Fair is surprisingly out of the top 50. This comes to a surprise because Fair was the leading point scorer for the Orange last season. The Senior averaged 17 points per game to go along with 6 rebounds. Fair is projected to go late in the second round while Grant is projected to go late in the first.

Grant had an overall productive season for Syracuse last year, despite missing a few late season games due to injury. There are two teams that stand out as possible destinations for Grant. One of which is the Houston Rockets, who own the 25th pick in the draft. With the almost certainty that Omar Asik will be gone next season, Dwight Howard will slide to the five position. This opens up the four position in Houston, which could be filled with LeBron James in free agency. With or without LeBron in Houston, Grant would be a good fit. Grant would not be expected to come in and start, but his solid rebounding and mid-range shooting could make him a valuable backup to Dwight (if Asik stays), Terrence Jones or possibly James.

The Phoenix Suns own quite a few picks in the draft, including the 27th. This would be a good pick for Phoenix if they chose to take the 6-foot-8 Sophomore. Starting power forward Channing Frye already announced he will opt out of his contract, leaving Markieff Morris as the next in line to start. The Suns already need help down low with the high number of productive guards they have (Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green). Grant would be a solid acquisition to play either the three or four position, and with the players Phoenix currently has, Grant's impact in Phoenix could be almost immediate.

Fair's low stock is a surprise, but his talent should get him drafted Thursday night. Fair has one of the best shots entering the draft as well as some of the best overall scoring ability at the three position. Fair is a true small forward with his style of play. His game closely mirrors Paul Pierce's in that he can knock down jump shots from anywhere on the court and take the ball strong to the rim. His most overlooked quality is his rebounding, averaging 6.4 per game.

If Fair is taken late in the second round, that should be considered a "steal" for the production he can bring to any offense. Maybe his stock is so low because of unfair assessments based off past Syracuse small forwards like Wesley Johnson or Donte' Green. Regardless of why Fair is rated so low to many, a team with a late pick in the second round may be where Fair lands. Possible destinations include the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors or San Antonio Spurs.

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