Who Is?: Andrew Nicholson

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The Magic’s draft history outside the lottery is pretty awful. Brooks Thompson, David Vaughn, Daniel Orton. These are all players taken in the 20s of the first round that were seeming mere “throw-away” picks rather than an asset the team could use. The lone exception is Courtney Lee.

Lee was a four-year player from a small school from the Sun Belt (Western Kentucky) and was able to step in right away and fill a role. He was an integral part of the team’s run to the NBA Finals. His experience and maturity coming out of school helped him make the transition and be ready for the NBA.

This is not to say every four-year college player that comes into the Draft can have the impact Lee did. But, it seems like those players come out with something closer to “veteran poise” and seem more capable of taking on a more supporting-cast role. So would Andrew Nicholson be this player?

Nicholson was a four-year player at St. Bonaventure, winning Atlantic-10 Player of the Year last season. He averaged 18.5 points per game and grabbed 8.4 rebounds per game. All while shooting 43.4 percent from beyond the arc and 57.1 percent from the floor overall.

At 6-foot-10, Nicholson possesses great size, and he has a great inside-out game to go with it. He was very consistent in college, putting together fantastic back-to-back seasons to close his collegiate career — 20.8 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game his junior year.

Nicholson has plenty of areas he can improve. He slips likely because he needs to add strength (who doesn’t?) and because of fears he has reached his peak. This late in the draft, getting someone who can contribute immediately is a bonus.

The Good: The great thing about Nicholson is that you know what you are going to get. And it is pretty good.

His consistency throughout his collegiate career also suggests that there is not a lot of question marks about his game. Nicholson has good feel around the basket and the ability to put the ball in the basket. Nicholson also did a good job on the glass for St. Bonaventure, averaging 7.2 rebounds per game for his career and no worse than 6.0 rebounds per game in any one season (happened to be his freshman year) of his career.

Nicholson really seems to have a very complete game. He is strong in the post and developing his jumper and extending his range. You cannot ask for much more offensively.

Defensively, he is athletic and long, but does not rush to go up and block shots. The lack of highlights and exposure probably had him slipping down this low. But for a team looking for post help and immediate contributions from a rookie, Nicholson could be a valuable pickup.

The Bad: The issue with Nicholson is that he is a bit of a tweener and really needs to add some strength to play in the NBA. Nicholson should be fine to contribute, but he will not star. So the question is whether he can transition to playing away from the ball and doing the dirty work.

Then there is the small school problem.

This is not Kenneth Faried who set an NCAA record in rebounding and had a “dirty work” skill that would translate to the NBA. Nicholson does not possess that kind of gritty skill. His job with St. Bonaventure was to be the offensive anchor. Defensively, he did not show the consistency to be confident that it will translate to the next level. He did average 2.0 blocks per game his senior year, so the potential is there.

Like I said though, Nicholson seems to be around his peak right now. Most improvements will be marginal, it seems. The one thing he can and must do is build his strength and his body. Nicholson is a bit slim and a bit undersized to be banging in the post night-in and night-out. Drafting Nicholson is drafting a supporting player, it seems, rather than someone who can start immediately.

Draft Sites Say:

NBADraft.net: “A versatile power forward with a high basketball IQ … While he only has decent size for his position, his tremendous length allows him to play much bigger … Extremely efficient scorer, he has made himself into a reliable inside threat (shows a nice mini hook over his left shoulder, is able to utilize an effective up and under and is also dangerous with a turnaround jumper) … Even though his body has improved during his collegiate career, he needs to continue working on it … He still lacks the bulk and upper body strength to consistently battle inside and he has a hard time establishing low post position against stronger players … Gets bodied and coerced into off balance shots.”

Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress: “Besides Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller, the next more impressive big man in this study is likely Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson shouldered a heavy offensive load for St. Bonaventure (third highest of the 26 prospects), but still ranks as the fifth most efficient scorer overall. The fact that he was so effective with his back to the basket (fifth best post scorer) and facing the basket (No. 1 in overall jump-shot attempts, second most efficient shooter at 1.096), and with the ball (No. 3 in total isolation attempts, No. 3 in efficiency) is impressive. Nicholson is effective in pretty much every area we looked at, highlighting his extremely high skill-level.”

Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: “With the Orlando futures of Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, and Earl Clark uncertain, the Magic may find themselves needing Nicholson’s services sooner rather than later. And at 22, he’ll probably be able to contribute at the NBA level almost immediately. Further, Nicholson’s facility with his dribble-drive game is a skill the Magic sorely lack at power forward, with Anderson, Clark, and Glen Davis needing improvement in that area.”

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel: “He has long arms — his wingspan measured out at 7 feet, 4 inches at the draft combine — and he has advanced post moves. He also improved markedly with his 3-point shooting as a senior, making 23 of his 53 attempts (43.4 percent).”

Final Word: If the Magic were in a pure win-now mode and were looking for someone who could potentially come in and fill minutes immediately, Nicholson would be a fantastic pick.

The problem is the Magic are not quite in that situation. Is Nicholson someone who is going to be able to produce on his rookie contract while the team develops? At this point, Nicholson’s biggest asset is that he is exactly as advertised. The player you draft is going to be the player you get. You are not drafting him to be a big part of your future.

Orlando is in an odd spot where they are trying to win now to keep Dwight Howard, but also beginning to look more toward teh future. It is hard to see how Nicholson fits into that vision. But if the Magic select Nicholson, it is not a bad pick.

Follow Andrew Nicholson on Twitter (@nicholaf44)! Also meet Moe Harkless, Arnett Moultrie, Meyers Leonard, Terrence Ross.