Name: James Blackmon, Jr.
Weight: 184 pounds
Stats: 17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 42.3% 3PT, 55.3% FG
Teams Worked Out For: Clippers, Kings, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Rockets, Wizards, Magic, Pistons, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers
Overview: In this series of breakdowns, I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you what you already know about these guys.
Blackmon is a sharpshooter, and an elite one at that. He’s arguably one of the best shot-makers in the Draft. No, I’m not exaggerating. Few players can fill it up like he.
But 6’3” guards don’t have much of a place in the NBA if they can’t handle the ball and run an offense, and that’s where Blackmon is going to run into problems. Even more, 6’3” guards aren’t good defenders with rare exceptions.
Blackmon’s climb is going to be an uphill one, but with a shot as pure as his, there will be a spot for him.
Strengths: Calling Blackmon a shot-maker would be a disservice to him. Last season, Blackmon filled it up when he was healthy from all over the court. His 91 threes were a career-high but both his effective field goal percentage of 60.1 percent (71st) and true shooting percentage of 63.0 percent (68th) each rank inside the top 100.
Shot-making is a skill that will naturally translate to any level of basketball and is why scouts will love him. His quick delivery make it even more translatable as he doesn’t need much space to get off his jumper. And for as good as his jumper was, it’s looking even better after this summer.
Blackmon’s ability to both create his own shot, which we saw in droves last season, and to knock down shots coming off screens and curling. His ball-handling has improved at IU and can help him navigate his way into creating his own offense.
Whether it be spot-up threes, catch-and-shoot threes, off-the-dribble threes, mid-range pull-ups, off-screen jumpers, Blackmon can knock them down.
In short, Blackmon is instant offense. Teams love that.
Blackmon also proved to be a big-shot maker and big-game player this season. As the focal point of opposing defenses, Blackmon put up career-high numbers. In some of their biggest games of the season, Blackmon had his biggest games. While that isn’t a quantifiable skill, it still matters.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, the list of weaknesses for Blackmon is much longer. The most glaring, and most often pointed-out one, is his defense. At 6’3” without much of a wingspan, Blackmon was often a liability on that end of the floor. His offense could make up for it in college, but his defense can’t continue to be this bad and still expect playing time.
Offensively, while he’s a solid ball-handler and shot-maker, he’s not much of a playmaker. He’s not a point guard who can run your offense or get you into a set. In a system, he could execute what would be needed, but you likely need some sort of playmaker in the lineup with him.
His athleticism is a concern. While he can create his own shot, creating for others is something he hasn’t done. And while he can get off his jumper seemingly anywhere, the closer to the rim he gets, the less reliable he is. He’s not someone that can finish in traffic at the rim and will struggle doing so against bigger NBA forwards.
And then there’s the injuries. Each of Blackmon’s three seasons either ended prematurely or were briefly disrupted by knee injuries. And while it’s not a direct result of his absence, the team’s play in 2015-16 improved once he went down.
Putting Blackmon on the floor limits what the rest of a team’s lineup can be on the floor. Teams need a defensive stopper in the backcourt with him as well as a playmaker to alleviate that burden from him.
Outlook: In the end, as great of a shot-maker as Blackmon is, his going to have to make immense strides both as a playmaker and a defender to find his way onto an NBA roster.
The likeliest of outcomes is that Blackmon goes undrafted on Draft night and signs with a team for Summer League with the possibility of playing for a team in both Orlando and Las Vegas.
His route could be similar to that of Yogi Ferrell’s. Last summer, Ferrell played with the Brooklyn Nets, stayed with the team early in the season, spent a good chunk of the year in the D-League and made strides, then was called up and earned himself a deal.
For Blackmon, I’d expect something similar. He’s going to spend most of next season in the D-League barring something major changing in his game. He may impress in Summer League with his shot-making and will earn a spot on a training camp roster.
But with 10-day contracts available in early January and teams often looking to take fliers on guards, don’t be surprised to hear him earn a deal with his offensive abilities and don’t be surprised if he finds a way to stick with a team.