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A Star Among Us: Cam Whitmore's Star Potential
FEATURING: Villanova Freshman Power Wing, Cam Whitmore
A Star Among Us
How often does the draft community, almost unanimously, decide that a two-way, 6’7” scary-athletic wing/forward with solid shooting indicators is not a Top 3 prospect in any given draft class? If we were to look at the five prior NBA Drafts, we would see that players like Zion Williamson in the 2019 Draft and Anthony Edwards in the 2020 Draft were selected with the #1 pick. There is a difference in the hype and coverage that both of those players received coming into their rookie seasons, but both have had similar amounts of success between them. Zion has been a two-time All-Star, while Ant has been named to one. Their athleticism has been their differentiator among their draft classes, as well as other players in the NBA.
But, for every #1 pick that plays with athletic advantages that allow them to be factors on both sides of the ball, there are other players—within these same draft classes—that have been found outside the Top 3 in their Drafts. Mikal Bridges, who has shown another level of development while playing in Brooklyn, was taken with the 10th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Jaden McDaniels was taken with the 28th pick in the 2020 Draft. Jalen Williams was selected with the 12th pick in 2022. There were plenty of reasons as to why these players were taken later in their respective classes. For Bridges and Williams, they were “older” for their draft. Mikal was a three-year player for Villanova, while Jalen was also a third-year player for Santa Clara. For McDaniels, he was a top player in his freshman class, but he had a less-than-stellar year for Washington.
Athleticism serves as an equalizer of sorts among the NBA. Of course, you can point to other players, like Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic, but they offset whatever deficit may exist in that area with elite processing, court vision, and strength. Elite athletes that can parlay physical feats into finishing and who have some level of defensive consistency, while being able to space the floor will find ways to be incredibly valuable in the league—even if they aren’t a “top pick” in the class.
That’s where today’s featured prospect comes into play. We’ll look at some of what makes him incredibly valuable to the NBA. But, first, let’s put this out here now: The consensus is actually somewhat kind to Cam Whitmore. The latest $DRFT Stock Market Update reflects Whitmore to be the seventh player among this Draft Class. No Ceilings and The Athletic have Cam the highest at #5, while Bleacher Report came in with him at 10 (The Ringer and Swish Theory had him #9). There is a real…danger…for lack of a better word, with having Whitmore in a “safe” range. In other words, having Cam at a spot where you’re giving the consensus a nod, but placing him down too far…that is what costs people jobs. We don’t get partial credit for saying “Yeah, Cam ended up being the third-best prospect in his class, but I had him seventh so I obviously liked him. I just had some doubts.” Especially when you consider how scary some of the paths that some of the prospects that rank ahead of him currently look.
Let’s get down to business.
Cam Whitmore came into this season ranked as the 12th prospect in the 2022 RSCI. The names that surrounded him were names you would expect to see: Dereck Lively, Keyonte George, Cason Wallace, Jarace Walker, Brandon Miller, Anthony Black, Gradey Dick—the list goes on and on. On our $DRFT Initial Player Offering at No Ceilings, Cam ranked #5. Our crew at No Ceilings had him at #3, with SI having him the lowest at #9. His performance at the McDonald’s All-American game gave draft analysts plenty to believe in and, with him committing to a proven, blueblood program in Villanova, it was not hard to envision how Whitmore could challenge anyone for the best college basketball prospect.
In a season that had strange beginnings for many prospects in this year’s class, Cam wouldn’t play for the Wildcats until December 3rd after missing the team’s first seven games. Coming off of a thumb injury, he was able to put up a good performance—scoring seven points, while grabbing three rebounds and three steals, in 20 minutes. During the month of December, Whitmore averaged 11.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 1.1 SPG in 23.0 MPG, while posting 46/29/82 shooting splits. Those aren’t the type of numbers that you would want to see from a player of his magnitude, but he also was behind the curve. His practicing was limited, and he had a later start to the season than others. What’s interesting is that, without Cam, Villanova went 2-5—only posting wins against La Salle and Delaware State. Villanova went 5-2 in December after Whitmore’s return.
When January came around, Cam played and started in all seven games. He averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 2.0 SPG in 31 MPG. His splits during those games were 47/43/55. While his free throws took an odd dip (on low volume; under two attempted a game), Cam really started to show off his outside shooting and defensive prowess. The last ten games of the regular season saw Whitmore post 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.4 SPG in 28 MPG, with shooting splits of 49/30/71. In conference play, he put up 11.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 26 MPG, along with 55.6 FG% and 37.5 3P%.
