In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down former Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan.
Caleb Swanigan was one of the five best players in college basketball last season and there is something to be said for that. The 6’9 big man was insanely productive as the centerpiece at Purdue and, in the minds of many fans, is deserving of a first round selection in the NBA Draft as a result. On the flip side, there are real concerns and that is what makes Swanigan so divisive.
This is where Swanigan will make his money as a professional basketball player. As a sophomore at Purdue, Swanigan averaged 18.5 points per game (in 32.5 minutes per game) and he did it while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 44.7 percent from three. No one believes that the three-point shooting is sustainable at that level in the NBA, but Swanigan has come a long way with his stroke to the point where it is a legitimate weapon.
His 7’3 wingspan is also quite helpful offensively, as Swanigan overcomes his limited height with the ability to finish around the rim. As a passer, he is certainly average or better and Swanigan is more than willing (and able) to take advantage of mismatches in either direction. Swanigan does not profile as a “go-to” scorer in the NBA but he does appear to be a plus player in the right system.
We’ve arrived at the concerning section. As noted above, the pure questions about his size are mitigated by the crazy wingspan that Swanigan brings to the table and that helps. With that said, there isn’t a ton beyond that to love about his defensive potential, outside of the fact that he is a tremendous rebounder.
It isn’t as if Swanigan is a bad positional defender and that is the hope at the NBA level. Still, it is hard to imagine him defending a position other than center given his limited athleticism and that is a tough task on both ends of the floor. To maximize his potential, a team would need to invest in a specific type of player to pair with him in the frontcourt but, in the same breath, Swanigan won’t be good enough to actually prioritize that type of fit.
On the high side, he becomes a slightly below-average defender against centers that can capably use his basketball IQ to get by on switches. If things go wrong, he’ll be quite a problem defensively and profile as a one-way player.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
For me, the No. 19 pick would not be in the mix with regard to Swanigan and there are players that are more intriguing at No. 31. Theoretically, Swanigan would fit snugly with someone like Paul Millsap, who could help to cover him defensively and provide a capable passer next to him offensively. Still, the Hawks would be better served prioritizing a more athletic, rim-running big man and it is hard to imagine a scenario in which Swanigan is the best available player at No. 31.
It should be noted that many people are higher on Swanigan than I am, to the point where some believe he should be considered late in the first round. Defense is more of a concern for me than most and, with that as the backdrop, I just can’t get there. A team could get a steal in the 30’s with Swanigan if everything goes well, though, and that needs to be said.