Last season was a frustrating one for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and fans. Despite entering the season with plenty of hype and expectations, Nebraska faded down the stretch and missed out on the NCAA Tournament yet again. The struggles ended up costing Tim Miles his job.
The primary reason fans were so frustrated with the results had to do with the team’s talent base. The Huskers were a talented and experienced group last season. Injuries or not, Nebraska should have done more than make the NIT.
And part of that talent was guard James Palmer. He was a really productive scorer and came through in a lot of big moments. Now, he hopes to hear his name called in the 2019 NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at how that might happen.
Palmer never put up elite numbers, but he was a really productive scorer. During last season, he averaged 19.7 points per game and scored double-digits in 33 games last year. He was particularly impressive at getting into the lane and converting at the hoop or from the free throw line.
There’s also something to say about Palmer’s durability. He played 88.4 percent of the team’s minutes last season and 91.7 percent during conference play. Those are absurd numbers, yet he remained productive. Palmer also has decent size at 6-foot-6 and should be able to play at least two positions at the next level.
Unfortunately, Palmer has his issues as well. To start, he was never an elite shooter. He topped out as a freshman at Miami (FL) at 36.5 percent from three-point range, but settled in at 31.3 percent from three during his final season with the Huskers. Perhaps that could improve with fewer minutes on the floor, but at this point, it’s hard to see Palmer turning into an ace from deep at the next level.
Palmer was also never an exceptionally efficient player. As mentioned above, he was productive on a nightly basis, but a decent hunk of that production came as a result of his massive usage numbers. It’s hard to say whether he could be similarly productive with fewer opportunities at the next level, as is sure to happen.
Given his college career, Palmer is a difficult player to project. We know he put up solid overall numbers at Nebraska, but would he have remained productive if he had been limited to 10 to 20 minutes a game? With fewer opportunities comes a greater emphasis on shot selection, turnovers, and free throw shooting. It’s anyone’s guess how Palmer would transition to seeing only a handful of opportunities a night.
The most logical landing spot for Palmer seems to be a team that needs a productive guard off the bench. Somebody who can keep things moving when the starters are resting. Sort of like a Shaun Livingston type role. Just hold down the fort, get a few buckets, and head back to the bench. The question will largely be whether Palmer can be efficient in those opportunities.
Palmer’s status heading into this year’s NBA Draft is pretty clear. He’s either going to be a late second round pick, or go undrafted. That means he’s going to have to earn a roster spot in Summer League play and likely in the G League next season. His draft prospects are almost guaranteed to depend on whether there’s a single team who believes in him enough to take a shot late. But his career prospects will be decided by how he develops in the leagues noted above.