Following the completion of his season, Cam had done enough to be ranked within the Top 10 among the consensus, but he did fall a little bit from grace. The rise of Brandon Miller has had an impact on everyone not named Scoot Henderson. While the Thompson Twins remain to be divisive prospects in the draft community, they still are ranked above Whitmore for a lot of outlets. Jarace Walker’s steady play and seemingly day-one level of impact have helped him to be ranked above Cam. Even players like Anthony Black and Taylor Hendricks have begun to challenge Whitmore’s spot.
As has been the drill with all prospects that have been covered by me throughout this draft cycle, we’ll begin this segment by establishing Cam’s baseline:
Minutes Percentage- 51.9
Offensive Rating- 103.6
Usage Percentage- 24.3
Effective Field Goal Percentage- 55.1
True Shooting Percentage- 57.1
Offensive Rebounding Percentage- 3.7
Defensive Rebounding Percentage- 20.3
Assist Percentage- 6.4
Turnover Percentage- 15.1
Assist : Turnover- 0.5
Block Percentage- 1.6
Steals Percentage- 3.2
Free Throw Rate- 25.1
Dunks- 28 of 31 (90.3%)
Two Point Percentage- 85 of 147 (57.8%)
Three Point Percentage- 37 of 108 (34.3%)
There are some fields where Whitmore shows clear strengths and weaknesses…we’ll dive more into those later, but let’s take a look at how Cam stacks up among others in his class that are at least, 78 inches tall:
Minutes Percentage- At least 50
BPM- At least 5
Block Percentage- At least 1
Steals Percentage- At least 3
Three Point Percentage- At least 30
Only a group of six players populate the query. Malevy Leons and Anton Watson are experienced upperclassmen—seniors with prominent roles for their teams. Kadary Richmond is one of the better perimeter defenders in college hoops—and has been for a couple of seasons. Kobe Johnson is a name to monitor for next season as a likely drafted prospect. Then you’re left with two players that are projected to be selected in this year’s lottery: Anthony Black from Arkansas, and our guy, Cam Whitmore. How does this search check within the entire database?
Minutes Percentage- At least 50
BPM- At least 5
Block Percentage- At least 1
Steals Percentage- At least 3
Three Point Percentage- At least 30
There is a field of 108 players that pops up. We’re not going to dive into all of them, but we’ll touch on the notables. Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons, Evan Turner, Otto Porter, Josh Jackson, Greg Monroe, Paul George, Mikal Bridges, Terrence Williams, Xavier Henry, Taurean Prince, Chris Duarte, Kelly Oubre, Chuma Okeke, Tari Eason, Chris Singleton, Jake Laravia, Deandre Bembry, Damion James, Andre Roberson, DeMarre Carrol, Lazar Haywood, Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder, Draymond Green, Tyler Honeycutt, Herbert Jones, Melvin Frazier, Tyler Bey, Patrick McCaw, Kyle Weaver, Darrun Hilliard, Josh Richardson, Michael Gbinije, and James Ennis were all drafted players that meet those criteria. To note some of the undrafted, JaMychal Green and Robert Covington also qualify for that query.
That field is a bit all over the place, with maybe only a handful of them having either been considered a star at one point, are considered one now, or could be if things continue to break right for them. But, for those that have been drafted, the staying power they displayed is also pretty encouraging for those prospects that have reached a “median outcome.”
Coming into the season, there were a lot of expectations for Whitmore to be one of the more prominent freshman scorers in the NCAA. While he didn’t put up the scoring numbers that Brandon Miller or GG Jackson, his offensive production is quite high. On overall offensive possessions, Cam ranked in the 79th percentile (Very Good) on 328 total possessions. Broken down between playing in transition and operating in the halfcourt, Whitmore ranked in the 65th percentile (Very Good) and in the 77th percentile (Very Good) respectively.
There were certainly knocks against Cam’s game throughout the season. Chief among them were his low assist numbers. While his 0.7 APG and 6.4 Assist Percentages are not very pretty, there needs to be some context brought into the discourse. On BartTorvik, Villanova’s team assist numbers are not very flattering. BT recognizes 87 college basketball programs as “high majors,” with the Wildcats obviously being included. Among those universities, Villanova ranked 77th in Assist Percentage—behind even the polarizing South Carolina basketball program (73rd). If you were to include all 363 NCAA Division I schools, Villanova came in 281st in that same category.
