Breaking Down Cam Whitmore's Scoring | The Friday Screener
Cam Whitmore's athleticism and season long improvements give him one of the more fascinating scoring upsides in this draft.
After an electric performance at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship in the summer of 2022, Cam Whitmore entered the season with astronomical expectations. The Villanova freshman got off to a shaky start after an injury delayed his debut. However, Whitmore has done nothing but improve throughout the season. At 6’7” and 232 pounds, Whitmore is built like a defensive end and has one of the most intriguing scoring arsenals in the 2023 NBA Draft.
On the season, Whitmore averaged 12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 1.4 steals on 48.4/35.2/71.4 shooting splits. None of these numbers are overwhelmingly impressive, but that’s where the tape becomes crucial. Whitmore isn’t only built like a bull, but he frequently plays like one as well. He isn’t shy about physically imposing himself upon a defense or showing off his freakish explosiveness. Whitmore also isn’t afraid of dazzling with a bit of skill or knocking down outside jumpers. His ability to blend power and finesse is what makes his scoring game so tantalizing.
In the NBA, Whitmore will likely be used mostly as an off-ball player in a similar fashion as he is with Villanova. As long as Whitmore’s teammates play with their heads up, they’ll adore playing with Whitmore. He isn’t inherently viewed as a knockdown shooter, so defenders tend to get caught ball-watching. Whitmore does a great job of recognizing these opportunities, as he scored 1.538 points per possession (PPP) (94th percentile) on cuts this season, per Synergy. Whitmore has the strength and explosiveness to be relatively unaffected by help defenders, and when he gets a free lane to the rim, it’s a wrap.
While Whitmore isn’t a lethal shooter, there are plenty of encouraging signs. This season, he scored 1.113 PPP (85th percentile) spotting up and 1.23 PPP (87th percentile) shooting off the catch. While continuing to improve his jumper is important, the fact that defenses have to respect it is the crucial aspect of his game. Whitmore’s explosive first step is nearly impossible to contain, and if he gets a defender leaning one direction, it’s inevitable that he’ll get to the rim. Whether it’s attacking hard closeouts, shot fakes, or jab steps, Whitmore doesn’t need much to exploit a vulnerable defender.
As the ball swings to Whitmore on the wing, the defender cautiously closes out. Whitmore barely raises the ball in the form of a fake, and the defender bites. Whitmore is essentially past the defender before he lands and finishes with a thunderous dunk that renders even the speculation of a weakside rotation moot.
This time, Whitmore exploits the controlled closeout with a well-timed jab step. Zach Freemantle knows that he isn’t the same level of athlete as Whitmore, so he’s trying to gain any advantage possible. Whitmore’s jab step gets Freemantle leaning just enough that he has no chance to recover once Whitmore attacks the high foot for the big baseline dunk.
Even when Whitmore is guarded by quicker wings, he’s proven that he has the versatility and explosiveness to exploit their closeouts. Here, Whitmore again gets his defender off their feet with a shot fake. This time, though, the defender is quicker and isn’t immediately taken out of the play. As Whitmore drives, the low man defender quickly scrambles on his rotation, and the primary defender does a good job recovering. However, in order to recover, the primary defender had to fully turn his hips to chase. Whitmore times his move well, and even though the defender does a good job contesting, Whitmore creates enough space for the three.
Again, Whitmore uses a shot fake before attacking the defender’s high foot on the closeout. The swiftness of this move forces the defender to take an extremely deep drop step as he flips his hips to recover. Instead of driving baseline, Whitmore propels himself back to the corner. By the time he elevates into his shot, Whitmore is essentially wide-open.
The next major step for Whitmore to take with his scoring game is his on-ball effectiveness. He did score 0.82 PPP (56th percentile) on shots off the jumper and 1.154 PPP (92nd percentile) in isolation situations. These are really encouraging signs, but they are also a symptom of how impossible he is to defend in space for most college defenders. When Whitmore keeps it simple with purposeful moves, he can be a nightmare to defend. However, when he tries to get too cute or overcomplicate his attack, things can go off the rails.
