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Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Cassius Winston

Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With the NBA season completed, it’s time to turn our full attention to the looming draft, and the prospects that could help push the Utah Jazz closer to contender status. Michigan State senior point guard Cassius Winston is projected to be available when the Jazz are selecting and is widely considered a top 40 prospect in the draft.

The Jazz own just one selection, the 23rd pick in the first round of the November 18 draft, after trading their second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018. Winston is one of many point guards projected to be selected late in the first round or early in the second round by most draft outlets.

Cassius Winston: 6’1, 185 lbs Point Guard – Sr – MSU

18.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 46% FG/43% 3p/84% FT

Pros:

Patience, poise, and leadership are the first things that jump out when watching Cassius Winston at Michigan State. The senior point guard is a true floor general who dictates the pace and action whenever he’s on the floor for the Spartans. There might not be a player more trustworthy to run an offense in all of college basketball than Winston.

Even when playing against significantly quicker guards, Winston never gets sped up, which allowed Michigan State to run effective offensive sets when the senior guard was on the floor. Often when Winston subbed out, the Spartans offense fell apart, highlighting his winning impact on the floor.

It’s easy to throw terms like basketball genius around when college basketball players simply dominate lesser players with superior experience or skills, but the term applies appropriately to Winston. He understands the game, its angles, and the craft of being a lead guard like few others in all of amateur basketball.

Winston is a bully with the ball in his hands, using his bulky frame to create space for himself when driving to the paint. Smaller defenders can’t contain him off the dribble where he displays high-level ball control with either hand. Understands the value of stepping back to create space and generate space for his attack. There’s a lot of Kyle Lowry in his game offensively.

Runs the pick and roll with an understanding of how it opens shots for players outside of the immediate action. Playing with an NBA prospect in Xavier Tillman, Winston recognizes where the help defense comes from and kicks the ball out to open shooters in the corners to create good looks.

Beyond his instincts as a true point guard, Winston was one of the deadliest shooters in all of basketball during his four seasons at Michigan State. The guard shot 43 percent from behind the three-point line while averaging more than four attempts per game during his career.

Winston supplements his elite shooting with a soft touch in the paint on floaters and jump shots from the mid-range forcing defenders to stay honest in the pick and roll.

Though he isn’t particularly quick with the ball in his hands, he a terrific outlet passer finding players streaking to the rim from well beyond half court. He regularly rewarded bigger players who ran the floor. Due to his deadly shooting percentages, defenders have to be aware of him in transition opening up opportunities to score for players who get behind the defense.

On defense, Winston isn’t the quickest player on the perimeter, but his strength and width make him tough to blow-by. He won’t be an elite defender, unlike Marcus Smart who has a similar body type but shouldn’t be a weak defender during his career.

Cons:

The cons surrounding Winston mostly revolve around his relatively mediocre size compared to most modern point guards. The senior stands just 6’1 and lacks the elite athleticism to finish above the rim or beat players off the dribble with just his first step.

He makes up for it with craft and strength, but NBA players will be bigger and quicker than the opponents he faced in college, which could eliminate his effectiveness in isolation situations. Defensively, he will likely only be able to guard smaller ball-handlers early in his career. Winston will have to study a player like Chris Paul to has become a master of using his shorter, stockier frame to defender bigger players throughout his career.

Winston played four years at Michigan State and will turn 23 years old early in his NBA career, limiting his upside compared to the other talented guard options available at the end of the first round.

Because of his shorter stature and bulky frame, Winston could have added injury concerns throughout his NBA career going against bigger, faster players, but never played fewer than 30 games during his four college seasons.

How Winston Fits With The Jazz In The NBA Draft

Of players projected to be available when Jazz draft in the first round, Winston might be the most NBA ready while also filling several skills of need. While the Jazz guard rotation is one of the deepest in the NBA, the uncertain future of Jordan Clarkson in free-agency, and the potential decline and departures of Mike Conley and Joe Ingles in the near future would make investing in a high-level offensive initiator a smart move.

The Jazz have shifted their attention to shooters in recent seasons, and Winston is surely one of the best deep threats projected to be selected in the first round. Though he lacks ideal size, he fits the Jazz draft mold of selecting players from blue-chip schools with good length to height ratios.

In addition to his stellar shooting acumen, the senior guard would likely have a quick understanding of coach Quin Snyder’s pick and roll heavy offense, either finding Rudy Gobert to finish at the rim, or kicking out to open shooters on the perimeter.

Despite his advanced age, Winston still has the potential to develop into a starting-caliber guard based on his ability to lead a team, run an offense, and knock down open shots at a high-level. Worst case, it’s hard to imagine Winston not being one of the more stable back up point guards in the NBA for the next several years.

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Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Tyler Bey

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