Situational Statistics: This Year’s Small Forward Crop June 12, 2010 Damion James looks solid, but unspectacular across the board. At 1.0 PPP overall and drawing fouls on 10.2% of his shots, James is a solid offensive player, but considering his lack of ball handling ability, he’ll need to improve on his 42.9% shooting on unguarded jumpers if he wants to see consistent minutes at the three on the next level. The hustle numbers are there (1.25 finishing PPP, 2 Pos from offensive rebounds, 2.3 Pos from cuts), but James is a questionable one-on-one player (0.672) and may need to be more than serviceable in spot-up situations to be successful in the long-term. [Read Full Article] Damion James Workout and Interview June 9, 2010
When we stopped in to see Damion James work out in Los Angeles a few weeks back, it was his second day in the gym working with trainer Don MacLean, but you couldn’t tell by the way he performed in the session. A consummate team player with an excellent work ethic in his four years at Texas, James’ maturity was quickly evident in this setting, as he was extremely attentive to everything McLean said, absorbing all the information and quickly adapting to adjustments on the court.
Offensively, James showed great variety in how he was capable of scoring in the scrimmages, looking very comfortable operating in isolation situations, which were heavily featured for all players. Not the best advanced ball-handler in the world, James showed a very good grasp of ball fakes and jab steps, and with his excellent length (7’1 wingspan), he has little trouble getting separation for his shot when pulling up.
James also showed some nice flashes when attacking the basket, doing a good job of finishing through contact at the rim. He doesn’t have the greatest first step, but his size, length, and strength allow him to create good shot opportunities even when he can’t get past his man’s hip.
James’ jumper was going in at an outstanding rate the day we saw him, both in pull-up and catch-and-shoot situations. He showed very good release speed on spot-up opportunities, and clearly has a good understanding of floor spacing, constantly moving without the ball to places where his teammates can find him for an open look.
Defensively, James was similarly impressive, looking comfortable defending on the perimeter, especially in pick-and-roll situations, where he showed excellent awareness. James’ lateral foot speed isn’t elite and his hips are a bit high, but he does an excellent job of bodying up and using his physicality to make up for it, showing an excellent level of effort and focus here.
Looking forward, James’ stock remains somewhere in the middle of the first round, where it’s been since the NCAA season ended. Given his high levels of work ethic, coachability, and maturity, he is certainly someone who could impress in private workouts and interviews, and he definitely appears to be the type of player a coach will want on his team. Questions about his ideal position at the next level and if he has a stand-out skill still remain, but his versatility and toughness are certainly factors working in his favor. [Read Full Article] NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/3/10 March 3, 2010 Jonathan Givony
Unable to garner any guarantees in the first-round after declaring for last year’s draft, Damion James opted to return for his senior season at Texas, which has been a bit of a roller-coaster thus far.
Starting off the year 17-0 and climbing all the way to the #1 spot in the polls following some impressive victories, Texas has fallen on hard times since, going 5-7 in their next 12 outings and subsequently dropping out of this week’s AP poll.
22-years old and a fairly known commodity at this point, James is having a pretty similar season statistically to last year, particularly when you adjust for the much faster pace (75 possessions compared to 68) Texas is now playing at. Continuing to see nearly all of his minutes at the power forward position (he’s more likely to slide to the 5 than he is to the 3), the main difference lies in his efficiency, as he’s improved his 2-point and especially his 3-point percentages considerably, and is also getting to the free throw line quite a bit more, which makes a big difference in his overall output.
James’ biggest strength clearly revolves around how hard he plays, a part of his game we don’t seem to have emphasized strongly enough in previous reports, and a skill in its own right. He brings an unbelievable amount of energy to the floor every time he steps out onto the court, being incredibly aggressive in pretty much everything he does.
That manifests itself in a number of areas—the way he runs the floor in transition, crashes the offensive glass, cuts and finishes at the rim, and just the overall toughness he offers. He is the leading rebounder in Big 12 history, averaging over 10 boards per game this season, and regularly is the one coming out of a crowd with a loose ball in traffic when his team needs an extra possession.
