Julian Champagnie and the Power of the Jump Shot | The Prospect Overview
Julian Champagnie is a long-range bomber and solid team defender, but has been haunted by concerns about his athleticism. Can he stick in the NBA? Plus: Portsmouth Invitational coverage and more!
Last year, Julian Champagnie was one of my favorite sleeper prospects heading into the 2021 NBA Draft. After putting together a solid season as a freshman for the St. John’s Red Storm, he had a breakout campaign as a sophomore. He more than doubled his scoring output (9.9 PPG to 19.8 PPG) and took a massive step forward as a three-point shooter (31.2% on 2.4 attempts per game to 38.0% on 6.3 attempts per game). He struggled at the point-of-attack on defense, but he was a solid team defender who posted 1.4 SPG and 1.0 BPG. Part of Champagnie’s appeal was also his rebounding: he fought hard on the glass and pulled down 7.4 boards per game. He was also young for a sophomore, and he wouldn’t turn 20 about a month before the draft. Champagnie looked the part of a draftable prospect on paper: young, wing-sized with a listed height of 6’8”, rapidly improving, and a tremendous outside shooter.
At the NBA Draft Combine, things began to unravel. His measurements were solid, coming in at 6’7.5” in shoes with a 6’10” wingspan. The athletic testing was rough, though. He posted the second-worst time in the lane agility drill, coming in slower than Charles Bassey and Luka Garza—two big men who aren’t exactly known for being fluid movers. His standing vertical leap was only 26”—worse than the big-bodied RaiQuan Gray and center Neemias Queta. His max vertical clocked in behind Duke’s Matthew Hurt, a known subpar athlete. The level of interest in him tanked, and he headed back to college for his junior year.
Through the first fifteen games of the season, Champagnie looked fantastic. He averaged 21.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 1.2 BPG on 44.7/39/73.7 splits. It looked as if he’d improved a bit athletically, and he was also carrying an even bigger offensive load with tremendous efficiency. Unfortunately, his next four games left a lasting dent in his statistics. He faced Seton Hall twice, Villanova, and finally Providence. During that stretch, he never scored more than 10 points and couldn’t throw a grape in the ocean. His shooting splits across those four games were 27.7/11.1/75.0. Defenses stuck to him like glue, and he didn’t have the ability to separate. He broke out of this slump in his next game against Georgetown and played a savvier, more patient game the remainder of the season. While his junior season didn’t go as well as it seemed like it might, he’s still a prospect who will warrant draft consideration.
19.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 3.1 STL%, 3.5 BLK %, 41.4% FG on 11.0 FGA, 33.7 3FG% on 6.2 3PA, 78.1 FT% on 3.7 FTA
Champagnie was forced to take on a greater offensive workload this season. When paired with the brutal cold streak I mentioned earlier, his efficiency took a dip. Still, the man is a bucket (and perhaps even a problem). It’s all about the jump shot with Champagnie. His form is clean, and his release is lightning quick. He’s comfortable off the dribble or the catch, and he can convert from beyond NBA distance. Rarely does he take an “oh man, what are you doing?” shot: everything feels makeable for him. He’s willing to move without the ball, and he’ll fill the empty spaces on the floor to get open. I was also impressed with his improvement as a passer. He noticeably moved the ball quicker this year and showed a deeper array of tricky dishes to find open teammates. This improved passing is massively important considering that he’ll likely have a greatly reduced role at the next level; if the ball gets sticky in his hands, NBA teams won’t be pleased.
There are still some frustrating kinks that Champagnie needs to work through. Given his athletic limitations, he’s a pretty poor separator. This is exacerbated by his handle, which is mediocre. While he can hit tough shots, he’s forced to take them because he can’t get defenders off him on the go. His mid-range shooting numbers were poor; while part of that was his workload, another part of it was the fact that he couldn’t make things easier for himself in that area. He also has a frustrating habit of not taking the ball all the way to the rim, being too content to settle for a one dribble pull-up if a defender closes out too aggressively. Lastly, he’s got a thick frame. Paired with his shooting tools, he should be a phenomenal pick-and-pop player. Sadly, he isn’t as willing to lay into his screens as I would like and he shies away from contact too often.
