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Is James Webb III ready for the next step?

Boise State forward James Webb III declared for the NBA Draft last week. Although many talented college hoopers declare for the draft, only 60 are selected each year. Does Webb fit the bill?

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Redshirt junior forward James Webb III announced last Sunday that he will be declaring for the NBA Draft.

Initially, sources reported that Webb would not hire an agent - meaning he could still return for his senior season - but Webb has not ruled out the possibility of hiring an agent prior to the draft.

"If my workouts go well and I get the feedback I want, I will consider hiring an agent at that point," Webb explained to KTVB's Jay Tust.

This should come as no surprise. Although Webb has been fairly adamant towards NBA questions throughout the season, he is aware that the potential is there to make a name for himself at the next level.

"With his combination of size, athleticism, competitiveness and budding skill-level, Webb's future certainly looks promising." -Draft Express' Jacob Eisenberg on Webb

Size isn't a concern for Webb. He played the five and a bit of the four (with 6-11 Zach Haney, 6-10 Robin Jorch or 6-10 David Wacker in the lineup) but would likely fit as a "stretch four" or lanky small forward in the pros. Webb would be one of the smaller stretch fours in the league, as these players are typically in the 6-9 to 7-0 range with much larger frames, such as New Orleans' Ryan Anderson (6-10, 240) or Cleveland's Channing Frye (6-11, 255).

However, what makes all of these stretch fours useful in the NBA is their perimeter game. Webb recorded a 40.9% mark from deep his sophomore season in Boise (47-115), but the number dropped all the way to 24.8% this year. It is problematic, to say the least, for a player that is expected to make a living around the arc as a pro. If Webb kept the number around 37-40%, he would be (at the very worst) a lock to see his name called at the June Draft.

The college and pro games are both evolving. Three-point attempts have reached an all-time high at both levels, as teams are starting to remove the mid-range game from their respective offensive attacks.

Take a look at the 2016 draft prospects that have similar body frames as Webb, and how well they shot from beyond the arc this season.

Name & School Height/Weight 3-pt %
Brandon Ingram, Duke 6-9/190 41.0%
Taurean Prince, Baylor 6-7/215 36.1%
Jake Layman, Maryland 6-9/205 39.6%
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa 6-9/210 38.2%
Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida 6-8/220 36.6%
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse 6-7/200 40.1%
James Webb III, Boise State 6-9/202 24.8%

Webb is an outlier here, shooting 11.3% lower than any other player on this list. This could be costly to Webb, because with the way that the pro game is evolving, 6-7 to 6-10 players are expected to be able to have 3-point range. Power forwards that don't have perimeter prowess will be passed by undersized, athletic players that can shoot triples and hold their own on defense.

On the defensive side of the floor, Webb has improved immensely from his sophomore season.

A formula I like to use to determine a player's defensive value is steals(2) + blocks(2) + defensive rebounds. Because steals and blocks typically have a higher probability of resulting in a fast break score, I give both stats a greater weight. Using the same group of players as before, here's where Webb stands among the other stretch four prospects:

Name & School Steals Per Game Blocks Per Game Defensive Rebounds Per Game Defensive Total
Brandon Ingram, Duke 1.1 1.4 4.9 9.9
Taurean Prince, Baylor 1.3 0.7 3.7 7.7
Jake Layman, Maryland 1.1 1.0 4.2 8.4
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa 1.0 2.5 4.9 11.9
Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida 0.9 0.8 5.9 9.3
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse 1.9 0.4 3.0 7.6
James Webb III, Boise State 1.4 0.6 6.7 10.7

Only Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff - who finished in the top five in the Big Ten in blocks per game the last two seasons - had a higher "defensive total" than James Webb.

What Webb can do in transition off a turnover is limitless. Here's a highlight of Webb playing the passing lanes for the steal and hustling down the floor to convert a one-handed tomahawk slam against Nevada. Highlight is courtesy of Campus Insiders.

Webb did a beautiful job of making a play on the basketball, and once BSU had numbers on the break, there was no way that Nevada would be able to prevent a basket. As long as Webb continues to show this effort on defense, he will be a factor at the pro level.

For many players that are second round draft picks or don't get drafted at all, their minutes rise if they hustle. It's simple, but a number of ex-college stars think that their shooting is enough to get by. It's not often you see a non-lottery pick gain playing time just by shooting well. Webb's effort in his junior season will translate to success next year whether he is with Boise State or an NBA team.

Another aspect of Webb's game that should be touched on in his play in the post. Webb improved this season in the post, but could take a few more steps before jumping to the NBA.

Here's James Webb (6-9, 202) taking on Colorado State's Emmanuel Omogbo (6-8, 210) back in February (video courtesy of ESPN Networks):

Webb bullies Omogbo all the way from the 3-point line down to the low block, but once he makes a drop step towards the basket, Webb hesitates. Because of this hesitation, Omogbo regains position, resulting in Webb losing his balance and turning the ball over.

Working with scouts will help Webb with his post moves - which aren't bad by any means - but could use work. Taking the ball stronger to the hoop in one fluid motion will help Webb, who will presumably be outsized by at least a handful of NBA forwards.

Report Card/Verdict

Trait Grade
Post play Impressive rebounder, savvy at putbacks and tip-ins (28 total in 2016) = B
Jump shooting A bit of a quirky, twisting jump shot, struggled this year from the field = C
Size Good height for his skill set, but couldn't hurt to gain a few pounds = B
Defense Not the best on-ball defender, but makes up for it with his active hands = B
Rebounding 26th in the nation in DReb %, and is fairly active on the offensive glass = B+
Athleticism Flashy dunks, can run the floor, tremendous overall athlete = A-

There's a lot to like about JWIII's game. He has favorable quickness and athleticism for a player of his stature, and is one of the better defenders that will declare for the draft this year. However, the glaring weakness right now is Webb's scoring ability, specifically from the perimeter. Can he take over a game on the offensive side? He's shown glimpses, but I still don't know if he has what it takes, offensively, to be a stretch four/small forward in the league right now. One more year to fine tune Webb's game would pay major dividends in the long run, if he chooses to go that route.

As it currently stands, none of the main NBA Draft sources have Webb projected in the top 60.

The NBA Draft combine will run through May 15th. Webb has until June 13th to remove his name from the NBA Draft class, if he remains without an agent.