After taking a big step forward as a redshirt freshman, Solomon Alabi
has slowly but surely continued to gradually improve during his third season at Florida State, showing the type of long-term potential that has placed him firmly on the draft radar this season.
It is impossible to discuss Alabi as a prospect without mentioning his physical tools, since theyve driven the majority of his success on the college level and account for much of his NBA intrigue. Enjoying ideal height and a big wingspan for a center at the next level, Alabi has continued to add weight to his frame, something hell need to continue to do in order to maximize his already impressive athletic profile. Couple his continued development both as a player and athlete with his already solid leaping ability and mobility, and Alabi has all the tools to be a high-level defensive player in the League.
Many of the tools that make Alabi a highly effective defensive player have also helped him on the offensive end, and while his production last season was predicated on his ability to turn and score over his man in the post thanks to his size, he has made some small strides on the offensive end despite facing some new challenges.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Alabi has received roughly 50% of his possessions in the post this season. Though he remains very raw in regards to his ability to score from the block, and is unlikely to ever emerge as a huge scoring presence, he continues to show flashes of potential. Alabi is slowly learning how to use his size to his advantage, but hasnt been quite as efficient from the block as he was last season, still has lapses, and looks extremely mechanical with certain moves. He needs to continue to improve his footwork, expand the range of his moves, try to develop a softer touch, become quicker and more assertive on the block, and develop a wider base and better lower body strength to establish deeper post position.
The most noticeable change in Alabis post game can be seen in his ability to score over his right shoulder. He still favors making moves to his left shoulder, but the fluidity and efficiency of his turnaround jumper have clearly improved, correcting an imbalance that was apparent last season. Across the board, Alabi has done a better job not getting in a rush when sees an opening, doing a better job recognizing opportunities to make a move to the rim and getting to the line at a higher rate because of it.
Though Alabi has looked better operating one-on-one, he still lacks a large degree of polish, looking hurried and uncoordinated when he sees an opportunity to take a quick face-up jumper. A considerably bigger threat when hes able to take a dribble, Alabi has faced double teams regularly this season as savvy coaches identify the opportunity to get his out of rhythm by throwing an addition defender into the mix. Making a fantastic move on one play and then failing to anticipate or dribbling into traffic and turning the ball over on the next, the team that drafts Alabi will need to be extremely patient with his post repertoire. He remains inconsistent, but the flashes that he shows continue to become more and more impressive as he develops. Whether he can turn such plays into consistent weapons at the NBA level will be the biggest question mark for his development moving forward.
When he isnt receiving the ball in the post, Alabi does a nice job operating from block to block, providing a big target for teammates looking to dump the ball into the past after driving into the lane. His length makes him a solid offensive rebounder, and he shows a knack for gaining position and attacking the ball at its highest point. A capable finisher at the college level, Alabi needs to improve his left hand and develop better touch on his short range shots, since his size wont be as advantageous on the next level.
To some extent, the same can be said about the touch on his midrange jump shots. Alabi has proven capable of knocking down catch and shoot jumpers from the elbow on occasion. Looking comfortable when he has time and space, Alabi can be a factor from the midrange when hes in rhythm something that translates into his very solid free throw shooting ability. Though hes certainly not an inside-outside threat at this point, his development in this area is intriguing, as it seems to speak to the potential of his turnaround jumper.
Defensively, Alabi is extremely effective in the paint thanks to his tremendous wingspan, playing a large part in Florida State being the top-ranked defensive team in the NCAA (according to KenPom.com) for the second straight year. Able to block shots when defending the ball one-on-one and when hes able to make a crisp rotations, he offers an intimidating defensive presence.
Though his sheer size is definitely an asset, he does have a number of bad habits. Alabi tends to gamble on occasion, trying to steal entry passes and yielding easy baskets when he cant come up with a steal. His propensity to lunge at the ball makes it hard for him to recover to his man as well.
Alabi will surely struggle against perimeter oriented big men who can take him outside and attack him off the dribble, as he lacks the agility and lateral quickness to move his feet very effectively outside the paint, looking very upright in his stance. Having Alabi camp out in the paint in a zone is one way his team can overcome this issue, but unfortunately the defensive three second rule does not allow this tactic in the NBA.
In addition to making some subtle changes to his approach on the defensive end, Alabi needs to continue to get stronger to help his ability to protect the rim and crash the glass at the next level. He is a very poor defensive rebounder at the moment, ranking amongst the worst at his position amongst likely draft prospects, something that is a bit disappointing considering his terrific physical tools.
Alabi still lacks a large degree of coordination and awareness, being unable to track down loose balls in the air and go out of his area to secure extra possessions for his team, and its perhaps here (as well as with his poor passing ability) that these weaknesses show up the most.
Considering how far Alabi has come in recent seasons, it wouldnt be surprising to see him improve considerably over the next few years. The fact that he's consistently described as a fantastic teammate, worker and overall person is clearly a major plus when projecting his development. Whether the next jump comes in preparation of another season at Florida State or his rookie year in the NBA remains to be seen. Regardless of when he declares, hell factor into the conversation to be one of the top centers selected thanks to his outstanding size and learning curve. Whoever picks him will have to be committed to developing him and willing to be patient as he experiences a steep learning curve in his first few seasons in the NBA.