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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is Canadian Warren Ward a NBA Prospect?

Canadian basketball has received plenty of attention in the past year thanks to the influx of talent that has matriculated into the NCAA and also Andrew Wiggins - the best player high school player since possibly LeBron James. In this years draft alone there are potentially 3 first rounders hailing from Canada, with Kelly Olynyk and Anthony Bennett both with a case to be selected in the lottery. Myck Kabongo and his cousin Christian Kabongo both entered their names in the draft as well.

Plenty of Canadian talent is jumping the border to play both high school and college basketball in the states, but Canada also has their own version of the NCAA. It goes by the name CIS and while it has failed to attract Canada's top talent, it seems that the league has slowly grown as basketball becomes a more mainstream sport north of the border. If top tier talent is emerging from Canada, one has to believe that there is some solid talent developing in their college system as well.

The CIS hasnt produced a NBA Draft pick since William Njoku in 1994 who went off the board to the Pacers with the 41st pick. And while that won't change this year, they do have a player by the name of Warren Ward who could end up cracking a D-League roster and working his way up.

Warren Ward played for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and has been training in Las Vegas down at Impact Basketball with the likes of Marcus Fizer, Dion Waiters, and a bunch of legitimate NBA Draft hopefuls. And from reports around the web, Ward has been doing more than just holding his own in the gym.

Unfortunately after checking his draft eligibility, Warren's time to declare has past and he will be an unrestricted free agent instead. He was with Ottawa for five years and tore his ACL during the 2011-12 season. Ward was also born in 1989.

I decided to take a look back at a couple of Warren Ward's college games to see if all the fuss was worth it. After all, its not very hard to impress in a workout setting.

My first observation in watching CIS games was the level of competition. Its not great. Warren Ward was the best athlete on the court at all times. Ward stands at 6-6 and has a strong frame to go with it. The pace and intensity of the games aren't very high and there is a lot of room for players to show off their skills.

In the games I watched, Ward has no problem taking defenders down into the post and going to work on them. Unless a double team came, Ward was able to take his time and carve out space to create a good shot. He almost plays like the Kobe Bryant of the CIS. He can play with his back to the basket, hit the turnaround jumper, and also make some basic post moves to the basket. He also directs traffic and runs some point guard as well.

Operating from the perimeter, Warren has a little tougher time. He only shot 30% from the 3-pt line this year (and was 4-25 in the University World Games) and his mechanics are inconsistent. In a two game stretch in February, he shot 1-17 from deep yet still continued to fire away. Thats not necessarily what you want to see from a guy who is physically way more dominant than the rest of his competition.

Ward also relies on his strength a lot to create space as he isn't the most explosive player nor is he the quickest. In the CIS he is allowed to play at his own pace and dictate tempo and has no problem getting to his spots on the court. But when it comes to beating a man with a quick step off the dribble, he struggles. He's a guy who has to get creative with the ball to make plays.

And Ward does have a lot of creativity to his game. To go along with his post game and shooting, Ward also has shown some ability out of the pick and roll and in the transition game. Ward's a very creative passer who can make some impressive dimes, but also makes some boneheaded passes. He averaged 3.8 assists while turning it over 2.9 times. In the University Games he had less than one assist per contest while turning it over 2.1 times a game. As of right now, its safe to call him turnover prone.

There are certainly questions about both his ball handling and decision making and it doesn't help that he's been playing in a league that doesn't match his talent level. He's been able to develop and get away with bad habits, while not really learning how to play a role. On his team, he can basically do whatever he wants. It may come as a surprise, however, that he did not lead his team in scoring.

When you are looking at a below average shooter without any experience playing a supporting role or against top competition, there are a lot of reasons to doubt Ward. Especially considering he's not a great athlete - although he is solid and has above average strength. Ward will have to learn to make a contribution on defense and there will be a big adjustment on that side of the ball as well.

Ward coasted a lot on defense last year, relying on his physical tools to pull down over 6 boards a game. He didn't box out and let his man go on defense plenty of dimes. When he dialed in, Ward was able to be a stopper but the energy and commitment were not there. It is understandable that Ward could've gotten bored at times, but its not exactly what you want to see from a guy who is a long shot to begin with. I'm sure Ward will give better effort in the future and he does have solid defensive tools to work with in the future.

Overall, Warren Ward is certainly a player and could eventually make a D-League team. He certainly had the tools to play at a mid-major plus or high major level if he played college in the states. Not doing so hasn't allowed him to get the necessary coaching or exposure and now he's trying to make that up in a few months span training in Las Vegas. While Ward has a long journey to go - he could even still be getting back some of his athleticism from his ACL injury - Ward is yet another reason Canadian basketball fans have to be proud. 

3 comments:

  1. you are a hater

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    1. Wasnt what I set out to do when I checked out his game. Fact is, the reporters that go to these workouts are expected to hype up guys and say positive things about everyone. I guarantee they've never seen him play outside of those workouts. Thats why they're invited to the workouts - to hype them up. According to them, Sherwood Brown is also a NBA player. I am just fact checking and taking the time to watch film of everyone instead of blindly hyping guys.

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  2. Warren is an extremely talented big Guard who is a quick learner. I have no doubt that he will seize whatever opportunity is given to him and make us all proud. He is matured enough to pursue his strength and conditioning training - will be a perfect fit for a team like the Spurs where they recognize raw talent and great character.

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