Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This breakdown focuses on Louisville’s Jordan Nwora.
Jordan Nwora was a pure scorer in his final season at Louisville, shooting at a solid clip from both beyond the arc and in different areas of the midrange. Nwora’s biggest weakness was finishing over defenders at the rim, hinting at the fact that he’s not the most athletically dominant player.
The 6’7.5, 220-pound forward was one of the best shooting wings in the class, averaging 1.28 points per possession on 138 shots. He ranked similarly (1.24 points per possession) when contested on his jumpers, a very good sign as he will be facing more length on a consistent basis at the next level. His wingspan measured 6’10.5’ at the combine, which would only help his draft stock, one would think.
Nwora struggled relative to other wings in his class in transition and isolation plays, ranking well in the back half of the expected draft class in both areas. It’s important to keep in mind that he’s still really young at 20 years old, at this stage shooting off of the catch is by far his best attribute. Surprisingly, he actually ranked near the very top of the expected class in his limited plays as the roll man in the ball screen game, scoring 40 points on 28 roll possessions. The sample size is small and tough to gauge as he jumps to the highest level basketball has to offer, but it’s good to know he may possess some sort of versatility.
A knock on Nwora would be that he is, again, not the most athletic of players. He’s sort of slow and methodical in his inside attacks as a collegiate player, and genuinely was more efficient the further away he was from the basket. On the defensive end, he’s fairly slow, but uses his frame and length on the boards. The sophomore posted a 21.8 defensive rebound percentage this past season, a solid mark for his position and 225 pound frame. He most likely won’t be able to maintain quite that level of performance on the glass in the NBA, but it’s another skill he brings to the table at this stage.
ESPN has Nwora listed as its No. 76 overall prospect for the 2019 NBA Draft, sitting him pretty firmly outside of the second round. It’s notable that they also have him listed as a power forward despite playing out on the wing a good bit as well for Louisville. Neither Sam Vecenie of The Athletic or Jonathan Givony of ESPN currently have Nwora being selected in their most recent mocks (as of May 16), while Vecenie does have the forward at 47 on his most recent big board (subscription required for each link). Their word may not be law, but two of the sports’ most respected draft analysts not having someone in their mock is a often a decent barometer for how the player is viewed in league circles, with an eye toward the possibility that he could return to school.
The best case for Nwora in the long term is most likely being a shooting weapon, a la current Hawks forward Taurean Prince, who has a similar athletic profile to Nwora. He may or may not have to start in the G League via a two-way contract following the draft depending if he’s selected, but he possess many similar traits to the 6’8 Atlanta wing. Both players excel in catch-and-shoot from three-point-range, and struggle to create offense for themselves or others with the ball in their hands. Nwora latching on to the end of someone’s bench and working his way into the rotation by knocking down shots would be the path to playing time initially, you’d think.
The sophomore blossomed in the 2018-19 season in the ACC, averaging almost 17 points per game in conference play after averaging just 5.5 points (in significantly less playing time, to be fair) during ACC play as a freshman. He was, again, also one of the most consistent rebounders for the Cardinals, averaging 6.5 defensive rebounds per game across 32 minutes. While Nwora’s ceiling may be somewhat capped by his lack of pure explosiveness, his consistency (and hopefully ability to improve even more) in catch and shoot situations and his 6’7.5 frame could be enough to keep him in NBA rotation if all goes well.
Nwora could fall into the two-way candidate category for Atlanta, as their last selection will (barring a trade) come at No. 44 on draft night. Given his shooting prowess and size, however, it would not be surprising if Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk is drawn to him more than some of the other executives, given that Schlenk seeks elite perimeter shooting in the draft going back to his days in Golden State.
In the end, Nwora would be another solid guy to potentially stash in the G League and call up to the NBA as needed initially, especially if the Hawks plan to move on from Prince at some point over the offseason. His skill set is similar to that of a Prince, and while the lack of certainty that he can produce at a similar clip is absolutely present, it seems from afar that he’d mesh well into head coach Lloyd Pierce’s spaced-out, three-point, trigger-happy scheme if he’s able to compete at a high enough level.