The NBA draft has its share of players who test the waters only to return after receiving a negative feedback. Before the rule wich allows a player to uphold his name in the draft with the possibility of returning to college with the condition of not hiring an agent existed, players were often to return by April, instead of may 24, 10 days after the Draft Combine. Now that the rule has been implemented, it gives players more time to decide, as well a more opportunities for the NBA executives to get more information and see how good the players are and how much potential they possess. One of the players who has benefited or may I say, like many other writers might agree on, The player who has benefited the most, is none other than the Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan a.k.a Biggie. In the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, Swanigan failed the conditioning and athletic tests and underperformed as a whole. Due to this, he was advised to return to college and work on his body and other areas of his game, something Swanigan understood and did….And boy did he ever did. Today, as we approach the 2017 NBA draft, Caleb Swanigan has become one of the best and most dominant players in the country with an average of 18.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.0 APG while shooting 54.8 FG percentage, 44.7 3pt percentage and 78.1 FT percentage via Sports Reference.com, was the leader in double doubles with 28, had four of the eight 20-20 games (20+ points and 20+ rebounds) that was made in the season amdled the the nation in Defensive and total rebounds while being the second leading rebounder per game. He also became the Big Ten player of the year, was a finalist to win the Wooden Award and led the Purdue Boilmakers to the sweet 16 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. So it begs to question, why is the Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan not in te NBA Draft Lottery? Age? Upside maybe? how can a player who gotten so much better, who is still young (Born in 1997, like most in the lottery and first round picks overall) and has dominated the NCAA basketball like he had, not be in the lottery.
The case in favor of Swanigan
Besides of what I have stated before, Swanigan’s overall strengths are very intriguing. He has very good physical tools with a powerful 6″9, 246 frame and a 7″3 Wingspan with a 9″0 standing reach. Combine that with much better mobility and added athleticism (product of his hard work to add more muscle definition, athleticism, strength and getting in shape overall) and you get a handful in the lane. He Combines those physical tools with great footwork and overall skill set to punish opponents in the post where he uses a wide variety of post moves like hook shots, spin moves and other moves with efficiency. Not only is he a powerful and skilled post player, he is also capable of stretching the floor with a very good midrange jump shot, as well as a reliable 3pt shot. He shot 44.7 percent for 3 on a 1.1 makes from 2.4 for attempts or 38 fo 85 per Sports Reference.com, even if it is a very small sample, personally, I rather have a 44.7 percent on 1.1 makes out of 2.4 attempts than a 38.4 on 3.5 makes out of 9.1 attempts like Matt Williams of UCF (Sports Reference.com) unless you are a pure shooter and that shooting is your role. He is also capable of running the floor now that his conditioning is much improved and has proven to be a very hard worker woth great attitude. He is a menacing rebounder thanks to his tools, nose for the ball and intensity. That allowed him to coral 12.5 RPG or 15.3 Rebounds per 40 min. via Sports Reference.com. He was second in the nation in rebounds per contest and led the nation in both Defensive and total rebounds. Swanigan has also improved his feel for the game amd vision, tilling up his assists with 3.1 per game (Draftexpress.com) in his second year at Purdue. In other words, he is a consistent offensive threat in the post, who can also stretch the floor and find the open man, and a monster rebounder with the size and strength to battle with the biggest bruisers in the NBA.
The case against Caleb Swanigan
For as good a Swanigan is, there are well documented weaknesses in his game. For one, his defense isn’t good enough, although he is a great defensive rebounder with a 9.7 per game (Sports Reference.com), he simply doesn’t provide something close to an elite level defense with a 0.4 steals per game and 0.8 blocks per game (Draftexpress.com). This comes from a lack of lateral, size, quickness and explosiveness, wich hinders the ability to contain opposing guards on the perimeter, and to protect the rim. Even though he posses a 7″3 Wingspan and a 9″0 standing reach, he lacks the height and aforementioned explosiveness to contest taller post players and athletic perimeter players at rim. Also the lack quickness affects his weak side rotation rim protection wich is a big reason why he only blocks 2.5% of the shots he contests (SportsReference.com). The lack of blocks doesn’t just comes from not having enough athleticism, it also comes from bad timing and awareness. He has a great nose for the when it comes to rebounds, yet he doesn’t have that nose for when to switch on the weak side, wich troubles him in shot blocking situations. All this causes his potential to be less than other prospects who have the same age and produce less, especially in a league wich is centering more on quickness and explosiveness.
I also look for different ways to see the potential and production of certain players if I dedicate enough time and concentration to knowing said players. Even though a lot of Swanigan’s defensive weaknesses are very well known. He has proven to be a very capable defender. Now I understand that many shall not agree with me, but let me get this quickly. Swanigan, as I have stated before, Swanigan’s defensive numbers like blocks and block percentage and steals and steal percentage are lackluster…but I have a advanced defensive number that can help prove that having him being pegged as defensive liability is wrong. Here is the number via the 10,000 times mentioned SportsReference.com. Swanigan has a career defensive rating of 92.8 on a Purdue team that was 80th in the country in defensive rating according to NCAA.com. Ask yourself this. How can you be a great defensive rebounder if you don’t challenge the shots first? You can go to the ball after a miss that is not against you, but what about those wich do? He may not have great athleticism, or elite defensive awareness, or shot blocking timing or fundamentals, but he does have that 7″3 wingspan, 9″0 standing reach and that powerful 246 pound frame, wich can bother opponents that go up against him. His 26″ standing vertical leap isn’t that bad either, not that good, yet is not that bad because it is still two inches over 2 feet (24 inches), and he makes up for it with a 7″3 wingspan and a 9″0 standing reach. Now his 29″ inch Max vertical in last year’s combine leaved a lot to be desired, he could have participated this year and prove that his athletic ability was new and improved, but he did not participate. I heard during the combine’s ESPN program that prospects who have done the testings before did a lot better than those that do it for the first time. Maybe Swanigan could have taken that into account.
In my personal opinion, in order for Swanigan to build up more muscle definition, he will need to first build up muscle. He’ll need to get his shoulders bigger in order to bang with Howard and DJ (DeAndre Jordan), 10-15 pounds will do, and after those, he will need to do tone exercises, and lots of box jump for his jumping ability. I have read in other places that Swanigan not dunking the ball after a rebound is a testament (didn’t use that word where I read it but that’s how I saw it) to his lack of explosiveness, but he dunked a lot whenever he had space for what I saw, and even then, he had always lay it in so that is what he is costumed to, so there is no reason, especially knowing how good he is, to worry about he getting blocked because Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming got blocked by Nate Robinson, especially in today’s NBA where the physicality has dropped off much as the talent has risen. As much as I would love to see him in San Antonio or any ther team in the bottom, Caleb Swanigan has proven this season that he is a lottery caliber player with the ability to be a plug-and-play type of player with his production. So he should be treated as such. Caleb Swanigan needs to..scratch that…Swanigan has to be in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery because he’s that good.
Sergio Rodriguez is an basketball enthusiastic and an independent writer on WordPress.com