If you’re as big of a basketball fan as me, sometimes you like to mix your Big Ten viewership with a little bit of NBA action. From NBA veterans to rookies, it’s always fun to see former Big Ten players succeed at the next level.
For this week’s roundup let’s take a look at some Big Ten NBA prospects featured on DraftExpress. This week’s post features Caleb Swanigan and Nigel Hayes.
Caleb Swanigan (Purdue):
Following a strong freshman season, Caleb Swanigan had a rude realization when he attempted to enter the 2016 NBA Draft. The talented big man didn't meet NBA conditioning expectations. Swanigan’s disappointing showing at the NBA Combine and in private workouts forced him to make major improvements to his body. After a productive offseason of conditioning his body and refining his overall game, Swanigan has been a mission to impress in his sophomore year. He's posting 18.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists on the season while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from three.
With the superb production this season, Swanigan made his first appearance on the DraftExpress updated big board. He ranks as the 44th best prospect for this year’s NBA draft. With the amazing stats Swanigan has been putting up all season, I’m surprised it took this long for Swanigan to officially make an appearance on the DraftExpress’ big board. Even with getting less NBA notoriety as some of the “one and done” players, Swanigan has continued to stay in his lane and looks like the potential favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Swanigan’s done this by continuing to be a problem for opposing defenses on the low block. He’s great with his back to the basket because he’s able to read the defense and navigate double teams. He also is excellent at finishing the looks created for him by teammates around the basket. The most notable improvement that Swanigan has made is from the perimeter. He's currently shooting 50% from three, up from 29% last year, while raising his free throw percentage from 71% to 78%. Even with Swanigan’s offensive advancement, there’s still some questions to be answered regarding his ability on the defensive end.
The main questions NBA scouts will ask: Is Swanigan quick and explosive enough? Will he improve enough with his coverage on the pick and roll? Can he project the rim in a NBA game?
Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin):
DraftExpress ranks Nigel Hayes as the 45th best prospect for this year’s NBA draft. Similarly to last season, Hayes is still ranked as a player projected to get selected in the second round. After his junior year, Hayes decided to test the NBA waters, entering the NBA Draft Combine. After failing to impress scouts, Hayes was left with a list of things that he needed to work on to secure a spot in the NBA. The top priority on that list is improving his shooting stroke.
Hayes knocked down 29% of his attempts from deep his junior year and 31% of his perimeter shots overall, he struggled to make uncontested and contested shots, and had plenty of ugly misses. This season Hayes has slightly improved his three-point percentage to 33%. Hayes has also improved his overall field goal percentage from 36% his junior season to 46% this season. One thing to note, Hayes’ free throw percentage has been awful, shooting just 60% at the line.
One area where Hayes has held steady from his junior year to this year, is at the post position. Hayes uses his strength to draw fouls with his back to the basket, and his combination of aggressiveness, footwork, and craftiness helps him score effectively on the block.
The main questions NBA scouts will ask of Hayes: What position will he play? Can he play small forward with a inconsistent shooting stroke? Is he big/tall enough to bang with NBA power forwards in the paint? As the season moves forward Hayes will be looking to provide some answers.
Check in next week for more Big Ten updates from the professional leagues.