In a draft filled with uncertainty, Collin Sexton’s ability leaves little doubt

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In a draft filled with uncertainty, Collin Sexton’s ability leaves little doubt

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Collin Sexton is a projected lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Ben Stansell

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With his team trailing by 15 points over halfway through the second period, Auburn’s Chuma Okeke made a hustle play, soaring through the air to secure an offensive rebound over two Alabama players. Fearing that his momentum would carry him out of bounds, Okeke attempted to pass the ball to a teammate at the top of the key before  coming down with it.

The pass never reached its target.

Anticipating Okeke’s decision, a darting Collin Sexton flew from his position on the right side of the key to tip the ball to himself. Upon securing the steal, Sexton became a crimson flash exploding down the court. Only one Auburn player stood between him and the rim. Instead of bullying his way through the defender for a tough finish like he had done frequently throughout the season, Sexton fluidly swung the ball around his back before passing it to a streaking Donta Hall for a dunk.

It was sequences like that, in which Sexton showcased a blend of elite defensive ability, superior athleticism and undeniable offensive skill, that has led to him being considered one of the top point guard prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Now, with only hours left before the moment Sexton is officially an NBA player, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about which team Sexton will suit up for during his rookie campaign.

Most widely respected mock drafts predict Sexton to be picked somewhere between No. 9, which belongs to the New York Knicks, and No. 13, which is owned by the Los Angeles Clippers. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week that it would be “razor-thin” in the Orlando Magic – No. 6 pick – draft room between Sexton and former Oklahoma guard Trae Young. Translation: Sexton could even go as high as six.

In the pre-draft process, Sexton has worked out for the Knicks, Hornets, Cavaliers and Magic.

Thanks to a variety of factors, such as which prospects other teams select and whatever trades may occur, predicting Sexton’s precise landing spot is like throwing darts blindfolded. 

While doubt will surround where Sexton is picked right up until commissioner Adam Silver calls out his name, scouts are nearly unanimous in their belief that Sexton’s skills, both tangible and intangible, could make him an NBA star.

During his time at Alabama, Sexton showed flashes of being a gifted perimeter defender, a skill that comes at a premium in a league that has fallen in love with perimeter play. Although he only measured in at 6 feet, 1 ½ inches at the combine, Sexton’s 6-foot-7 wingspan and on-ball defensive aptitude gives him the potential to translate into a lockdown defender.

When it comes to the other side of the ball, NBA teams are wary of Sexton’s underwhelming three-point percentage – 33 percent – but relish his ability to drive to the rim and get to the free throw line, where he converted 77 percent of the time. Along with his knack for drawing fouls, Sexton’s capacity to be effective in the pick and roll helped him average 19.2 points per game. 

Given that NBA teams will be unable to stifle Sexton with a zone look on defense, like some college teams founds success doing this past season, it would be logical to assume that Sexton will be able to wreak havoc in the paint with greater ease than he did in college.

Besides the palpable abilities he possesses, Sexton comes ready-made with an elephant sized chip on his shoulder. NBA coaches won’t struggle to motivate a guy who plays every game, and every possession, with the infectious brand of intensity that helped him earn the nickname “young bull.”

With that chip comes confidence. Most NBA prospects will say that they are ready for the big stage, that they crave its bright lights.

Sexton doesn’t have to say it; he’s already proven it.

Heading into the 2018 SEC Tournament, Alabama was on the bubble to be one of the 64 teams to make the NCAA Tournament. To solidify its place in the field, the Crimson Tide needed a win in the worst way against Texas A&M in the first round. After leading for the majority of the contest, Alabama was down 69-70 with 4.4 seconds left in the contest. Receiving the inbounds pass, Sexton stormed down the court, weaving between a few Aggie defenders, and effortlessly launched a floater into the air. It barely rippled the net on its way down, and Alabama defeated Texas A&M.

Not only will the NBA team that drafts Sexton be getting a talented prospect, it will also be getting a gritty player who isn’t afraid of the moment.

The 2018 NBA Draft is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m.