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2019 NBA Draft scouting report: James Palmer

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Nebraska vs Rutgers David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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 edition evaluates Nebraska wing James Palmer.


After starting his collegiate career at the University of Miami, James Palmer Jr. transferred to Nebraska and immediately looked like he would be in the running to become a top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, after deciding to return to the Huskers for another season his stock dropped drastically.

The big senior guard stands 6’6 and weighs in at a strong 207 pounds. That frame is definitely ready for NBA action, particularly when paired with a reported 7’0 wingspan, but why exactly has his stock dropped so much?

Last season, Palmer performed well in producing a 55 percent true shooting (with 51 percent shooting on two-point attempts) while averaging right at 31 minutes per game. This season was a different story, though, as Palmer’s efficiency dipped dramatically to 49.7 percent true shooting (with 40.1 percent on two-point attempts) in over 35 minutes of action per game.

Offensive Profile

Palmer already doesn’t have a lot offensively working in his favor as he averaged just three assists per game for each of the last two seasons despite big-time usage. His shooting from beyond the arc is rather abysmal at 30.9% in 2018, and just higher at 31.3% this season. The higher finishing percentage around the rim last season was able to make this inability to hit threes palatable, but his major dip down to 36.9% paired with the bad shooting from distance is a hard combination to sell in the NBA. This is made even tougher by the fact that Palmer shot that badly on nearly six attempts per game.

The one area where Palmer does excel at is being able to draw fouls and get to the free throw line consistently. He isn’t the world’s greatest shooter from the charity stripe (76.2% last season), but he is passable and gets there enough to be a positive asset to have in transition and when the offense slows down.

Defensive Profile

While there isn’t much positivity regarding the current state of Palmer’s offense, he has become at least a better defender as his collegiate career has continued. Palmer was able to average nearly 1.5 steals per game last season and, as noted above, there are physical traits that are encouraging.

His body is prototypical for the modern NBA wing. With some grooming, Palmer could also become a positive defender in one-on-one situations against lead guards, as he does have some excellent lateral movement to go along with his length and explosiveness.

In some ways, the last year had to be hard for Palmer, as he watched fellow teammate Isaiah Roby return and have some success as a junior and even harder knowing that he had a clear path to the league just last season had he just decided to take it. Palmer will be 23 years old in July, which only works against him even more at this point.

Whereas Palmer likely would’ve gone in the early second round last year, he might struggle to get selected at all in this year’s draft. If Palmer does get selected, look for it to be after the 50th selection mark, as anything above that would probably be a reach at this point. It should be noted that if he were to be selected in the NBA draft that he would be the first Husker to get selected since two decades ago in 1999.