The 2017 NBA Draft is under a week away and the Portland Trail Blazers possess three first round picks (15, 20, 26), as you know if you’ve been following our draft profiles. Today we take a look at another prospect and how he could benefit the Blazers, continuing the series by analyzing Southern Methodist University forward Semi Ojeleye.
- Height: 6’7”
- Weight: 235
- Wingspan: 6’9.75”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SF/PF
- Age: 22
- Projected draft range: 26-41
- PPG: 18.9 | Per 40: 22.2
- RPG: 6.8 | Per 40: 8.0
- APG: 1.5 | Per 40: 1.8
- BLK: 0.4 | Per 40: 0.5
- STL: 0.4 | Per 40: 0.5
Defensive versatility is Ojeleye’s most marketable skill to NBA teams looking to acquire his services. At 6’7”, the former Mustang has the strength to keep post players at bay, and the quickness to stay in front of perimeter players. That flexibility should allow him to be an above average defender against the pick-and-roll at the next level. From a physical standpoint, Ojeleye has one of the more NBA-ready bodies among frontcourt players in this draft. At a chiseled 235 pounds, he won’t require the patience that other post prospects will demand. While his measurements would suggest he is a bruiser, Ojeleye is actually a proficient shooter from beyond the arc. Primarily operating out of SMU’s pick-and-pop offense, he was able to record a stellar 42.4 3-point percentage last season.
While it seems counterintuitive, Ojeleye’s biggest strength is also the source of his biggest weakness, as it is unclear what position he will play at the next level, even with a successful season at power forward under his belt. Despite being unable to get Ojeleye to surrender ground on the block, taller opposition still had success shooting over him in the post. On the perimeter, the 22-year-old lacks polish, which often resulted in him over-committing on close-outs. Both of those problems are compounded by his less-than-exceptional wingspan, forcing him to rely on excellent positioning at all times. Offensively, Ojeleye’s outside shot is reliant on him being able to work through a slow release. When guarded by traditional perimeter players, Ojeleye struggles to generate points from outside. To make matters worse, his underdeveloped post game prevents him from exploiting mismatches in those situations.
After missing the 2015-16 season as a result of his transfer from Duke, Ojeleye made up for lost time in his lone season at SMU. The Mustangs amassed an impressive 17-1 conference record, helping them earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Due to his impressive individual play, Ojeleye received the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year award, an honor that Shabazz Napier captured in the award’s inaugural season.
It is tough to find a prospect in this draft that is as physically impressive as Ojeleye. Rookies are often underprepared for the rigors of a full 82-game schedule, but that is a problem that the former SMU forward should dodge in his first NBA season. With the right coaching, Ojeleye has the potential to be a steal if he is selected in final stages of the first round, where he is currently projected to go. Re-tooling a player’s shot mechanics can be a dangerous endeavor, but if Ojeleye can accelerate his release without sacrificing accuracy, he may blossom into a stretch-four that is effective on both ends of the court.
A connection to Nigeria isn’t the only thing that Ojeleye and Al-Farouq Aminu have in common, as both players occupy the space between the small forward and power forward positions. Aminu’s ability to cover both post and perimeter players allows coach Terry Stotts to hide weaker defensive players, which is a role that Ojeleye could be groomed to fill if he is selected by Portland. Along with shoring up the defense, Ojeleye would also address the Blazers’ lack of consistent outside shooting.
Do you want Ojeleye in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? Which player would you like us to analyze next? Tell us in the comments below.