Today’s featured draft profile will be on the South Dakota State University’s floor general, Nate Wolters. A skilled scorer and passer with a solid understanding of the game, at 6’4, Wolters appears to have all tools necessary to run the point guard position off the bench for an NBA team. But questions regarding his athleticism and the quality of competition he faced in his four years in The Summit League have hindered his stock. He is currently pegged as an early second rounder in most mock drafts, but I believe there is a possibility of him sneaking into the tail-end of the first.
Birthday: 5/15/91 – Projected NBA Position: Point Guard – Class: Senior – Ht: 6-5 – Wt: 196 – Hometown: St. Cloud, MN
2012-13 Per Game Averages: 22.2 Points – 5.8 Assists – 5.6 Rebounds – 48.5 FG% – 37.9 3P% – 81.3 FT%
– Offensive game is NBA ready
– Skilled passer/Keeps head up and always finds the open man
– Adept at drawing contact and getting to the line
– Not explosive but has a deceptive first step/Changes speed with ease
– Superb ball handler who maintains his dribble under pressure
– Plays the game at his own pace and rarely forces the issue
– Strong decision maker/Averaged just 2.3 TO per game despite team high 29.8% usage rate
– Won’t wow you with his athleticism
– Lack of lateral quickness will make defending on the perimeter a challenge
– Somewhat small wingspan for his height
– Didn’t face top shelf talent in college
Wolters’ path to the draft has been an interesting one. The Minnesota native was making a name for himself in The Summit League, doing it all for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, but to the rest of the basketball world was essentially invisible until a match-up with the University of Washington on December 18, 2011. The Jackrabbits stunned the Huskies 92-73, and Wolters slowly began to demand attention from pro scouts by racking up 34 points on 50% shooting, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds with 0 turnovers. In 4 years at South Dakota State, the 2013 All-American has accomplished much, including leading the Jackrabbits to their first winning season as a member of the NCAA Division I as a Sophomore, and their first two Division I NCAA Tournament appearances in his Junior and Senior years.
Looking at Wolters’ highlights, it’s clear that his primary job at South Dakota State was to score the basketball, and score the basketball he did. His ability to put the ball in the hoop is the cornerstone of his game, as he boasts one of the most complete offensive games of any guard in this year’s draft. Despite a funky hitch in his shot, Wolters has solid range and can connect from just about anywhere on the floor. He can hit the pull up, knock down set shots off the catch, and drive to the basket, where he utilizes a very effective floater that he can put up with either his left or right hand. Wolters is also good at drawing contact on his dives to the rim, and was a superb 80% free throw shooter in college. He even reminds me of a young Andre Miller at times with his “old-man” game.
A skilled ball-handler, Wolters plays the game at a steady pace, making up for his lack of an explosive first step with an extensive repertoire of dribble moves that he combos together to get his defender off-balance. He maintains his dribble in the face of pressure and rarely turns the ball over in traffic, which leads to his strengths as a distributor. Despite Wolters shouldering a majority of the offensive load for the Jackrabbits, he actively sought to get his teammates involved, consistently keeping his head up and looking for the open man on the perimeter when driving to the basket. He could be regularly depended on to make to smart pass, and registered a surprisingly low amount of turnovers given how often the ball was in his hands.
Wolters’ weaknesses lie on the other side of the ball, as his sub-par lateral quickness causes him to struggle defending opposing guards on the perimeter. He’s tries to make up for it with his high I.Q. and toughness, but more often than not, he’ll be a liability defensively. Average athleticism, strength, and a small wingspan also raise questions as to how he’ll fare against NBA-caliber point guards night in and night out.
But the biggest cause for concern has been questions regarding how Wolters’ game will translate to the NBA considering the conference he played in for the past 4 years. The Summit League isn’t necessarily a cornucopia of talent, and the last player to be drafted from South Dakota State was Steve Lingenfelter by the Washington Bullets in 1981 with the 44th overall pick. Yet, with his combination of smarts, toughness, and natural scoring ability, I strongly believe Wolters will be drafted. Most scouts have him pegged as an early second round pick, but Wolters has recently been speaking with several teams with first round picks this year, and the list is growing. It’s amazing to look at the history of Wolters’ Alma Mater, and then to read the amount of teams he’s been connected to, including Utah, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Detroit, Denver, Minnesota, and Cleveland.
On the idea of Wolters in New York, I certainly believe he’d fill a need. The point guard position was a cause for concern BEFORE the retirement of Jason Kidd, and with Pablo Prigioni still undecided on whether or not he’ll be returning for next season, Raymond Felton is the only point guard under contract. Wolters is skilled in running the pick and roll, and has the ability to make defenders pay for going under the screen, as well create for others. He’s a high I.Q. basketball player who takes care of the ball, and as the second or third point guard on the roster would be a nice addition at #24.