By Dillon Sage
College Team: Michigan State
Home Town: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Site Ranking: ESPN 40, Tankathon 34, Bleacher Report 37
Noteworthy: Xavier is one of the two players that have averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks per game. The other player is Tim Duncan.
Offensive Strengths: Elite passer, quick decision-maker, doesn’t force passes, short role playmaker with the scoring and passing. Dribble handoff guy as well. Can pass the ball out of the paint really well.
Finishes around the basket with a very soft touch efficient and effective around the rim scoring 72% at the rim.
The Cassius Winston Xavier Tillman pick and roll was one of the best in the NCAA. Xavier sets big body screens that separates the defender from the ball handler. Can score as the roll man or find the open shooter on the roll.
Defensive Strengths: Smart team defender gets into the passing lanes for steals and rotates to help the penetrating ballhandler. Great post defender, not the most athletic or the tallest, uses his strength, excellent anticipatory skills, and research on his matchup to learn their tendencies. Can protect the rim by anticipating what’s going to happen.
Get to know Xavier and his thought process from this PBC interview and film room:
Shooting, he isn’t a consistent shooter has shown flashes at hitting wide-open threes.
Athleticism isn’t a great vertical athlete.
Fit with the Trail Blazers:
Year one: Let’s say we use the MLE for a power forward. Then we draft Xavier. We have a four-man big rotation of Jusuf Nurkic, MLE PF, Zach Collins, and Xavier Tillman. If we run this rotation of big men, Xavier will see limited playing time. However, with Dame and CJ’s benefit, this will be a valuable learning experience for Xavier.
Year Two: Blazers will have to make a significant decision about Zach Collins, either trading him or signing him to a contract extension. Depending on the above decision, Xavier could see an enormous increase in playing time and responsibilities.
Nurk and Xavier won’t play any real, meaningful minutes together because both aren’t good enough shooters today. Xavier would be Nurk’s direct backup. Both have very similar skill sets, paint finishing, playmaking big men that are defensive anchors. We wouldn’t have to change our offensive sets with all 48 minutes dedicated to the Nurkic/Tillman combo because both can be that playmaking hub for our offense.
If he shoots:
I would treat his shooting development very similar to PJ Tuckers concentrating on shooting corner threes. PJ took multiple years to learn how to shoot in the corner. If Xavier gets to that level of shooting, he’ll be one of those “super role players” elite teams have.
How to get Xavier Tillman
Blazers have taken chances on second-round picks in recent history. We traded 1.2 million dollars for the 47th pick in the 2016 draft. More recently, the Blazers traded two future second-round picks for Gary Trent Jr.
There have been rumors of teams not having high opinions of this draft, so we could potentially get Xavier, and other draft picks for less than they would be actually worth, an excellent bargain.
Blazers could buy one of the 76ers picks in the early second round; this deal would (34 or 36) give Philly extra cash while providing the Blazers with a chance to gain a role player. Blazers taking someone like Xavier wouldn’t affect the 76ers since they need to use their limited resources for a player to space the floor like Isaiah Joe.
Many Basketball operations people want to hit the home run of a draft pick and look past obvious good players. Whenever this draft is, I want us to take the player who can help us in the short and long term. Xavier is one of those guys.
Cover photo via MSU Athletic Communications