Julian Champagnie returned to St. John’s for his junior season after testing the NBA draft waters in 2021, pulling out due to a wrist injury affecting his shot. This college basketball season, he leads the Big East in points per game (19.2) for the second consecutive season and is arguably the best pro prospect in the conference as the head of the snake for a 13-11 Red Storm squad. The Brooklyn native is the twin of the Toronto Raptor’s Justin Champagnie, who went undrafted in the 2021 and is on a two-way deal. While the twins may look identical, Julian’s game is vastly different from his brother’s — Justin is more athletic, and Julian is more skilled and slightly bigger. Additionally, some will argue that the St. John’s product is a better fit in the NBA due to his blend of shooting prowess and size.
|St. John’s (Jr.)
|Brooklyn, New York
|26’’ standing, 32’’ max
Champagnie’s No. 1 skill clearly is his shooting. He is a high-volume three-point shooter who attempts 6.2 per game. The majority come from catch-and-shoot situations as a floor spacer on the court. Thus far this season, he has eight games of four or more three-point makes and has the fourth most made three-pointers in the conference. Champagnie’s intrigue as a shooter is bolstered by the simplicity of his form and the lightning speed he is able to get the shot off.
The Brooklyn-native’s smooth jumper looks gorgeous when coming off down screens and curling into the mid-range. His impressive height at a little under 6-foot-8 with shoes is the cherry on top of his shooting form since he is not easily bothered by shorter players and those who are late to contest. Champagnie is willing to shoot over someone who may be draped on him without a dribble as well, arguably one of the best shooters in this year’s NBA draft class with a hand in his face. When creating his own shot, he prefers stepping back off his right foot to the left side from either mid-range or deep.
Champagnie is arguably one of the best shooters in this draft class, although his percentages are lower now than what they were last season. This season, he is shooting 35 percent from three-point range compared to 38 percent in 2020-21. In 15 games against conference opponents this season, he is shooting 29 percent from beyond the arc, a drastic decline from the 40.3 percent that he shot the previous year. It would be in his best interest to somewhat clean up the drop-off in efficiency if he wants to make a case for having an early second-round grade from NBA teams. However, it would not be smart to write off the 20-year-old as a below-average shooter due to the percentage declines.
Champagnie has a quick release and regularly launches from a few feet beyond the college three-point arc, which contributes to his lower percentage. Additionally, he is no longer a breakout player, surprising opponents with his scoring ability as he did as a sophomore. He is the top target on the opponents’ scouting report, especially among Big East teams with the high-level defensive personnel on the perimeter. The two teams that fit that bill best are Seton Hall and Villanova; the two squads rank first and second, respectively, in the conference for three-point defense.
In the two games that he played against Villanova, combined, Champagnie scored 21 points, made two of 11 from three-point range, shot 8 of 27 from the field, and had only three attempts from the free-throw line. In the two games combined against Seton Hall, he scored 14 points, shot two of 10 from three-point range, shot 5 of 24 from the field, and made two of three free throws. These ugly performances against two of the more physical — in the case of the Wildcats — and athletic — in the case of Seton Hall — teams on the schedule does not inspire confidence in his ability to be effective once the NBA starts calling. He did have nice scoring outputs against the top out-of-conference teams St. John’s played: 32 points vs. Indiana on 54.5 percent shooting and 24 points vs. Kansas on 53.8 percent shooting. He also put up 27 points each against Xavier and UConn, two top-25 squads.
Ball Handling and Shot Creation
Champagnie does not have a diverse offensive game. He primarily scores from the perimeter, with most of his scores in the paint coming via cuts and putbacks. He does not have strong enough ball-handling to be a true perimeter threat who can score using on-ball screens or collapse the defense by attacking the hoop. It is impressive, in a bad way, how much he’s able to score so much without generating many paint touches. He has a tendency to hold the ball and pick up his dribble instead of making a play happen. He relies on teammates, such as point guard Posh Alexander, a bit too much to handle the play-creation responsibilities. Champagnie is more of a play finisher than an actual drink stirrer on offense. This style allows defenders to stay connected to him and does not make life easier for teammates outside of forcing a defender to stay home on him. He will be a low-usage guy in the NBA, and if he does get placed in a position to create, he will likely settle for inefficient shots off the dribble.
Concerns About Athleticism
Champagnie is a below-average athlete by NBA standards. He will put down two-hand-flushes with a clear path to the basket, but his speed and explosiveness are not strengths. The 20-year-old isn’t stiff by any stretch, but he will be just another guy athletically on the court in the NBA. While he is tall, his plus-3 wingspan isn’t all that impressive, and he plays in a manner that makes you forget that is over 6-foot-7 on the court, which isn’t good. He doesn’t play physically enough on offense, and doesn’t have the athletic tools to not be a more physical player if he wants to round out his scoring game for the NBA. Something that would have been intriguing to see him develop would be a post-game since he has nice touch and is taller than most who guard him. However, post-ups only account for 6.4 percent of his offense in the half-court, and he is ineffective from there regardless (0.742 PPP, 33rd percentile). If he were able to abuse mismatches that can be created from off-ball screening actions, and/or to effectively attack the rim, he would also generate more than 3.5 free throw attempts per game. His current foul percentage of 9.5 is well below average for DI players with at least 100 possessions this season.
