Name: Nick Ward
School: Michigan State University
Height/Weight: 6’8, 250 lbs
Nick Ward was overshadowed in his freshman year but will surely be a name scouts will be intrigued by for the 2018 season. What he 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. I was impressed with 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. He held an impressive mark of 1.5 blocks per game which consistently keeps driving guards honest while penetrating against Michigan State’s defense. 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 6’9 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.
His 1.6 turnover per game mark does not jump off the page but he can be careless 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 vs players with true NBA size. Look at this Tennessee Tech highlight in which we can see Ward’s high IQ putting 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 as last year he was prone to fouls especially when things were not going his way. This is a very coachable issue that I do not anticipate seeing this season from him.
Nick Ward did not get much shine last year in more of a reserve bruiser role for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. This year he will step into a more prominent role and look to prove to NBA scouts that he can excel with his high motor and soft touch around the basket.
Being undersized is an uphill battle but we have seen undersized forwards and centers of his type be serviceable before. Ben Wallace was also 6’9 and became maybe the best defensive player of the mid-2000s.
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. I expect to see him make a push to possibly be a steal later in this year’s NBA draft.
Potential Draft Position:
Second Round/Undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft