Hoping to crack the NBA, Nick Ward is leaving Michigan State early, despite being a longshot to get drafted.
Will Nick Ward Hear His Name Called On Draft Night?
Michigan State fans got some interesting news when Nick Ward opted to keep his name in the 2019 NBA draft, officially ending his Spartan career after three solid seasons.
At times dominant in the college ranks, the 6’8, 245-pound forward/center is far from an elite pro prospect.
How will his early departure affect next year’s MSU squad, and does Ward actually have a chance to make it in the association?
Let’s start with the former.
What does Ward leaving mean for Michigan State’s 2019-20 team?
Ward’s departure wasn’t unexpected among those in the know. According to Sascha Paruk of sportsbettingdime.com, prior to the withdrawal deadline, Spartans 2020 NCAA Tournament title odds were, on average, +730. Those odds were second only to Duke in the entire nation, and they gave Tom Izzo a 12% chance to capture his second national championship.
After the deadline, the Spartans’ 2020 title odds remained exactly the same.
In other words, those whose livelihood depends on projecting team strength see Izzo’s team the same today as they did earlier this week.
Still, some in Spartan nation were optimistic that might Ward return, reasoning that he might as well comeback for his senior season because it’s highly unlikely that he will be drafted.
Will Ward be one of the 60 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft?
In short, probably not.
The undersized Ward has been generously compared to another former Spartan: Draymond Green. But while Ward has Draymond’s trademark tenacity, he lacks Draymond’s athleticism and Ward can’t stretch the floor nearly as well. If you think opponents give Draymond space on the perimeter, they would give Ward an entire hectare.
Over three years in East Lansing, Ward attempted just three shots from beyond the arc. Yes, he made all three. But no, he’s not a perimeter threat, and it would take a huge amount of work to turn him into one.
In the modern NBA, Ward’s lack of range severely depletes his value. Undersized for an NBA frontcourt at 6’8, Ward’s inability to make open jumpers outside of about 10 feet means he is a terrible fit for the small-ball trend of the NBA.
There is not a single credible 2019 mock draft that has Ward among its 60 picks. That doesn’t mean he can’t get drafted – strange things happen in the second round of the draft. But surprise second-round picks tend to involve very long, hard-to-pronounce eastern European names, like Nemanja Dangubić.
Ward could work his way into the NBA as an undrafted free agent. Current NBA rosters are replete with undrafted success stories, including three players on the Raptors (Fred VanVleet) and Warriors (Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie).
The teams that might be willing to take a chance on Ward will be ones that have ample perimeter shooting on their roster already or don’t value the three as much as the league, as a whole.
The Spurs stand out as an option. Gregg Popovich’s team connected at an NBA-best 39.2% from beyond the arc, but also attempted a league-low 25.3 three-pointers per game.
Always one to get the most out of somewhat physically limited players, Popovich is exactly the type of coach who could craft a useful role for a smart, max-effort player like Ward.
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