Offensively, James appears to have improved his ability to operate off the dribble this season. While he’s still not the most skilled guy you’ll find, he has no problem operating comfortably off the bounce in the half-court or particularly in transition, showing off his aggressive nature as usual. It’s good to see the senior show some new parts to his game, especially the ability to beat his defender with his left hand. He’s getting to the free throw line like he never has at any point in his career (8.1 free throws per-40 minutes pace adjusted, up from 6.1 last year), and his improved ball-handling skills have a lot to do with that.
With that said, James is obviously more effective facing up from the elbow than he is starting from the 3-point line, as his advanced ball-handling skills are nothing special, and he doesn’t have an amazing first step to begin with. He sometimes gets himself into a bit of trouble when he tries to get too fancy with crossovers and such on the perimeter, which is why Texas’ staff likes to isolate him 17-18 feet away. From here he can get him to the rim off a single dribble thanks to his long, powerful strides and ability to take contact at the rim.
James’ jump-shot appears to be back too, after seeing his 3-point percentages regress to a disappointing 33% last year, he’s back up to 41% on the season, albeit on a fairly limited (2.5 per game) amount of attempts. He’s far more consistent with his feet set now, making his catch and shoot jumpers regularly now, even if he continues to struggle to hit pull-up jumpers. Texas runs all kinds of pick and pop sets and short staggers for him these days, and James is very effective from the mid-range area in turn. Improving his ability to pull-up off the dribble would clearly be the next stage in his development as he tries to make the conversion to playing out on the wing full time.
James’ aggressiveness looking for his own shot does come at a price, though, as his assist rate (the percent of possessions that end in an assist) has dropped in each of his four years at Texas, now settling in at a paltry 0.06. He’s never appeared to be a great passer at any point in his career, but at times this year he’s seemed to be hunting shots more than usual, possibly feeling the pressure of wanting to increase his NBA standing in his final season of college basketball.
Considering his likely role-player status at the next level, as opposed to the star and go-to guy he is now, there may be an adjustment that James needs to make to his game to fit in playing alongside more talented players. With that said, he already showed the ability to do that earlier in his career, playing alongside the likes of Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin.
Despite being knocked for most of his career for not being a very good defender, it was difficult to find much evidence of that from the tape we took in. Sporting a terrific 7-1 wingspan, a chiseled frame and standing nearly 6-8 in shoes, James has all the physical tools needed to be an excellent defender, especially when you consider his terrific toughness and aggressiveness.
That clearly manifests itself on the court as well, as he is very active, uses his body extremely effectively, does a good job of utilizing his length to contest shots, and gets his hands on a ton of loose balls. James is a playmaker on the defensive end, getting in the passing lanes on a regular basis, blocking shots at a good rate, and doing a great job on the defensive glass. His lateral quickness on the perimeter may not be stellar, but it looks more than adequate for the NBA level. In fact, he seemed to do a better job guarding the perimeter from the film we saw than in the post, where his lack of size can get exposed at times.
All in all, James is a player that has clearly improved his draft stock by returning for another year, as he appears far more likely to be picked in the first round than he was last year, and may even be taken fairly high depending on how he finishes the season and works out for teams. It may not be easy to immediately identify a clear-cut role for James, as he’s a bit of a jack of all trades master of none, and is clearly stuck between the small forward and power forward positions at this point. With that said, NBA teams are always in need of tough, aggressive players who are productive and can contribute in a variety of ways, which is why James will be coveted on draft day. [Read Full Article] NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/24/09 February 24, 2009 With two years of valuable experience under his belt, Damion James came into this season looking to build upon a pair of very solid campaigns and assume a big share of the offensive responsibilities left behind by D.J. Augustin. While he has had some success in accomplishing that mission, not everything has gone smoothly for him this season. James has struggled in his attempt to prove that he is a true small forward, but his ability to make an impact working off the ball, toughness as a rebounder, and hustle will keep him in draft conversations.
