James Palmer and his Nebraska teammates are coming off a somewhat disappointing season. The Cornhuskers missed the NCAA tournament again, and Palmer, who was considered a strong candidate to be named the Big Ten Player of the Year, had to settle for an All-Big Ten third-team selection after making the first team in 2017-18. Palmer played a ton of minutes (35.1 per game) and was a volume shooter (16.1 FGA per game) for a Nebraska squad that was hindered by a short bench, especially after the loss of starting senior forward Isaac Copeland at midseason. As a result, Palmer’s efficiency suffered, and he made just 36.9 percent of his shots from the floor. Even so, the senior had a strong season, averaging 19.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He also broke Nebraska’s record for most points in a single season with 708.
Palmer, who transferred to Nebraska after two seasons at Miami of Florida, is not an exceptional athlete, but his height, length, and strength are big assets on both ends of the court. He is more of a driver than a shooter – a slashing wing. The fifth-year senior has never made a high percentage of his shots beyond the 3-point line (31.3 percent this season), though he is above average from the free-throw line (76.2 percent this season). His height typically allows him to see over defenders, and he can be an effective passer when handling in the pick and roll or when penetrating.
Palmer is a very fluid player off the bounce, and he can create his own shot. He heavily relies on changes of speed and deception (ball fakes, jab steps, etc.), as opposed to pure speed and quickness, to get by defenders. He can go right and left, and finish with either hand. He gets into the lane often and draws a lot of fouls (7.8 FTA per game). He can also pull up and use a step-back if needed. His length and strength plus good body control allow him to absorb contact and score regularly at the rim. However, he doesn’t get far off the ground on his jumps, so he is not immune to getting his shots blocked, both inside and out.
On the defensive end, Palmer was a solid performer at the college level, but his lack of speed, quickness and vertical are concerns at the next. As an on-ball defender, he likes to crowd smaller players, enveloping them with his length, and it’s often effective. Most of his lapses this season seemed to occur as a team defender – late on closeouts and rotations are examples – but we can cut him some slack on this end of the court due to the heavy load that he carried on the offensive end for his team. Also, though he does produce a high number of steals per game, his blocks per game (0.4) is disconcerting, especially given his size and length.
In sum, Palmer is a proven all-around scorer, who has the agility, size, length, and strength needed for the next level. However, his poor outside shooting and his lack of athleticism might prevent him from being drafted. Right now, he is near the cut-off line of the second round.
|Wingspan:||6-11||Vertical:||27 inches (standing)|
|Shot Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
- Great length and good strength
- Solid handle, agility, and body control
- Proven scorer, and capable from all levels. In terms of points per possession (PPP), ranked at the 56th percentile this season and at the 71st last season. Especially dangerous when using screens (pick and roll, handoffs, etc.). Also effective in isolation.
- Can make plays for others, and had a low turnover rate (9.9%, which ranked at the 92nd percentile among those with at least 100 possessions this season).
- Solid from free-throw line, and adept at drawing fouls (89th percentile for foul % among those with at least 100 possessions this season).
- Produces a lot of steals, and was well above average in terms of PPP allowed on defense, ranking at the 71st percentile this season and at the 91st last season.
- Not an elite athlete in terms of speed, quickness, and vertical. Tested poorly at 2019 Portsmouth Invitational.
- Not a reliable 3-point shooter, and shooting mechanics need work – brings the ball over his head before he shoots.
- Struggles when shooting jumpers off the bounce (24th percentile in terms of PPP this season).
- Can have trouble around the rim due to a lack of vertical explosiveness (36th percentile in terms of PPP this season).
- Not a shot blocker, and overall lack of athleticism could be a problem on the defensive end at the next level.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com. Some background information and the photo were courtesy of Nebraska Athletics. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.