Cam Whitmore is one of the youngest prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. He won’t turn 19 until the start of Summer League play in July. The former 5-star recruit is nearly a year (10 months) younger than Houston’s Jarace Walker, and over a year and a half (19 months) younger than the Overtime Elite’s Thompson twins. Being that it is still early in Whitmore’s development, this can be a significant amount of time, and while he is still raw in some areas of his game, he has flashed tremendous upside. Being relied upon to play a major role as a freshman is often very difficult, yet Whitmore increasingly exceeded expectations and has himself garnering strong consideration to be selected in the top-5 picks of the 2023 NBA Draft.
Whitmore is an explosive athlete who regularly plays above the rim. His 40.5-inch vertical is tied for 3rd best among this year’s NBA combine participants. He measured in at 6 feet, 5.75 inches without shoes, which makes him a legit 6-foot-7 on the court. He has a strong frame, weighing in at 235 pounds, which helps him overpower other players when driving to the basket. His wingspan measurement was slightly disappointing at 6 feet, 8.5 inches, which may hurt his defensive upside in the eyes of some. However, his athleticism, strength, and nose for the ball are why I remain bullish on his defensive upside.
There is a lot to be excited about with Whitmore on the defensive end of the court. He uses his body and athleticism well to overmatch players and should be able to guard at least the two through four positions in the NBA effectively. Whitmore has good hands aiding in his ability to be disruptive and he anticipates passing lanes well, resulting in 1.4 steals per game and a steal percentage that ranks 8th in the Big East conference. His shot blocking is lower than you would like at 0.3 per game. However, I do believe that he has the physical tools to improve this and has flashed that potential with a 4-block game against Butler earlier this year.
Cam Whitmore profiles very well as a point-of-attack defender who can smother ball handlers with his length and pesky hands. He has the athleticism and lateral mobility to stay tight on guards, as well as the size and strength to handle bigger forwards, and I think this versatility and ability to be used as a switcher will add a lot of value to an NBA team. Whitmore’s rebounding is another underrated aspect of his game. While 5.3 rebounds per game don’t jump out at you, Whitmore is ranked 6th in the Big East in defensive rebound percentage, as well as 14th in total rebound percentage. His explosive leaping and ability to track the ball help him secure rebounds over taller players. Being 235 pounds is also beneficial to him, aiding his physical play style, fighting for boards, and boxing out.
Cam Whitmore showcasing his defensive playmaking.— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) February 19, 2023
One of the aspects that makes me lean towards him being one of the two best prospects in college right now.
His point-of-attack defense has been severely overlooked this whole season. pic.twitter.com/8xxR3f0I34
Whitmore has shown impressive finishing ability around the basket. He uses his body and athleticism to power to the rim and rise above or go through defenders, resulting in him converting on a very impressive 72.3% of his shots at the rim and 57.8% on his 2-point field goal attempts overall. Averaging 12.5 points per game, Whitmore had trouble with consistency and had somewhat limited touches as the fourth option for Villanova, but when he was able to put it all together he looked like a scorer who could take over a game. Of his 26 games, Whitmore scored 16 or more points in nine games, and over 20 points three times, including a 26-point outing against Xavier in which Whitmore went 11-18 (61.1%) from the floor and 3-7 (42.9%) from three.
His development beyond the arc will ultimately determine his ceiling as a scorer, but he is trending in the right direction. He shot 34.3% from three at Villanova on 4.2 attempts per game and improved as the season went on. If you look beyond his first 6 games, in which Whitmore did not start, and instead focus on the final 20 games where Whitmore started, his three-point percentage was a very respectable 37.3% on more than 4 attempts per game. It also should be noted that Cam had surgery on the thumb of his shooting hand before the season, which could be a cause for his poor start in terms of shooting the ball.
The upside of a high-level scorer is there, with his ability to create for himself, score efficiently around the basket, continued development as a shooting threat, as well as his underrated ability as an off-ball cutter. While he will need to continue making strides as a shooter, including in the midrange and at the FT line (70.3%), the progress he has already made is very encouraging. Whitmore’s passing is another area that needs to be improved. 0.7 assists per game to 1.6 turnovers is a major concern. He won’t be a player asked to create for others, but he still needs to improve his decision-making at the next level.
Fit with the Pistons
In Detroit, Whitmore could be everything the Pistons are looking for in a small forward. While he may not be ready to start right away, that’s okay, you’re drafting him for what he can become. The potential to have a high-level, two-way player to slot in as our small forward of the future and be a quality scorer and ideally take the most difficult defensive matchup each night is, in my opinion, exactly what the Pistons should be looking for. You don’t want Cade Cunningham having to take that matchup, and you need someone who can help cover up for Jaden Ivey’s deficiencies on that end of the floor. The need for a strong defender is especially pertinent if the team does not move on from Bojan Bogdanovic, who is another negative defender.
As a rookie, I would expect him to serve as the first forward/wing off the bench who can provide a punch on both ends of the court and hopefully would push himself into the starting lineup by the end of the season. With the positional versatility that he offers, combined with his value on both ends of the floor, I think it will be hard to keep him off the court for too long, and despite his age, I think he is one of the better bets to be able to make a quick impact in the NBA compared to the other players projected in this range.
I have seen the criticism that because of Monty Williams’ 0.5-second offense, Whitmore would not be a good fit due to not processing the game fast enough and making poor decisions at times. While I think there is some validity to this, I also think it might be unnecessary to nitpick the BBIQ and processing skills of one of the youngest players in the draft, who will certainly improve as he continues to learn the game, including the offense of whichever team drafts him. I would also argue that with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, you don’t necessarily need another guy making a lot of decisions and creating for others. This is an area he needs to improve in, but I don’t think it’s something that Whitmore won’t be able to overcome.