At just 18 years old until August, James Nnaji has a valuable skillset that every winning team needs in frontcourt depth. With Barcelona this year, Nnaji averaged 3.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, and 0.8 TOPG on splits of 71/0/51 in 9 minutes per game. Below is his full scouting report:
Name: James Nnaji
Wingspan/ standing reach: 7’7/9’4
Hand size: N/A
Pre-Draft team: FC Barcelona
Tools: Rim runner, P&R roll man
- Outstanding roll/cut ability
- Runs the floor well and has good rim-running upside
- Good finisher at the loves to dunk everything
- Good rebounder
- Strong motor
- One of the youngest players in the draft
- Gets good contests on jumpers; difficult to shoot over
- Excellent athlete with long arms that has a massive lob radius at the rim
- Needs to reduce lazy turnovers
- Doesn’t shoot jumpers and has a low FT%, hence low shooting upside
- Pump fakes open shots too much; needs to be more assertive/sure of himself at the rim at times
- Still a bit raw; tries to force bully-ball situations too often
- Adequate defense against isolation at best; can get thrown off balance easily
- Needs to learn to defend without fouling as much
- Ball security and tendencies as catcher
- Perimeter defense
James Nnaji is more of a traditional rim-running big that has found a way to make an impact at the highest level short of the NBA.
Offensively, Nnaji is simply a finisher at the rim, and can thrive on pick & rolls as the roll man. While Nnaji lacks shooting and can be a bit slow to process open teammates as a passer, being as athletic and long as he is gives him an elite window at the rim to catch and make alley-oops, or even finish over defenders at the rim. In transition, being able to run the floor as smoothly as he does allows for him to potentially get mismatch post-ups against the first defender down the court, or simply to run and dunk without a dribble down the middle of the floor. With a strong motor, Nnaji should be able to play well in both transition and in the halfcourt, always trying to find ways to get to the ball in ways no other player on the court wants to.
Even without a jump shot, Nnaji has a projectable role as a simple roll-man, finisher, and glass cleaner that can help teams get better offensively. With his massive frame, his screening should be a lethal weapon as well as he continues to trim down growing pains and as he masters the timing on his rolls.
Defensively, while Nnaji only has about adequate footspeed in guarding perimeter drives, he finds other areas and ways to make up for it on the defensive end. There are foul trouble concerns, but he still is generally good at defending and protecting the rim, as well as making it hard for shooters to cleanly get shots over his long, built frame. How much he can improve his lateral mobility will be key in determining if Nnaji can stay on the floor come playoffs and key situations in games. Like his offense, Nnaji is still learning the game and as he continues to learn the game and master his strengths and improve his weaknesses, he truly has two-way rim running potential with a chance to be a dominant shot contester.
Overall, James Nnaji is still young and learning the ins and outs of the game at one of the highest levels. If he is willing to embrace coaching and work hard at mastering his craft while reducing the concerns such as: fouling, mobility, cutting turnovers, and being more aggressive near the rim with the ball in his hands, he will thrive as a finisher that every playoff contender needs.
Similar to: Ike Anigbogu, Nerlens Noel
Projected draft range: 20-40
Expected role: Energy big in transition, P&R big in half-court
Unplayable if: Lack of shooting and only mediocre lateral footspeed limit him from playing a modern NBA style game.
Exceeds expectations if: