We knew Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis was good, and preternatural when it came to what you want in a team’s point guard, but a recent revelation by ESPN’s Chad Ford jumped out at us because it toes the line of hyperbole. Still, the more we thought about it, the more it kind of makes sense. An unnamed NBA GM told Ford that Ennis is doing so well for No. 1 ranked Syracuse, they’d take him ahead of 2-time All-Star Kyrie Irving. You read that right.
After detailing Kansas freshman Joel Embiid‘s trend towards the top of NBA GM’s draft wish list, Ford’s latest ESPN Insider [subscription needed] update gave us this startling disclosure:
Ennis has been the highest riser on our draft board and proved why scouts are so high on him with some clutch plays down the stretch for Syracuse. Ennis handles himself like a fourth-year senior. His instincts between scoring and distributing just can’t be taught.
“If you were to ask me right now whether I’d take Ennis over Kyrie Irving, I think it’s Ennis,” one GM said. “He does all the things that help a basketball team win basketball games. You can pick him apart on individual flaws, but I would take this kid right now and trust him to run my team. I think there’s very few freshmen you could ever say that about.”
While we’ve personally vested ourselves in Ennis’ future when we talked with him and Syracuse guards coach Gerry McMamara this past summer, we know he’s not quite in Irving’s class as an offensive presence in the NBA.
But, and this is a big, capitalized BUT, Ennis has all the — cough, we know it’s cliché, cough — intangibles you’d want in your point guard. That’s why we wrote about him. That’s why the Orangemen haven’t lost this season through 23 games, a school record. That’s why McNamara ended our phone conversation summarizing the bright future of Ennis, thusly:
“He’s got all the tools… to become a great college player, and certainly an elite point guard at this level. And if you’re an elite point guard at this level, you’re going to move on.”
Still not sure we’d take him over Kyrie, but if ‘Cuse wins the title this season, that changes everything. Only Carmelo Anthony has led a Jim Boeheim-coached squad to the promised land as a freshman, and a big reason for that National Title in 2003 were the six three-pointers freshman Gerry McNamara hit in the first half against Kansas. So, you know Gerry knows what he’s talking about. Whether Ennis performs like Irving has in his first three pro seasons, remains a mystery, though. But what is no longer a mystery is whether Ennis has pro potenial.
We can’t figure out if the anonymous GM Ford wrote about is responding to all the venom filtering out of Cleveland these days — coach Mike Brown and GM Chris Grant are on the chopping block, and Kyrie himself possibly voiced doubts about staying beyond the summer of 2015 — or if Ennis’ play with Syracuse has actually announced a strong case for future All-Star potential.
Either way, the 2014 NBA Draft just keeps looking deeper and more talented if the bevy of freshman talents all declare.
How good a pro will Tyler Ennis be?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.