The last time
we profiled Syracuse's C.J. Fair, we noted his increased effectiveness from the foul line and the development of good touch on runners in the lane, and speculated that he may be able to extend that out to jump shots in game situations.
That success came in a big way during the 6'7 ½ forward's junior season, as he maintained his free throw percentage at 75.5%, but increased his three point shooting substantially, from 25% at 0.6 attempts per game up to a lofty 46.9% on 1.6 attempts per game. According to Synergy Sports Technology, his efficiency on jump shots increased from a below-average 0.793 points per possession to a much more respectable 0.97 points per possession, turning one of his weaknesses into a staple of his game and allowing him to go from a role player to one of the focal points of the Syracuse team. The net result was Fair was able to increase his scoring from 13.0 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted to 16.7 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted.
The major area of improvement came with his feet set. Fair struggled in catch and shoot situations during his first two seasons at Syracuse, shooting just 18.2% and 31.4% during his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. That jumped all the way up to 48.6% during his junior year, ranking in the 90th percentile in terms of points per possession according to Synergy Sports Technology, and he was virtually automatic when left unguarded, connecting on an astounding 58.1% of those attempts. Unfortunately the sample size of just 74 possessions (1.9 attempts per game) leaves a lot to be desired, so Fair will have to continue to shoot the ball effectively and possibly more frequently to convince NBA scouts that this significant improvement wasn't just a fluke.
Fair has clearly worked on his release, and has turned it into a technically sound, repeatable, and effective release. He does a good job squaring up to the basket in anticipation of the pass, has excellent balance, gets good elevation, and follows through well. There's a little bit of extra motion in the release, which causes it to not be the quickest release in the world, but it's overall a very effective and consistent weapon for the forward, and a huge step forward from where it was in previous years.
The results are not quite as consistent when Fair is on the move, as he isn't nearly as effective either coming off of screens or shooting off the dribble. Fair's effectiveness off the dribble fell from 0.933 points per possession his sophomore season to a well below-average 0.633 last year. Part of this is due to a change in role, as he attempted to create more of his offense this past season and thus took shots with a higher degree of difficulty. The form on his pull-up jump shots doesn't seem to be broken, and it may be something he can improve upon with enough repetition as he becomes more comfortable with the shot, particularly when forced to go to his right.
The rest of Fair's offensive game remains relatively the same as the last time we profiled him. His two point field goal percentage of 47% continues the disappointing trend from his sophomore season, both of which were well below the 54.7% he shot inside of the arc during his freshman year and well below average for somebody who plays a majority of his time at the power forward position.
While not a prolific shot creator, Fair did create more for himself off the dribble than he did in year's past. This was largely due to the increased attention he received shooting from the elbow and foul line extended areas of the court, as opposing power forwards were forced to defend his improved jump shot, and Fair used that attention along with an effective pump fake to get around his man. That being said, Fair could definitely stand to improve his ball handling, especially if he hopes to make the transition to small forward at the next level, as he's fairly limited in terms of advanced ball handling moves and struggles to get all the way to the rim when driving to his weak right hand.
Another thing contributing to his relative lack of efficiency inside the arc is that Fair doesn't get much offense in the post, despite playing most of his time at power forward. Fair has decent footwork, but his lack of lower body strength and inability to establish post position limits this aspect of his game. He does do a good job of finding seams in a defense and moving without the ball, something which should be useful when he makes the transition to the next level.
Defensively, Fair has many of the same question marks when trying to project to the next level that many Syracuse players face, particularly when trying to determine whether he could effectively guard small forwards on the perimeter. Standing under 6'8" without the wingspan to make up for it, Fair may struggle to see extended time at the power forward position. As we noted during our previous write-up, Fair maintains consistent focus and a high energy level on this side of the court. An overall athletic player, how well he can move his feet laterally and defend the perimeter will be one of the major factors to keep an eye on when he gets to individual workouts.
Always on the radar as a high energy, athletic role player, the development of a more consistent jump shot (albeit on just 64 3-point attempts in 40 games) was a noteworthy development in C.J. Fair's status as a prospect. Continuing to develop his perimeter skills, ball handling, and shot creating abilities will be a key for Fair going forward as he looks to show decision makers that he could make the transition to the perimeter at the next level, as long as his outside shooting percentages don't revert back to where they were his first two seasons.