A McDonalds All-American out of high school, Nick Calathes
has been Floridas most important player already as a freshman, flirting with a triple double on a number of occasions this season and really showing a lot of potential playing all three perimeter positions for the Gators.
Offensively, Calathes is most effective as a spot-up shooter and in pick-and-roll situations. His 3-point shooting has been streaky at times, but it shows great promise. Calathes has consistent shooting form with only minor flaws in his fundamentals. He leans to the left on most of his shots and releases out in front of his face, which lowers his release point. But he squares his body, has almost no wasted motion in his delivery, and every shot looks the same. Calathes does have a little trouble with his accuracy when defenders are closing out. Hes nearly automatic when given time to set, but when rushed his percentage drops substantially. Hes probably not used to the speed of the college game just yet and will have to continue to work on getting shots off faster, while improving his percentages. Not a bad scorer at all, his 15 points per game ranks 15th amongst freshmen, but his 36 percent 3-point shooting(17th) and 43 percent overall(35th) will have to improve.
Calathes isnt a tremendous athlete and because of it he has trouble finishing inside. His ball-handling is very solid, but his first step is average on the NCAA level, so high pick-and-roll situations are his best bet to initiate the offense. Once hes in the lane, Calathes makes smart decisions with the ball. Calathes ranks 1st amongst freshmen in assists and 1st in assist-to-turnover ratio. Overall, he is 9th in assists and 20th in assist-to-turnover ratio in the entire NCAA. His court awareness is high, which enables him to find his teammates with quick touch passes, kick-outs, and dump offs in the lane.
Off-ball, Calathes remains an active player. He moves continuously and with purpose when hes not directing traffic, and provides excellent spacing by always seeming to find the right spot on the floor to get the open spot-up shot. Hes a player that keeps the ball moving and keeps his teammates aware and active because he doesnt take much time to make a decision he gets into his shot or drive quickly and will get rid of the ball hastily if he doesnt see an opportunity to get a quality shot. Calathes is the leading scorer for his team as a freshmen, which puts him into pretty elite company for this freshmen class. His usage rate is top 10 amongst freshmen and his PER rating ranks ahead of O.J. Mayo
, Jerryd Bayless
, and Derrick Rose
Calathes biggest problem is his slight build and lack of explosiveness. His mid-range shooting stroke is somewhat slow and the lowered angle makes it easier to defend and disrupt. He also lacks great core-strength, which hurts his ability to stop and rise quickly on pull-ups or drives to the basket. Body contact completely eliminates his ability to finish forward as he is easily bodied off his shot and forced off balance. He will need to get stronger and shoulder defenders off of him to free himself up for quality shots off the dribble. His size should allow him to be effective in these areas, but only if he can rid himself of defenders with a strong shoulder or a powerfully built base to rise up and re-align for a smooth shot.
Defensively, Calathes shows good awareness in the team defensive sets and doesnt lack effort. But his lack of foot-speed and tendency to give his opponent space hurts his ability to defend on drives. Calathes most often goes underneath picks on the perimeter, which could be his way of compensating for his lack of upper body strength. Its easier for him to avoid a pick than it is for him to battle through it. Thus far, he hasnt been burned by any top-notch perimeter shooters, but the room is there for them to fire away.
Calathes has pretty good hands and doesnt give up when an opponent gets going toward the basket. He gets his share of steals, but is easily ridden off of a play in the lane because he lacks the strength to force his man back out or into a difficult off-balance shot. The result is typically a drive in toward the basket or a foul. Again, better competition will ultimately expose this more tangibly than the weak non-conference schedule has thus far. It should be noted that neither Jamar Butler
of OSU or Toney Douglas
of FSU had particularly strong offensive showings against Florida. Calathes had some hand in that, but wasnt matched up against either player for over half of their possessions.
The biggest area of development for Calathes defensively will be getting stronger and savvier as a defender. He is noted for his work ethic and has a good head for the game, so learning his opponents offensive tendencies, mastering his role in the team defense, and gaining the strength necessary to physically do his part will be his best weapons. Hell most likely never be a great defender, but with his size he could become adequate with a better physique and more experience using it.
Overall, Calathes has a lot going for him as a prospect, but is going to have to stick around for a couple more years to mature physically, as he lacks the athletic upside of some of the more heralded members of this freshman class. As a combo-guard, Calathes has tremendous court-vision and passing ability to complement his outside shooting potential. His size will allow him to play both backcourt positions and a commitment to his strength and conditioning over the next two years should get him the muscle he needs. 185lbs isnt going to be enough to play the physical style of offense and defense hell need to survive at the next level, but his frame can carry more weight, which should enhance his best attributes.
As it stands now he doesnt have the ability to finish in the lane or to defend it. Hes going to have to transition his game from pure finesse to one that incorporates power, which is tough to project until hes got the physical attributes to work with. But a solid overall skill-set, a good basketball IQ, and a terrific work ethic is a good starting point for the freshmen guard. It will be fun to watch his development over the next few seasons.