Point Guard-Michigan State
Cassius Winston is on this list because he comes about as close you can get to a young Kyle Lowry-in-training for the Toronto Raptors. Winston is 22 years old, has average measurables (6-foot-1), and is coming off of a just OK senior season. But there was an obvious cloud hanging over Winston’s year with the tragic passing of his brother Zachary in November.
It took incredible strength and courage for Winston to finish out the season and while the numbers may have plateaued, he showed off enough of what makes him such a plug-and-play leader on a basketball team.
Over Winston’s four years at Michigan State, the Spartans boast an impressive 104-36 record. Winston’s best skill is merely winning. His intangibles are through the roof and he is a knockdown 3-point shooter to boot.
Winston didn’t have an incredible 3-point volume as a player who had the ball in his hands most of the time but he hit 43% of his 8.8 attempts per 100 possesions from 3-point range over his four years and showcased the ability to thrive under pressure.
At the NBA level, Winston’s lack of above-average burst or athleticism will prevent him from finishing at a high-level but the savvy guard knows how to draw contact. He posted a 34.9% free throw (attempt) rate for his MSU career and while he isn’t going to get many calls a rookie, that isn’t going to stop Winston from going full bore when attacking the rim à la Kyle Lowry.
The many awkward finishes that Winston scored on at the rim over length—like on the drive at the 18-second mark in the video below—won’t be successful at the NBA level. But as a heady player with a solid floater, he can still be a decent scoring threat in the league.
Winston’s athletic shortcomings on the court can’t be changed in a major way but with effort and hard work, he can improve his defensive technique and become an above-average two-way point guard. Winston is worth a pick for his leadership qualities and ability to fit into a positive locker room alone but the fact that he is unselfish and unafraid of the big moment makes him worth a very late first or an early second-round pick in my book.