In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we break down the play of Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard.
As a local kid from nearby Columbus, Miss. who remained in-state for college to attend Mississippi State University in Starkville, Robert Woodard II didn’t exactly make a ton of noise on the national level. Even after taking a modest leap forward as a sophomore, he was just fourth on his team in points per game. But for NBA teams looking to unearth the next gem in the draft, Woodard offers a lot to like.
Woodard logged just over 500 minutes as a freshman and then over 1000 minutes as a sophomore before deciding to turn pro. His averages of 12.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per 36 minutes for his career aren’t spectacular, but Mississippi State did rank well into the lower half of 353 Division I teams in pace the past two seasons at around 68 possessions per 40 minutes across both seasons.
His career shooting triple slash of 52.7/36.8/61.7 from two, three and the free throw line is a bit unconventional (more on that later), but it still represents someone who can shoot efficiently from many areas of the court.
Robert Woodard II has really great size and length for an NBA wing at 6’7” 235-pound and a 7’1” wingspan. Additionally, his level of athleticism is very high as he possesses a fantastic vertical leap and fluid agility.
Woodard’s quick first step off the ball on offense puts him in good position to lose his man on cuts when the defense relaxes. He finished at 1.40 PPP — points per possession — in these situations last season per Synergy. It won’t surprise anyone that he finishes at the rim well at 1.29 PPP, given his smarts at when to find space in the lane and the strength and hops to finish at the rack. And he certainly doesn’t avoid rim rattling dunks when possible.
Still, going forward the skill that will entice NBA teams most is his ability fit into any offensive scheme as a floor-spacing, spot up shooter. His catch-and-shoot game was merely respectable at 1.08 PPP but he has a big chance to improve that figure going forward. Here, he showcases just why he’s among the best midrange shooters in the draft.
Woodard moves well without the ball around screens and is able to find space anywhere on the court to shoot, especially preferring the baseline and elbow areas.
While not an accomplished pull up shooter by any means, every once in a while he will show flashes of being able to create space and fire away off the bounce.
He’s also a disruptive one-on-one defender, giving up just 0.67 PPP per Synergy. He moves well laterally and is rarely seen getting dusted by all but the quickest guys. In addition, he can be a game changer with impact players on defense, averaging over a steal and a dunk per 36 minutes. Even without the flashy plays, he almost always manages to contest shots and throw shooters out of rhythm.
While just a passable fighter through screens, Woodard switches onto secondary targets off screens very deftly. In addition to locking up on almost all guys his size in isolation, when playing team defense off the ball, he closes out hard on shooters in the area.
He looks very comfortable playing the power forward position despite being just 6’7”. He has some post up scoring ability in that role on offense as well. While not an amazing passer, he can kick the ball out of the post when necessary. His 1.09 PPP mark as a scorer and passer out of post ups lends credence to his versatility to play that position at a professional level. Even around the perimeter, he does well to locate the proper skip pass, like in the clip below.
He was a good rebounder for his size and position in college, pulling down 7.6 rebounds, a figure that includes 2.6 on the offensive side to create new possessions for his Bulldogs.
In total, Woodard has a very legitimate shot at being a rotational two-way wing. Teams could even run him out as a small ball, floor-stretching forward in a role similar to the one he played at Starkville. There’s a lot to like for this young man who just turned 21 in September.
At under 12 points and less than 10 attempts per 36 minutes for his career, Woodard is a very selective shooter, so he’ll never be mistaken for a player who takes a game over when his team’s offense is in need of a spark.
Woodard’s so-so at best handles means he’s almost a non-threat to create. In the same vein, his shooting falls off significantly when guarded versus when taking wide open shots. This leads to turning down shots when they’re even mildly contested. As a pull up shooter, it takes a lot of effort to get a clean shot off for Woodard and as a result, he logged a poor 0.711 PPP in those situations this past season.
Similarly, he’s a non-factor in the pick-and-roll game as a roller or ball handler. He really only looks comfortable as just a pure a spot up shooter. He won’t face up or pointlessly jab or rip through in a three-point stance. Rather, when he receives the ball, he’s virtually always either pulling from distance or looking to move the ball as a strict rule.
He logged more turnovers than assists — 1.4 versus 1.8 per 36 minutes for a 0.81 AST/TO ratio — which further indicates his relative discomfort with the ball in his hands.
Woodard has an oddly worrying percentage from the free throw line as a career 61.7% shooter. Given that he has a solid percentage from the field at 53.4% eFG%, I believe it’s a fixable trait but it’s something to watch at the next level.
While very much a positive at almost all times on defense, his motor on that end can suffer at times. Despite his talents as well, Woodard profiles as probably just a 2 through 4 defender. The knock on him is that he lacks the height to guard most bigs and the shiftiness to cover speedy guards.
Here in transition, Arkansas’ 6’3” guard Jimmy Whitt Jr. is able to get by him but misses the difficult reverse layup in part due to a hustle contest at the rim.
Woodard had a largely forgettable freshman year, but it’s not a huge worry. He was someone who stepped into reserve role on what would be a 23-11 Mississippi State tournament roster packed with upperclassmen, not to mention fellow draft hopeful Reggie Perry.
His relatively modest breakout in year two may not move the needle for some who aren’t impressed by his aggressively complementary game. However, his value resides in the subtlety and minutiae of his game.
Possible fit with the Hawks
Woodard possesses a skill set that is very translatable to today’s NBA. It has turned into a bit of a shallow buzzword, but his game is tailor-made for the role of a 3-and-D wing. Teams can never have enough low volume shooters who don’t need the ball in their hands to be effective, especially ones who can guard their position and beyond.
He’s someone I personally have ranked higher than consensus: a top-25 guy to my untrained eye. In my mind, he’s definitely a take at the 50th overall pick despite the Hawks having three young and capable wing players in Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. Still, his low level of college productivity should quell expectations of anything more than a solid role player from a weak draft.
However, there’s a solid chance that Woodard is selected above that slot in roughly the 30-to-45 range based on available intel, making it a good possibility that the Hawks’ only option to acquire him is through trade. While the statistical profile isn’t flashy, he is among the safest options in this draft and may have a not so steep learning curve towards being a true NBA contributor.