December 13, 2007
Shawn James is a fascinating and frustrating prospect at the same time. While he possesses outstanding physical tools and a tantalizing skill set, he is in a system that is not rewarding to post players and is coming off of a transfer season filled with injuries and inaction. The past three games, particularly games against West Virginia and Pittsburgh, really show both sides of James, the great, and the rusty.
Most NBA draft junkies know Shawn James, the elite shot blocker, but first it is worth mentioning how much his offensive game has improved. Against good post defense, James had the ability to showcase his various improvements and his potential to be a post player and post scorer at the next level. The results were mixed. James is still a somewhat of a work in progress on the offensive end. On the low blocks, he shows a nice arsenal of post moves, from spin moves to turnarounds. While he does not have the greatest touch in the world, he does convert on a good amount of his shots around the basket, shooting 58% for the season.
Even further from the basket, James is effective, being able to knock down open jump-shots from 15 feet to just inside the NBA three point line. He has a consistent shooting form, but one that could still use a substantial amount of work. However, he shoots foul shots very well for a post player, which proves that it’s just a matter of practice in terms of tightening up his jump-shot’s form. For a guy James’s size, this is an attractive facet of his offensive game. Still, you’d like to see him getting more involved under the basket. However, because of the nature of the Duquesne offense, touches are few and far between. Even though he and fellow post player, Kieron Achara, are averaging over 26 ppg, they are still having to scrap for their points and hope for passes from their trigger happy, selfish guards. Therefore, a lot of James’s points are self-created and have a lot to do with his aggressiveness on the offensive boards as well as his ability to face the basket on the offensive end. James’s offense in general is a little mechanical and inconsistent, but as said before, he should be constantly improving all season and shaking off the rust.
On the defense end, James is a presence merely by stepping onto the court. Watching West Virginia and Pittsburgh shoot over 15 three-pointers per game shows, to a certain extent, his incredible defensive reputation. He is incredibly gifted athletically and uses a combination of length with this athleticism to alter shots at a remarkable rate. He also has superior body control, timing, and consistency, making him a shot blocking threat in the open floor as well as in the post.
Whomever James defends is usually altering their shot by the end of the game. In terms of his actual post defense, the key word is strength. James is very skinny and even if he were to succeed at the next level as a face up power forward, he is still far too weak to get touches on the offensive end and make plays on the defensive end. He should look to gain more muscle, though this could be an endeavor for a guy who has only been able to put 20 pounds onto his already feeble frame. He has the quickness and agility to be a good post defender, but it all depends on whether or not he can gain the right amount of strength.
This also affects his rebounding. While he rebounds at an extremely high rate for the amount of minutes he plays, he still has a long way to go before being considered an elite rebounder. For one, James is always a second late establishing position on the boards, constantly giving his man time to box him out. Despite his athleticism and length, he is not strong enough to fight around the box out or establish position for himself. Therefore, on the defensive boards, as well as the offensive boards, he is somewhat of an underachiever. Considering the fact that he is already pulling in 7.7 rpg, his potential is through the roof should he be able to become stronger and work on his fundamentals.
That is a good way to describe Shawn James: potential is through the roof.
So, even though James is having one of the best years of his career, he has a lot of work to do before becoming a legitimate NBA prospect. He has the size, athleticism, and ability to, if he works hard, become a serviceable face-up power forward in the future.
The rest of this year will be a telling one for James in terms of how much of this potential is actually attainable. For the upstart Duquesne Dukes, however, James’s involvement on the offensive end is essential for any sort of success.