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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Jordan Nwora

A natural-born scorer, Nwora could produce in a spark plug role off the bench for the Grizzlies.

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Syndication: Louisville Pat McDonogh, Courier Journal, Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Jordan Nwora, Forward, University of Louisville

  • 6’8, 6’10.5 wingspan, 225 lbs., 22.1 years old
  • 2019-20 season: 31 games played, 33.1 minutes per game, 18 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 0.7 steals per game, 44% from the field (40.2% from three), 81.3% from the line.
  • ACCOLADES: 2x All-ACC Team, 2018-19 ACC Most Improved Player Award, 2017 McDonald’s All-American
  • ADVANCED STATS STRENGTHS (per Tankathon): Points, Rebounds, and Three-point Percentage
  • ADVANCED STATS WEAKNESSES (per Tankathon): Assists (1.3 per game), Draft Age, and Assist to Turnover Ratio (0.62).
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: Tankathon (43), Ringer (N/A), ESPN (44), CBS (N/A)

Jordan Nwora has undeservedly flown under the radar of draft experts due to his age. At 22 years old, he isn’t exactly young compared to the droves of teenagers that are chosen each year. If the selection of Gonzaga senior Brandon Clarke in 2019 has proven anything, it’s that a prospect with seniority over his peers is more likely to enter the league with more polish. Such experience is necessary to contribute right away. Let me make one thing abundantly clear: Nwora is among the premier outside shooters of his class. He’s taken tremendous leaps forward as a scorer and rebounder since his freshman year at Louisville, and while Jordan’s not without red flags, the fact that major media outlets project him to wind up undrafted confounds me.

Nwora is a sure fire shot creator, which is a skill that has proven to be invaluable to team success at the NBA level - particularly during the postseason when the tempo slows to a halt and easy baskets come few and far between. While the Grizzlies’ bench unit was among the very best the NBA had to offer this past season (41.1 points per game), I’d argue there was no individual off the pine who Memphis could hand the rock to and say go get a bucket for us. Nwora changes that. He could add an extra scoring dimension to an already stacked reserve group for the Grizzlies.

What he does well

Nwora’s tremendous three-point marksmanship is perhaps his defining attribute. He’s connected on 39.4 percent of his treys as a collegiate athlete, a remarkably efficient clip that hints he’s capable of becoming an upper echelon shooter in the big leagues. Nwora primarily fired away from deep in catch and shoot situations, where he utilized his lightning quick release to torch the opposition. He ranked in the 94th percentile last season in points per catch and shoot jump shot. Not to mention his range is limitless as he is accustomed to burying threes a number of feet behind the line. Additionally, Jordan has great fluidity and balance to his shooting mechanic; therefore his form and follow through are consistent, and consistency is paramount to being a deadly outside shooter. Nwora’s shooting acumen can and should carry over to the NBA instantly.

Jordan stands at 6’8’, yet he was slotted at power forward quite often in college. Why was this the case, you may ask? Well, it comes down to one undeniable truth: Nwora is an awesome glass eater for his size. He managed to pull down 7.7 rebounds per game during his last season with Louisville (eighth-most in the ACC), with 1.7 coming from the offensive glass alone. Considering Nwora is an average athlete, his rebounding prowess can ultimately be attributed to his brute strength and tenacious effort.

Memphis has a transcendent unicorn big on their roster in Jaren Jackson Jr., who has left Grizzlies fans wanting more in terms of his rebounding expertise (16th percentile among bigs in defensive rebounding percentage last year via Cleaning the Glass). As such, it is vital moving forward that the team makes up for Jackson Jr’s shortcomings in this area by commitee. Nwora could alleviate pressure off Jackson Jr. and the other bigs tasked to pull down misses with his interior presence.

How he can improve

Despite having the ball in his hands quite frequently, Jordan was a woefully ineffective and inefficient playmaker at Louisville. Considering Nwora’s stature projects him to be an NBA small forward (a position in which players traditionally make plays for themselves and others off the bounce), his inability to create scoring opportunities for others may be his biggest red flag. Jordan only dished out 1.3 dimes per contest, yet he averaged 2.1 turnovers. This number is extremely concerning, as the 22-year-old has exhibited little to no growth as a distributor since joining the Cardinals three years back. As we’ve seen first-hand from the likes of Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum, it’s important as ever that score-first forwards can manufacture plays for their teammates as well.

I am not comparing Nwora to the two aforementioned stars, but rather I am highlighting that he can’t always be a one-trick pony on offense. Opponents are going to double-down on his scoring chances if that’s the case and force him to be a passer. As someone with a shaky handle, improving said handle will be crucial to his playmaking ceiling. Regardless of how effectively he’s scoring the ball, an assist to turnover ratio of 0.62, which was Nwora’s number as a junior, is not going to cut it in the NBA. All rookies make mistakes, but if Jordan is uber-careless with the rock out of the gate, it’s going to be an uphill battle for him in terms of earning minutes.

The fit and verdict

Syndication: Louisville Scott Utterback/Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Don’t let Nwora’s playmaking woes blind you from the reality that he has the scoring and rebounding chops to play a productive role on the Grizzlies, similar to that of a rich man’s Anthony Tolliver. Once the Grizzlies’ season ended and they solidified their finish as 25th in the league in threes made per game, it became clear as day that the Grizzlies need to add outside shooting to the roster, which is why I believe Jordan would fit like a glove in Memphis. Circling back to Tolliver’s role on the team, he played 18.2 minutes a night in 13 games with Memphis and hoisted up 3.2 triples on average. I’d contend that Nwora is every bit as prolific a spot up shooter as Tolliver, all while being the superior dribble-drive threat and finisher at the rim. Tolliver managed to convert just 40 percent of his shots in the paint as a Grizzly.

Also, Jordan’s aptitude as a board snatcher would more than make up for the loss of Tolliver on the glass, as Nwora accumulated 9.4 rebounds per 40 minutes over his last two seasons at Louisville. With all this in mind, why not draft Nwora, let Tolliver walk, and allow Nwora to usurp Tolliver’s duty in the rotation? Fingers crossed that Jordan is still on the board when the Grizzlies are on the clock at pick 40. Considering The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor did not rank Nwora among his top 50 prospects of the 2020 NBA Draft, there’s reason to believe that Memphis should have a legit shot at snagging him.

Verdict: Nwora’s age is likely to hold teams back from selecting him in the first round. Nwora may also drop to as far as the mid-50s, as the mock drafts I’ve seen have projected him to land throughout the second round, with some saying he’ll land as high as the 30s and others even projecting him to go undrafted. Nwora’s a top-flight rebounder and shooter for his position, though, so I would bank on him being one of the 60 youngsters chosen.

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