Weight: 246 pounds
Position: Power Forward
Caleb Swanigan returned to Purdue for his sophomore season after a less than stellar showing in last year’s pre-draft process. He would take all of his shortcomings to heart and use them to propel himself into one of the best bigs in the country.
Swanigan thrives in the low post as he uses his big body and long arms to dominate in a number of ways. Most notably this shows itself on the glass as he is an outstanding rebounder, averaging over 15 rebounds per-40 minutes last year. His improved conditioning allowed him to be more active, grabbing boards out of his area and his body is tough to get around.
In the post he is difficult to deal with as he is a strong physical player who is able to get to where he wants and finish with a soft touch around the basket. He is also a much improved shooter with the potential to stretch his range to the three-point line. He shot almost 45 percent from the college three and hit 78 percent of his free throws. That ability to stretch the defense will be crucial for his development.
There are concerns about his lack of ideal height and athleticism, but he has great length for his size. That 7’3 wingspan really makes a difference both on the boards and on the block.
The main concerns for Swanigan mainly have to do with his physical attributes. He lacks the necessary quickness, foot speed, and athleticism to play power forward at the next level. Unfortunately he also lacks the ideal height of an NBA center. This makes it something of a concern as to what position Swanigan will play, and more importantly, which he will guard.
There are some serious defensive concerns about Swanigan. While he is strong and long enough to be adequate on the block, he will severely struggle trying to contain players on the perimeter. Additionally, despite his length, he is not a great rim protector.
His conditioning will also still be a question mark even though he made notable improvements from his freshman to his sophomore season. Considering the longer minutes and overall season in the NBA, it has to be a concern as to whether Swanigan will be able to keep his level of play and activity throughout the entire season.
Player Comparison: Jared Sullinger
Much like Swanigan, Jared Sullinger was an outstanding college player who dominated with his post play, rebounding, and large frame. Also like Swanigan there were serious questions about his lack of ideal height and athleticism, especially when it comes to his defense.
Swanigan will need to a better job of extending his range out to the three-point line as that will make him even more dangerous on the offensive end. Swanigan’s rebounding and post-game should translate to the NBA just like Sullinger’s but he will have to improve where Sullinger didn’t.
If Swanigan can be a league average defender he has the potential to have a long career, possibly becoming an Elton Brand-style of player. If he is a pure minus on defense however, he will only be able to be used in certain lineups which will severely limit his potential.
Fit with the Lakers
Back to the basket scorers are a rarity in this era of NBA basketball making someone like Swanigan a rare commodity. His biggest strength however, is his rebounding and for a Lakers team that really struggled clearing out the defensive glass, Swanigan could certainly pay dividends there.
Even if he doesn’t stretch his range all the way out to the three-point line, Swanigan will still be a more than capable shooter from the 15-20 foot range which is something that can’t be said for the rest of the Laker bigs on the roster.
The worry of course is that the Lakers don’t have the players on the roster to cover up for Swanigan’s defensive concerns. Luke Walton would have to be creative in how he chooses to use him, but Swanigan undoubtedly brings a lot to the table.