Jamaal Franklin, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Junior, San Diego State
After a breakout sophomore season in which he earned Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors, San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin had a solid junior season in 2012-2013, and has decided to make himself eligible for this June's NBA Draft.
While playing primarily as a jack-of-all-trades combo forward for the Aztecs, Franklin projects to be a shooting guard at the NBA level, with good size for the position at 6'5, to go along with a solid build and what appears to be a long wingspan. He also stacks up very well athletically, and should have an easier time than most NBA rookies adjusting to the NBA game from a physical standpoint.
Playing as San Diego State's primary playmaker and shot-creator, Franklin carried a large load for the Aztecs as a junior, and he displayed tremendous versatility, leading the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, and steals per game.
His best asset, however, may be his outstanding motor, as he appears to be a great competitor, playing with major intensity and toughness on both ends of the floor.
This is on display on the offensive end, as he always seems to be in attack-mode, using his quick first step and aggressiveness to make his way towards the basket in transition and in the half-court, where he's able to finish effectively at the rim and get to the free throw line at a high rate.
Despite his strong scoring instincts and ability to create off the bounce, Franklin struggles to score efficiently (48 2P%, 28% 3P% as a junior), as he too often settles for long range jumpers and difficult shot attempts. He also turns the ball over a high rate (4 times per-40), as his aggressive mentally causes him to over-penetrate and get a bit out of control at times.
Some of this may be attributed to a large burden he carried for the Aztecs offensively, but he'll need to play more within himself and show better decision-making in order to find a role at the NBA level, where he'd likely be more of an opportunistic scorer.
Franklin would also be very well served by working diligently on becoming a better perimeter shooter with his feet set, as he'll likely spend less time with the ball in his hands at the NBA level than he did at SDSU. After we noted his shooting struggles from his sophomore season, Franklin shot the ball even worse as a junior, connecting on an abysmal 24% of his catch-and-shoot jumpers and only making 28% of his three pointers. He's a better and more frequent shooter off the dribble, converting 32% of his pull-up jumpers, but still has a long ways to go before he's considered an efficient all-around scorer.
Franklin utilizes shot fakes well, shows good craftiness and ball-handling attacking off the dribble, and has the ability to create for himself and knock down difficult shots, but his lack of a consistent jump shot limits his efficiency on the offensive end.
While Franklin's scoring numbers took a slight dip as a junior, he did show quite a bit of improvement in his ability to create for others, as his assists jumped from 1.9 to 4.1 per-40 minutes, which ranks him towards the top of the wing prospects in this draft class. His vision and awareness looked much better on dribble penetration, and he did a nice job of kicking to the open man.
Perhaps what stands out most about Franklin are his incredible rebounding numbers, as he pulled down 11.3 rebounds per-40 as a junior, which was easily the best mark of any shooting guard prospect in our Top-100 rankings. Some of this was out of necessity, as the Aztecs needed his rebounding from the power forward position due to a lack of size in their frontcourt, but his tenacity crashing the boards and pursuing the ball out of his area is very impressive nonetheless for a wing player.
Defensively, Franklin showed great versatility with the ability to cover four positions if necessary, thanks to his tremendous toughness and athleticism. He has great potential on this end of the floor as an NBA player if he really makes a commitment and focuses on every possession. His anticipation skills and quick hands make him a pest in the passing lanes and on the ball, and his motor and physical tools stack up very well at his position.
He has a tendency to be get beat off the dribble on occasion as he can get over-aggressive at times or lose focus, but he clearly improved on this end of the floor from his sophomore season, and should have a chance to get even better with less responsibility and energy expended on the offensive end.
Overall, Franklin's lack of improvement as a perimeter shooter may hurt his draft stock a bit, but his improvement as a passer and defender were both encouraging. If he can convince NBA teams that he can become a better outside shooter and is willing to buy into being a true team player, he'll have a good chance to hear his name called in the first round of the NBA draft in June, as he brings an intriguing package of physical tools, motor, and overall skill level to the table, that could help him find a role on the wing.