Before we return to what makes James an interesting NBA prospect, lets first look at the area of his game that he's struggled to develop: his perimeter game. Last season, James emerged as a legitimate three-point threat –knocking down 41.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc on the year. It seemed that 2009 would be an ideal opportunity for James to not only continue knocking down shots from the perimeter, but also show improved ball-handling and shot-creating ability –improvements that would allow him to move to the small forward position full time. However, this hasn't been the case. Rather, it emphasizes how big of a factor Augustin was in James' effectiveness from the perimeter.
This season, James has only hit 32% of his shots from deep, and while his form pretty remains solid, he's had a very hard time compensating for the fact that he no longer has a point guard that can routinely get him the ball with time and space. Without Augustin, James has gotten significantly less spot-up opportunities, and has had a harder time driving to the rim –showing very little improvement in his ability to put the ball on the floor with his left hand or change directions when attacking a defender that isn't recovering from a rotation. While James has had a hard time hitting his shots from the outside and is yet to show the shot creating ability that would project him as a full-time small forward at the next level, he's still upped his TS% (54%), scoring rates, and PER this season.
The trait that has allowed James to stay effective with and without Durant and Augustin has been his ability to create easy scoring opportunities by being in the right place at the right time. According to Synergy Sports Technology's Quantified Player Report, James gets 12% of his offense from shots off of cuts, 11% from offensive rebounds, and 16% in transition. James does a great job moving to open areas on the floor, showing great timing when flashing to the rim and crashing the boards. On top of that, he consistently runs the floor hard in transition and provides a presence around the rim.
The physical aggressiveness that James displays often overshadows his lack of size, and allows him to be very productive around the basket. He proves to be an excellent finisher, and is the type of player that seems to like seeking out contact. While that assertiveness serves him well at times, it also earns him quite a few trips to the line, where he shoots an improving percentage, up from 57% to 65% this year.
The motor he shows on the offensive end helps him be equally effective as a rebounder. James shows tremendous fundamentals when cleaning the glass. He is always moving towards the rim before shots go up on the offensive end, gets low to use leverage when boxing out defensively, and looks to pull down the ball at its highest point. This season, James has been even more impressive than in years past ,despite a slight decline in his numbers. He still ranks in the top-25 in our database in rebounds per 40-minutes pace adjusted even though Rick Barnes has had him spending a bit more time on the wing in an effort to foster his perimeter skills.
On the defensive end, James hasn't progressed much in terms of fundamentals, but manages to be somewhat effective due to his scrappiness and tenacity. He still has all the tools to be very solid, and comes up with some pass deflections due to his length and anticipation. Despite showing good lateral quickness when closing out shooters, James shows questionable footwork, often getting turned around when the ball is swung and not getting low to prevent penetration. James has shown some strides as a post defender, doing a better job going straight up than he has in the past, but will need to be taught better fundamentals so that he can defend the perimeter on the next level.
In projecting James to the next level, his lack of progress on the perimeter and size may hurt his stock, but he seems like a clear candidate to be selected by a playoff team as a role-playing forward. A player with a similar physical profile, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, has found his way into Milwaukee's rotation this season, and James certainly could be capable of offering the same type of value in a similar situation. Whether James declares for the draft this season remains to be seen, but he's a guy that a lot of teams are going to like given his effort on the floor and ability to be productive without the ball in his hands. [Read Full Article] Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part One: #1-5) September 2, 2008 After playing in the shadows of Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin as a freshman, Damion James stepped into the spotlight a little bit as a Junior, upping his stats across the board, improving on many of his weaknesses, and playing a large part in leading Texas to the Elite Eight. With Durant and Augustin now both in the NBA, more will be expected of the tenacious James, and scouts will be watching to see if he continues to grow as a player.
