|Junior||6’9″ 245||Power Forward||Mich. St.||DOB: 9/2/97|
|12.9 ppg||6.1 rpg||1.2 bpg||FG: 58%||FT: 65.3%|
Strengths: Inside Scoring, Length, High Motor, Strength
Weaknesses: Outside Shooting, Athleticism, Speed/Quickness, Size
Ward has had a productive three seasons at Michigan State, becoming the catalyst for their inside scoring and being a consistent presence in the paint. As a freshman he averaged 13.9 points, 12.4 as a sophomore and then 12.9 in his junior year. Ward does most of his work around the basket with an inside scoring ability that utilizes some crafty moves and footwork to get his shot off. He can shoot the mid range jump shot well for a big, and while there are larger questions about his offensive game, short jump shots are a strong area of his game. The former Spartan has shown an ability to protect the rim and block shots, however he is limited in his defensive potential with the physical tools he brings to the table. He has a high motor that allows him to make plenty of hustle plays and outwork other players to the ball. This high level of intensity will become even more important going forward when he will be at an even more of a disadvantage than he was in college. His strength is solid being able to use his bulk to bully defenders inside, but he also has good footwork that allow him to score around the basket in multiple ways. He has good length with a 7’2″ wingspan, which will help him play bigger than his listed height, but with his lack of explosiveness it can only help so much. With that said, he was able to use his length to finish over taller players at the college level at a solid rate giving hope that he might be better than expected going forward in this area. Despite the fact that he does not possess a high vertical leap, there is plenty of film that shows he can use his length to finish at the rim with powerful dunks. One point that teams will be considering with his projection is not only the fact that he put up solid numbers, but also that he was able to do so playing 19.8 minutes per game as a freshman, 18.9 as a sophomore, and 20.8 in his junior season. While his endurance will be a question mark for teams, his numbers are strong with a limited amount of minutes and usage.
Outside shooting was not a part of his game on the college level, with Ward going 2 for 2 on three point attempts as a junior. With the way that big men are used in the NBA today he will need to improve as an outside shooter to be able to make a significant impact on the offensive end of the floor. Ward is a below average athlete by NBA standards and he will most likely struggle to deal with the speed and quickness of the professional game. There are plenty of players that have been able to figure out how to handle the increased pace who lack great athleticism, but it is no doubt a deterrent for teams thinking of drafting Ward due to the difficulty in projecting how a player will find a role. He is not a great jumper and lacks the explosiveness of his peers, which again will make it much harder for Ward to finish around the basket going forward. What position he will be playing is a bit of a mystery with Ward basically being a 6’9″ center skill set wise, however he should be able to play as a power forward or slide over to the center position in a small ball lineup. Whatever positional role he finds, Ward will be a liability on the defensive side of the floor when he has to switch on to a guard in a pick and role situation, and this will be a major concern for teams going forward. His size at just 6’9″ is not ideal for his skill set and he could have trouble dealing with the size of big men in not only the NBA, but also in the G League or overseas. Shooting free throws at 65.3% is an issue for his projections as he attempts to expand his offensive game, but it is solid enough to suggest that he can improve as a shooter to a degree.
Here is an example of his crafty inside scoring ability:
This play shows how he can finish at the rim despite not being the best athlete on the floor:
Ward is projected to go undrafted and unless a team feels he is worth a second round choice to fill a role, it is likely that he will be passed up and be picked up as an undrafted free agent before the summer league begins. His ceiling as a professional is a role player coming off of the bench providing interior scoring and defense at a level, primarily playing the power forward position or some time as a small ball center. The worst case scenario for Ward is that he is unable to deal with the size and athleticism of the NBA big men, leading him to spend his professional career in the G League or overseas.