Trending Prospects: Christian Watford

Trending Prospects: Christian Watford
Apr 23, 2013, 11:01 am
Christian Watford is one of the best shooters in this year's draft, but will NBA teams be able to look past his limitations and give him a roster spot next season?

Christian Watford, 6-8, Power Forward, Senior, Indiana

Joe Treutlein

A player we've consistently profiled at length over the past five years, Christian Watford is a pretty well-known quantity as a prospect at this stage of his career, having clearly defined strengths and weaknesses as a player that haven't changed much over time.

The 6'8 power forward with a very good 7'0 wingspan boasts adequate size and athleticism for his position, and he hasn't shown much evidence to believe a transition to the small forward spot is in his imminent future as was believed early on in his career.

From an offensive perspective, Watford's clear-cut best strength is undoubtedly his spot-up shooting ability from three-point range, something he's consistently improved all four years in college, culminating in his shooting a blistering 48.4% on a career-high 3.4 attempts per game as a senior.

Top Catch and Shoot Jump-Shooting Prospects in NCAA (min. 60 poss.)
NameTeamC&S Jump-Shots Per-GamePPP on C&S Js
Doug McDermott Creighton3.4 1.45
Nik Stauskas Michigan2.8 1.44
Ian Clark Belmont3.6 1.42
Isaiah CanaanMurray State2.31.40
Christian WatfordIndiana2 1.40
Scott WoodN.C. State5.11.38

Compared to the high schooler we first profiled in 2008, Watford has done quite a bit to clean up his exaggerated shooting motion, and while he still has a tendency to bring the ball down before going up into his shot, he's significantly hastened his release speed and shows little problems getting off attempts in tight quarters. Beyond that, Watford shows occasional ability to shoot off simple step-back moves or catching and shooting on the move in transition, being slightly more versatile than just a stationary spot-up threat.

Watford's shooting touch shows up noticeably in other areas of his game as well, notably at the free-throw line, where he's eclipsed 80% shooting all four years in college, while doing so on over 4.1 attempts per game each season. He's also developed a respectable runner in the lane that he utilizes on his dribble-drive attempts, showing good touch and making it a nice bright spot in his otherwise disappointing inside game.

Beyond his shooting ability, however, Watford struggles to bring much in terms of consistently high-quality contributions on the offensive end, showing flashes in a variety of areas but never really putting it together in terms of developing a noteworthy complementary skill. Watford's ability to face-up and take his defender off the dribble on straight-line drives is likely the closest thing to this thus far, and it also would be the area most likely to translate in some capacity to the next level, but his inability to finish at an efficient rate inside is very troubling—he converted just 39% of his 2-point attempts, similar to his entire career-- and he's unlikely to draw fouls at anywhere near the strong 0.54 FTA/FGA rate he posted as a senior in the NBA.

Watford's post-up game poses similar concerns, as despite showing flashes of turnaround jumpers and hook shots, he posted an abysmal 0.689 points per possession on 45 back-to-the-basket attempts this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, and that's unlikely to improve in any way against better competition.

On the positive side for Watford, the 8.7 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted was the highest rate of his career (barely), but it still ranks woefully low for a power forward prospect. He already plays a largely complementary role (he was Indiana's third-leading scorer this season), so it's tough to say he should be able to devote much more energy to this area of his game naturally looking forward. In order to maximize his chances at having a chance of sticking around in the NBA, shoring up this area of his game should certainly be among Watford's highest priorities, something we've been saying in some capacity for the better part of the last five years.

Watford could stand to make similar improvements on the defensive end, though unfortunately his average overall physical tools make that somewhat more difficult, as he lacks great strength for defending the interior and possesses just passable lateral quickness for defending the perimeter. Overall, he should have enough tools to be a solid defender of other small fours in the pros, but will likely need to be on a team that really gets dividends out of his shooting ability on offense to justify what will likely be at best a slight disadvantage on defense.

Watford made a curious decision in electing not to compete at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament earlier this month, a setting which he could have benefited from had he been able to display a more well-rounded game than he was able to show at Indiana.

Looking forward, Watford's clear-cut outstanding shooting ability for his position is definitely something that should give him some opportunities to find a home in the NBA, and finding a niche early in his career as a small four on an up-tempo, floor-spacing team is not out of the realm of possibility. Still, a more likely career path would involve going to Europe to refine his overall offensive skill set, continue to improve physically and make some drastic improvements with his inside-the-arc efficiency, giving him a much better chance of finding a long-term home a few years down the road.

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