James contributed in many ways to the Longhorns as a sophomore, notably from behind the three-point arc, where he made significant strides, going from shooting 9% as a freshman to 41% as a sophomore, albeit on just 92 attempts. James has a high release and consistent form, but he doesn’t have the quickest release and his effectiveness falls off significantly on the move. It will be important for James to maintain his strong shooting efficiency from behind the arc to prove last season wasn’t just a fluke.
While James improved from three last season, he unfortunately did not improve from the free-throw line, where he shot a paltry 57%. This, along with his inability to create consistently in one-on-one situations, contributed heavily to his well below-average 52% TS%, which ranks him fourth from last for all players currently projected in our 2009 mock. James’ struggles in isolations stem from his underdeveloped ball-handling skills. He can occasionally create a jumper off one dribble going either direction, but struggles attacking the basket, not having a dribble very low to the ground and struggling to change direction. The ball also slows him down significantly.
While James isn’t great creating with the ball in his hands, he does a great job creating opportunities without it, reading the lanes, making excellent cuts, catching and adjusting at the rim, and getting out in transition by utilizing his excellent motor, as he’s always hustling on either side of the floor. This shows up most on the boards, where despite being a 6’7 combo-forward, he ranked 9th in our entire database in rebounds per pace adjusted 40 minutes (at 13.3 per game), while ranking 5th in defensive rebounds by the same metric.
On the defensive end, James has a ton of potential, but is still very rough around the edges, despite making notable strides. He has great physical tools with his length, strength, and great athleticism, all things he makes great use in transition, breaking up plays from the weakside, and by rushing out to contest perimeter shots. He isn’t as effective in man defense, though, as he’s inconsistent with his fundamentals on the perimeter and doesn’t have the best reaction time, often biting for pump fakes and jab steps or just getting frozen on crossovers or other moves. Laterally, his quickness is good, though, as he’s capable of sticking with point guards at times on drives to the basket. A versatile player, James is also serviceable defending the post, playing bigger than his size by blanketing his man, playing smart positional defense, and really working his butt off.
Coming back as a junior, scouts will be looking for James to continue to shoot well from three, and see some of that success translate to the line. Improving his ball-handling and continuing to make strides as a perimeter defender are also major priorities. If he can do these things, he projects very nicely as a role-playing small forward in the NBA, and could be a first round pick as early as this year. [Read Full Article] NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/25/08-- Part One March 25, 2008 Though not a primary offensive option for the Longhorns, Damion James managed to stand out in a pair of Texas victories in aiding his team to the Sweet 16. The talented forward has a ways to go before he can be considered NBA ready, but he continues to show a number of different tools that will enable him to contribute at the next level down the road. James netted double doubles in both games, and grabbed 16 rebounds against Miami to go along with his 16 points. The game against the Hurricanes marked the fifth time this season that the sophomore has finished a game with 16 or more rebounds. Excellent timing and a solid vertical leap combined with his great instincts in the painted area allow him to rank as the 7th best rebounder per-40 minutes pace adjusted amongst all players in our database.
Offensively, James continued to show improved range on his shot against Miami, hitting three long range bombs for just the fourth time in his career. Though he lacks the elevation and quick release you like to see from a wing prospect, the large strides he has made in this area have to be noted. After only hitting a single 3-pointer as a sophomore (in 11 attempts), he’s now hit 37 this season so far, on an excellent 45% clip. James doesn’t take many 3-pointers (just over two per game), and most of his attempts are off the open variety with his feet set. Right now, James scores a lot of his points on cuts and flashes to the open spot on the floor. He has a great feel for timing his move to the paint, and shows above average body control and explosiveness at the hoop. Playing next to one of the best point guards in the country in D.J. Augustin, he gets a lot of excellent looks in places where he can use his strength and athleticism to finish in no-nonsense fashion around the basket.
