Finally reaching the end of his roller coaster ride of a college career, Dominic James is someone we've written about countless times over the past four years. James' outstanding freshman season led to many projecting him as a future lottery pick, but after four years of struggling to live up to expectations, James now sits on the border of being drafted at all.
At first glance, many red flags pop up in looking at James' progression over his four years in college, namely his consistent decline in point production, along with his relative stagnation in most other areas. However, looking closer, there are many reasons to be optimistic, and although many people have all but written him off, much intrigue still remains in this diminutive athlete.
For the most part, James' game hasn't changed drastically in his four years at Marquette. He's an incredibly explosive and quick point guard who takes advantage of his physical attributes both with his first step and at the rim. To say he'd be in the upper echelon of point guards in the NBA in terms of purely athletic abilities would not be a stretch.
On the other hand, James' perimeter shooting is still a major area of concern, and his overall efficiency scoring the ball is abysmal, as evidenced by his 48% TS%, second worst of all players projected to be drafted over the next two years. James' shooting woes have crossed over to the free-throw line this season as well, where he's shooting, for a point guard, a nearly unheard of 46%.
In analyzing James' shot, a few things stand out, most of which we've alluded to in past write-ups of James. The biggest problem with James' shot right now is his inconsistent body control. One of the most important things any shooting coach will teach you is the importance of keeping the body moving purely on a vertical plane, perpendicular to the floor, and this is something James rarely does. His body's momentum is often moving forward or backward in addition to up and down, leading to inconsistencies with his accuracy, which causes him to try and compensate in other areas of his shot, which creates inconsistencies throughout his shot, leading to a lot of bad misses.
For the most part, however, James' overall form is not that bad; he gets great elevation, has full arm extension at a good angle, holds his follow through, and has a consistent and quick release. The inconsistent body control, however, seems to make the rest of that stuff largely irrelevant. In addition to his problems with body control, James' general feel for shooting the basketball is questionable, and even if he remedies the issues with his form, he probably won't ever be a great shooter.
In analyzing James free-throw shooting, it's honestly quite perplexing that he's shooting as bad as he is, as his form is not terrible. Like on his jump shot, however, his body's momentum is not purely vertical, as he leans back on virtually all of his shots, which could be affecting his accuracy. Given that almost all of his misses are of the North/South variety, it's likely a combination of the body control and his general shooting touch, as his shot being on line with the rim is not often a problem.
One area for optimism is James' point guard game, as he's quietly managed to consistently raise his assist-to-turnover ratio throughout his four seasons at Marquette, while his turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted have consistently dropped. His 6.5 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted rank 17th in our entire database, while his A:TO ratio and Pure Point Rating both rank 4th.
As a distributor, James possesses very good court vision in addition to the ability to take his man off the dribble with his outstanding first step. He isn't able to consistently create for his teammates in the half court, however, as teams will often sag off him, daring him to shoot a jumper, limiting his penetration opportunities. He's a more dynamic playmaker in up-tempo situations, where he can more consistently make use of his blazing speed, however his decision-making is still somewhat an area of concern in both the half court and transition, as sometimes he'll make you question whether he knows the difference between a good shot and a bad shot, while he's also prone to forcing the issue with the ball.
Defensively, James has consistently raised his steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted in his four years in school, and there is much to be optimistic about for James on this end of the floor. He has very good anticipation ability in the passing lanes and his hands are nothing short of outstanding. Laterally, James is very good, and he couples that with a good stance and attentiveness as well. James does a good job staying in front of his man on the perimeter, and is even able to recover at times when he gets on the opposition's hip. On the perimeter, James can be shot over at times at his diminutive size, but he makes use of his excellent elevation to help compensate that when contesting jumpers.
Looking forward, James is a likely late second round pick in the draft, however with his physical tools, teams should be considering him as soon as the second round begins, as his upside will be higher than most players left on the board. If a team feels they can remedy his shooting woes, he may go off the board earlier than expected, however it's also possible he isn't drafted at all, as many talent evaluators may have soured on him after four years. James will be a possible candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, however given the way his last pre-draft camp went, he may be wary to attend.