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March Madness Prospect Watch Day 6: Johnathan Motley

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Prospect Watch continues with Baylor big man Johnathan Motley, who is carrying the Bears during the tournament.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs USC Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Johnathan Motley - Baylor

Projected draft spot: 27th (Draft Express), 13th (CBS Sports), N/R in top 30 (ESPN)

Stats: 30.4 minutes, 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 blocks, 52.4 FG%, 28.1 3PT%, 71.2 FT%

Strengths: Interior Scoring, Shooting Potential, Offensive Rebounding, Physical Gifts, Defensive Potential

Weaknesses: Low Block Numbers, Defensive IQ, Age

Game Time: Friday v.s. South Carolina @ 5:29 PM MST

What to watch for: Johnathan Motley is a Junior and one of the leaders at Baylor. Splitting time at power forward and center, Motley really impressed this year based on his ability to clear up several weaknesses in his game. He still struggles to make the right reads on both ends, but by and large, he was a much smarter basketball player in a much larger role. Motley’s averages of 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds are very impressive for his position, but the most impressive improvements were his free throw percentage and assist rate. His free throw shooting is a positive indicator that he could potentially handle shooting from the perimeter at the next level (just 12/45 in his college career), while his assist rate shows a level of Basketball IQ he didn’t previously have.

Motley has scored in double figures in 29 of the 33 games he has played this season, and he had at least seven rebounds in all but five contests. His consistent production in college this year should give scouts confidence that he can carve out at least a niche role in the NBA as a bench big man.

Of course, he still has the potential to be much more or much less than that. A huge indicator for his success will be whether he finds a role as a power forward or a center. For some teams, the designation doesn’t matter much, but Motley’s rim protection wavered this past year at power forward, his block rate dropping from 6.3% to 3.8%. Is that based on playing more power forward? Josh Jackson of Kansas (projected to be a wing in the pros) posted exactly one more block in seven more minutes, so it’s hard to tell if that excuse is valid. Shooting will also be a major concern. Motley shows a nice comfort level in the midrange, and his touch and mechanics from all over are much better than the standard big man prospect. Can he extend to three point range efficiently?

Against South Carolina (go Cocks!) Motley will face an interesting test. The Gamecocks are incredibly pesky and physical on the perimeter, but not so much on the interior. The front court for South Carolina is very inexperienced, and Motley should be expected to take advantage, not only in scoring, but also rebounding. He is the best player facing constant mismatches, so I expect South Carolina to double mercilessly. How will he respond to the pressure? He has had a propensity to rack up turnovers at times, and he averages nearly three a game.

For the Denver Nuggets, Motley would be an interesting selection who could rise up draft boards based on the viability of his jump shot and rim protection. The Nuggets have a need for a weak side rim-protecting power forward who can also shoot and finish inside. There aren’t many more reasonable options in the draft than Motley if that is what Denver is searching for long term. If Motley continues to impress during the remainder of the tournament, he will remain on the short list of players I could see in a Nuggets uniform after the 2017 NBA Draft.