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 report centers on Hofstra guard Justin Wright-Foreman.
A high-scoring mid-major guard is consistently one of the NBA Draft’s biggest enigmas. Sure, a prospect is putting up 30 points every other night, but it is coming against competition that’s junior varsity level compared to NBA defenses. Through that lens, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman is an interesting case. He not only destroyed opposition in the Colonial Athletic Association, but did so with ludicrous efficiency for a lead guard.
Wright-Foreman boasted the second highest scoring average in college basketball at 27.1 points per game with a 63.7% true shooting percentage and an effective field goal percentage of 59.6%; as well as shooting 110-of-259 (42.5%) from three. This wasn’t a one year breakthrough either. Wright-Foreman is the CAA’s second all-time leading scorer despite playing just 110 minutes during his freshman season. He won back-to-back Conference Player of the Year awards and finished his collegiate career with 88 consecutive double-figure scoring games.
To think, all of this almost didn’t happen for him.
After a freshman season spent entirely on the bench fetching for scrap garbage-time minutes, Wright-Foreman almost gave up basketball completely. His struggles then somewhat resonate what hinders him as an NBA prospect, a low-basketball IQ and fairly bad defense. He also isn’t a traditional point guard in the slightest. Wright-Foreman stands with the highest usage percentage (30.9%) in CAA history while averaging just 2.8 assists as a starter. He has better passing vision than those numbers may suggest but it isn’t high octane passing.
What we have seen from him is consistent improvement. In middle school, Wright-Foreman was blessed to cross-paths with a childhood idol of his that would serve as a guardian angel. Former NBA journeyman and Hofstra legend Speedy Claxton has stood by his side as an assistant coach at Hofstra. Their connection has ran so deep that Wright-Foreman’s mother sought help from Claxton when he wasn’t attending SAT prep classes. It was Claxton who told Wright-Foreman to trust the process when he was on the verge of quitting, and an NBA player’s guidance has helped him garner a chance at playing professionally.
Wright-Foreman stands at around 6’2” and 190 pounds. He excels as a creator with body control being his best quality. He knows how to play in control and keeps his ball handling tight and secure. He can create separation from a defender with a hard crossover and does a good job keeping his dribble going while keeping a defender on his hip. He takes his time going towards the rim and finishes methodically even while taking contact.
He is a southpaw without much of a right hand, and his dribbling tends to go a bit high when at the top of the key. It’s hard to imagine some of those little tendencies not getting exploited at the next level.
Wright-Foreman is a bit reminiscent of Brandon Jennings when it comes to shooting. He has a good looking lefty stroke with a bit of a hitch in his elbow. When his feet are set and his body squared, good things tend to happen. He can pull up off screens and size a defender up for an off-the-dribble three as well.
Simply put, Wright-Foreman is a gunner who takes a high number of shots. There are a lot of contested, off-balance jumpers that frequently aren’t close. He’s a different animal when he gets in a rhythm hitting those shots but that isn’t something that’s going to work consistently in the NBA. There are slight mechanics that need to be fixed with his footwork and body positioning that hinders his shooting from the wings and corners.
What can save Wright-Foreman’s NBA chances is his cutting ability in an off-ball sense. A team trying to make him the lead ball-handler of a second unit likely won’t work well, which makes him being such a ball dominant player iffy. Hofstra has some modern NBA looks in Joe Mihalich’s system which includes Wright-Foreman cutting from the wings when the ball isn’t in his hands. He’s a decent athlete that finishes well over the rim when he has a head of steam.
In a spaced-out NBA, Wright-Foreman’s scoring and physical traits can potentially be well suited as an off-ball threat. His ability to create looks and hit tough shots makes him a second-unit commodity with the right team. Doing so at 6’2” is difficult to do efficiently. As alluded to earlier, he has a former NBA point guard as a mentor and has made incredible strides in all these areas year-after-year. Enough time in the G League could help the youngster grow more of those point guard skills he needs.