Off the dribble, James can create a shot off one or two bounces when given space, but is mostly limited in this area to basic moves. To take his slashing ability to the next level, he must focus on improving his ball-handling skills, as well as improving his much weaker left hand and inability to change directions. He is obviously still making the transition to playing the small forward position, and is very much a work in progress here still. The tournament games so far have also highlighted another big weakness for James. In the opening two NCAA games, he went just 1/4 from the free throw line, and his season percentage sits right around 56%. Because he’s not much of a back to the basket player, and really can’t be expected to create shots for himself, he gets to the free throw line about 3.5 times per game.
James also displayed good potential defensively as a small forward prospect during the first two rounds of the big dance. He has both the strength and length to disrupt opposing players, and his defensive reads and positioning have made some progress over the course of the season. To reach his potential defensively, he needs to work on not biting for pump fakes. James lacks the recovery speed to constantly gamble for blocks or steals, so he must learn to study and read the offensive player in order to avoid these situations. Despite his improved help defense, he sometimes misses on rotations and mis-reads the pick and roll.
Though he remains a year or two away from being draft ready, Damion James has displayed a number of solid tools throughout the season that have contributed to the strong Texas effort to open the NCAA Tournament. His rebounding ability and improved three point shooting ability are a great start, but now he must focus on rounding out his game with focus on improved ball-handling and free throw shooting. Texas will need James to continue producing at a high level to advance out of the Sweet 16, and it will only help his draft stock along the way. [Read Full Article] Blogging through Championship Week (Part Four) March 15, 2008 Lost amidst all the other great prospects in the nation over the course of this season, Damion James has taken noticeable strides in his development as an NBA prospect, and there’s really quite a lot to like about the package he brings to the table. James has been as key a player as any for the Longhorns this year, averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds per game, while pulling in 23 and 11 this game. The biggest development in his game this season has obviously been his three-point shot as he only hit one shot from deep all of last year. James is shooting 42% this year, albeit on only 64 attempts, but he’s developed into a clear threat from deep, as evidenced by his three long balls in this game. James brought his excellent defense to the table against OSU as well, contesting shots on the perimeter and in the post, using his excellent athleticism and length to do so. While likely not entering the draft this year, it’s hard to ignore that James is developing into the consummate role-playing small forward for the next level, with his energy, defense, athleticism, rebounding, and now the ability to spot-up from three. He has some mid-range and post-up game as well, which he showed with a nice turnaround jumper on the baseline going to his off-shoulder in this game. James could improve his stock a lot by coming back next season and playing a more feature role in the offense while continuing to improve his skill-set, but he already has a lot of things he could contribute at an NBA level. [Read Full Article] Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Two: #6-#10) October 10, 2007 Behind the incredible amount of hype surrounding Kevin Durant’s magnificent freshman season, as well as the terrific production received from point guard D.J. Augustin, it was easy to forget that Texas was actually sporting three McDonald’s All-American freshmen in their starting lineup. With Durant now out of the way, there will be plenty of touches opening up at the forward spots—many of which will go in the direction of Damion James.
Based off what we can tell, James is ready to handle them. He is a powerful athlete, blessed with long arms, good quickness, a nice first step, and plenty of explosiveness around the basket. He’s an extremely strong player, which helps explain why he’s still more of a power forward making the transition to playing out on the wing full time. If you’re looking for a comparison, think of a mix between Joey Graham and Bonzi Wells.
Most of James’ production as a freshman came from playing off the ball and picking his spots in Texas’ offense—which is predictable considering how prominently Durant, Augustin and A.J. Abrams were showcased last year (the three combined to use over 65% of Texas’ possessions, nearly half of which went to Durant). He did a good job playing off his teammates by cutting to the basket, as well as grabbing a fair share of offensive rebounds, but still got enough touches of his own to allow us to evaluate his game.
