I’m not sure if anyone in all of college basketball benefited more from coming back for another season then Purdue Boilermakers sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan. And now he’ll cash in all of that hard work for a shot at the next level.
Swanigan was arguably the most dominant player in all of college basketball in 2016-17, playing a huge role in Purdue capturing its first Big Ten regular season championship and trip to the Sweet 16 since 2010. Anyone who followed Big Ten basketball this past year — and honestly college basketball as a whole — was aware of Swanigan’s impact on the floor for the Boilermakers. In year two with Purdue, Swanigan averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Those numbers were good enough to receive Big Ten Player of the Year and earn a spot on many All-American lists.
Swanigan’s dominance at the college level was obviously noticed this past year but figuring out how his game will translate to the pros is still up in the air. Does he have the size and athletic ability to be a solid big man in the NBA? Or is he another great college player that doesn’t have the physical ability to make this transition? Let’s take a look at his strengths and weaknesses, where he best fits, and where he could land on draft night.
An obvious strength for Swanigan is his pure size. He’s listed at 6-foot-9 with a wingspan of 7-foot-3, and weighs 247 pounds, according to DraftExpress. That’s a big boy to try and cover in the post. He also is smart when it comes to using his size as an advantage. This was evident at the college level when he was able to back down defenders in the post for easy buckets.
Another strength in his game is his range on the offensive end. Swanigan proved in his sophomore season with Purdue that he can hit shots from anywhere on the floor, and isn’t just a big body under the rim. As a freshman Swanigan shot only 29.2 percent from deep but in year two with Purdue he bumped that up to 44.7 percent on 85 three point attempts. That’s more then he took as a freshman as well. So he has the long ball dynamic part of his game to possibly make him a stretch-forward at the next level.
One final key strength that must be mentioned is Swanigan’s rebounding ability. On both ends of the floor Swanigan was able to pull down boards this past season, even picking up four 20-rebound games. This trait surely will translate to the next level and help him stick around in the NBA.
There are a lot of good things about Swanigan’s game, but there are still some weaknesses in too. You might not call this a weakness but for his size he is not as athletically gifted as others in the NBA. He lacks the height to be a dominant low post presence at the next level so he’ll have to be small-ball center. His jumpshot is solid but he isn’t as explosive as others at this position so this is certainly an area for concern.
Another area for improvement is his ball handling skills. Last season with Purdue he posted a horrendous 4.1 turnovers per 40 minutes, which is very high for a non-point guard. He did improve his passing ability this last year but the turnovers are still an issue for Swanigan and this needs improve at the next level.
DraftExpress has Swanigan going 40th overall to the New Orleans Pelicans in its latest mock draft and that seems like a great fit for him. Swanigan has some areas of his game that still need to improve so landing on a team like New Orleans with two All Star big men ahead of him to learn from would be very beneficial. He is still relatively young — he’s 20 years old — and there is room for growth so landing on a team where he can improve his game over time would be the perfect fit for him.
Swanigan might drop in the draft because of his athletic ability and the lack of explosiveness in his game but whoever snags him will be getting a great asset. Something that shouldn’t be undervalued about him is his ability to overcome adversity. Whether it’s the struggles he faced as a kid — obesity, his father's death or being homeless — or the rough freshman season he had at Purdue, Swanigan has proven he’s a fighter. That’s a kind of guy that can have an impact at the next level. If he continues to work on his game, like he did from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Purdue, then he’ll have the ability to be something special at the next level.