Xavier Thames: Scouting Profile for Brooklyn Nets' Draft Day Acquisition

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJune 22, 2014

Jan 16, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Xavier Thames (2) brings the ball up the court while defended by UNLV Rebels guard Anthony Marshall (3) during the first half at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted byToronto Raptors, No. 59 overall

Traded to: Brooklyn Nets for cash

School: San Diego State
Height/Weight: 6'3", 187 lbs
Age: 23 years old
Projected NBA Position: Shooting guard
Pro Comparison: Jannero Pargo
Twitter Handle: @Xthames2

Everything clicked for Xavier Thames during his senior season with the San Diego State Aztecs, which suddenly made him a far more intriguing NBA prospect than he was after averaging just 9.5 points per game during the 2012-13 campaign.    

Not only did he nearly double his scoring output, but he also made strides on the defensive end of the court while asserting himself as one of the very best players in college basketball. 

Thames was rewarded for his efforts when he was selected as the Mountain West Player of the Year, and he was simultaneously the clear-cut leader of the Aztecs. Not only did he lead San Diego State in points, assists and steals, but he also established himself as the team's premier marksman long before averaging 26 points per game during the NCAA tournament. 

Talk about a meteoric rise.

But will the ascent continue in the Association, or will Thames' basketball career see him struggle to keep advancing up the ranks?

Statistics at San Diego State



Thames is a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body. 

Although he plays much more like a high-scoring 2-guard with some of the ball-handling and distributing skills necessary to suit up at both backcourt positions, the San Diego State product only stands 6'3" and doesn't have the most solid frame. He's not even big by point guard standards. 

Mar 8, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Xavier Thames (2) celebrates on the scorers table after a win against the New Mexico Lobos at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs won 51-48 to claim the regular season Mountain West championship. Mandator

Additionally, while Thames can jump fairly well, he's extraordinarily slow for such a small player. 

At the NBA Draft Combine, per NBA.com's databases, the former Aztec ran the three-quarter sprint in 3.48 seconds. Of the 51 players who participated in the drills, only Jabari Brown, the notoriously slow Jordan Adams and Isaiah Austin (a big man) were slower. He was more successful in agility drills, but the straight-line speed is problematic, especially because he has a slow first step that will hinder his ability to get off shots at the next level. 

Thames may have the skills necessary to make the NBA, but his physical tools are always going to hold him back to some extent. 



Shooting Ability

Once Thames adjusts to the distance of NBA threes, which might require adding more arc to his line-drive shooting, he'll look like the sniper he was throughout his collegiate career. But what makes him a special shooter is that it's not just one area in which he excels. 

Thames is fully capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers off the bounce, and he's particularly adept at using screens to create the little bit of separation he needs to rise and fire. He's a quality marksman in catch-and-shoot situations as well, both from two-point zones and beyond the arc. 

Perhaps adjusting to his lack of height and the inability to create separation with his limited speed, Thames also has incredible concentration when he shoots. Defenders putting a hand in his face doesn't tend to throw him off much, as muscle memory simply takes over. 

During his senior season at SDSU, Thames knocked down a career-best 37.4 percent of his three-point attempts, which settled in at a career-high 4.5 tries per game. Both of those numbers improved each and every year of his collegiate experience. 

And let's not forget about his stellar free-throw shooting, as the 2-guard connected on 83.4 percent of his 6.5 attempts per game as a senior. 


Work With the Ball

Though Thames doesn't stand out as a distributor, he steadily improved his ball skills throughout his time at San Diego State (and, going back even further, you can include his freshman season at Washington State as well). 

Particularly impressive is the way he remains aggressive without making poor decisions. You won't find Thames forcing the ball into tight spaces unless it's highly beneficial to his team, and he's not going to get careless with his handles, as he recognizes his limitations. 

Take a look at how he fared throughout the collegiate career: 

Thames' Passing Improvements
Assists per GameTurnovers per GameAST%TOV%

It took Thames a while to learn how he could function as a primary scorer while involving his teammates, but he figured it out as a senior. The combination of his assist and turnover percentages is quite impressive, and it bodes well for his ability to draw many touches and keep the ball for extended periods of time at the sport's highest level. 


Consistent Defender

Thames is not a defensive standout. 

However, while he's not a particularly aggressive defender, he's a consistent one. This guard won't be a liability at the next level, even if there's no consensus as to the position he'll spend the most time going up against. 

Mar 27, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell (4) dribbles against San Diego State Aztecs guard Xavier Thames (2) during the second half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournamen

Thames doesn't put up a lot of on-ball pressure, preferring to force his man into low-percentage jumpers by cutting off driving lanes. He routinely goes under screens, treating those picks in the exact same manner as the strict on-ball work in isolation. 

The word you have to use is "solid." Not a playmaker, not a liability. Just solid. 

And for a second-round prospect who specializes in creating offense out of the backcourt, that's an asset. 



What position is Thames actually going to play in the NBA? 

The primary option is shooting guard, but the offensive stalwart—a description that worked this past year, but might not going forward—is going to be giving up a lot of height to opposing 2s. He'll have difficulty guarding the bigger ones, and without much quickness, it'll be awfully tough for him to get off shots that aren't heavily contested. 

Physically, he's better suited for point guard, but his quickness is a hinderance there. Additionally, he's not a stellar enough facilitator to make things happen for his teammates, which means he'd be used primarily in speciality lineups. 

Sometimes, being a positional tweener is a good thing. This is not one of those times. 

Thames also needs to work on his finishing abilities around the basket, as he can't keep relying on awkward floaters while counting on whistles to give him a chance to finish the play at the charity stripe. It's worked for him thus far, but NBA defenders are bigger and quicker, allowing them to contest looks even more heavily while getting in proper guarding position before he can draw contact and get to the line. 



Immediate Projection

Whether Thames is drafted in the second round or signs a contract as an undrafted free agent, he'll be spending the vast majority—maybe even the entirety—of his rookie season playing in the D-League. Until he has a more defined position, honing his skills to fit that role, he's not going to earn much playing time at the top level. 

Well, none at all, really. 

Thames might have an NBA-ready jumper from mid-range zones, but even his three-point stroke needs adjustment. That line-drive nature doesn't bode well for his ability to serve as a sharpshooter right away, hence an even bigger need for developmental work. 


Long-Term Projection

This is entirely dependent on his ability to continue developing his point guard skills.

If Thames wants to have a lengthy career in the NBA, he can't afford to keep trying to play shooting guard as his primary position. He simply doesn't have the size or physical tools to thrive at the bigger spot in the lineup, and that's never going to change. 

What could change, though, is his ability to function as a quality distributor, doing more than taking careful control of the rock. If he can couple his knack for shooting with a penchant for racking up assists, he'll be a much more valuable player, one who can come off the bench as a primary backup for years. 

Ultimately, Thames' best-case scenario involves functioning as a sixth man for a long time. He'll never be much more than that, seeing as there are physical limitations that can't be overcome.

At least not by a 23-year-old prospect who has already started coming close to his ceiling. 


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