Utah Jazz second-round pick Justin Wright-Foreman has all the makings of turning into a diamond in the rough steal in the NBA.
In the aggregate, I feel like the only Utah Jazz fan that has a man crush on Justin Wright-Foreman. Yes, I know. You’re probably thinking something like “he is a 2nd round pick…” Sorry I’m gonna interrupt you. Let me finish your sentence for you by whispering three words Hugh Jackman Greatest Showman style: “…shot making extraordinaire.” Or, at least soon to be. You’re skeptical? Keep reading and I’ll try and chip away at your incredulity.
At first glance, it’s easy to see the reasons he slipped in the draft. For one, he’s undersized. Some insist really undersized. I’ve heard as short as 5’10″. Nonsense. I don’t buy it.
Luckily Sam Vecenie of the Athletic tweeted about this on draft night.
6’1″ (in shoes), with a 6’8″ wingspan?! The size is a non-issue for me. I mean, how tall is Patty Mills (6’0″), Lou Williams (6’1″) or Patrick Beverley (6’1″) and more importantly do they have a 6’7″ to 6’8″ wingspan? (For the record and much to my chagrin, Patrick Beverley’s wingspan is 6’7. But I can’t find an official wingspan on the other two. Alas).
See where I’m headed? You might be thinking these guys are unspectacular outliers. In Wright-Foreman’s case, I’d venture to put out there any prospect who is a bonafide shot maker standing at 6’1″ with a 6’8″ wingspan is an anomaly in and of himself.
Additional note: While doing research on this, one of the more interesting comps from a size and scorer stand point was Damian Lillard who measured at the NBA Draft Combine in shoes at 6’2.75″, with a 6’7.5″ wingspan. Similar to JWF, Dame was also a 4 year college player who profiled as a prolific shot maker/scorer in a mid major conference. (I’m not saying JWF is going to be Dame. I just think it’s something to take note of).
I’ve also heard a few people nitpick at the fact he was drafted as a senior. I get it. Four year college players generally don’t pan out as solid NBA guys. They dominate against other collegiate players who could be three to four years younger than they are. Thus, they’ve had a lot more time to cultivate their craft and develop physically and mentally.
I mean, talking about four year college players, even their frontal lobes are more developed which literally improves decision making. I admit, at first I shuddered at that too. So I took a closer look at JWF’s college stats and came away with some interesting tidbits.
First off, Wright-Foreman was actually really good as a sophomore. After averaging just 1.6 points and 4.1 minutes per game his freshman year, he emerged onto the scene in year two, putting in some head turning work.
If you eliminate the first eleven games of that year, where it appears his role on the team was still in flux (He played over 20 minutes in just three of the first eleven games), he averaged 23.9 points over the remaining 21 games of the season. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. Oh, and by the way, he’s also pretty young for a senior; he doesn’t turn 22 until after the start of NBA training camp in October.
Sidenote: I’m a little concerned about his steal rate (which peaked at 1.9%) as Kevin Pelton of ESPN and some of the other NBA-numbers-don’t-lie prophets insist is one of the biggest indicators a player possesses the requisite athleticism, length, quickness and hand-eye coordination that will enable him to succeed in the NBA.
Now I would never extrapolate a hypothesis in regards to a prospect’s professional prospects based on a highlight video. No way, that’s a recipe for hacks.
I’m lying. That’s exactly what I did.
But in my defense, I couldn’t find anything better that would enable me to provide a more well-rounded analysis. With that said, let me tell you what I saw.
In the parlance of Kenny, Charles and Shaq, Wright-Foreman is a professional scorer. That dude is a bonafide bucket-getter in the spirit of Uncle Drew. When you factor in the percentages, it’s really encouraging. The draft Einsteins compare him to Lou Williams as well as Jamal Crawford and I get it. Some of the shot attempts he converted were difficult. How difficult? Put it this way— they are the type of shot attempts Kobe Bryant still dreams of and salivates over.
And for being “Undersized,” his dunks are really convincing. He’s not destroying the rim like Spida Mitchell, but they are dunks indicative of NBA athleticism. And in regards to his speed and handle, he must have regularly put his defenders in basketball body bags. Jay Bilas said his athleticism will translate to the NBA and I think he’s right.
His footwork appears NBA level too. I saw him euro step to the bucket on a one-on-one fast break, hop step into sliding defenders in the paint before sending up a floater, and timely snake his way through a crevice on the perimeter as the double team collapsed on him. He even has this play in his bag where he dribbles left, spins right and then pulls back for a smooth jumper that leaves his defender desperately outstretched to contest his shot.
Adjusting to the NBA three shouldn’t be an issue. I would say at least half the threes I saw him hoist up were NBA range. Some especially far back, as in from his mother-in-law’s house. And when he was forced to drive and couldn’t get all the way to the rim, he displayed an array of nifty floater finishes, though I’d be curious to see his percentages on those shots.
Some other notes on Wright-Foreman I’ve seen floating around
-After NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced the 53rd pick, ESPN’s Jay Bilas said on air “He shot 47 percent off the dribble, that’s the 97th percentile.” Umm, wow. Obviously, with how the first round series vs the Rockets unfolded, the Jazz are in dire need of shot-making. If Wright-Foreman emerges as a role player, shot-making galore should be his calling card.
-With the NBA being as pick and roll heavy as it is now, it’s always nice for NBA prospects to show out well in the PnR analytics. NBA podcaster Mike Zavagno put out this glittering tweet for Jazz fans. How would Trippie Redd put it again? Me Likey?
I wish I could tell you I possess some mysterious powers of prognostication. Nah, that’s not me. I whiffed hard on Trey Burke and Alec Burks. But I’ve been Wright (see what I did there) on prospects here and there too. I never liked the Kanter pick, vehemently defended Portland’s honor with the CJ McCollum pick (I said I liked Burke earlier but I preferred CJ) and I never gave up on Buddy Hield.
But let me go out on a limb and say I think Justin Wright-Foreman is going to find his way into an NBA rotation at some point as a meaningful shot-maker/scorer off the bench. Hopefully that role is with the Jazz because, at a time when the title is allegedly up for grabs (If Kawhi goes to the Lakers, I swear… I’ll let you finish that one) they’ll definitely need the scoring.
Good luck Justin. I’ll be rooting for you.