The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile focuses on Xavier Tillman, a big man from Michigan State who has the size, smarts, and skills to stick in the NBA.
- Height: 6’8”
- Weight: 245
- Wingspan: 7’1”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: C
- Age: 21
- Projected draft range: 29-41
- PTS: 13.7 | Per 40: 17.1
- REB: 10.3 | Per 40: 12.9
- AST: 3.0 | Per 40: 3.7
- BLK: 2.1 | Per 40: 2.6
- FG%: 55.0
- 3P%: 26.0
- FT%: 66.7
Xavier Tillman is a smart big with a cadre of skills that help him on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Tillman is a strong finisher in the paint with both hands, using his length and strength to finish through contact. He proved he is a bonafide pick-and-roll threat by setting solid screens and rolling hard to the hoop. His feel in that area is strong, and he knows when to attack the hoop hard or dish it off to someone else. He’s an excellent playmaker for a big man, reacting quickly to what the defense gives him and finding the open man when needed.
Defensively, he’s great both as a team defender and an interior player. Tillman is strong enough to deal with just about any post player (despite being undersized) and mobile enough to switch onto perimeter players and not get toasted. He communicates early and often, almost always putting himself in the right position to disrupt the other team. Off the ball, he stunts effectively, and when defending in the post he’s able to use his technique to either get the block or put a hand up. Once the ball is up, he’s great at boxing out, grabbing the board, and making the correct outlet pass.
There’s not a lot that Xavier Tillman does poorly, but he possesses some limitations. One thing that could hurt Tillman at the next level is his size. At 6’8” he’s undersized for a big man, though that could be nullified in small-ball lineups. While he’s a good finisher, his lack of explosion will hurt him at the next level against more athletic NBA defenders.
Tillman rarely flashed the ability to shoot beyond mid-range attempts. His form is decent, but he only shot 27 percent from three and 70 percent from the free throw line in his career. Those numbers aren’t encouraging, but his form is good enough that he could become a minor pick-and-pop threat. And while he’s a very smart defender, he still has a tendency to bite a bit too often on pump fakes and jabs.
Tillman was excellent in his first full year starting for Michigan State. He followed up winning Big 10 Sixth Man of the Year by winning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. He also earned All-Big 10 Second Team honors and led his team in blocks and rebounds. He ranked in the top five among all Big 10 players in rebounding, field goal percentage, and blocked shots.
Tillman is the kind of big man built to thrive in the modern NBA. He’s smart, crafty, and knows how to best use his size. He’s a solid finisher with an already veteran-like feel in the pick and roll, and is an excellent playmaker for his size. He knows how to use that size on defense as well, holding down the fort in the paint while deterring and disrupting plays when off the ball. And while he lacks the athleticism and explosiveness that you’d like from a center, he knows how to make up for it in other areas. He’ll at the very least be a solid rotation guy in the NBA.
Tillman would be perfect as a backup big for the Blazers. All of the things that he provides are things Portland desperately needs from post players. It’s no secret that Portland was one of the worst defensive teams last season, and Tillman could come in and immediately provide a boost to Portland’s bench on that end. He can do that while also helping as a secondary or tertiary playmaker offensively. In an offense that’s as pick-and-roll happy as Terry Stotts’ system, Tillman’s excellent screening and short-roll feel is perfect.
Tillman probably falls just out of the range where Portland is drafting in the first round. But if the Blazers look to bolster their post rotation in the second round, the former Spartans star is an obvious pick. Tillman is going to come into the league and immediately be effective, and that’s exactly what the Blazers need right now.