C.J. Fair, 6-foot-8 small forward, Syracuse
2013-14 stats: 16.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 37.8 mpg
Fair was one of the better seniors in the college game last season, which is no longer viewed as much of a compliment for players pursuing an NBA career, but nonetheless reflects his ability. The smooth southpaw out of Baltimore steadily progressed from being a role player to a reliable star at Syracuse, even as some of his teammates got more attention for their pro potential. Now Fair faces the challenge of showing that his game translates to the next level, as he’s regarded by many observers as a bit of a tweener.
Career highlights: During his first two seasons, Fair established himself as an important contributor, going from averaging 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a freshman, to earning a starting spot his sophomore year and posting averages of 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. His junior campaign, Fair emerged as a star, averaging 14.5 points and seven rebounds per game, moving from power forward to small forward and extending his shooting range to the three-point line, while notching nine double-doubles, earning second team all-Big East honors and closing out the season with a 22-point effort in Syracuse’s Final Four loss to Michigan. As a senior, Fair continued to show progress, averaging 16.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, garnering first-team all-conference honors in Syracuse’s first ACC season and winning second-team All-American accolades, with his signature performance being a 28-point game in an epic overtime win over Duke.
Strengths: Fair thrives as a baseline scorer, transition finisher and straight-line driver, using his quickness to slash to the bucket against big men and his athleticism to either finish or contribute on the offensive glass. While he did extend his range to three-point shooting in the second half of his college career, he’s much more effective as a mid-range shooter, from both the high post and short corner, and possesses solid enough passing acumen to make plays for others when called upon. Defensively, he’s tough enough to log time guarding big men and despite Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone, appears to have the agility to stay in front of athletic wings on a full-time basis.
Weaknesses: Even after moving to small forward his junior year, Fair still seems more comfortable functioning on the interior, as he isn’t an advanced ballhandler or consistent deep threat, yet lacks the frame to bang with post players on the next level. A solid defender in college, he will need to prove that he has the lateral quickness and instincts to handle defending explosive athletes on the perimeter. Developing into a player capable of knocking down open outside jumpers with regularity is also pertinent for his career as a potential 3-and-D guy, as he won’t be utilized as a breakdown scorer and his lower shooting percentages during his senior is a cause for mild concern.
Draft projection: Assuming he tightens up his perimeter game enough to demonstrate he can play small forward, Fair is a second-round prospect, with his successful college track record and overall experience being of some benefit to him in the pre-draft stage. Regarded as a high-character player with a good work ethic, his basketball I.Q. and ability to blend in as a role player gives him a decent chance of ending up on an NBA roster next season, though he will need to fare well in both summer league and training camp, shedding his tweener label in the process. Moving forward, if Fair can knock down shots reliably and defend his position at a high level, there’s room for him in the league as a high-energy reserve wing.