This week, a look at St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. The Cavs have worked him out twice, as he fits a pressing team need – a stretch four. The June 9th draftexpress mock included him at #24, making the trek to Cleveland to compliment Kyrie and Tristan.
Nicholson completed his senior year at St. Bonaventure and turns 23 in December. With barefoot height of 6’ – 8.5” and carrying 234 lbs, he possesses fine size for an NBA power forward. Utilizing a bevy of post moves, solid face-up skills, and a jumper that netted 43% of his threes, Nicholson’s per-forty-minute pace-adjusted scoring ranks 2nd of 21 power forwards in draftexpress’s 2012 database. Combined with 78% free throw shooting, his highly-efficient 64% true shooting ranked 2nd in the Atlantic Ten; impressive for a player that uses nearly 3 in 10 possessions. Despite improvement this year, his rebounding remains marginal, with defensive rebounding percentage ranked 84th in the NCAA and offensive rebounding rate falling at 233rd; relatively disappointing for a first-round-prospect Senior against a non-elite schedule. He utilizes his outstanding 7’ – 4” wingspan to block two shots per game in 30 minutes. Due to middling ball-handling, he turns it over on 18% of his possessions, made even more disappointing by his total of 33 assists in 32 games. Other than his size and length, limited explosiveness and agility pose defensive concerns against the world-class athletes waiting in the NBA.
Game Recaps: During Christmas week against North Carolina State, Nicholson tallied 16 points on 56% true shooting with 6 rebounds in 37 minutes. Ineffective through his two best scoring means, he posted four points on six post plays and two points on three jump shots. The Wolfpack double-teamed him nearly every time he touched the ball, with fairly successful results, forcing five Nicholson turnovers. Subpar reaction time and general inability to hold position allowed NC State center Richard Howell to grab seven of NC State’s thirteen offensive rebounds, compared to Nicholson’s three defensive boards. On defense, bouts of non-alertness resulted in easy NC State buckets, but many high points occurred, too. On several occasions, strong effort running the court in transition provided for blocked or altered shots, and at least twice, smart hedging and recovering by Nicholson thwarted Wolfpack pick-and-rolls. On back-to-back possessions, he obstructed a driving big on a face-up and forced travels. He generally plays below the rim and does not look particularly explosive; I expect his shot-blocking decreases in the NBA, where his length alone will not get it done. In this game against several co-NBA prospects, he registered one block.
In the Bonnies thrilling double-overtime victory over St. Joseph’s in February, Nicholson registered 32 points and 14 rebounds on scintillating 69% true shooting. His three makes from deep came in the final minute of regulation and both overtimes, each hugely clutch for St. Bonaventure to pull out the win. Less effective near the basket, he generated only 11 points on 12 plays from the post, excessively relying on right-handed hook-shots, which he took ten of. Defensively, his play did not appear particularly fast or agile, with marginal “bounciness” and an oafy gait running the floor. Opposing big men drove past him twice, and his help defense frequently featured tardy rotations. On the boards though, he sported constant effort, while also displaying solid lower body strength in defending the post.
Summary: The June 9th Draftexpress mock draft included the Cavs selecting Nicholson, Bradley Beal, Doron Lamb and Festus Ezeli. I am very supportive of this, despite not knowing exactly where to fall with regards to Mr. Nicholson.
Several sources compare him to David West; appropriate in that they measured nearly identical and possess capable back-to-the-basket and perimeter games. An identifying trait for West however is his competitive fieriness. Over Andrew Nicholson’s first three years with the Bonnies, his aggression & toughness were questioned by scouts. Bringing passion to the court every play will help determine whether his career pans out similar to fellow former Atlantic 10 player-of-the-year West, or if he finds obscurity like Justin Harper, last year’s “stretch 4” from the A-10.
While I think limitations exist that keep him from West’s level; Nicholson’s combination of size & skill will provide an effective bench big man for the team drafting him.