|Team: Pennsylvania, Junior|
H: 6' 4"|
W: 185 lbs
|RSCI: 242 ||
High School: AC Flora
Hometown: Columbia, SC
Matt Howard doesn’t look like a great basketball player – not one who would likely garner attention from pro scouts anyway. Despite the oversized t-shirt and the occasional lack athletic fluidity, the forward has managed to establish himself as one of the more sound players outside of the major conferences at the college level. After a sophomore season in which he averaged nearly 15 points and seven rebounds for one of the best teams in the country, the Indiana native is primed for a big year that will go a long way to determining his professional future.
Physically there are definitely some issues of concern for Howard when projecting him as an NBA power forward. At 6-8, 230-pounds he has a sizeable enough frame to play a physical brand of basketball in the paint, but he is severely lacking in athleticism. Despite his size, the junior plays below the rim at both ends of the floor and doesn’t have the quickness necessary to be a true threat off the dribble in most situations. What he lacks in physical gifts though, Howard more than makes up for with hustle and fundamentals, particularly on the offensive end.
It’s not surprising that a player with Howard’s physical makeup gets the overwhelming majority of his touches in the immediate vicinity of the basket – in fact 76 percent of his shots come in the post, from offensive rebounds or cuts around the rim, according to Synergy Sports Technology. He connected on 55 percent of his shot attempts last season largely due to his back-to-the-basket game, which is about as fundamental as you will find at the college level. Howard has a good strong frame and does a nice job of establishing position low on the block and shows good hands as well. His go-to move at this point is a baby hook which he can execute with either hand, though he seems more comfortable when going towards the baseline. When he is able to establish inside position on his defender with a drop step, Howard is an excellent finisher, however when he is forced to shoot over taller players he struggles due to his lack of leaping ability.
Another tendency that Howard shows at this point in his game is pump faking with the basketball around the basket. This has proven to be both a positive and a negative for the junior during different points in his career. He ranked number one overall in our database in free throw attempts per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season at 11 per game, made even more appealing by the fact that he hit 77 percent of these attempts. This is due in large part to the effective manner in which Howard uses ball fakes and his fantastic hustle in the paint. Problems arise when he starts to over use the pump fake, often eliminating scoring opportunities for himself by hesitating rather than going straight up with the basketball.
The rest of Howard’s offensive arsenal is very limited at this point, restricted almost exclusively to the paint. In a few situations last year he was able to attack the basket off the dribble when he caught the ball at the elbow. He can only drive in a straight line and when given a good deal of space by defenders, but he is strong enough to bully his way to the rim if given a head start. We haven’t seen too much of a mid-range jump shot displayed by Howard yet, but his soft touch in the post and solid free throw shooting numbers are some indication that he could develop this part of his game.
Defensively, as one would expect, Howard has his struggles. While he does a nice job of holding his position and staying on his feet, more athletic frontcourt players are often able to elevate over him or utilize their quickness to create easy scoring opportunities. While these shortcomings aren’t always exploited in the Horizon League, they have been apparent in some of Butler’s more high profile match ups. At this point in his development Howard is a defensive liability when forced to defend outside of the lane due to his subpar lateral quickness. Improving his footwork and getting quicker to defend the pick and roll and more versatile forwards will be paramount to his chances of playing at the NBA level.
Howard is likely a four-year player at the college level who still has time to develop his game to appeal to scouts. His work ethic, toughness, hustle and fundamentally sound game will certainly endear him to NBA teams, but his lack of versatility and athleticism will be major strikes against him in the long run. As long as Butler stays in the national spotlight his chances certainly remain higher than they would otherwise, but there will always be question marks regarding his ability to translate his production to the NBA.