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Xavier Tillman 2020 NBA Draft Profile

Xavier Tillman has been a steady presence for the Michigan State Spartans. He started his career as a consistent bench presence in the forward rotation. After a mass exodus from the frontcourt, Tillman was thrown into the star role and he responded well.

Xavier Tillman 2020 NBA Draft Profile

College Career

Tillman is a 6’8 junior forward from Michigan. After starting only 14 games through his first two seasons, Tillman started all 31 games this season. He mostly played the four spot in his first two seasons in East Lansing, but this year he was the center. Tillman held up well averaging 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and three assists per game in about 32 minutes. All-in-all, his career numbers elevated to 8.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. 

Tillman most notably hit a jumper to knock out the Duke Blue Devils in the Elite 8 last year. This season, he was awarded a place on the All-Big Ten team, as well as the All-Big Ten Defensive team. Tillman was also awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.


Xavier Tillman is an outstanding defender. Even as an undersized big, he held his own frequently in the paint. He has a strong frame and is able to move players off the block. If someone scores on Tillman they are really working for it. He also has relatively quick feet and is at least not a liability on the perimeter. Additionally, he was able to finish possessions with a rebound, securing more than ten per game. 

Tillman is a very good playmaker for his size. Averaging three assists per game is impressive, especially for a center. He has a great feel for the offense and tends to make the right plays. He formed the best pick-and-roll duo in the country with Cassius Winston. Tillman does not have to score to make an impact and that is great for the next level. When he catches the ball on the roll, he makes the right pass if he is stopped.


Tillman is not a great shooter. He has shown some capability in making threes but in terms of percentage, he is not great. Tillman shot 26 percent from three on 50 shots this season. It is a good thing that he feels comfortable enough to shoot it, but he has to make more. 

Another issue for Tillman is his lack of athleticism. He plays mostly low to the ground and as a smaller forward, that can be slightly problematic. This means he is really limited to the four position or small-ball five. 

The last issue should not be an issue at all but for NBA personnel it is deemed an issue. Tillman lacks a ton of upside. Basically, who Tillman is when he steps on an NBA court for the first time will be who he is at the end of his career, for the most part. He is an older player and his body is filled out so there is nowhere to go from that standpoint. The best-case scenario is he develops a consistent outside game. 

NBA Player Comparison

Derrick Favors. Both players do all the little things to help teams win games. They are good rebounders and consistent defensive presences. Tillman is probably a better playmaker than Favors and Favors is probably a better shooter than Tillman. Regardless, teams want a player like these guys to bring up the quality of their roster.

NBA Draft Projection

Early to mid-second round.

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