James Southerland

Offense: Southerland is an active, athletic wing/forward hybrid whose offensive specialty is momentum-shifting jump shots. He is most effective—and most comfortable—as a receiver and spot-up shooter, and is not a distributor.


At 6’8, 215 pounds, Southerland has the frame of a college 4, but is not particularly comfortable around the hoop, so he assumes the small forward role for Syracuse. His shot is his biggest strength; Southerland’s form is pure, he gets good elevation and has a high release point. He also has good balance, but when he is forced to elevate off-balance, he struggles.


Southerland has also consistently improved his range, and is shooting almost 40% from 3 this season. He is most effective in straight-on threes, and will need to improve his rate from the corners—a popular spot for NBA role-players—if he is to have a chance of sticking around in the league. In general, however, Southerland certainly has NBA range.


Southerland is a willing shot-taker and big shot maker for the Orange, and often steps up down the stretch, but over the course of the game this trait manifests itself in the form of poor shot selection. He has the short memory typical for high-volume guys, and as a result occasionally becomes a ball-stopper. He is high-risk high-reward, however, as when he gets hot, Southerland can make shots in bunches. When he does not, however, Southerland often disappears.


Despite his considerable size and girth, Southerland does not have much of a back to the basket game, and mostly moves around the perimeter looking to spot up. In that same vein, he does not create particularly well for his teammates, and is not comfortable attacking off the bounce. His only real attacking move is a right-handed power dribble off his pump-fake, which is pretty effective due to the constant threat of his jump shot.


Southerland runs the floor well for his size, and is a good finisher at the rim, especially in transition; 3-pointers and dunk are by far his most common methods of scoring, which helps explain his tendency for momentum-swinging plays. His large frame allows him to finish well with contact, but he does not seek it out; he has never been as aggressive inside as he should given his size, and this may be a reason why.


Southerland is rarely involved in screen and rolls, but is a great target off-ball and spaces the floor well. He does not excel anywhere offensively besides spot-up shooting, and struggles in many areas, but his combination of skills—shooting, floor spacing, playing off-ball—translates effectively to the next level.






-       Pure shooter


-       Big shot taker; momentum swing specialist


-       Spaces the floor; NBA range




-       Is he NBA-level?


-       Shot selection


-       Too many weaknesses






While it is harder to judge the defensive potential of guys who play in zone schemes such as Jim Boeheim, Southerland’s biggest issue moving forward will be his status as a tweener; he seems too small to guard many NBA 4’s, and does not have the lateral quickness to guard most 3’s.


Southerland moves well for his size, and as a back-line wing defender in Syracuse’s zone scheme is able to consistently show of his considerable length. He gets back in transition very effectively on defense, and has surprisingly quick feet.


His length disrupts passing lanes and makes opposing guards think; to go along with his 1.4 steals per game, Southerland registers countless deflections that do not show up in the score sheet. His length also allows his to contest shots well, an important skill in for a wing defender in Syracuse’s zone.


Just like on offense, Southerland will need to become more physical moving forward. He struggles to establish space inside; this is less of a factor on offense, where he is mostly on the perimeter, but defensively it really hurts Southerland. He pushes too much with his arms, and cannot carve out space with his body as often as one would like to see.


Despite averaging 5 boards per game—good for 2nd on the team—Southerland loses too many rebounds he should get as a result of not fighting for position hard enough with his body. Additionally, he commits silly fouls as a result of losing position (2.2 per game), which not only hurts his production but also his team’s—he is 3rd on Syracuse in points and 4th in minutes.


Southerland needs to get lower on defense—this is the main reason he loses position on the interior, and is an especially large issue on his box-outs. Additionally, Southerland occasionally lets his offense affect his defense; he gets frustrated when jumpers aren’t going, and gets lazy defensively.


It remains to be seen whether Southerland can really guard on the perimeter; he is never really isolated away from the basket because of Syracuse’s zone scheme. While he will certainly be tested during pre-draft camps, unless he shows something new Southerland’s best chance to find a spot on an NBA roster will likely be as a stretch power forward.


To this end, Southerland defends the post somewhat effectively, using his size to cut down angles and his length to disrupt shots. He is good at anticipating missed shots coming off the rim, and seems to always find a body to box out, even if he is not very effective once he does.


Southerland is also good at forcing opposing players towards help, and seems to have a good understanding of defensive principles, even if he is not the smartest player or quickest thinker. He rotates well off the ball, but struggles to beat offensive players to spots, a concern if he wants to become a wing defender at the next level.






-       Good size and length for a wing defender; elevates well for rebounds and deflections


-       Steals and deflections that lead to steals




-       Tweener in a bad way; too small to guard 4’s, too slow to guard 3’s?


-       Lets offense effect his defense


-       Not physical enough; needs to use his lower body more, especially on box-outs




Overall: Southerland struggles in many areas, but in this case what he brings to the table may be more important than what he takes off of it.


He may be too much of a liability on defense, but one thing Southerland does have in his favor is that his college role—shooter, floor spacer, not expected to create off the bounce—should translate to the next level. He could be especially lethal via spot-up 3’s in transition, an increasingly popular play in both college and the pros.


Southerland is very much a one-dimensional offensive player, and will undoubtedly struggle to find a niche defensively; he may have too many weaknesses to impact the 2013 draft—not to mention the 6 games he missed think year for an academic issue, which will certainly raise some questions—but his combination of skills may lead a team to either take a chance on him in the mid to late 2nd round (think Jon Diebler), or bring him into camp. If Southerland cannot stick in the NBA, he is a sure-fire Euro league guy.