Here, Whitmore strings together a series of dribble moves. It is a good display of his ball-handling that could turn into something more advanced down the road, but he doesn’t ever actually go anywhere here. Despite the numerous crossovers and spin moves, everything Whitmore does is North-South. It’s a one-direction move at the same speed, which is relatively easy for most defenders to contain.
This isn’t to say that Whitmore can’t or won’t develop into a more dynamic on-ball creator. His handle is pretty sharp; he just needs to learn to incorporate more East-West movement and change of pace. With time, that should come. Given his explosiveness, there shouldn’t be much concern for him scoring out of isolation, especially if he keeps it simple. The biggest development, though, will come from his pick-and-roll operation.
This season, Whitmore ranked in the 82nd percentile of pick-and-roll frequency but just the 37th percentile in scoring efficiency (0.691 PPP). Despite his struggles in this realm, there is some fascinating upside for him.
Similar to his off-ball and isolation scoring, Whitmore just needs a sliver of opportunity to dispatch his defender. Here, Whitmore catches his defender trying to cheat and get over the screen early. Whitmore immediately denies the screen and attacks downhill. The defender tries to scramble, but Whitmore’s broad frame and strength make it impossible to fully recover rim side until it’s too late. Whitmore keeps the defender on his hip, secures the ball, and finishes through the defender with ease.
This time, Whitmore finds himself in a similar situation with the defender cheating. Whitmore’s teammate does a great job of quickly flipping the screen, which gives Whitmore even more space after denying the initial screen. As Whitmore drives, the drop defender is taking away the rim more than in the previous example, so Whitmore casually pulls up and knocks down the mid-range jumper.
For the pick-and-roll to be a viable option at the next level, Whitmore must improve his playmaking. I know, I know, this is a scoring breakdown, but it all factors into each other. Whitmore ranked in just the 32nd percentile in PPP out of the pick-and-roll when you factor in passes. He also averaged 0.7 assists and an assist rate of just 6.0. Assists are a two-person stat, but despite some flashes, Whitmore’s playmaking was largely non-existent this year. This is important because if that doesn’t improve, it’ll be much easier for defenses to take away scoring lanes and opportunities if they don’t have to worry about him finding his teammates.
The final area of Whitmore’s scoring that could make him terrifying in the NBA is transition. Whitmore scored 1.12 PPP (65th percentile) in transition this season, which is really good but also feels underwhelming. The main culprit seems to be when he took transition jumpers because he scored 1.25 PPP when he attacked the rim. Given his strength and explosiveness, transition opportunities should essentially be free points for him.
Here, we see Whitmore blend his skill, power, and finesse. As he attacks in transition, Whitmore angles to the outside of the left lane. This move forces the defender to spin around, cross his feet, and turn his back to the lane. Now that the defender is off balance, Whitmore explodes off his left foot to skip through the lane and finish on the right side of the rim.
This time, Whitmore takes a more direct approach. By sprinting up the court, Whitmore doesn’t allow the defenders time to get set and draw a bogus charge. He barrels straight through their feeble steal attempts before halting his momentum with a firm plant of his right foot. His impressive deceleration allows him to maintain his balance and drop in the floater.
Cam Whitmore is one of the best athletes in the 2023 NBA Draft, and it makes his scoring potential incredibly fascinating. Once he gets downhill, Whitmore is incredibly difficult to stop due to his strength and explosiveness. He’s been at his most effective when he keeps his game simple, but he’s shown signs of a foundation that could lead to more complex and dynamic creation opportunities. Improving his playmaking will help immensely, as teams won’t be able to help as much on his drives, but the real determination for his long-term scoring potential is the shot. Throughout the season, Whitmore has gotten more consistent, shown good touch, and reduced the erraticism of his shot’s arc, which all suggest a promising future for his jumper. As long as defenses have to respect his shot, Whitmore will be able to attack the rim consistently. If his scoring game takes the jump that the flashes and trends suggest that it could, Whitmore could be one of the most prized selections in the 2023 NBA Draft.