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- Cassius Winston Scouting Report
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Cassius Winston spent the last four years of his life at Michigan State, putting together one of the best college careers in the school’s illustrious basketball history. Winston led a high-powered offense and was the catalyst that put the offense in motion. Winston is not particularly fast or athletic compared to most of his counterparts but used quick dribble moves and craftiness to beat his defenders off the dribble.
In the draft, Winston will go near the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round. Winston’s athletic limitations prevent him from being a top prospect or even a guaranteed first-round pick in the draft. However, Winston has a professional personality and leadership qualities that teams covet in their young players. Winston has the shooting and passing ability to stick with a team for a long time at the next level, but his questionable defense and athletic limitations could make him fizzle out or prevent him from making a team in the first place. I think a team will be willing to take a risk on Winston because he can have an impact as a role player and will not cause problems in the locker room.
For Cassius, the biggest strength of his game is the complete control he has over the ball at all times. He never moves too quickly and knows how to get his defender slightly off-balance to get past them into the lane. Once he gets into the lane, Winston is at his most dangerous. It is not like he is going to soar through the sky and dunk on a forward, but he can stop on a dime and hit a pullup jumper, hit a tough layup over a defender, or kick it to the shooters surrounding him on the outside as the defenders focus on him. If Winston can beat his defender off the dribble consistently, he is unstoppable on offense. In the tweet below, you can see how lethal Winston is with the ball in his hands.
Anyone who thinks Cassius Winston is not the best PG in CBB. Please watch this video. pic.twitter.com/Z79ZWmLUsE
— INSIDE MSU (@inside_msu) January 6, 2020
Winston grew as a shooter during his time in East Lansing. By the end of his tenure as a Spartan, Winston was not only one of the best shooters in the Big 10, but the entire country at the point guard spot. Winston is most lethal from deep when he is shooting off the dribble, which is rare for a point guard. There were many occasions where Winston would push the pace as the lead guard and hit a pull-up 3 before the defense could get organized. Winston is great at realizing when he can push the pace, and it normally results in a 3 for him or another player.
Just an incredible 6-minute shot-making display from Cassius Winston: pull-up jumpers, off-movement 3s, a floater pic.twitter.com/CuaUArNOEy
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 21, 2020
Winston is the best passer I have ever seen, at any level. He has a feeling for the floor on the offensive end that is unmatched by any other player in the draft, besides maybe LaMelo Ball. Winston is an absolute maestro with the ball. He loves to push the pace of the offense, putting the defenders on their heels and at the whim of Winston. He uses his ability to get past defenders in the half-court to draw defenders towards him, so he can set up a shooter for a wide-open opportunity. In the pick-and-roll, Winston is able to attack the defense downhill, where he can abuse the larger defender that is switched on him. All of these reasons are why Cassius Winston led the NCAA in assists as a junior and holds the record for most career assists in Big 10 history. Here are my favorite passes that I have seen from Winston in his college career. There will never be a better passer than him in college history, I am sure of it. Just look at this pass below, threading the needle between defenders perfectly to Xavier Tillman.
Cassius Winston is really good at leading guys to open space with his passes. An advanced overall PnR operator, two-level scorer. Only thing that holds him back offensively is that he puts so little pressure on the rim, which ultimately may cap him as a backup PG. pic.twitter.com/1iFKQdGVnZ
— Jeff Siegel (@jgsiegel) April 23, 2020
When you watch Winston play, it is easy to be amazed by what he is able to do because of his lack of athleticism overall. He struggles on defense because he lacks the lateral speed to stay in front of defenders off the dribble, and is burned frequently because of it. Below, there is an example of how Winston can struggle to stay in front of quicker players, which will only get worse at the NBA level where he will be facing the most athletic players in the world.
Here's an example of Ayo Dosunmu acceleration. While he has nice acceleration / burst and change of pace, Cassius Winston needs to try do a better job at stopping this attack pic.twitter.com/qAwA2gBDq1
— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) May 4, 2020
Another weakness of Winston’s game is related to his physical stature. Winston is 6’0 on the dot and not an inch taller. I have stood next to Winston before and I can say with certainty that Winston is not any taller than 6’0, which could be a detriment to him at the next level. The average height of NBA point guards is 6’3, and only getting taller. Winston may struggle to be able to get his shot off over taller defenders and defend efficiently as well.
Best Team Fit
Winston is a player that can fit on nearly any team in the NBA because he can run any offense and thrive with shooters around him. Winston would do the best with strong defenders around him on the second unit, to help hide his inability to guard effectively on-ball. There are plenty of bench units that could use a player like Winston and it is hard to pin him to one team. I think he could be a great player for Detroit to take in the second round if he is still available.
The Pistons do not have a true backup point guard to run their second unit that will be on the team longterm. They could take the hometown player in Winston, and fix their backup point guard position. Other teams that could use him are the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Sacramento Kings. The only problem with these teams is that they will most likely not be in a position to take Winston, but could use a reserve point guard behind their primary ballhandler.
In the NBA, there are few players that play in the same way as Winston. His cerebral and slow playstyle is not common among players anymore, and most players rely on speed and athleticism at the point guard position. If Winston reaches his ultimate potential at the NBA level, he would be similar to Kyle Lowry. He is an undersized primary guard who shoots the ball excellently. Lowry uses his ability to get defenders off-balanced to his advantage and is an average defender despite his size. Another player that Winston is similar to is Jose Calderon. Calderon is a strong leader with the ball in his hands and is great at setting up other players. Winston is similar in terms of passing and leading the team but still struggles to defend.
Winston could be drafted anywhere from 25 to the end of the draft. He has one of the highest floors of any point guard in the draft this season because of his passing and 3 point stroke. I think a championship contender that is drafting near the end of the first round will take a chance on Winston because he has the potential to be a lead guard for a bench unit for the next decade.
He is a great shooter that could strengthen the offense for a lot of bench units and is the best point guard in the second tier of point guards in the draft. He has the advantage over players like Malachi Flynn or Payton Pritchard because he is stronger on the offensive end. He should go before these players in my opinion and likely will. I would not mind at all if he ended up in Detroit at the beginning of the second round, but could easily go before that. His defense is worrisome, but his offense will keep him in the NBA for a long time.