Name: Nick Ward
School: Michigan State University
Height/Weight: 6’8, 250 lbs
What Nick Ward may lack in physical ability he makes up with a high energy, high IQ game on both sides of the floor.
Offensively, Ward is a physical, strong finisher around the basket who is comfortable with both hands. He is adept in the back to the basket game as well as being able to finish on the move approaching the basket. What’s impressive is his ability to play light on his feet despite carrying a heavy frame. It is rare to find such good footwork at that size.
Maybe the best part about his game offensively is his soft hands which make him a valuable and dangerous pick and roll option. Being able to play the pick and roll offensively and defensively is paramount in the NBA and he shows patience as a roll option. Time and again Nick manages to dive at the right time to give his guard the best angle to feed him the ball.
Though he doesn’t have an elite vertical, Nick Ward has a huge 7’2 wingspan which allows him to finish high over the top of smaller defenders and get off hook shots in the middle of the lane. It will be interesting to see if he continues to work on his already soft touch to make his game from 8 feet in even deadlier with a consistent sky hook.
Defensively, Nick shows an extremely high motor and is active in help defense as well as he is one on one on the block. Again, for a player his size, he has impressive mobility which he combines with his high IQ to routinely be in the right place to bother opponents defensively.
When it comes down to it Nick Ward projects as an undersized Center. At 6’8 he is not going to be able to be effective against many NBA centers physically and lacks the speed to keep up with the growing small ball league.
While it might not always show it statistically, he can be careless with the ball and can amass too many turnovers for a player that does not spend much time primarily handling the ball.
In addition to being undersized at the post position, Ward also lacks a vertical game. He is a so-so athlete whose dunks and interior moves rely more on his long arms than an explosive, upwards game. At the next level, he will struggle offensively and defensively verse players with true NBA size. Too often we would see Ward’s high IQ put him in the perfect place for a help side block which was followed immediately by a longer offensive player capitalizing on his lack of size.
With experience, Ward should be able to clean up and be more disciplined on defense. This is a very coachable issue that isn’t something we expect to be there long-term.
While we truly love Nick Ward’s game, it’s not easy to see a path for him right now into the NBA. He is the perfect college player who is so tough to stop in the paint, but it’s hard to see how it translates to the NBA level. We have seen undersized forwards and centers of his type be serviceable before as Ben Wallace was also around Ward’s height and became maybe the best defensive player of the mid-2000’s.
Today’s game is more mobile and NBA teams would like to see Ward develop the 10 to 15-foot jumper to keep the defense honest and provide more versatility on offense. If he finds a way to develop a game outside of the paint, maybe Nick Ward can earn himself a spot on the roster. It’s an uphill battle for him though.