Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This profile breaks down Belmont forward Dylan Windler.
Dylan Windler did not take a traditional route to becoming a legitimate NBA prospect and potential first round pick. Though he hails from a basketball-friendly state (Indiana), he was not heavily recruited out of high school, partially because he did not play AAU travel basketball until after his junior year of high school. Five years since his lone AAU season, he stands on the verge of an NBA career.
As a freshman at Belmont University, he averaged 4.3 points while playing 18.4 minutes per game. Though he was a rotational player in his first year playing for the Bruins, there were few signs that he would eventually become a solid scorer and prolific shooter for the Ohio Valley Conference school. He shot just 23.9% from the three point line and 66.7% from the free throw line in his first year.
As a sophomore, Windler stepped into he starting lineup and the shooting skills emerged (39.8% on three point attempts) while taking just over half of his 6.1 attempts per game from beyond the three point line. His scoring numbers were respectable (9.2 per game) but not stand out by any stretch.
By his junior year, he was displaying a more complete game as he led his team in scoring (17.3), rebounding (9.3) and three point shooting (42.6%). As a senior, he elevated his game even further and put up elite numbers across the board (21.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 69.1% TS%). Windler would have been the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year had it not been for a player named Ja Morant, who happens to be the projected No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Windler’s college career culminated with a 35-point performance against Maryland in a two-point loss during the second round of the NCAA tournament, further solidifying his spot on the NBA prospect map.
Not all successful mid-major college basketball players are NBA prospects, but when you are a forward who stands at 6’7.5 (with shoes, as measured at the NBA combine) with decent length (6’10 wingspan) and you are a prolific shooter, the question marks often associated with other stand out mid-major players begin to fade. In fact, a closer look shows that Windler is more complete player than shooter and has an overall game that should translate very well to the NBA level.
Offensively, Windler’s core competency is his shooting. But, as his college career progressed, opponents began giving large amounts of defensive attention to his perimeter shooting. He responded in two ways. First, he showed that he is clever moving without the basketball and has respectable cutting and finishing skills. Second, he continued to make shots even with a defender’s hand right in his face.
Cutting and finishing at the NBA level will be a challenge on a completely different level. However, it is likely he will need to rely less on those skills at the NBA level. The distance of the NBA three point line results in more spacing. Further, Windler’s offensive role is likely to be more of a secondary player rather than the high usage, first option player that he was in college. If he is on the floor with an elite scorer and play maker who commands help defenders, Windler should be a solid stretch-the-floor shooter on the wing.
Though his shooting should be his primary NBA skill, the Belmont lefty is capable of doing more than catching and shooting. He is a clever player with the ball in his hands. He is a good passer who sees the floor and plays with a high basketball IQ. If he plays in an offense that relies less on isolation and more on floor spacing and ball movement, he should fit perfectly.
Offensively, the biggest question mark about Windler relate to his athleticism and explosiveness. Some of those questions should be put to rest since the NBA combine where he posted respectable speed and agility results. His style of play at the college level may give the impression of a methodical player who may be too slow to succeed at the next level. In reality, he is efficient with his movement and footwork and doesn’t need to use max effort bursts of explosiveness to produce offensively.
On the defensive end of the floor, Windler projects as a player who may not necessarily be able to match up against elite wings. Superficial assessments often divide prospects into those who can defend and those who can’t. A more nuanced look likely shows that he falls somewhere in the middle. His work at the combine and in private workouts should mitigate some of the doubts NBA teams have about his ability to defend, but to say that he does not project as a plus defender but should be able to defend well enough to keep himself on the floor at the NBA level is a fair conclusion.
One other important skill where Windler brings value is in the area of rebounding. He posted robust rebounding numbers at the college level and this was not by accident. He consistently boxes out and anticipates the ball coming off the rim very well. His solid footwork and willingness to play with physicality allows him to seal defenders and collect rebounds.
In an NBA era where rebounding is more of a team skill, individual rebounding skills often get overlooked. Still, the best rebounding teams in the league benefit from guards and wings who have the discipline and willingness to be active on the glass. Windler profiles as that type of player.
Draft night could be very interesting for the 22-year-old. The draft pool this summer is widely viewed as more ordinary when compared to the past several summers. As a result, any one of a number of NBA teams could be so intrigued by his shooting skills and overall fit.
In the portion of the draft where he is likely to go (late first round or early-to-mid second round), many teams will be looking for younger players with more upside. The fact that there is a bit of shooting scarcity in this draft could propel the Windler up the draft board.
The Atlanta Hawks certainly could have interest in Windler and he could be available in the second round where the Hawks have three picks. Although, there is a decent chance he will not last until the No. 35 pick (first of Atlanta’s three second round selections) and the No. 8 and No. 10 spots in the first round would be far too early to take him. If Hawks do have significant interest and want to make a strong move to select Windler, some type of trade, either moving up from the No. 35 spot or down from one of the lottery picks, is the most likely scenario to make that happen.