By Mike O’Connor
“I can come in for five or 10 minutes and just be a superstar in my role and continue to build on my game as the years go by.”
(For more of BBALLBREAKDOWN’s interview with Jaron Blossomgame, click here)
After four seasons (and one red-shirted freshman year) at Clemson, Jarron Blossomgame is one of the most puzzling prospects in next week’s NBA Draft.
Blossomgame will turn 24 before the start of next season, making him one of the oldest prospects in consideration for the draft. His stats and overall play style leave his NBA role unclear. He excelled as a small ball power forward at Clemson—a highly coveted position in the NBA—but many are reluctant to entertain his potential to carry out that duty in the NBA due to his 6-foot-7 frame.
For this reason, mock drafts have him slotted anywhere from 33 (SECcountry.com) to 53 (DraftExpress.com).
Let’s dig into some film and stats on Blossomgame and see what his role and impact may be in the NBA.
Blossomgame’s strengths all circle back to his elite athleticism. With excellent quickness and bounce, he’s a human highlight reel who can take off at any time. He’s an absolute terror in transition.
His value may be most evident in semi-transition, where the defense isn’t set and he can use a rip-through move to stampede to the basket.
His transition play is elite. His 1.44 PPP put him in the 95th percentile in the NCAA. But that alone cannot pay his NBA salary. His half-court play is what will need to be sharpened.
And that’s where his role gets particularly cloudy. See below for his play type breakdown from this season and how his frequencies compare to a few NBA players.
Who's ready for some fringe draft talk? Gonna have some stuff out on Jaron Blossomgame's NBA role in a bit. pic.twitter.com/288bWrwU8k
— Mike O'Connor (@MOConnor_NBA) June 14, 2017
The piece that stands out most is his sky-high percentage of post-ups, excelling in these situations. His .96 PPP on post-ups put him in the 83rd percentile. He excels at creating space and has fantastic touch on floaters and half-hooks within 15 feet.
He complements that with savvy and underrated vision out of the post and in the lane. He’s very poised, and loves to sling cross-court passes to find open shooters.
Normally, we’re skeptical of a 6-foot-7, 214 pound forward operating out of the post. But with Blossomgame’s touch, footwork, diverse collection of moves and vision, I can see him having success in the post at the NBA level.
However, he’ll have to find other ways to make an impact in a half-court offense. No NBA team will select Blossomgame hoping that he posts up on 29 percent of his possessions. Look for his post-ups to be cut in half and his pick and roll possessions to double.
Pick and Roll
In the pick and roll, his length and athleticism will create a solid amount of gravity rolling to the basket. But his pick and roll future will be determined by his potential to pop. His quickness will allow him to punish any power forward who is slow to recover from a show or hedge, and he’ll be able to use a rip through to skirt by him to the basket.
While not a pick and roll here, this clip displays his ability to punish in any situation where his defender rushes for a recovery or closeout.
Which brings us to our most important point: his shot. No defender will be in a rush to close out or crowd Blossomgame if he is a non-threat to shoot. One step further, how many small-ball power forwards are non-factors from deep?
Can He Shoot?
Despite shooting 44 percent from three in his junior year, Blossomgame shot 31.5 percent for his career at Clemson. His form is not incriminating, but leaves plenty to be desired.
He often shoots flat-footed, and gets very little lift for such an explosive athlete. Combine that with a low, flicky release, and spot-up shooting becomes very difficult.
His free-throw motion is the best display of his shot problems. Notice his his knees are locked before he releases the ball. It’s simply a flick.
His better-looking shots come when he has the chance to step into his shots, manufacturing the lift for him.
Here, after a huge block, he steps in and drains the three in transition.
As a power forward, the most important aspect of his shooting will be the corner three. When given time and space, he does manage to produce a smooth shot. But ultimately, he’ll have to do quite a bit of this in order to have a long, successful career.
The defensive side of the ball offers far less questions for Blossomgame. While there are some concerns about his focus and engagement, his athleticism and versatility is elite. And given the fact that Blossomgame will have to be a plus-defender to have an NBA role, I trust that his focus will improve.
His combination of strength, length and quickness give him the potential to dismantle pick and rolls from either defensive angle.
Here, he uses his length to snare a pocket pass.
He moves his feet very well and is usually excellent at maintaining verticality on contests. Because of that, teams will be comfortable letting him defend four positions.
However, don’t expect Blossomgame to switch onto a center. His frame limits him only to guarding most power forwards.
Despite that, any team that selects Blossomgame gets a versatile defender who should excel in the NBA’s pick and roll-heavy environment.
The defensive side of the ball is where Blossomgame will have to hang his hat. Ultimately, the two keys to Blossomgame’s NBA career will be his defensive recognition and his 3-point shot. If he can become average or above average at both, he will be a very productive NBA player. If not, his role becomes very ill-defined and he will struggle to carve out a roster spot.