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2014 NBA Draft Profile: San Diego State Guard Xavier Thames

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Key Facts & Stats

Age: 23 (born 1/19/91)
Class: Senior
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195 pounds
2013-14 Season: 31.3 minutes, 17.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 turnovers, 1.6 steals, 41.1 fg%, 37.2 3-pt fg%, 83.4 ft%.

Strengths

Thames has a good handle and a nice pull-up jumper off the dribble, with a good ability to get around defenders and into the paint, while going either left or right. Thames stays in control and is athletic, smooth, quick and shifty with a good first step.

As evidenced by a turnover average that went down each year — from 2.5 turnovers in 33.8 minutes per game as a sophomore, to 1.8 turnovers in 28.7 minutes the following season, to just 1.4 turnovers in 31.3 minutes last year — Thames has learned to take care of the ball well.

Defensively, Thames is quick enough to stay with opposing point guards. He moves his feet well laterally and developed good hands (with 1.6 steals per game last season after averaging just one steal per contest over his prior two years). He was the Aztecs’ best perimeter defender, and in that regard, he models himself after former NBA great and fellow Californian Gary Payton.

Thames improved his 3-point shot, from just 30.8 percent as a sophomore, to 35.6 percent as a junior to a solid 37.2 percent last season. And he was very reliable at the free throw line, where he consistently shot above 80 percent throughout his college career, while finishing at a career-best 83.4 percent last season.

He also became a good leader (with the departure of 2013 draftee Jamaal Franklin) as the top scorer on a San Diego State team team that won 20 straight games en route to capturing a Mountain West Conference title, before the Thames-led Aztecs finished an impressive 31-5, reached the Sweet 16, where SDSU nearly took down top seed Arizona.

Mar 27, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Xavier Thames (2) dribbles against Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell (4) during the first half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Weaknesses

While Thames is exciting with playmaking ability, he’s a shoot-first guard who doesn’t look often enough to create for others. He averaged 4.1 assists as a sophomore, but that dipped almost in half (2.4) the next season before climbing only to an underwhelming 3.2 assists per games last year.

That deficiency could hurt Thames at the next level, as he is also an undersized and underperforming shooter from inside the arc. From 2-point range, Thames dropped from an already-low starting point of 40.2 percent as a sophomore, to 35.1 percent the next year, before improving only modestly, to 41.1 percent last season.

At 23 years of age, Thames’ window for making it in the NBA will be at least a couple of years shorter than typical draftees. While that maturity could be viewed as a strength for a team looking for Thames to contribute sooner than later, it might also bee seen as a detriment in his development, as it automatically shrinks Thames’ timeline for improving before he reaches his prime down the road.

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