Preseason Player Breakdown: Christian Watford

Christian Watford was the Hoosiers’ leading scorer last season. But is he Indiana’s best player? There are plenty of pros and cons to Watford’s game. We break it down for you in our third preseason player breakdown.

THE PAST

There are few players on Indiana’s roster more polarizing among fans and analysts than Christian Watford.

It’s hard to argue with his potential — he was rated No. 41 overall in the 2009 class, according to Rivals — and he was the Hoosiers’ leading scorer last season, upping his points from 12.0 in his freshman year to 16.0 as a sophomore. Now, not all of those were effective shots — Watford’s eFG% was 47.6, second-worst on the team to Bobby Capobianco. But believe it or not, that percentage went up by almost eight percent between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

No, it’s hard to argue with his offensive output, as Watford continually excelled at drawing fouls, getting to the free throw line, and coming away with two freebie points. He’s one of the best in the Big Ten at that, and there’s no reason to expect that will stop any time soon.

There’s still plenty to improve on offensively for the Alabama native, as he disappeared in games down the stretch in the Big Ten. For instance, in three different winnable conference matchups last year against Penn State, Illinois, and Minnesota, Watford managed to shoot 1-for-5, 1-for-8, and 2-for-13, respectively.

But its not offense that Indiana is truly concerned about with Watford. It’s the fact that the 6’9″, 225-pounder doesn’t really have a position. And when it comes to defense, that and his lack of fiery intensity, tend to result in some cases of matador defense. Sure, Watford was guarding players that were a little too big and a little too strong in the post for him to handle at times last year, but with the lack of a consistent big man, Watford just didn’t cut it sometimes defensively.

THE PRESENT

There are plenty of expectations attached to Watford this season — a burden that’s often shared by any team’s leading scorer. He may stand to gain the most from having Cody Zeller in the lineup, considering Watford will now have a big man who can either kick it out to him or pass it to him in the post. Zeller will also take some of the attention away from Watford, allowing him to get a few more open shots.

But to play as an effective small forward, Watford needed to improve his ballhandling, which would then improve his dribble penetration. In late September, he said he was working on exactly that, trying to perfect his “explosion-type” moves. If he can do that, he’ll be a much more effective scorer.

And on defense, Watford admitted that he needs to use his size more, and if he can use his length and athleticism to make up for a deficit in lateral quickness — a problem he’ll likely encounter when guarding some of the Big Ten’s more athletic small forwards — it could go a long way defensively.

Watford has been dealing with a foot injury that kept him out of Hoosier Hysteria, but he should be good to go soon, as far as we know.

THE FUTURE

Now, will a pure position change mean something different for Watford? With Cody Zeller now in the fold, the thought is that Watford can be more of a pure small forward and not be forced to guard some of the league’s best at the No. 4 spot. Yet, some argue that, with Watford’s size he should be the team’s starting power forward, with Zeller at center and the team’s abundance of wings sharing duties at small forward. It’s enough lineup possibilities to make your head spin.

But wherever Watford plays, his defense will be the wildcard this season. Guarding the Big Ten’s small forwards, plus a little guy by the name of Terrence Jones for Kentucky, may prove the be difficult if Watford is still lacking that lateral quickness. Guarding the Big Ten’s power forwards, Watford might not have the post presence on defense or the intensity to boot to be that effective.

One thing is for sure though, if Watford can improve on defense and take more effective shots, he could be one of the Big Ten’s breakout players this season.

13 comments

  1. My brother and I have discussed Watford often, and basically it comes down to this… he plays small. He’s a 6’5″ player trapped in a 6’9″ body. His vertical is poor and lateral quickness sub-standard. We don’t hate him. We don’t think he is a bad player. Watford is just average. And with this roster he helps the team. We just wish he played above the rim… instead of just at it.

  2. Nice assesment Just Is…
    That picture says it all. He’s a foot from the hoop and is taking a jumper. Throw that thing down dude. Hopefully CWat, like others has been a victim of lack of a total supporting cast, and really has a good year. Not that he’s had bad ones.

  3. There is very little doubt that Zeller, Watford and Hulls are the stars of this team. If any one of the three can become a top 5 All-Big 10 player, this will be a good (20+ win) season. Vic and Will are the next best players and have to get 22-25 minutes/game on the floor each. Elston and Pritchard have to do it on the floor, “being 6’9″ is no longer good enough. Derek could be great, but can he develop the mental side of his talent? Verdell can show that he is the senior leader that we have desperately needed for the last three years. If he can accept lesser “billing” but play great, then this can be a special season. Austin and Remy have to bring it all and bring it hard every second on the floor. They each have some real talent that Indiana has sorely needed. I hope that Matt Roth hits 50% of his 3′s because if he can’t Danny Moore might. Danny does a lot of good things in short stretches. No more excuses now for Coach Crean, it is win NOW time! We miss and love you Mo Creek and want to see you play again at 100%! GO IU!

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