James has a pretty solid mid-range jumper with range that extends to about 17 feet, although it’s mostly a flat-footed power forward-style shot that he hits with his feet set. He shot just 1/11 from behind the arc on the season, and 59.5% from the free throw line, two areas he will have to work on if he’s to make the full transition to the small forward position in the future. His pull-up jumper is a bit on the mechanical side as well, another area that scouts will be monitoring. Based off what we saw on tape, though, improving his range seems like a plausible proposition.
As a ball-handler, James is pretty solid (preferably with his right hand)-- having the athleticism and especially the aggressiveness to make things happen off the bounce. He did look like a freshman at times with some of the unforced errors he would make due to mental lapses-- his game is more about power at this point rather than finesse after all-- but he got the job done semi-effectively as a shot-creating threat and certainly has room to improve.
Defensively, James has good strength and a really nice wingspan, allowing him to block his fair share of shots (particularly coming on the ball) and pull down a good amount of rebounds. He does look a bit lackadaisical at times with the amount of space he gives his man, though, getting burned on the perimeter especially because of his lack of defensive fundamentals and inexperience playing away from the basket.
All in all, there is still a good amount of work for James to do before he establishes himself as a serious and immediate draft prospect, but he has a good base in place and certainly is in a great spot to prove himself playing under the spotlight at the University of Texas. He’ll surely be monitored closely. [Read Full Article] High School Allstar Games Recap: Player Interviews April 25, 2006 DraftExpress: Damion, with Coach Sampson’s departure from Oklahoma, has that made you reopen your recruiting at all?
James: I don’t know yet. I have to see who they bring in. It depends upon who the new head coach is if I reopen my recruiting.
DraftExpress: Have you spoken with the coaches at Oklahoma about the situation?
James: Oh yeah.
DraftExpress: Have they told you whether or not they’ll release you if you were to ask?
James: I ain’t said nothing about that yet. My high school coach take care of all that. I just sit back and relax man. Just play basketball.
DraftExpress: So who are a few of the schools that you’d consider if you reopened your recruitment?
James: I don’t know man. I’m just playing it safe right now.
DraftExpress: Was Coach Sampson the main factor in you attending Oklahoma?
James: I really had a good relationship with Coach Sampson, but apparently that didn’t work out. It’s all good man.
DraftExpress: Many felt that you were snubbed from the McDonald’s All American Game. Did you ever receive any explanation as to why you weren’t chosen?
James: The dudes that was in it, I guess they was better then me. I was just glad to play in the Roundball.
DraftExpress: What areas of your game are you looking to improve upon most before you reach Oklahoma, or any other school for that matter?
James: Just everything. I’m trying to be the best. I’m gonna work at everything, every day.
DraftExpress: Are there any particular goals that you have for yourself next year?
James: Player of the Year man. That’s my goal.
DraftExpress: Thanks a lot Damion. Best of luck with the Oklahoma situation.
James: Thanks man. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic: Game Recap April 12, 2006 Damion was looking to show fans why he felt he was snubbed from the McDonald’s game, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t exactly stand out in the Roundball game. The Texas native never really seemed to get within the flow of things offensively, as he began to force some shots after things weren’t working his way. It was a disappointing performance from James, who is viewed as one of the more polished high school players in the country and is compared by some to Tracy McGrady, which I don’t agree with. He told DraftExpress after the game that he will wait and see who Okalahoma hires as their next head coach before deciding whether or not he will reopen his recruitment. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic: Practice Reports April 11, 2006 The first thing that you notice about James is that he is much smaller then his listed height, looking to be only around 6’6 or so. Height aside however, he is an elite talent who will contribute right away no matter where he goes to school next year. It’s a bit of a tricky situation with Damion, as he is waiting to see who Oklahoma announces as it’s next head coach before he makes a decision in regards to reopening his recruitment. In practice Friday, James was doing all you could ask for out of a WF offensively, slicing through the lane, creating for others, and burying the three when left open. A McDonald’s snub, Damion seemed to come out with a chip off his shoulder, and gave opposing East guards fits all day with his ability to put the ball through the hoop. [Read Full Article]