School: Iowa State
Height/Weight: 6'7", 219 lbs
Age: 23 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small Forward
Pro Comparison: DeMarre Carroll
Twitter Handle: @MelvinEjim
Melvin Ejim is not a prototypical NBA draft prospect at the forward position, and he's not a young up-and-comer brimming with potential. Yet he's looking to turn his simple but effective skills from Iowa State into a pro career.
The 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year has a strong physique, a competitive playing style and a nice jump shot. He operated as a combo forward who mixed it up in the paint most of the time, but he's only 6'7", which means he needs to prove he can hang on the perimeter more often.
Fortunately, his increased outside shooting makes him a stronger candidate to perform as a true small forward. Ejim will also use his off-ball instincts and hustle on the boards to boost his value as he launches his career.
|Statistics at Iowa State|
Small forward is Ejim's projected position entering the NBA, and if he can fulfill the skills involved, his physique and frame will be more than accommodating.
He's 6'7" with shoes on, and he owns a 6'11.25" wingspan and an 8'7.5" standing reach. So he has plenty of length to defend, finish drives, rebound and shoot over opponents. His 219-pound frame is sturdy enough to handle the more physical wings in the league, and his strength will help him on both ends.
Ejim's leaping prowess is good, but it's not in the top tier, as he can bounce 35" on his max vertical.
His foot speed is also middle-of-the-road, which means it will be a challenge for him to compete with the quicker swingmen on defense.
Off-Ball Game and Strong Finishing
Ejim scored most of his points at Iowa State without dominating the ball or creatively maneuvering with it.
He found his opportunities as a cutter, a weak-side slasher and a spot-up shooter. By now, he's garnered a pretty good feel for when there's an alley-oop opportunity or a chance to cut for an easy layup.
And when Ejim does find himself near the bucket with a favorable angle, he uses his strong frame and soft scoring touch to complete the play. His length allows him to comfortably flush putbacks and lobs, and he's also adept at bumping for extra space and finishing with a baby hook.
These skills won't yield tons of points in the NBA, but moving without the ball is a valuable trait.
Ejim is a terrific rebounder for someone who's 6'5.25" in socks and 6'7" in shoes. He uses his strength, timing and instincts to grab boards among the trees in the paint.
It also doesn't hurt that he outworks many of his opponents. His per-40-minute rebounding numbers are magnificent: He averaged 11.2 as a sophomore, 13.5 as a junior and 10.4 as a senior.
His efforts on the glass didn't go unnoticed by opposing coaches, as Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger noted to Chris Dortch of NBA.com: "He’s a really good player. ... Tough matchup. Rebounds the ball like crazy."
This is another area that won't earn him a lot of attention, but it's a desirable glue-guy asset.
Most college forwards improve their shooting over the course of their careers, and Ejim's stroke looks good enough to be respected in the NBA.
From his junior to senior campaigns, he upped his three-point attempts from 69 to 127 while maintaining a 35 percent clip.
His pre-draft performances indicate he may develop into a productive catch-and-shoot contributor. At the NBA Draft Combine, he sank 18 of 25 triples from beyond the NBA arc during shooting drills. Ejim has a quick, fluid release, so there's no reason he can't become a reliable threat from deep.
There's no sugarcoating Ejim's limited offensive repertoire. He won't be able to do much with the ball in his hands in the NBA, as he lacks the ball-handling skills and quickness to shake past opponents.
He's already 23 years old and will turn 24 during his rookie year, so don't expect progress that will dramatically change his playing style.
Ejim's size and strength allowed him to play in the post during college, but he's not big enough to match up with power forwards in the NBA. This puts a cap on his potential versatility.
It's simple: Ejim has enough tools to survive on the wing, but he's not skilled enough to thrive there.
Any hopes of making a splash should be dismissed, as Ejim doesn't have the extra gear to consistently score against NBA swingmen.
However, a small role is certainly possible, as his basketball IQ and his body are both well-prepared to play in a pro system and handle the physicality and duration of the schedule.
Once he gets more accustomed to his teammates and opponents, Ejim could grow from just a peripheral piece to a key role player.
NBA.com's comparison of Ejim to DeMarre Carroll is encouraging, as Carroll makes an impact without great athleticism or ball-handling skills. He moves seamlessly without the ball, makes hustle plays and buries catch-and-shoot triples.
Those are the kinds of contributions Ejim could make, and his sizable frame and spirited approach would enable him to do it.
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