RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Damion JamesPosted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2010
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Damion James
Height/Weight: 6’8, 227
NBA Position: Small Forward
Projected Draft Range: Mid-to-late first round
Overview: Damion James is one of only a small handful of seniors with a good chance of hearing their names called by David Stern in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft. Over the course of his career in Austin, he played with several NBA-caliber players, including former first-round picks Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, yet still managed to post impressive numbers. James’ scoring average increased every year, from just 7.6 a game as a freshman to 18 a night last season, and James always produced on the glass, posting 10.3 rebounds per game in both his sophomore and senior seasons, and an average of 9.3 RPG over the course of his career. As a result of being undersized for his natural power forward position, James has worked hard on his perimeter jumper, improving from a poor shooter (he hit just one of his 11 three-point attempts as a freshman) to a 37.5% three-point shooter over the final three years of his career, a facet of his game that will need to continue to improve.
Will Translate to the NBA: James’ athleticism, rebounding ability and motor are his biggest strengths, and those will be the traits on which James’ NBA career rests. James has strong hands, is quick off the floor on multiple jumps, and is a tireless worker, all ingredients in his outstanding rebounding numbers. As a bonus, James is a more than capable outlet passer and relishes getting up and down the floor. While he is undersized for a full-time NBA power forward, he is versatile enough to spend some minutes at both forward spots, and can very effectively guard face-up or perimeter-oriented NBA fours.
Needs Work: Since James can’t do a whole lot to make himself taller, he’ll need to polish his skills at the small forward, his best fit in the NBA. While he has improved the range on his jumper, he’ll need to extend that out a couple more feet to the NBA three-point line while increasing his accuracy on his existing range. Although he has worked on offensive moves to free himself up, he’ll need to further develop his ball-handling skills in order to create space against superior defenders at the next level. There are plenty of things that are just going to be off-limits to James due to his lack of height, so he’ll need to solidify every other area in his game in order to make up for his shortcomings.
Comparison Players: Take Jared Dudley, add a bigger frame, a little more strength, a touch more athleticism, and maybe a bit less comfort with the ball in his hands away from the hoop, and that’s a good approximation of Damion James. When Dudley came into the League, his jumper was suspect, to say the least, but he worked on his stroke and since shooting just 22% from behind the arc as a rookie has developed into a threat from deep, canning 120 threes at a 42% clip last season with the Suns. That is the type of development James will have to undertake, fully embracing the small forward role, turning himself into a threat from the perimeter, yet maintaining the athleticism and strength inside that made his such a strong collegiate player.
Best Case Scenario: James comes into the NBA next season as a strong athlete, gets minutes for his new team based on his hard-work, rebounding and athleticism, but spends all his free time turning himself into a shooter. He’ll never be a Steve Kerr or a Kyle Korver, but if he can knock down threes like a Dudley or a Channing Frye, he’ll never want for work in the NBA. James likely never turns into a consistent NBA starter, but he could get 20-25 minutes a night in the peak years of his career if he can keep defending like a pit bull, pulling down rebounds from out of position and running the floor like a madman while adding the ability to step back and knock down the open three.
2013 Projection: While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with James’ increased proficiency away from the basket over his years in Austin, he just doesn’t seem like a natural shooter, and given that the path for James to become a long-term NBA contributor heads most directly to the three-point line, we’re not sure we can forecast a long and successful career for him. The NBA has evolved into a league for role players; if you’re not a superstar go-to guy, you better have one thing you are very good at. James can certainly rebound well for his size, and that may keep him on a roster a few years, but we can’t really project great things for James in the NBA in three years. Maybe he does turn into an effective three-point shooter, or maybe he bulks up and turns into an undersized post defender and rebounder ala Paul Millsap; but just as likely, James is on the end of a bench somewhere on his way out of the league.
Best NBA Fit: If James winds up on a team that likes to pick up the pace and get out and run, his talents could be highlighted while his weaknesses are minimized. James is excellent in the open floor, and a team like Memphis at the back end of the first round could be an excellent fit. They get up and down the floor, and they could use a bulldog on defense. While he’d clearly be behind Rudy Gay on the depth chart, and would have to fight guys like Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll for playing time and a roster slot, the Grizzlies are the type of young and athletic team that James could fit in well with.