Not surprisingly, Xavier Thames, San Diego State's star point guard and 2014 AP Honorable Mention All-American, has not received the draft attention that former fellow Aztec, Kawhi Leonard, had received as the 15th overall selection in the 2011 draft. Nor has he been regarded as highly as former teammate Jamaal Franklin, a 2013 second round pick. Thames has, however, been considered a border line top 10 point guard heading into the June 26th draft that will once again be held in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. That kind of attention may just land him with an NBA squad somewhere in the middle or back end of the draft's second round.
What the NBA will like about Xavier Thames...
As a 23-year old who was a fifth year senior this past season, Thames appears to be NBA-ready. Offensively, he has moves and instincts on the court that often shredded defenses. He averaged just under 18 points per game as a senior. Equally impressive were his excellent ball handling skills that resulted in only 1.4 turnovers in over 31 minutes per game. At one point, he had an incredible 5 game span of 190 minutes without a turnover.
Thames was 100% healthy this past season and did not miss a game. Without the back pain he suffered as a junior, he was able to consistently showcase his quick first step either right or left that created separation from defenders that allowed for easy open looks for his jumper and his trademark running floaters.
You can trust Thames as a shooter. He shot 37.4% from 3-point range, and over 41% overall. With the game on the line, head coach Steve Fisher wanted the ball in Thames' hands, not just because he handles the ball well and is a clutch shooter, but because he could count on him at the line. He shot 83.4% from the line this past season, an improvement over his already strong 81.5% he delivered his junior year.
His defensive intensity set the bar for the rest of his team. San Diego State has gained a national reputation as one of the best defensive teams in all of college hoops. Defense has always been an emphasis of coach Fisher and specifically, assistant coach Justin Hutson. There was no better floor leader than Thames to ensure that his level of play on defense was shared by all Aztecs. An excellent defender on the arc with quick hands and feet enabled Thames to collect an impressive 1.6 steals per game.
The Bottom Line...
Thames has the potential to provide instant spark off the bench both offensively and defensively for many NBA teams. With his work ethic, he will undoubtedly continue to improve his game and show steady improvement. His NBA success may depend on the program he gets drafted into, much like the opportunity afforded to Kawhi Leonard with the Spurs.
Realistically, will Thames get drafted? He should. He played against some of the best college players in the country including top tier players at Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Creighton, Marquette, and UNLV among others. He was the undisputed leader of a 31-5 (16-2 MWC) team, was the MWC player of the year, and almost single handedly led the Aztecs to the Sweet 16 where they nearly knocked off top seed Arizona. He is a playmaker that can shoot, drive, handles well, defends, and wants the ball in critical moments. All are qualities that are required for Thames to make it to the next level. That being said, the Sacramento product is once again the "X" factor of the 2014 NBA draft.