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 break down the play of St. Mary’s guard Jordan Ford.
On the surface, a player who puts up two consecutive seasons scoring 20 points per game on nearly 50/40/90 efficiency seems to deserve more NBA buzz. But while Jordan Ford’s scoring feats may be underrated in a season where he didn’t get the chance to showcase in college basketball’s most high profile event, there is more to being an NBA player than being a walking bucket.
Ford emerged as one of the best offensive players in the country this past year. At an outrageous 38 minutes per game, he averaged over 21 points per game while shooting 49.1% from the field, 41.1% from three and 83.6% from the free throw line.
In an early 2020 game against Pacific that went to four overtime periods, Ford logged 58 out of 60 possible minutes on the floor. In fact, his 1,292 minutes logged this season over 34 games was tops in the entirety of NCAA Division I basketball. And Ford certainly isn’t shy about getting his shot up, as he led the West Coast Conference in field goal attempts for the last two seasons.
Shooting off the dribble has become one of the most desired traits in the NBA, and this skill Ford certainly possesses in spades. Per Synergy, as the pick-and-roll ball handler in 2019-20, Ford logged 1.128 PPP (points per possession), and an absurd 1.356 PPP when pulling up and shooting in those situations, placing him in the 97th percentile of D-I college players. His spot up game is also very good, with a 1.076 PPP on 104 field goal attempts, good for the 84th percentile of the same set.
Ford was a four-year player for the Saint Mary’s Gaels, and the starting point guard for the last three seasons. At 6’1” and 175 pounds, he played with a giant chip on his shoulder to compensate for typically being the smallest guy on the floor.
By the time his college career was through, the stats and the video bore out the fact that Ford has been one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire country over this span. He was undoubtedly the heart and soul of a Gaels team that finished 26-8 and solidly on the bubble for an NCAA tournament that never materialized.
Ford has a strangely low gather and release on his jump shot, but the overall motion is quick and the results certainly don’t lie. He can light it up regardless of where he is on the court. If teams choose to go under a screen, they’re asking for trouble.
Ford is a new age lead guard; one who has insane range that spans out a few strides beyond the arc and a quick trigger to let it fly. A crossover dribble or a step back is all that is needed for Ford to rain down three pointers. His ability to stretch the floor creates a gravitational pull on defenses and opens up opportunities for teammates underneath.
Ford has mastery over a floater to get his shot up and over taller guys, which he can hoist up from the extended free throw line area or along the baseline. It is key for him to have that ability to teardrop a floater over big men who may have a foot or more in height on him.
He has a funky dribble where defenders seem to be in reach for the ball, but afterwards, they are left befuddled when they don’t come up with the ball. Ford turns downhill toward the basket off screens in a hurry, scooping the ball up toward the basket comfortably with either hand when he lays it in to finish around taller guys.
Ford goes from a standstill to top speed in an instant and fools defenders who take naps. He was a deadly give-and-go player and equally devastating when used as an inbound passer underneath the hoop, as he can curl into play and immediately veer to the basket. One signature move he uses is faking a defender into a screen and then spinning the opposite direction to free himself for a drive to the basket. These skills allow him to get to the rim much more than would be expected for someone his height.
Here, Ford is uses the defense relaxing off the inbounds pass to wheel toward the rim and lay it in with the left.
Ford moves well without the ball, slipping screens and darting to the basket for easy buckets. Even when he’s at a stand still outside the arc, teams have to constantly respect his range and that long range threat can open up space underneath for teammates.
This play has been made famous by the Golden State Warriors featuring Stephen Curry. Coaches at other levels have taken notice of how to get an open look for an elite shooter with an out of bounds give-and-go.
Ford has a very good feel for the game, knowing when to defer to teammates and when to take over on the offensive end. Although not always the most willing passer, he has good vision to find kick-outs and cutting men when drawing double teams.
Though not an overly tough or quick defender, Ford is a hard worker on that end and strives to fit within a team’s defensive scheme. The Gaels tried to avoid him matching up against tough assignments and putting him on weaker off ball players. Still, there’s a lot of fight in the senior despite physical limitations.
At 6’1” and just 175 pounds, Ford doesn’t exactly have the ideal frame to intimidate NBA players. His limited profile shows up in a big way on the defensive end. Teams will look to “matchup hunt” when he’s on the floor, seeking the right combination of screens to put him on an overpowered ball handler.
On offense, Ford gets to the rim at will but remains an easy target to get blocked due to his lack of height.
To complicate things further, his size limits him to playing just the point guard position. But he hasn’t shown any real ability to be a distributor and make others around him better. He averaged just 2.3 assists per 36 minutes over his career and assisted on a very low 13.6% of teammates’ field goals while on the floor.
But the main shortcoming with his frame manifests itself on the defensive end. Saint Mary’s did what they could to scheme Ford to match up against weaker off ball perimeter opponents but there’s only so much you can do to hide him at the next level.
Many times, Ford will be lost defending pick-and-roll situations and won’t be able to navigate around the big man setting the pick. He always fights hard to stay attached to his man, but sheer willpower alone won’t allow a 175-pound man to shove aside a 250-pound man with his feet set.
Here, Ford can’t recover from the redirect of the ball screen and then offers no resistance in the battle for the rebound.
Even in the best of scenarios, Ford will be a solidly below-average NBA defender for his position. In the worst of scenarios, his defense will be too disastrous to overcome.
It can’t be understated how much more magnified defensive matchups will be for Ford in the NBA. He’ll be asked to navigate the high pick-and-roll as a point guard defending the top of the key area. Unfortunately, he gave up 1.054 PPP in 168 instances of these situations across his junior and senior seasons, placing him in the 22nd percentile.
Any team who brings Ford in will have to do it with the knowledge that his defense will be a negative asset. It’s up to his offensive brilliance to counterbalance his contributions on the other side of the ball.
Possible fit with the Hawks
Ford shares many similarities with Markus Howard and Marcus Keene, two smallish, score-first waterbugs. There’s no doubt the guy can absolutely fill it up. But can he stop his opponent from doing the same?
Many of the deficiencies that plague Young on the defensive end also apply to Ford. He’s small, limited athletically, and possesses a short reach. The big gap, however, is while Young demonstrated his ability to make his teammates better by leading the Division I in assists in his sole season, Ford has yet to come close in four seasons.
While Sam Vecenie of The Athletic is on record as stating he can score at an NBA level (something with which I am completely in agreement), he is listed at 88th in the most recent edition of his big board.
For me, it’s a bit harsh of an assessment, as I think he’s a borderline top 60 prospect. I believe some team may value his easy scoring and leadership mentality off the bench enough to draft him. However, the redundancy it would create with the Hawks lead me to believe it’s an long shot that he would fit in Atlanta.