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, in this edition, we examine Louisville forward Jordan Nwora.
Jordan Nwora concluded his three years of play at Louisville by helping lead his team to an impressive 24-7 record while being named first team All-ACC. His ability to make perimeter shots, including a 40.2% clip on 189 three-point attempts, while playing at the power forward position is what created a unique challenge for opposing defenses.
NBA teams love players that can stretch the floor at the center and power forward positions, but it’s plainly not enough for shooting to elevate a player into an NBA rotation at either position. However, Nwora’s ability to knock down shots with a nice release point — he is 6’7 with a reported 6’10.5 wingspan — and an immensely clean and repeatable form is what is going to open the door for him to get a serious opportunity in the NBA.
Nwora graded excellently in catch and shoot situations, which bodes well for him. His shooting provides a baseline skill to potentially get him on the court since he’s unlikely to ever be asked to function as a creator.
But as we saw, most recently, in the postseason environment, the best NBA defenses will chase all shooters off of the three-point line. When that happens, offensive players need to be able to offer another form of attack, and that’s not to suggest that the scenario is completely irrelevant in a regular season context.
Working with limited ball handling skills, Nwora struggles to put the ball on the floor in any way that stresses the defense, in these situations and others. He had 95 assists in 59 collegiate games (compared to 168 turnovers) and that is with Louisville running a fairly modern offense focused upon spacing.
As seen in the clip above, Nwora possesses the ability to use a dribble to relocate as a shooter. That is a critical part of his game as a perimeter shooter, especially since he’s not really equipped to dribble past a second defender or into the heart of a defense.
He graded as a fairly average shooter when working off of the dribble, but performed reliably when the required dribbles were limited to spot up opportunities.
As seen here, Nwora can function in the midrange at times when the defense is working hard to deny shots beyond the arc. These shots won’t be a priority at the the next level, but the skill he shows suggests there might be more he can accomplish from a development standpoint in this area.
It should be noted, however, that he demonstrates a fairly strong preference to work to his right in these situations, a limitation surely to be noticed by professional opponents.
From a scheme standpoint, Louisville used a “horns”-heavy playbook, which put Nwora into some regular action that is similar to what will asked to do playing in the NBA. With that said, they infrequently ran pick-and-roll based sets, so observers have had little chance to see what he can do when forced to make a play with the ball, such as in “short roll” situations.
There is little doubt that he will be able to function as a pick-and-pop big but, as a college player, he struggled to convert shots at the rim. That, in combination with his slight leaping ability, all but excludes him from having any value rolling to the rim.
To maximize his value working off of the basketball, he also will need to become a significantly better cutter.
Nwora strikes one as a player that could be thrown on the court with an elite, ball dominant creator (think James Harden) that can put up open three-point attempts at a heavy volume. To do that, though, he is going to have to develop some defensive value, and he has a very long way to go in that department.
He has the size and frame to function as a versatile player that doesn’t ask him to defend regularly at the point of attack. But his physical profile almost requires that, in the future, he be able to function in a switch heavy scheme. That approach, of course, requires all defenders on the court to be equipped to provide some amount of resistance at the point of attack.
When defending on the ball, he gets into a good stance and stays on the balls of his feet, but the lateral quickness is just not quite what it needs to be. On the flip side, he is a sound team defender when working off ball.
He’s a very solid communicator and he is consistently in the right spot. However, Nwora is unlikely to ever be anything of a rim protector — 23 blocked shots in his NCAA career — and his steal rate decreased in each of his last two seasons on campus.
Louisville optimized him defensively to a degree by often putting him on the offensive player most likely to spot up in the weakside corner. The amount of high pick-and-roll used in the league now almost requires that the defender in the weakside corner to have some ability to impact the roll man in the paint or at the rim. Apart from some noteworthy development, Nwora is likely to struggle in this area.
I half expect to hear Duncan Robinson’s name thrown around on a regular basis when a really promising shooter in the 6’7 to 6’8 range readies to launch an NBA career as a prospect that is seemingly unlikely to be drafted in the first round. Trying to identify the next elite shooter to possibly go undrafted, though, is likely an exercise in folly.
Most outlets are projecting Nwora to be a mid-second round pick, but it will be interesting to see where he lands. Perhaps the perceived ever-increasing value of prospects of a similar profile might result in him being picked in the 30-40 range instead of a range where players are likely to end up as marginal roster inclusions and sometimes on two-way contracts to start.