For all his athletic limitations, Jordan Nwora has caught the attention and support of the Milwaukee faithful for the better part of this season. Entering the season, fans expected Nwora to shore up the Bucks’ already extensive litany of shooters on the wing to space the floor for the Greek Freak. As a result, fans seemed to be high on Nwora’s offensive skill and upside from the very beginning.
Right out the gate, the 45th pick in this year’s draft showed that he can stroke the basketball efficiently and with range. In just 9.1 minutes per game and 30 appearances, Nwora put up averages of 5.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and a fifth of an assist per game on .459/.452/.760 shooting splits.
With the Bucks’ depth at the wing position, though, the minutes situation never really panned out in Nwora’s favor as the year progressed. Bryn Forbes had already locked down the role of the team’s premier sharpshooter after all, while Pat Connaughton and Thanasis Antetokounmpo showed marked improvement as the year progressed.
However, the season Jordan Nwora put in was full of highlights that point to great things to come for the young forward if given the chance. Here’s a quick look at the highlights and lowlights of the minutes he put in for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jordan Nwora’s scoring potential
Entering the draft, Nwora immediately drew comparisons to Miami Heat sniper Duncan Robinson who played an integral part in putting the Bucks away in five games just a year ago. The comparison is there: his listed height of 6-foot-8 gives him the size he needs to shoot over most defenders in his position. Just like Robinson, Jordan is capable of scoring in bunches once he gets hot. His 225-pound frame, too, gives him an advantage over smaller defenders, though he has not shown much scoring ability in the paint thus far.
Nwora is a shooter before anything else. He has a solid, unorthodox release that seems to go in more often than not. During his time with the Louisville Cardinals, league scouts zeroed in on his floor-spacing ability first and foremost; the 22-year-old back then noticeably did most of his damage from the perimeter, after all.
That still seemed to be the case in his limited minutes as an NBA player, but often to a fault. His game read like an unathletic Khris Middleton at times. Instead of using his size to drive into the paint, Nwora would often rely on his shot-creating instead and settle for a contested step back from the midrange area. This season, he shot 23-of-49 (46.9%) on above-the-break threes and 5-of-12 (41.6%) on corner threes.
As a shooter, it’s tough to ask for anything more. But as a slasher, there’s much room to improve upon. A look at his shooting numbers tells us all we need to know about his scoring profile. Per NBA.com/stats, Jordan Nwora shot 12-of-19 (63.2%) on stepback jumpers in the regular season. However, he also shot a paltry 15-of-32 (46.9%) on shots classified as layups.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 12, 2021
Defense needs work
Perhaps the most glaring facet of Jordan Nwora’s game is his ability to stay in front of his defensive assignment. His fundamentals and lateral quickness leave much to be desired, as he often falls asleep on his assignment and gets stuck on hard screens. Per Cleaning the Glass, opponents outscored the Bucks by +2.9 points per 100 possessions in the 179 minutes that Nwora played this season.
His individual matchup numbers, though, show clear potential. According to NBA.com/stats matchup data, guards shot 12-of-32 on field goals (37.5%) with Nwora as the closest defender. Forwards and centers shot 25-of-56 (44.6%) and 3-of-5 (60.0%), respectively. Opponents also turned the ball over +2.1% more with Nwora on the court, putting him in the 92nd percentile in this statistic.
Though he allowed 0.70 of a point per isolation possession on the defensive end in college, NBA scouts noted he still “has room to grow on the defensive end…as he held his own on the ball in spurts when he was dialed in and being physical.”
Just like that of Bryn Forbes, Nwora’s defense will have to be sequestered behind more robust defenders to keep the Bucks afloat. The difference here is that his size may hinder teams from hunting mismatches against him the way they do against the 6-foot-2 Forbes.
Highlights showed potential
Jordan Nwora’s best game this season showed just how much he can do for this Bucks team with a bigger role. He came off the bench against the Chicago Bulls in May and uncorked a scoring explosion that saw him drain jumper after jumper as he poured in 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting. In his 35 minutes of play, Nwora hit four of his eight three-point attempts and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Bucks in the 112-118 loss.
In his one game with the Salt Lake City Stars in the NBA G-League, Nwora put up 26 points, four rebounds, and a steal in 24 minutes of action. He also sank three of his five attempts from distance (60%) while posting a usage rate of 32.0% in his team’s offensive possessions. Though just one game, the advanced stats spoke flatteringly of his performance. He shot the ball on 82.5% true shooting and 75.0% effective field goal percentage en route to 36.8 player efficiency rating.
To be sure, G-League results should always come with a grain of salt. But that Nwora was able to replicate a similar performance against NBA starters is a good sign for his potential to play a bigger role.
Jordan Nwora’s reliance on tough shot-making is nothing that proper coaching and a more refined role can’t fix, to be sure. The most noticeable aspect of Nwora’s game was his clear versatility and potential to be a three-level scorer. When Nwora didn’t take the tougher shot, he demonstrated a surprisingly competent floater game with a push shot that looked effortless and efficient.
For a Bucks team whose core identity hinges on stingy defense, his impact on that end should also get better with time. Budenholzer’s transformation of Brook Lopez from a slow, lumbering big to a resurgent All-Defensive talent is a testament to this. However, he will definitely need to work on getting quicker in the offseason to make use of his size as a versatile and switchable defender.
Even as the Bucks face off against Phoenix in the Finals, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if he could contribute more to the team by way of floor-spacing, especially given Bryn Forbes’ worsening shooting slump as of late. And regardless of how it all ends this season, it’s even more exciting to consider what Jordan Nwora could do with an increased role next year.
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