Cam Whitmore can pass. Had to say it. Take a look at this clip against Seton Hall. The transition begins with defensive effort from our guy. Whitmore tips the ball to Justin Moore (#5), and then jets out to the right side of the court. The numbers do not initially favor Villanova but the defense converges on Cam as he gets the ball with a head of steam, driving to the hoop. Seton Hall doubles the drive from Whitmore. Take a look at what Cam does on the drive. He keeps his eyes on the rim while getting into a euro. Knowing that Brendan Hausen is open on the left wing, Whitmore is able to deliver a very good pass on the move—leading to three easy points. Yes, his teammate was open, but the sell on the shot was fantastic. It draws the attention of the help defense. Whitmore possessing the wherewithal to kick the ball out to an open teammate in the middle of a complicated move against defensive pressure is very nice.
In this clip, we get to see Cam use his effectiveness as a scorer paired with the way he can look teammates open. This play starts with Caleb Daniels (#14) passing the ball to Chris Arcidiacono (#4), who then finds Whitmore on the left wing. Brandon Slater (#34) sets a screen to Cam’s right, and then flips to his left pretty quickly. This gives our guy an open lane to attack toward the paint. Whitmore gets a bit of the Giannis treatment, as three DePaul defenders line up along the free-throw line. As Whitmore picks up his dribble, he looks to the left corner but Slater is wide open on the left block. With the defense stepping to where the eyes go, Cam threads in a slick kick to Slater for an easy lay-in.
Cam’s pressure he puts on the rim created the opening for his teammate. He created options for himself. Arcidiacono could have easily been the beneficiary of a corner kick on this possession if the defense recovered to the rim.
Cam is able to get the ball from Arcidiacono fairly early at the beginning of this clip. Olivier-Maxence Prosper (#12), believed to be one of the better defensive wings in this class, draws the Whitmore assignment. It doesn’t go that great here. Cam puts OMP on skates a little bit, which brings David Joplin (#23) over from his denial stance. That also forces Chance Ross (#5) to switch from a help position to relieve Joplin a little. The problem with Ross helping on Joplin’s man, is that it leaves Arcidiacono alone in the three.
Now, if the scouting report is that Cam Whitmore can’t pass, then Ross made the correct decision. The simple pass would have been to Daniels at the top of the key, to which Ross makes more difficult if Cam tries to make it. Oso Ighodaro (#13) would have been given more time to recover to the next man over. The connect-the-dots pass along the perimeter would have been fine, but it would have been easier to defend.
Cam does a great job of doing two things as OMP gets back into his defensive stance. He kept his dribble alive and he kept his head up. He sees the defense shuffle to attempt to get ahead of the connect-the-dots pass. Whitmore whips the pass to the opposite corner directly into Arcidiacono’s shooting pocket. It really is a thing of beauty.
The assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t fantastic, but he also isn’t a turnover machine. Of all players that have a Minutes Percentage of at least 50 and a Usage Percentage of at least 24, Cam Whitmore ranks in the bottom 125 of 426 players in terms of the lowest Turnover Percentage (in the good way). It’s easy to look at the raw numbers and come to a quick conclusion that Cam Whitmore can’t pass. Looking at the “why,” it could be just as easy to say the low assist numbers are a product of Villanova’s playing style and scheme.
What makes Cam such an appealing prospect is how he can score out of his own doing. Villanova didn’t allow Cam to operate in iso much, as he is credited with just 29 possessions. This accounted for about 9% of all of Whitmore’s possessions—which still ranked in the 74th Percentile for all college prospects’ play types. In this set, Cam scored 1.103 points per possession—ranking in the 90th percentile (Excellent). The variety of ways he can finish when creating for himself is very encouraging.
On this play against St. John’s, the ball is dished to the top of the key, to the left wing, into the hands of our guy. Whitmore is defended by another good freshman prospect, AJ Storr (#2). Storr looks to get Cam to go to his left, but Whitmore is able to take a wide cross to his left and then back to his right. This gets Storr’s feet parallel and further away from Cam. Out of respect for the drive, AJ seems like he is trying his best to defend the drive and the shot, but Whitmore is too good. After crossing from his right to left, he is able to get into his shooting motion with ease, which results in string music. Whitmore’s driving ability opens up his shot. But he can use his shot to create driving lanes, too.