Champagnie’s best impact on defense comes as a helper. He deserves immense credit for his attentiveness. Often, high-usage players take it easy on the defensive end and are content to fall asleep at times; that isn’t the case here at all. There are few instances of him getting caught off guard or badly missing a rotation. Instead, Champagnie is keyed in and there to help out his teammates when they get beat. He reads telegraphed passes exceptionally well and uses his length to be disruptive. As a shot blocker, he utilizes my favorite technique: getting into the ball low, so you don’t have to beat opponents at the rim. His leaping ability is below par for an NBA prospect, but he can negate part of that through his savvy.
On the ball, it gets trickier. While athletic testing and playing the sport of basketball are two different things, Champagnie’s lack of agility is a problem for both of them. His feet are slow and clunky. Quicker players who make him dance in space can blow by him, and his stiff hips inhibit his ability to recover any time someone turns the corner on him. There is a growing contingent of folks who think on-ball defense is less important than off-ball defense, and there is certainly a lot of truth to that. Still, as we’ve seen in the playoffs, teams will sniff out and scheme against poor individual defenders. The level of offensive output you need to produce in order to justify playing time if you’re fodder for hunting on defense is exceptionally high, and most role players can’t meet that threshold. It’s a big concern for Champagnie that could put a ceiling on his future.
Right now, I have Julian Champagnie at 60th on my board. He’ll likely inch up as a few prospects ahead of him inevitably return to school. An NBA strength and conditioning program could do wonders for him, but it’s hard to be too encouraged after he didn’t make a more significant step forward in that department following his combine performance. Still, I’m a big believer in his jump shot. He’s better than his percentage indicated this year, and a reduced role will do him wonders. With better teammates to handle more on-ball responsibilities, he’ll receive less attention and more favorable looks. Teams will never be uninterested in a player his size who can fill it up from distance and be engaged on defense. Size and a jump shot are two exorbitantly powerful tools in modern basketball, and Champagnie has to hope that they can get his foot in the door. From there, it’s a matter of putting in the work from a physical standpoint and remaining consistent. He’s unlikely to be in predicaments where teams will be patient with him if the shot isn’t falling. His combine performance will be a telling indicator of his draft chances. Even if he slips through the cracks, his silky jump shot with a quick release is good enough to get him opportunities as an undrafted free agent. You can’t write off anyone who can shoot it like Julian Champagnie.
The Draft Sicko Deep Cut Prospect of the Week is…EVERYONE WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE PORTSMOUTH INVITATIONAL!
For the uninitiated, The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is an annual combine-style event for college seniors. Players who receive the invite are divided into teams, and each team plays three games. It’s important to keep in mind that many top seniors chose not to attend, so we are really looking at the fringe of the draft here. These are players who could potentially sneak into the late second round or be undrafted free agent signings; in many instances, though, these are mostly players who will slip through the cracks altogether. I’m going to cover my top prospects from the event.
-Tyrese Martin stood out above the pack. It’s important to remember the context of the players competing in this event and consider the likely role for the standouts at the next level out of the gate: end of the bench/deep rotation guys. You ideally want players in that situation to be able to hang athletically, make good decisions, defend, shoot, and scrap. UConn’s Tyrese Martin does all of those things. His motor was off the charts throughout the tournament, and he cleaned up on the glass as a result despite being more of a wing than a big. Though he hit 43% of his threes last season, his career mark is 34.6%, and he went 67% from the charity stripe over his college career, creating doubt around his jumper. During the PIT, the shot looked real. He showed some off-the-dribble pull-ups that gave me true confidence in his jumper. There were also a few nice displays of passing vision from Martin when defensive attention came his way. He looked the part of an NBA player as a 6’6” wing who could shoot, muck it up, and play with energy. He finished the event averaging 19.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.3 BPG on 55.8/35.3/71.4 splits. Between a strong performance here and the Reese’s College All-Star Game, he’s got a decent chance to at least make an NBA camp this coming season.
-Georgia Tech’s Michael DeVoe won the tournament’s MVP Award. He’s still been a tricky evaluation for me. The 6’5” guard hit 39.3% of his threes over his college career, but the concerns voiced around his ability to separate were again validated in Portsmouth. Still, DeVoe did a nice job of using his dribble to get to his shots and played with no fear. At times, he bites off more than he can chew, but if I’m going to someone deep down my bench and needing quality minutes, I’d rather have a guy who believes in himself too much than not at all.
