Charlotte Hornets Draft: Is Cassius Winston worth the late pick?

COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 29: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans handles the ball against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on February 29, 2020 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 29: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans handles the ball against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on February 29, 2020 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images) /

With any news of a second bubble still pending, the Charlotte Hornets are preparing for October’s NBA Draft. Could a backup point guard be on the menu in the second round?

In just a few short weeks, the NBA should be ready to resume in Orlando. Unfortunately, the Charlotte Hornets won’t be participating in that, as they were right on the cusp of being included, but ultimately missed out.

So, the team and fans alike are anxiously awaiting the NBA Draft that is still three long months away. All eyes are on the lottery, of course, but where it gets really interesting, especially for the Hornets, is the back half of the draft, where the team has two picks—the 32nd and 56th, picks to be precise—and are hoping to add some much-needed depth at multiple positions.

Provided the team decides to keep their picks as they are, rather than including them in various draft-night trades, that 56th pick is very interesting as the team has a varying array of players from which to choose.

One such player is Cassius Winston, a 6’1″, 190-pound point guard from Michigan State. The 23-year-old from Detroit had four-year averages of 14.2 points and 6.4 assists per game while playing under Tom Izzo. In fact, he is the school’s career leader in assists, passing Mateen Cleaves at the beginning of the calendar year.

Cassius Winston received plenty of accolades while playing at Michigan State and that may help win the Charlotte Hornets over late in the 2020 NBA Draft.

During his senior year, Winston averaged 18.6 points and 6 dimes per contest, while shooting a respectable 44% from the field and 43% from downtown. While his three-point percentage was up from the previous year, his overall shooting, points, and assists were down from his junior year.

That season saw him taking home Big Ten Player of the Year honors as he averaged almost 19 points and 8 assists per game while shooting 46% from the field and 39% from deep. Prior to the start of his senior season, the guard was a unanimous selection by the Associated Press to the preseason All-American team.

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Offensively, Winston is very sound, especially as a traditional point guard. He can not only spot up and take shots from any number of ranges, but he can also create his own shot should the defense sag off or is caught unaware. He’s an excellent leader on the floor and can make any number of passes, whether off the screen and roll or from out of a double team.

Athletically, however, he is lacking and his small frame does not help. He’s not going to beat many defenders in isolation, nor will he take bigger defenders to the rim with any kind of explosiveness. He has very little straight-line acceleration, especially with the ball, and against the many taller and longer defenders in the league, he will struggle. He’d almost be better as a passer first while trying to get space to knock down an open look away from the ball.

Winston is a very capable free-throw shooter, making nearly 85% for his career in East Lansing. He’s also a great teammate who is always looking to get everyone on the floor involved. He’s the type of player that wants to elevate every guy around him.

Winston has shown the proficiency to be a leader at times, especially during late-game situations. He could work on his turnovers, however, as he coughed the rock up over 3 times a night, but some of that is again, due to his inability to create one-on-one against certain defenders.

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Defensively, he will need work, especially given his size and relatively slow feet. He’ll have trouble guarding quicker assignments and even doubly so against the more athletic guards in the NBA. Learning some fundamentals and getting some strength training in the G-League will go a long way with him.

Mentally, though, he knows the game well enough to be an adequate defender and that’s what he’s relied on throughout his collegiate career. He’ll definitely have a steep learning curve adjusting to the pace and flow of a professional game.


He’s definitely a project and if the Charlotte Hornets are looking for that, then he’s worth a look. His upside isn’t huge and his best possible outcome may just be a competent backup for his career. Any club looking for a consummate teammate, though, who can run an offense in a fairly capable manner while their main point guard gets some rest could look to use a late pick.

Then again, he could put in the work and turn some heads. Not many people thought Devonte’ Graham would amount to much and we see how that panned out. Winston won’t have the easiest time making the jump to the league but as one of the best point guards to ever play at Michigan Stae, he has some pedigree.

In three month’s time, we’ll know who the newest Charlotte Hornets are. If the team still has that last pick in the second round, Miles Bridges could be reunited with a fellow Spartan. Keep your eyes peeled for Cassius Winston if he’s still available at that pick.

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