It doesn’t take long in this clip to show what I mean. Justin Moore is able to get the ball across the court and find Whitmore on the left side of the floor. He is quickly defended by the 6’8”, 245-pound senior, Ed Croswell (#5). Croswell defends Whitmore tightly, out of respect for the jumper. Cam is able to create separation with a quick pump fake. Croswell bites on the cagey move and leaves his feet. Our guy is able to make him pay by driving left and leaving his feet for a monstrous one-handed throwdown.
We’ve already taken a look at how Whitmore can make defenses pay with his jumper, but it’s worth going into the shot with a little more detail. When you consider the athleticism, Whitmore’s jumper has to be consistent—especially if he is going to be one of the top players in the NBA.
On spot-ups, Cam ranks in the 86th percentile (Excellent), scoring 1.110 points per possession.
In a matchup against Georgetown, Cam showed off an example of how he can play off of the ball handler. Justin Moore looks to drive to the rim a few times on this play. He and Armstrong cut off each other, which puts Moore in the right corner. He’s unable to get the look he wants, so he gets into bully-ball mode and attacks the paint. Take notice of how Whitmore is able to bait the defense into thinking he’s going to cut all the way to the hoop. After a few steps, Cam backpedals to the three-point line. This deceptive move gives our guy all the time in the world to get his shot off. Splash.
If you’re curious, Whitmore can get that shot off quicker. On this transition bucket, Armstrong gets the ball after a miss by Seton Hall, and begins to push the break. ‘Nova gets the ball out quickly to establish numbers. Al-Amir Dawes (#2) has to step up to Armstrong, which gives Cam the shot on the left wing. Whitmore gets the shot off quickly and cashes in the three. His shooting form is beautiful. After showing off the shot off of the catch and the bounce, it’s clear that Cam Whitmore can be a threat from beyond the arc.
Cam Whitmore has the physical tools to be a very good NBA defender. His blend of athleticism and feel is just as impactful on the defensive side of the ball as it is on offense. We’ve touched on the high steal percentage that Cam has put up this season. Sometimes, these numbers can be due to being a gambler in the passing lanes, but Whitmore has shown that he can get pilfers by playing solid man defense.
In this matchup against Providence, the ball will find its way into the hands of Bryce Hopkins (#23), their star forward. Bryce has the ball on the right wing and looks to take Cam off the bounce. Hopkins will get into a combination of dribbles and a couple of crossovers, but Whitmore uses his educated hands to poke the ball loose. Cam has demonstrated his ability to play smart defense throughout his young college career, but he can also be a defensive player.
One of the things that can be a good litmus test for a young player is: How does a mistake on offense impact their defense. For a lot of prospects, their offense is the driver for their defense. That is not the case for Cam. In this clip against DePaul, Whitmore gets himself into a move not too dissimilar from one that was shown previously. The difference here is that he missed—just a tad offline.
What happens next is what will make any coach pleased to welcome Cam to their team. His man, Da’Sean Nelson (#21), runs the court on the right side and curls to the left block to establish position. Nelson’s teammate, Caleb Murphy (#23), looks to get Nelson the ball but Cam expertly times the jump and is able to atone for the mistake he made on the play before.
For this draft, there are thought to be three prospects that have probable star potential: Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, and Brandon Miller. Beyond those three, you’ll find significant variance in who could be the player along the outskirts that stands a chance to become one of the top players in the NBA. Cam Whitmore lives in that area code.
Whitmore’s knack as both a shooter and scorer checks a lot of boxes that allow a player of his size and athleticism to rise to the occasion. What sets those players over the top is defensive playmaking. He can do that as well. The ability to make those around him better has been flashed throughout his freshman year. The run Villanova went on after his debut is a tangible factor in that regard. Though the passing numbers aren’t flattering, the team and scheme warts give enough of a reason that Whitmore could actually be further along than we think—and he can obviously improve upon them.
Considering the total package that Whitmore figures to be, it’s hard to imagine him not being a Top 10 prospect. In terms of ceiling, Cam may have the highest of anyone not named Wemby or Scoot. The floor can appear to be scary, but his catch-and-shoot numbers—along with the defense—suggest, to me, that he is actually more safe than he may be getting credit for being. That being said, Cam should be a Top 5 prospect, as most two-way impact players with star upside typically are in the draft.
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