By now we all know that James Southerland is on a tear. We've either witnessed it ourselves or heard the stories.
J-Sizzle (as I like to call him) is 12/15 (.800!) from deep over two Big East Tournament games. He's only four made 3's away from tying the record for most three pointers made in a Big East Tournament. He kept the Orange in it when Seton Hall started out hot on Tuesday. He's the reason Syracuse was able to take a thirteen point lead into halftime against Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Credit Michael Carter-Williams for dishing assists, Brandon Triche for remembering that he's pretty good at basketball and Carl Fair, Jr. for doing C.J. Fair things. But the story of the BET for Syracuse is unquestionably the kid from Bayside, Queens.
If you asked just about anyone about J-South's prospects as a professional basketball player, most would just shrug and say "Meh". Most pundits would tend to agree. Neither DraftExpress nor NBADraft.net have Southerland listed in their 2013 mock drafts thus far. It's pretty easy to see why. He's a prototypical tweener, with neither the size nor skill set to play power forward in the NBA. He doesn't have a sufficient face-up game to play small forward either. His handle is suspect and can't take more than three dribbles without losing control of the rock.
But, man, the kid can shoot.
Len Elmore spent the last two days creaming himself over J-South's shooting form and it's well deserved praise. From shot preparation to release, Southie's technique is virtually flawless. Like most Syracuse forwards, he's a long, lanky 6'8" which, when combined with great lift on his jumper, makes just about any look at the basket a clean one. He's legitimately got what they like to call "in the gym" range. And, perhaps most importantly, Dirty South can hit them in bunches. Once he makes two or three, another two or three are pretty much guaranteed to be on the way.
Will it be enough to get him on drafts boards, though? I say yes. True, he's a tweener that's only really good at one thing. But he's really good at that one thing. Think back to when we had this this same discussion about Kris Joseph last season. A common argument was that KJ is pretty good at a lot of things but not great at any one thing. He had no elite skill. James Southerland is an elite shooter. Streaky at times, yes, but still a top tier long range bomber. Three-point specialists aren't 6'3" white guys anymore. They're 6'10" stretch forwards, some of whom are only on the floor their shooting. Guys who couldn't rebound their way out of a wet paper bag with scissors in their hands. Even being a bit undersized for a stretch 4-man, J-South can easily keep company with most of those guys.
How about another analog, this time to one of Southerland's current teammates: Michael Carter-Williams. Some, including myself, are of the opinion that MCW could be even better in the NBA because the quality of his teammates will be that much better. He'll almost always have a big man who can consistently catch and dunk a sweet dime. He'll almost always have a knock down shooter spotting up in corner. The same goes for J-South. How good could J-South be when every look is wide open? How many threes can he bury when it's LeBron James or Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams kicking out to him? Hell, LeBron James makes Shane Battier look like Larry Bird. A pure shooter like Southerland has value on any team where the stars prefer to operate in the lane.
And, finally, the big stage. There are a ton of NBA scouts at MSG all week, likely interested in players like MCW, Otto Porter, Russ Smith or Gorgui Dieng. Southerland is taking advantage of all those eyeballs and putting on a clinic. And not only is he doing it at the Big East championship, but he's doing it when his team needs him most. What's more, he's been hot, but not reckless. In both BET games so far, South has been quiet in the second half as teams made adjustments to stop him. It's telling that he hasn't continued to throw them up when they're not there. People tout a shooter's confidence and the will to keep shooting when things aren't going their way. A less noticed attribute is discretion. The willingness to be a decoy while in the middle of a hot shooting streak. Southerland has a blend of both that's ideal for the NBA role player he'd be.
Now, clearly, Southie isn't going to shoot himself in the the lottery or even the first round. His game is too limited for that. But say he finishes tournament season shooting 50% from three. Say he has three or four 20 point games. Will that be enough to get him on some radars? I think so. The road won't end there of course. Southerland would have to shoot well in the summer league and prove he's not a total liability on defense. But when it comes to simply getting in the door, J-Sizzle couldn't have picked a better time to start heating up.