As we prepare for the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday night, we here at 3 Shades of Blue have been profiling players that are likely to be available when the Grizzlies make their three picks in the second round of the draft. One of those players is James Southerland, a 6-8 senior forward from Syracuse University. We had a chance to talk with James this week while he was waiting to catch a flight back to New York. First, let’s take a look at what the so-called experts have to say about Southerland.
Chad Ford ranks Southerland as the 53rd best prospect in the draft and projects him as a late second-round pick or undrafted rookie free agent. The mock drafts have Southerland going as high as 40th overall (to Portland) while many project he will not be drafted.
The scouting report on Southerland looks like this:
Southerland is a classic “stretch 4″ at the NBA level. He has the size to play down low but is most dangerous (offensively) when he can face the basket and use his shooting to stretch the floor. The 23-year-old shot 39.8% from behind the arc during his senior year at Syracuse and understands that his best chance of making an NBA roster will come from proving he can shoot from the NBA 3pt line. Like many shooters, Southerland can be streaky and he is better in catch-and-shoot situations than when he is asked to create off the dribble. Southerland is also a good free-throw shooter and showed good defensive awareness in Syracuse’s zone, regularly intercepting skip passes.
The biggest question facing Southerland is the question that most Syracuse players face – can he defend in the NBA’s man-to-man defensive scheme? Southerland proved himself an effective defender in the Syracuse 2-3 zone, and in the NBA, defense is as much about desire and effort as it is natural ability. At twenty-three, he is one of the oldest players in the draft and therefore may have less room to develop his game and body for the NBA. Southerland is not a particularly good ball handler or passer, which is expected from stretch 4s in today’s NBA.
I spoke with Southerland this week as he was traveling back to New York following his final workout in Sacramento. Here are some of his thoughts about his game, the Grizzlies and life in general:
Thoughts on the Grizzlies -
Southerland got a chance to watch a lot of the Grizzlies’ playoff run. When asked for his impression of the team, he said “They were a very tough team. You could tell that Lionel Hollins did a great job with the guys.”
On what happened in the WCF: “They faced a great team like the Spurs who made them take a lot of outside shots and the Grizzlies didn’t have a real outside threat besides Pondexter and Conley, which put a lot of pressure on Zach Randolph.”
Southerland definitely thinks he could help with the Grizzlies spacing issues.
What role he sees for himself in the NBA -
“I’m definitely a guy that can space the floor, which is something the Grizzlies could use. I also bring hustle and intensity and can use my length to be a great defender as well.” Southerland listed Rip Hamilton, Danny Green and Tayshaun Prince as guys he feels like his game is similar or whom he tries to emulate. He believes his 7’1 wingspan will be an asset in defending at the next level.
His ability to defend in the NBA -
“I understand why people [question players coming out of the Syracuse zone] because they think we have been playing zone all our lives. We’ve been playing man-to-man all our lives, and had to adjust to the zone in college.” Southerland makes a good point, as these guys played man-to-man growing up, in high school, and in the summer. If anything, their ability to adjust to the zone in college could arguably be a strength, as it shows flexibility and a high level of basketball IQ, even if the zone doesn’t allow them to showcase their individual defensive abilities. Right now, Southerland is more comfortable defending the perimeter, but can mix it up – the key, he said, is knowing the personnel you’re defending.
Southerland plans to be in attendance at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn for the draft. He grew up in the New York area (Queens), as a Knicks fan. His recent draft workout is the only time he has been to Memphis. He got a chance to walk around Beale Street and saw the flippers, but didn’t get any BBQ (he understandably didn’t want to weigh himself down before his workout).
For any prospect looking to find a spot on the Grizzlies roster, two things are required: knock down open shots and play solid defense. Southerland has demonstrated the ability to do the former, but questions remain about the later. He certainly has the physical tools necessary to play defense in the NBA, but will have to prove he has the dedication to become a trusted defender if he wants to not only make an NBA roster, but play any meaningful minutes.
I view Southerland in the same way I view Austin Daye, though Daye is a few inches taller and a few pounds lighter than Southerland. Given the fact that the Grizzlies are not expected to extend a qualifying offer to Daye, drafting a player in the second round (who will not have a guaranteed contract) to fill that spot makes sense. On paper, Southerland could certainly be that guy. Given the Grizzlies draft position towards the end of the second round, there is no reason not to take a chance on a known shooter and see if he can prove himself capable on the defensive end. If Southerland goes undrafted, don’t be surprised to see him make a Summer League roster and earn himself a spot on an NBA team this fall. I would certainly be pleased if that team is Memphis.
Grind on, Memphis.