An unfortunate non-contact right knee injury ended James Blackmon Jr.'s sophomore season in early January. The injury may have also temporarily derailed his plan to enter the NBA Draft. Blackmon's injury occurred in practice only two days prior to the start of Big Ten play, cutting his season considerably short. The news was quite unfortunate for Indiana at the time, with Yogi Ferrell and Blackmon having developed some chemistry and turning into a formidable offensive backcourt. Ferrell's shooting and ability to penetrate complemented Blackmon's game. With that said, how does Blackmon project on the next level?
Blackmon's biggest strength is his shooting, which should make him a valuable NBA asset. An 80 percent free throw shooter and (at least during his sophomore season) a 46 percent three point shooter, Blackmon is a tremendous weapon.
According to DraftExpress, Blackmon can attack closeouts, so he can move a little and get his feet set in the midrange. When defenders are closing too aggressively, he'll make them pay.
For his size, he's a pretty good rebounder. He averaged five and four rebounds per game, as a freshman and sophomore respectively.
Championship contenders are always in the market for three-and-D guys. Blackmon's competitive defensively, but he's a bit undersized to guard NBA shooting guards. At 6'3", where he'll fit in defensively is still a question. Somebody who can shoot will always find their way to the floor, but it's defensively where he'll need to find a niche.
While his main contribution is beyond the arc, developing his off-the-dribble game should be a priority. He just needs to be credible enough to prevent hard closeouts that push him from the three-point line. If he can make defenders think for a split second when closing out, he'll give himself even more time from three.
His overall physical strength is also a concern, especially now as he recovers from a knee injury. His knee issue was serious enough that he missed the entirety of Indiana's Big Ten schedule, and NBA people were concerned about his ability to defend.
The injury throws a wrench into his situation. More than likely he ought return to school and solidify himself after the knee injury. His offensive production through nearly two years at Indiana is not up for debate. (He averaged 15 points per game his freshman and sophomore seasons.) That being said. Blackmon will need to become more well-rounded offensively and develop a stronger defensive presence.
Blackmon tested the NBA draft last year after his freshman season. NBA people told him he needed to improve defensively, both on and off the ball, and he needed to get stronger. Unfortunately, the injury set him back. He has improved as a shooter, going from 38 percent from three as a freshman to 46 percent, but any chance to showcase improved defensive ability went to the wayside when he missed the last several months of the season.
With Yogi Ferrell graduating, Blackmon has an opportunity to become more of an offensive focal point. That should help him develop his off the dribble game and he could become more of a director offensively. Improving his ballhandling should make him even more valuable in the NBA. It could happen that he plays point guard at the next level, or at least jump into the ballhandling rotation, so another year at Indiana without Ferrell means he'll take on more of that responsibility.
Chad Ford compares him to Randy Foye, with Blackmon being a bit undersized at the two and not quite a fit at point guard. Returning to school another year could help him become more of a fit at point guard, which'll improve his draft stock.