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NBA Draft Scouting Report: Caleb Swanigan's Strengths, Weaknesses and Comparison


As we transition from the college basketball season to NBA Draft season I’ll be breaking down the scouting reports for various players across the country who are expected to be in the NBA Draft. We’ll focus on seniors and those with agents to start. If there is someone specific you want on here, please let me know @barstoolreags. All videos are courtesy of Synergy and the stats will come from Synergy and KenPom. 

Caleb Swanigan – Purdue

6’9”, 247 lbs, 20 years old

Projected: No. 29 (DraftExpress) No. 29 (NBADraft)

Comparison: Right-Handed Zach Randolph 

Background: There are some great examples of guys using this newer testing NBA Draft waters rule and Caleb Swanigan is one of them. He tried to be a one-and-done and practically got laughed back to Purdue after he looked awful in workouts and at the combine. He made drastic changes to his body and game, allowing him to be an All-American this season and now a borderline first round pick. That wasn’t going to happen without the testing of the waters and why that rule is so great. He got feedback on what to work on and did just that. Just take a look at his per-40 freshman stat line to sophomore year:

2015-16: 15.9 ppg/12.9 rpg/2.8 apg/28% 3PT/71% FT/51.9% 2PT

2016-17: 22.7 ppg/15.3 rpg/3.7 apg/44% 3PT/78% FT/54.8% 2PT

Strengths: Swanigan became one of the, if not the best post player in the country this year thanks to his development of playing back to the basket. As a freshman he would get lost in this and want to face up more, but this year we saw more moves come from the back to the basket. He graded out in the 78th percentile nationally with .936 in post up sets. He’s strong on both blocks but does prefer to catch the ball on the left block. From there he wants to go over his left shoulder and shoot his little hook shot he has, which he scored on 56% of the time. He does tend to take a dribble to get into this move, but he’s quick with it and it’s almost always an effective dribble instead of just putting the ball on the floor just to do it – which is something you see from college bigs. He does have a soft touch with this move and does a good job of keeping the ball high and arm fully extended to help create space since he doesn’t have great height. On top of that he’s also very consistent in the sense that he gets to the same spot in the lane with the dribble.

He became better in dealing with doubles in the post this year as well. He faced 99 hard double teams while in post up sets and graded out as ‘good’ per Synergy with .899 points per possession. He was excellent at finding cutters and spot up guys during these sets. Again, he’s quick with his decision making and does a great job of feeling where the double is coming from. He showed this against Northwestern when they doubled him quite a bit and got to show off a couple of different passes. I think the more impressive one though is the post bounce pass as he feels the double, doesn’t settle for his hook (granted it’s coming from the other block) and puts the pass in the perfect spot. Here are the two examples from that Northwestern game:

Swanigan is also an excellent rebounder and finisher off of putbacks. He had 85 points on put backs this season, which ranked him in the 80th percentile nationally. He did rank 3rd in the country with a 32.7 defensive rebounding percentage while ranking 185th with a 10.7 offensive rebounding percentage. The two main reasons for his impressive rebounding is his wingspan and the fact he conditioned himself this offseason so he can battle longer in the paint. As a freshman he was a gifted rebounder but was out of shape, which cost him positioning and rebounds late in games. The rebounding will absolutely convert to the NBA.

Weaknesses: There are two glaring weaknesses when you look at Swanigan’s game. The first is his defense. He has gotten better, but teams still singled him out to attack on the defensive side of the ball. He lacks lateral quickness, jumping ability and isn’t a threat to block you at the rim. Athletic fours like Deonte Burton challenged him there and used their athleticism to finish over him. He has to get better at guarding 1-on-1 and improving the lateral quickness. While it’s rare to see a guy succeed defensively without being a shot blocker, just look at Zach Randolph. He became quicker and used that combined with his size to make up for the lack of shot blocking ability. He also struggled mightily in the pick-and-roll set, which is a major red flag for the NBA. He ranked in the 26th percentile nationally in pick and roll sets and 14th nationally in pick and pops. This goes hand in hand with his lack of lateral quickness as he couldn’t recover or hedge fast enough here. His other glaring weakness? Turnovers. He averaged over 4 turnovers a game, which is way too high for a post guy.

Draft Stock/Projection: When you look at his game, he has the potential to be a starting four in the NBA. He can stretch the floor now thanks to improving his 3-point percentage and is still relatively young (younger than some of the freshmen in the class) so he’s worth the pick. He’s shown his ability to change his body and continue to work, so that’s a flag you don’t have to worry about. I think the defensive liability will cause him to fall just outside the first round and likely be the first or second pick in the second round. I doubt he gets as good as Zach Randolph was, but that’s the type of player he should mimic. Again, if he can show an improvement in lateral quickness, especially during workouts he’ll stay in the first round. It is worth nothing he hasn’t signed with an agent yet, but I’d be surprised to see him back at Purdue.