Despite going undrafted, James Blackmon Jr. is somebody the Philadelphia 76ers could find valuable.
With only 60 selections made, there are bound to be talented players not drafted every year. Johnathan Motley, Melo Trimble, Devin Robinson and others who were stars for their collegiate team did not have their names called on draft night. Someone I am very familiar with as an Indiana University fanatic and found themselves in this situation was shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. Not long after the draft finished, Blackmon signed with the Philadelphia 76ers and gave himself a chance to find a niche on a team that needs his biggest (and really only) NBA skill, shooting.
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Last season the Sixers were once of the worst teams in the league in three point shooting, finishing 25th in percentage even though they were in the top 10 in both makes and attempts. For his career at Indiana Blackmon was a 41.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc and this wasn’t in a small sample size, he averaged 6.5 attempts per game in Tom Crean’s up tempo, three point heavy offense. Last season Blackmon lead the Big Ten in not only three point shooting percentage, 42.3, but also effective field goal percentage, 60.1, and finished second in conference in true shooting percentage at 62.9. To sum all of this up, Blackmon is a very good shooter. I see him having a Troy Daniels type of role in the league if and when he does find himself on a roster. He can come in when a team needs an offensive spark and give them exactly that.
The difficulty for Blackmon at this level is that he doesn’t do anything else on the floor. During the 2015-16 season Blackmon suffered a torn ACL and only played 13 games, and with him out of the lineup Indiana’s defense improved dramatically. He doesn’t put in much, if any, effort on this end and he doesn’t have the tools to be a big time defender should he put in that effort either. He isn’t a special athlete, doesn’t have great size for his position at 6-foot-4 and just decent length with a 6-foot-8 wingspan. I don’t see him having much success guarding the best athletes in the NBA on the perimeter.
Outside of his shooting he doesn’t offer much offensively either. At his size a team would hope he could play the point guard position but that is far from a strong suit of his. He averaged less than two assists a game over his two-plus seasons in Bloomington and last season he was 9th in conference in turnover percentage. While he played with arguably the best Indiana point guard ever in Yogi Ferrell during his first two seasons, he didn’t improve his ball handling or decision making during the summer to compensate for this loss. Speaking of his ball handling he can’t really take defenders off the dribble when they over play his shooting. He’ll make a move every once in a while to get to the rim or the line but it’s not anything a team will have to prepare for should he find his way onto the floor.
With all of his shortcomings though I could see Blackmon finding a niche in the league as I said previously. Today’s NBA is all about shooting and he definitely has that ability. With the Sixers needing that kind of skill, he could find his way to Delaware in the G-League should he impress during summer league and get an invitation to training camp and eventually find his way to Philly with some luck and hard work.