Passing and Play in Transition
Though he has a positive assist-turnover ratio of 1.34, Champagnie is not a dynamic playmaker. He will not be someone tasked to be a secondary or tertiary facilitator at any given point. He does have some flashes as a reactive passer, who gives it up to the open man. The reads are simple but are made correctly. He has just five games of four or more assists so far this season.
The St. John’s product is fine in transition. He is rated at the 77th percentile in transition (1.198 PPP), and it accounts for the second biggest part of his offense at 18.6 percent. He understands how to fill lanes and is able to absorb some contact when going downhill. He won’t wow anyone with explosive rim attacks, though.
Champagnie’s defense is also disappointing when going through the tape. The role that he plays is not one where he is accentuated to make big plays, but he rarely makes a defensive impact. Besides the 1.5 steals averaged per game, he doesn’t appear to be a 3-and-D kind of player, which you’d want from someone who is expected to be nothing more than a shooter in the league. When guarding someone on the perimeter with a little bit of dribbling guile, he will get blown by because of his slow feet. He does not have great control of his body when closing out on shooters, and is not always in an athletic defensive stance, likely taking breaks since he has large offensive responsibilities for the Johnnies.
Champagnie is fairly reactive as a weak-side helper on the block, but doesn’t have the athleticism and length to be a true shot-blocking threat in the NBA. As a team defender, he does seem to be monitoring what is happening on the court, but is rarely in a position to prevent a positive scoring possession from happening. Champagnie might be miscast as someone who guards wings, and will likely be better vs. power forwards. Although he has height and isn’t rigid, his upside on the defensive end is low unless his effort level turns up to exceeding proportions.
- Good three-point shooter; half-court three-point shooting is at 69th percentile (1.089 PPP)
- At the 68th percentile (0.99 PPP) in overall spot-up shooter
- Successful at finishing plays in transition; at the 77th percentile in transition (1.198 PPP)
- Has the size to play both forward positions
- Due to the smoothness of shooting form, he has potential as a versatile shooter, although the numbers currently don’t back that up
- Reactive passing is solid; has a 1.34 A/T ratio
- Effective off-ball cutter on offense, ranking at the 66th percentile (1.267 PPP)
- When he is hot shooting, exceedingly difficult to stop
- A good rebounder on the college level, boasting the 14th highest rebounding percentage in the Big East
- Knack for accumulating steals; his steal percentage of 3.2 is third best in the conference
- Highly productive overall. and won’t turn 21 years old until July; ranks in the top 10 of the Big East for both win shares (3.5) and PER (22.2)
- Subpar athlete for the NBA level, lacking both quickness and vertical pop
- Not a diverse scorer outside of jump shooting
- Solid defender in St. John’s scheme, but it’s unlikely that he will be an impact defender in the NBA
- Ball-handling is average at best and won’t be used to penetrate defenses at the NBA level
- Handling in the pick and roll has accounted for just 3.2 percent of his offense so far this season
- As a driver in the half-court, has made 19 of 59 shots (32%) overall, including four of 19 within seven feet (21%)
- Doesn’t take advantage of mismatches, is not a physical player who seeks contact in the paint, and doesn’t draw many fouls
- If jump shot isn’t falling, has a hard time affecting the game in other ways
- Did not play well against the best Big East opponents in terms of overall talent and perimeter defense
Role and Ceiling
Champagnie will be on the cusp of either being a late second-rounder or undrafted player who is picked up later for someone’s G League roster. He has a good jump shot and has been very productive as the main guy on a team in a legitimate conference. Outside of his shooting prowess, he may potentially produce off screens and from deep range as a taller perimeter player (stretch 4). As of now, he is close to being one-dimensional. However, looking at guys such as Duncan Robinson and Davis Bertans, one-dimensionality is not a death knell in the NBA.
Champagnie will make his coin strictly as a good spacer, who, if he improves, can be a nice hand-off and off-screen action sniper from beyond the arc. While the current advanced numbers don’t show that he can be consistent with movement shooting, this skill may be dormant due to his role as the lead guy on St. John’s. If he plays with more talented scorers and creators on an NBA roster, he could take advantage of that.
The St. John’s product should study Miami Heat’s Max Strus closely and try to mimic what he does for South Beach. If there is buy-in to become a player moves a lot and feasts on ghost screens — looks to set an on-ball screen and then slips out, fading to the three-point line — he should find a landing spot. If a team is sincerely interested in grooming him for a long-term role on a team, Champagnie should be utilized as a small-ball power forward to hide some of his athletic warts. If he becomes really good at that role and rounds out his game a bit, maybe his ceiling can be a very poor man’s Buddy Hield (a taller version that plays in the “frontcourt”), serving as a sixth or seventh man.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Statistics used in our scouting reports come from RealGM.com (international stats), Sports-Reference.com (NCAA stats), and Synergy Sports Technology (special analytics), Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.