-The late-blooming Keve Aluma has been a guilty pleasure of mine the last two seasons, and he looked excellent in Portsmouth. Aluma was a fine role player at Wofford for two years before following his coach to Virginia Tech, where he emerged out of nowhere as a high-end starter in the ACC. Aluma’s feel translated well against high-level opponents here. He was patient, did a phenomenal job of positioning himself on both ends, cut well for easy buckets, and looked poised as a passer and handoff orchestrator. Aluma has the mind of a pro, but his measurements were still concerning; he’s probably a small-ball big, but at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan, he doesn’t quite have the length you would like given his lack of athleticism. I can’t see him getting drafted without a few more standout performances at pre-draft events, but I think he has a real shot at getting picked up. I’ll be rooting for him.
-The last time I touched on Yeshiva University’s Ryan Turell, I was pretty hard on his lack of mobility. At the PIT, he didn’t look overwhelmed despite the massive step up in competition from Division-III ball. Turell looked completely at home on offense and even managed to get himself some easy looks thanks to his wonderful ability to decelerate and then jet forward. He hit 38% of his threes over three games and also tallied 2.3 APG, moving the ball well and finding the open man when he forced defensive rotations. Still, his feet gave him problems on defense. I’d love to see him retain eligibility and play at a D1 school that could get him in a better place athletically, but he’s much less of an NBA longshot than I anticipated.
-This last spot came down to Jamal Cain and Jared Rhoden, but I’m going to give Cain the nod because Rhoden has gotten a lot of coverage elsewhere. Rhoden’s big question mark has always been his three-point shooting, and the Seton Hall product certainly hit his threes over the weekend. Cain may have interested me more, though. He played at Marquette for four years, where he looked the part of a solid role player. He spent his graduate year at Oakland and excelled as a lead option. Though he had a down year as a shooter, his career mark of 35.1% tops Rhoden’s 31.2%, and their measurements were similar. Cain is an impactful defender at 6’7” with a 6’10.5” wingspan who has thrived playing in a role during college. His ability to hit tough shots from deep, his low-maintenance approach to offense, and his defense give him a shot to catch on.
-After my Chet Holmgren deep dive, he stays #3 on my board. I realize this is lower than many people have him, but I want to clarify a few things. First off, I’m higher on this year’s top tier than most. On my 2021 board, I had Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley as my top three. If my top three this year had been transported into last year’s draft class, no one outside of the 2021 top three would rank ahead of them. Secondly, I think Holmgren is one of the safest prospects in this class. His ability to move the ball, deter offenses from attacking the rim, finish underneath, and stretch the floor make him a high-end prospect. Ultimately, where I favor Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero is their upside as initiators. Smith is younger and rapidly improving; I think the offensive end is going to be more simple for him than he gets credit for, and I believe in his potential. Banchero has a level of wiggle and separation ability that Holmgren lacks. I’ve never fully bought into his off-the-bounce game in the halfcourt. I get that he’s able to do some interesting things with the ball, I just don’t think that’s the best use of him, and I don’t think it will be the best way for a great NBA team to run their offense.
-Another player who is safer than they are getting credit for is Dyson Daniels. I’m becoming much higher than the consensus on the Australian prospect. Even in games when he struggled, he was still a positive contributor for the G League Ignite because of how many things he can do on the floor. That’s remarkable for a 19-year-old playing in a professional league. His three-point shooting came on late in the season, too: 41.2% over his last 10 games from NBA distance. Give me all the Daniels stock you have.
-I also dug back into the Shaedon Sharpe tape this week after the most recent swirl of rumors surrounding his draft status. Man, oh man, did I forget how much I like his game. His separation, shot-making ability, and moments of pesky defense are tantalizing. The only flaws that stick out are things typical of prospects his age: over-adventurous shot selection (which I’m fine with, explore the studio space, young man!) and occasionally inattentive defense. He’s firmly slotted in the top five for me, with the potential to climb as I do more film study. 6’6” athletes who can score like he does, flash tricky playmaking, and show disruptive defensive upside are too difficult to pass on at that point, even if the sample of work feels incomplete.