Even before the 2016 NBA Draft occurred, Ridiculous Upside has been looking at the best prospects that will probably be involved in the 2017 NBA Draft. Aside from Frank Ntilikina, the only prospects that we’ve looked at so far are incoming freshmen. That’s seen from players that either area former high school studs or international prospects coming to the states to play college basketball.
Obviously, there’s potential NBA Draft prospects that have already established themselves as stars in college basketball. The biggest example is probably Duke guard Grayson Allen, a junior that has been a third-team All-American and helped push Duke to winning the 2015 NCAA title. Alongside Allen, there’s another upperclassman in the ACC that should see his name called in next year’s NBA Draft.
That prospect is 6’8 Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame, who really blossomed (pun intended) during his junior year. In that season, Blossomgame stood as one of the best forwards in college basketball, due to his play on both ends of the court.
On the offensive end, Blossomgame shined with his incredible efficiency. Averaging 18.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on 51% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc. That pushed Blossomgame to have an outstanding 61% True Shooting Percentage, which was more efficient than Denzel Valentine (60%) or Jamal Murray (59%).
Blossomgame’s superb efficiency was pushed by his improvement as a perimeter shooter. During his first two seasons with Clemson, Blossomgame wasn’t able to eclipse 29% from beyond the arc. That sudden increase from 29% to 45% from beyond the arc is more impressive when you see that his USG% (23.5% to 26.9%) and perimeter attempts (1.9 to 3.2) both skyrocketed during that time span.
In a recent interview with Ridiculous Upside, Blossomgame touched on the main reasons behind that improvement:
That confidence is very evident when you watch Blossomgame work around the perimeter. Despite being listed as a small forward, Blossomgame spends much of his time on the offensive end working as a small-ball power forward. At the start of most possessions, Blossomgame is seen setting off-ball screens for his back-court players. Following that initial screen, Blossomgame rolls towards the perimeter in hopes of hitting that pick-and-pop jumper.
As we know, Blossomgame hits those perimeter jumpers at an obscenely efficient rate. That efficiency goes back to Blossomgame’s confidence as a perimeter shooter, as he’s very quick to get his feet set to shoot once he receives the pass. That quickness ultimately creates open looks for Blossomgame as he launches the jumper before the opposition can get back on him.
When you closely examine Blossomgame’s jumper, you see a shot that’s kind of flawed mechanically. A lot of those issues are seen in the play below, from the way that he starts the shot from his knees to actually releasing the ball just right in front of his face. Although those flaws haven’t hurt his efficiency at all, it’s still something that Blossomgame should work on to refine his all-around game.
Looking away from his work as a shooter, Blossomgame has a well-refined offensive game. Over the course of that junior season, Blossomgame established himself as both a solid on-ball cutter and post-up threat.
Inside the low-post, Blossomgame does the majority of the work on the left block. Blossomgame shows some great footwork when he’s posting up, as he can utilize a spin move or drop step to get an advantage over the opposition. In the play below, Blossomgame muscles up on the Minnesota forward before he utilizes a great drop step to put in the smooth righty hook.
Meanwhile, Blossomgame shows great potential as an on-ball cutter. Helped by a quick first-step and solid handles, the 6’8 Blossomgame can consistently drive past the opposing guard. That initial breakdown gives Blossomgame an open lane in which he can cut to the basket. Once he moves towards the paint, Blossomgame does a great job of finishing around the rim. An example of that is seen below, as Blossomgame makes the hard drive to the rim and puts in the pretty bank shot over the reach of the NC State big.
On the defensive end, Blossomgame has already established himself as a player that can guard multiple positions. At least from a defensive perspective, Clemson plays positionless basketball, something that’s especially evident with Blossomgame. Due to his solid 6’8 and 215 pound frame, Blossomgame has showcased an ability to stick with most guards on the perimeter while working inside against power forwards.
Despite being his older age (will turn 23 in September), Blossomgame still stands as a very solid NBA prospect. As an athletic 6’8 forward that’s an extremely efficient shooter, solid cutter and can defend multiple positions, Blossomgame the tools that NBA teams about from a wing.
Those skills might push Blossomgame towards being a First-Team All-American or even a sleeper candidate for the Naismith Player of the Year.