C.J. Fair NBA Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report and More

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

Syracuse forward C.J. Fair (5) reacts late in the second half of a third-round game against Dayton in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 22, 2014. Dayton won the game 55-53. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert/Associated Press

School: Syracuse
Height/Weight: 6'8", 218 lbs
Age: 22 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small forward and power forward   
Pro Comparison: Dorell Wright
Twitter Handle: @cjfair

Serving as a top option for Syracuse didn't treat C.J. Fair too kindly.

The forward decided to spurn the 2013 NBA draft and return to the Orange for his senior season, passing up a potential first-round selection for one last chance to lead his team to glory. But that didn't do wonders for his draft stock, as he struggled in that lead role due to a declining shooting percentage and an inability to conserve quite as much energy for the defensive end.

Now he's a fringe second-round pick.

Nonetheless, Fair is an experienced player with a defined set of skills, which indicates that he should get a chance to earn some playing time, even if he's doing so as an undrafted free agent. Draft stocks aren't always perfect predictors of success in the Association, after all.

Statistics at Syracuse


Positives and negatives abound.

On one hand, Fair is a tweener. He's slightly too big to play small forward on a consistent basis, and he's not large enough for the 4—in terms of height and length, sure, but not with only 218 pounds to his name, leaving him as more of a string bean than a filled-out big man.

In terms of athleticism, though, Fair stands out positively.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - MARCH 09:  C.J. Fair #5 of the Syracuse Orangemen shoots against the Florida State Seminoles during a game at the Donald L. Tucker Center on March 9, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  Syracuse won the game 74-58.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Get
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Not only does he have advantageous levels of quickness, both in a straight line and when moving laterally, but he has impressive hops. His vertical skills allow him to make an impact above the rim on both ends of the court and only aid the benefit he gains from his lanky arms.

That said, the athleticism is far from elite.

He didn't particularly shine at the NBA Draft Combine, and his intelligence as a slasher helps disguise the fact that he can't elevate quite as well as some of the other premier leapers in this draft class.


Off-Ball Offense

Teams basically aren't allowed to take their eyes off Fair when he's on the court.

If he's working off the ball, Fair is equally adept at slashing to the hoop for a finish at the rim and spotting up on the perimeter for a catch-and-shoot opportunity, as Derek Bodner explained for DraftExpress.com after his junior season:

Fair struggled in catch and shoot situations during his first two seasons at Syracuse, shooting just 18.2% and 31.4% during his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. That jumped all the way up to 48.6% during his junior year, ranking in the 90th percentile in terms of points per possession according to Synergy Sports Technology, and he was virtually automatic when left unguarded, connecting on an astounding 58.1% of those attempts.

Fair's shooting form makes him a perfect spot-up threat, as he catches the ball and can immediately go into a consistent motion. There's little wasted movement, which aids his quick release and makes it harder for defenses to get good contests before the ball is already en route to the basket.

But again, the slashing matters too.

Fair was an explosive dunker at Syracuse, primarily because he had the athleticism to get up and the intelligence to find open lanes when the defense wasn't paying attention.

Perimeter Shooting

This is confusing.

Take a gander at the giant disparity between Fair's junior and senior campaigns from beyond the arc:

Shooting Roller Coaster
3PA Per Game3P%

Fair struggled under the heavy load during his final season receiving tutelage from Jim Boeheim, but it's still abundantly clear that the perimeter tools are there. Not only is he a potent mid-range shooter, but he can also connect from beyond the arc when he isn't forcing up bad looks and losing confidence.

As mentioned earlier, Fair has good form on his jumper, particularly in catch-and-shoot situations. It's when he tries to work off the bounce that he gets himself in trouble, which won't be happening too often at the next level.

It's not everyday that a prospect coming off a sub-30 percent output from downtown gets called a plus-shooter from the perimeter, but Fair is an exception.

Defensive Length

Syracuse defenders have to overcome the hurdle of transitioning from a 2-3 zone to the man-to-man style of the NBA, but Fair has the length and instincts necessary to make the shift a successful one.

Those long arms—which measured at 6'9.5" during the draft combine, per NBA.com's databases—help him out quite a bit.

Mar 22, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Dayton Flyers forward Dyshawn Pierre (21) has his shot blocked by Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (5) in the second half of a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at First Niaga

However, it's not just about the physical tools at Fair's disposal. Though he's a tweener, the negative connotations of that word apply more to the offensive side than the defensive one. He has the quickness necessary to match up with 3s at the sport's highest level, and his length should be advantageous when he's guarding other power forwards.

Either way, he's going to be an active defender in the NBA, just as he was at Syracuse. Sure, his gaudy steals totals—1.3 per game as a senior—were partially the product of playing in Boeheim's zone, but he also showed the ability to stray into passing lanes and still recover to his man or a help responsibility.


Looking past the question of what position he'll play once he reaches the ranks of the Association, there are still a number of concerns associated with Fair.

Offensively, he doesn't project as a No. 1 option—or a No. 2 player, for that matter.

His shooting stroke is ideal for catch-and-shoot opportunities, but he's shown virtually no ability to create for himself. If he's asked to dribble, his percentages dip rather dramatically, and that limits the amount of chances he'll receive on an NBA squad. Even one dribble is harmful to his game, but one dribble is often necessary to get a good look.

If he's going to play shooting guard, he'll also have to shore up his handles. His dribbling is too high right now, leaving him prone to turnovers against quick-handed defenders and unable to create any separation.

On the other end, there's still concern about the transition from zone to NBA-style defense. Sure, he has the length and instincts necessary to thrive, but numerous Syracuse prospects have failed in similar situations.

Finally, Fair will turn 23 years old prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, which limits the amount of perceived upside.


Immediate Projection

Say hello to the NBA D-League.

Fair might have shooting potential and enough athleticism to be a slashing and transition threat, but he's coming off a season in which he knocked down only 27.6 percent of his looks from beyond the college three-point arc. There's no guarantee that he improves during his rookie season once the distance is moved back even further.

Between the defensive transition and the unsure nature of his offensive game, Fair is not ready to earn minutes at the NBA level.

Long-Term Projection

As mentioned numerous times throughout this scouting report, Fair has the ability to make the best of those transitions.

The shooting form is there, as evidenced by the massive strides he showed during his junior go-round with the Orange, and his length, athleticism and instincts could still make him a quality defender. As soon as he establishes a defined position and proves that his college days are behind him, he could settle in as an athletic three-and-D player off the bench.

He'll never be anything more than a minor offensive option, but not everyone can be one of his team's leading scorers.


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