Scouting the 2013 NBA Draft: Nate Wolters and His NBA-Caliber Vision

Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

You don't tend to think of South Dakota State as a school that provides the NBA with a plethora of star power. Yet on the right team, Jackrabbits point guard Nate Wolters has the potential to do damage in the pros with his combination of confident shooting and elite vision.

For a 6-4, 193-pound white kid from Minnesota, Nate Wolters has an unbelievable shot at doing big things in the NBA. I haven't had the privilege to watch him consistently over the last four years, but from what I've seen of his game, his vision on the court will be his major asset in his potential NBA career.

It hasn't been a consistent increase in every statistic through every year, but Wolters' game has definitively improved every year of his collegiate career. Last year, he was the only player in the country to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game, illuminating his multifaceted game. The kid doesn't just score or just pass. The kid plays basketball.

We've arrived at his senior year and he's wasted little time making his intentions for this season clear: Nate Wolters is here to put up numbers and make plays. In his first three games thus far, he's put up 30, 22, and 25 points, respectively, and although his South Dakota State Jackrabbits currently sit at 1-2, it hasn't been for a lack of hustle and performance from Wolters.

Consider the stats:

  • He's taken 19 free throws and hasn't missed a single one thus far.
  • He is currently averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5 assists, including a brilliant double-double in last night's loss to Hofstra in which he had 11 points and 10 rebounds at halftime.
  • Those are ten rebounds in twenty minutes from a 6-4 point guard who generally operates from the top of the key.

The fact of the matter is that Wolters isn't a physical specimen and his shot isn't consistently lethal (see his 9-18 shooting last night) and yet I have no doubts that he can do big things in the NBA.

Why? Vision.

He throws cross-court passes like only LeBron James does these days, finding teammates on the other side of the hardwood. When he decides to take the ball to the hoop, he can go up for a contested runner and find a way out of a potential block like an escape artist.

There was a particular instance in the Hofstra game that convinced me of his draft-ability. As Wolters drove down the right side of the baseline towards the hoop, he drew two defenders to the basket to address the impending layup attempt. Recognizing this, Wolters threw a pass to the far left corner, and the Jackrabbits rotated around the three-point line until they hit the last man who cashed in on the open shot.

It struck me: when the defense has to respect his close-range shot, he can attract defense. And when Wolters sees this mismatch on the fringes and uses his otherworldly vision of the court, all 30 teams in the league can use a point guard who creates plays for the other four on the court without needing the assist in the box score.

And when you combine that with a scoring touch that he displayed in the closing minutes of the Hofstra game? There are few flaws to be found in his game.

Looking around today's NBA, the majority of the elite point guards (Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose) are around 6'4" or shorter. If he can focus on developing his game into one where his shot is consistent and needs to be respected by professional defenses, Nate Wolters could legitimately be a threat right out of college. It just takes a team that needs a fresh point guard to watch an entire South Dakota State game.

In a small sample size, Wolters comes across as just another floor general. But when you watch his game as a whole forty minutes, he'll show you vision and playmaking that would look at home in the NBA. He executes his game with a confident cool that convinces you he has everything under control. Because he usually does.

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