NBA Draft Profile: Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

Rakeem Christmas put together an impressive 2014-15 campaign, and looks to be a lock to hear his name called come draft day. (Source: Syracuse.com)
Rakeem Christmas put together an impressive 2014-15 campaign, and looks to be a lock to hear his name called come draft day. (Source: Syracuse.com)

The NBA Draft is less than a month away, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!

60 of the best young basketball players in the world will hear their name called, as they finally realize their dreams of being drafted to the NBA. At the same time, however, players will see their dreams come to an end as they fail to walk across the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand.

With a rich talent pool this season, there are bound to be players who had great collegiate careers that don’t get drafted. It doesn’t mean they won’t ever play in the NBA, they will just have to take a detour.

This is the time of year when people try to find out as much information about players as they possibly can, so they can be familiar with whomever their favourite NBA team selects on draft day.

Yes, there will be situations like Toronto last season, when they selected Bruno Caboclo, where even the commentators were stunned at the selection. For the most part, the players selected have been household names in college, or on the international stage.

Over the course of the next few weeks leading up to the draft, we will post a new draft preview each day that highlights a player who has a great chance to be drafted. One thing that we are doing different than other sites is not focusing on players in the first round. These players are constantly covered, and you can find information on them all over the place.

We will look at players who don’t get as much attention as they deserve, as we try to shine the light on some underrated talents in the NBA Draft. Today’s feature: Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse.

Rakeem Christmas – Syracuse Orange

Height: 6’10”
Weight: 243 pounds
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA

Reach: 9’3”
Wingspan: 7’5”

2014-15 Stats: 17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg

Christmas is generally celebrated in December, but the Syracuse Orange got to experience “Christmas” for four straight years.

Amidst all of the rumours and the scandal that followed Syracuse last season, Rakeem Christmas was a bright spot for Jim Boeheim’s team. Christmas put together his best statistical season as a member of the Orange, and has propelled himself up several team draft boards in the process.

The senior big man was the team’s best player a season ago, recording team-highs in both points (17.5 ppg) and rebounds (9.1 rpg) per game. He saw his playing time increase in comparison to his junior campaign, and he made it count.

With his strong play on both ends of the floor, Christmas looks like a lock to hear his name called on draft day come June 25th. Whether or not it’s in the first round remains to be seen, but he has the talent and drive to succeed at the next level.

We take a look at the pros and cons of Rakeem Christmas, to get a better understanding of the type of player teams will get if they select the big man out of Philadelphia, PA.

Strengths

Rakeem Christmas is one of the top NBA prospects for several reasons. The one that people will notice right off the bat is his body type. Standing at 6’10”, and weighing in at 243 pounds, Christmas has an NBA-type body that’s suited for playing in the paint. He’s a big, imposing force in the paint, and he’s not afraid to get physical against opposing big men. Despite his big body, he runs the floor rather well, adding another element to his already strong repertoire of talents and assets he could bring to a team.

On the defensive end of the floor is where Christmas excels the most. He’s a strong presence in the paint, and he’s one of the nation’s better rebounders and shot blockers. He averaged 9.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game a season ago, indicating his strengths in those areas. He’s aggressive on defensive, and will battle hard for loose balls and rebounds around the basket. If you drive the lane, expect to be met by the big body of Rakeem.

Over the course of his career at Syracuse, Christmas steadily improved on the offensive end of the floor, capping off his career with a career-best 17.5 points per game in 2014-15. One thing that has remained constant over the past four years is his effectiveness from the floor. Christmas shot at least 53.0% from the floor in all four seasons, including a career-best 61.3% from the floor in 2013-14. His strong field goal percentage is due in part to his presence and strength in the paint.

Notice how all of his strengths come back to him having an NBA-type body. He knows how to use it to his advantage, and teams like that in their big men.

Weaknesses

One weakness of Christmas’ game is out of his control, and that’s the fact that he is considered “old” for his draft year. Entering the draft, he’s currently 23 years old. He’s a few years older than the rest of his draft-mates, which may hurt him in the eyes of teams looking for younger talents to develop over the course of their careers.

Also for Christmas, despite being a few years older, his development on the offensive end of the floor has been slow over the course of his career. It took him until his senior season before he was an impact player on the offensive end, meaning it took him three years to develop into an impact player at the NCAA level. Teams may look at that and think it may happen again at the NBA level, and may not want to take the risk of a “work in progress” player who is going to turn 24 before the calendars flip to 2016.


Despite being slightly older than other players in his recruiting class, Christmas is one of the better interior big men in the draft, and will undoubtedly hear his name called come June 25th. It’s likely that he will get drafted in the early stages of the second round, but he could wiggle his way into the tail end of the first round if he impresses teams with his pre-draft workouts and interviews.

– T.B.