Here we continue to look at the top prospect for the 2013 NBA Draft. Today we examine:
Nate Wolters, PG, South Dakota State, 6’4” 190lbs
2012-13 Collegiate Stat Line: (all stats courtesy of ESPN.com)
22.3 points, 48% field goals, 38% 3-point field goals, 80% free throws5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.7 steals
The ultimate enigma of college basketball the past two years, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters has put the Jackrabbits on the map during his four years of play. Wolters became the first player in NCAA history to record two consecutive seasons of more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game since assists became an official statistic. The list of accomplishments for Wolters at SDSU could go on, but we’ll examine his NBA Draft potential here.
Mr. Do Everything has been an unofficial nickname for Wolters in college. Scoring is just one aspect of his overall game, but it’s a pretty good one. With a combination of deceptively quick ball-handling moves and a nose for the rim, Wolters can finish at the rim in contact better than anybody in college basketball. He’s great at drawing fouls while also finishing for the and-one. When he doesn’t feel like getting hit, he’ll step into the paint for his patented floater, one of his most consistent shots.
Wolters struggled from beyond the arc in his junior season largely due to his unorthodox release. The summer before his senior season, Wolters worked on altering his shot and the result was a huge 14 percent increase from 3-point range. His shot still seems a little flat, but he makes it work beautifully.
While running the Jackrabbit offense, Wolters always had the ball in his hands. Unlike Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, he wasn’t one to sit around and watch the offense work without him being involved. He thrives when he has possession of the ball, just as a point guard should. Once he has the ball, when he’s not looking to score, he has the ability to thread the needle to open teammates for easy baskets. He has no problems scoring the basketball but he’s looking to distribute just as much as he’s looking to score.
There have been great questions on whether Wolters’ game will translate at the next level. While a talented player, the Summit League does not necessarily have the type of physical players to match up against Wolters. He toyed with Summit League defenders his whole career, but how will he match up against NBA caliber players? Wolters will have to answer these questions himself.
Some have also questioned whether his slow demeanor and lack of defending throughout his career will be a downfall. Wolters was pitted against Michigan’s Trey Burke in the NCAA tournament an NBA Draft talent himself. Wolters helped hold Burke to a season-low six points. While the entire team defense was designed to help keep Burke checked, the bulk of the credit can go to Wolters, but most NBA scouts will see otherwise. This was really the first time Wolters had been given the top opposing offensive player to guard during his career and he fared well against top talent.
Dec. 22 at New Mexico (W 70-65) 28 points, 9-for-15 field goals, 1-for-5 3-point field goals, 9-for-11 free throws, five rebounds, seven assists
It would be easy to put Wolters’ 53-point outburst at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne in February here, but this game showed Wolters’ complete arsenal in a much bigger game. Wolters had been coming off three of his worst games of his career and his coach threatened to bench him if he felt it would happen again (Wolters was coming off of a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss a game at Minnesota).
Efficient shooting, getting to the free-throw line, scrapping for rebounds and finding open teammates as been the Nate Wolters story for the past four years. If you are familiar with college basketball, you know that New Mexico was a force in the 2012-13 season. To lead his team past the Lobos, ranked 16th in the country at the time, on the road, with a nagging ankle injury and after busing to Albuquerque, N.M., from Nashville, Tenn., due to weather conditions, it’s hard to look past this game when examining Wolters.
March 21 vs. Michigan (NCAA Tournament second round L 71-56) 10 points, 3-for-14 field goals, 0-for-5 3-point field goals, five rebounds, six assists
Michigan came into this game determined to make SDSU’s other players beat them and contain Nate Wolters. They did a great job of rattling him, making him uncomfortable and forcing him to give up the basketball. Wolters only got to the foul line four times and could not get into an offensive rhythm.
Potential Landing Spots:
NBA scouts currently have mixed feelings about the now-former Jackrabbit. Wolters is being projected anywhere from the late first round to not being drafted at all (although very few have him completely off the board). It’s highly likely that Wolters gets selected in the early to mid-second round.
Teams That Make Sense:
Sacramento Kings: If Wolters does drop to the early second round, the Kings might have a hard time passing up on him. Isaiah Thomas has been a nice supplement for the Kings the last few years, but a true point guard could make the future Seattle-based team jump for joy. It’s hard to tell the direction the Kings will be heading, but Wolters would be a nice guy to have around for their transition to Seattle.
Phoenix Suns: Phoenix has quite a few needs and, generally speaking, point guard is not one of them. They already have Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall to fill that role. However, with a number of draft picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Suns can afford to gamble on somebody that could wind up being the steal of the draft. Also, Wolters has often been compared to Steve Nash based on his style of play. Phoenix loves them some Steve Nash. It could be the perfect pairing.
Nate Wolters is a player who is going to put his time in the gym and attempt to silence the doubters. He’s done a great job of that in college but now must do the same thing in the NBA. There’s always that one steal of the draft and Nate Wolters has the potential to be that steal this year.
Side note: if you hear the comparison of Wolters to former BYU standout and Kings guard Jimmer Freddette, ignore it. They are completely different players with different team roles and have very few similarities other than they both scored a lot of points in college. You have been forewarned.
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