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‘Everything’s up in the air’ for 2020-21 NBA season
What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina breaks down the future of the NBA heading into the 2020-21 season.
For the fourth time in eight years, Michigan State basketball will likely have two players selected in the NBA draft. Senior guard Cassius Winston and junior big man Xavier Tillman are widely expected to walk across both the proverbial-and-virtual stage on Nov. 18, the scheduled date for this year’s draft.
What’s less certain is where they will actually end up. Winston’s and Tillman’s ranges appear to be from the bottom of the first round until toward the end of the second round. If they were to both go in the first round, they would become the sixth pair of Spartan first-round draft picks in school history.
Winston, a former Big Ten Player of the Year and All-American selection, is considered to be one of the draft’s highest-floor players. He was one of the best passers and shooters in college basketball and is also a proven winner, helping to lead the Spartans to the 2019 Final Four. However, his age (22), height (6-foot-1) and lack of athleticism have led to questions concerning his upside.
Like Winston, Tillman is also considered to be undersized. But in today’s NBA game, that can also be a plus. Standing 6-8, Tillman projects as a switchable defender who’ll be able to play center in smaller lineups. He’s also a good passer and rebounder for his size, which further boosts his draft stock.
Here’s where mock drafts project Winston and Tillman will go:
Winston: No. 29 overall to the Toronto Raptors
Tillman: No. 40 to the Memphis Grizzlies
With the Raptors starting guard Fred VanVleet entering unrestricted free agency, ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony posited that there’s room in their rotation for an additional point guard. Winston makes sense for a Raptors team contending for an NBA championship.
“Winston is an All-American and one of the best pick-and-roll players in this draft class, meaning he might be able to contribute relatively early in his NBA career,” Givony wrote.
Winston: No. 28 to the Lakers (Boone and Parrish)
Tillman: No. 22 to the Nuggets (Boone)
Two of CBS’s NBA draft analysts, Kyle Boone and Gary Parrish, have first-round mock drafts available. Boone believes both Michigan State players will be selected within the first 30 picks, while Parrish only included Winston on his list.
Parrish and Boone had similar praises for Winston, who they believe is a perfect fit for a Lakers team that could use additional shooting and ball-handling around LeBron James.
“Cassius Winston is perceived to be limited because he’s small and not the best athlete,” Parrish wrote. “He’ll never measure or test great — and that’ll turn some franchises away. But he’s smart, great in pick-and-roll situations and someone who has proven to be a high-level shooter in all four years of college by making 43.0% of the 602 3-pointers he attempted in his four-year career.”
Boone, on the other hand, is high on Tillman’s versatility and believes he can become an impact player for a contending Denver Nuggets team.
“His selfless style of play as a rebounder, screener and defender affects winning in all the little ways that could add up to a big value for Denver,” Boone wrote.
Winston: No. 28 to the Los Angeles Lakers
Count Jonathan Wasserman among the analysts who see a perfect fit between Winston and the Lakers. Wasserman’s mock draft, which only included the first round, excludes Tillman.
“L.A. will look to capitalize on teams putting too much stock into his age and athletic limitations,” Wasserman wrote. “Winston gives the Lakers an excellent ball-screen weapon and versatile shooter.”
Winston: No. 41
Tillman: No. 45
Draft analyst Kevin O’Connor left both Tillman and Winston off of his mock draft, which only included the first round. However, both players are on O’Connor’s big board, which ranks his top 50 players in the draft without taking into account team needs and fit.
Tillman: No. 32 to the Charlotte Hornets
Winston: No. 37 to the Washington Wizards
Draft analyst Jeremy Woo did both rounds in his mock draft and believes both Tillman and Winston will be second-round picks.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.