After an impressive junior season that saw Andrew Nicholson
average 24.4 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted and emerge as one of the most versatile scoring big men in college basketball, he has struggled to take the next step as an all-around prospect individually, and has been unable to help his St. Bonaventure team get over the hump in the Atlantic-10 as well. 16 games into the season, Nicholson has seen his production drop to 21.5 points-per-40 pace adjusted while his true shooting percentage has dropped substantially, from 57.1% to 51.7%.
Nevertheless, standing 6'9 with excellent length and big hands, Nicholson has some intriguing aspects of his game, both in terms of his physical profile and from a skills perspectiveand is almost certainly not a finished product yet.
Offensively, Nicholson relies heavily on a very refined post game that's tough to defend at this level, particularly when paired with the improving perimeter game he showed last year. With good footwork, counter moves, and an ability to finish with either hand, Nicholson has plenty of moves in the low post. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Nicholson is shooting 54% in post-up situations, while doing a solid job of drawing contact and getting to the line.
Turnovers tend to be a problem for Nicholson, and his 3.8 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted is one of the worst numbers in our top 100 ranking. This is especially troubling considering how infrequently he creates for his teammates, with a pure passer rating of -7.97, which is the worst in our top 100.
The overall talent level at St. Bonaventure leaves a lot to be desired, and as such he's probably asked to create more for himself than he optimally would. Despite that, he doesn't do a very good job of recognizing double teams and could continue to improve his ball-handling and decision making skills.
On the perimeter is where Nicholson differentiates himself from other big men prospects in this draft in terms of his talent-level. While not an exceptional athlete at the NBA level, Nicholson is a fluid and mobile big man with a long first step and an intriguing skill-level that gives him the ability to make very impressive plays at times. Although he's not terribly polished or consistent at this point in his career, his ability to face up opponents off the dribble, pull-up off the dribble from the mid-range or take the ball all the way to the basket and finish with his length is very impressive at his size.
Nicholson did a good job last year of extending his range out to mid-range, something he didn't have prior to his junior season. While he's attempting more 3-pointers this season, he hasn't taken a major step forward with this part of his game, only converting 35% of his jumpers, down from 45% last year. He has decent form on his jump shot and a high release, but hasn't been able to get these shots to fall consistently this year.
With his slight build it appears likely his post-up game will be less of a weapon in the NBA, so having a consistent catch and shoot game will play a crucial part in his ability to carve out a role for himself.
On the offensive glass, Nicholson's 3.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted is significantly better than the 2.0 per 40 minutes pace adjusted he averaged last year, but still towards the lower part of our database in terms of power forward prospects. Nicholson isn't all that physical of a player, nor is he all that active in fighting for position for offensive rebounds, leading many to question his toughness as a prospect. When he does grab an offensive rebound, he has solid touch and converts them at a decent clip.
From a defensive standpoint, Nicholson's physical profile presents some potential problems, which are further increased by his inconsistent effort on that end of the court. Nicholson has the length and timing needed to contest and block shots, and because of that can be a useful defender at the collegiate level. At a wiry 220 pounds, he lacks the lower and upper body strength to hold his ground at the next level, and he doesn't do a good job of fighting for position early in the shot clock to make up for that. Again, showing more of a mean streak would greatly benefit him in this regard, but that simply does not appear to be his disposition.
On the perimeter, Nicholson doesn't move all that well laterally, being very upright in his stance and showing average quickness and fundamentals. He compensates this on pick and rolls by giving a copious amount of room to the ball handler on pick and rolls, something that will likely be exploited at the next level, where he'll be forced to guard NBA power forwards as opposed to collegiate centers.
On the defensive glass, his 6.7 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted are in the middle of the pack in our rankings. His length helps him in this regard, but he doesn't show great anticipation or technique, and he once again doesn't appear to consistently put in the effort or have the toughness to dominate that facet of the game. Perhaps more than anything this is the part of his game that may be hard to overcome and get playing time, particularly early in his career while he tries to adjust his post game to NBA defenders.Andrew Nicholson
has an interesting set of physical tools with his size and length to go along with an offensive skill-set that shows plenty of room for growth. On top of that, he appears to be an extremely intelligent person off the court (he's a physics major), and didn't start playing basketball until his junior year of high school.
Nicholson came into this season with huge expectations, both individually and team-wise, but hasn't taken the step forward some had hoped he would. NBA decision makers will need to figure out why in trying to evaluate how much better he could become in the next few years, to decide if he's a project worth investing in.