This edition focuses on Gonzaga big man Killian Tillie.
The 2018-19 season wasn’t overly kind to Gonzaga big man Killian Tillie. The 21-year-old was limited to 15 games and only 249 minutes during the campaign, with Tillie’s debut not arriving until Jan. 5 and a limited physical profile as a result of a stress fracture in his right ankle and a partially torn planter fascia in the same foot. With that said, the multi-faceted prospect remains highly intriguing through the prism of 2019 NBA Draft if, in fact, he chooses to remain in the player pool.
Tillie worked out for the Atlanta Hawks in early May and, unfortunately, suffered a left ankle sprain that cut that appearance short. It is worth noting that it appears to be unrelated to his previous ailments but, with that in mind, the theory of Tillie as a draft prospect can best be quantified through a look at his sophomore campaign in 2017-18.
During his second season at Gonzaga, Tillie averaged 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 26.2 minutes in 36 games and his efficiency was impressive in nature. In fact, Tillie’s career numbers (65 percent true shooting with a 23.0 PER) display what he was able to do over the course of three seasons and Tillie’s varied, modern skill set would play well within the current landscape of the NBA.
First and perhaps foremost, Tillie is an excellent shooter for his size. He stands at 6’10 and, while big-time volume wasn’t always present on a team with plenty of offensive options, he converted a blistering 47 percent of his three-point attempts during his college career. It would be (very) aggressive to project that kind of marksmanship at the professional level for pretty much anyone, but, at the very least, Tillie projects to be a near-elite shooter at either big man spot.
Elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball, Tillie has displayed quality passing acumen and he is a natural, unselfish ball mover. He certainly isn’t a player that will be a primary scoring option at the next level, but Tillie is adept at filling in the gaps offensively (including some encouraging moments a cutter and screener) while taking advantage of his perimeter gravity.
Defensively, Tillie is a mixed bag, but not in a negative way. He isn’t blessed with ideal center size at 6’10 with a narrow frame that needs to add muscle, but Tillie is light on his feet and nimble in space. Beyond that, he displays textbook footwork and, at the forefront, has executed well at the college level. Professional coverages are, of course, very different, but Tillie’s learning curve wouldn’t appear to be sharp, provided his physical traits can hold up against improved competition.
Much like on the offensive end, Tillie projects as a role player defensively, with the ability to defend different positions with mild effectiveness but without a single game-changing element. Can he hold up as a primary rim protector? Probably not, but Tillie’s overall awareness and reasonable combination of length and athleticism should help to mask his deficiencies and avoid disaster.
It is worth emphasizing that, at this stage, Tillie has earned something of an “injury prone” label. That isn’t something that outsiders can fully grasp without in-depth medical information but, at the same time, the lack of available tape during his junior season certainly isn’t a plus and it may lead to a final decision for Tillie to return to Spokane for another season.
If he does remain in the 2019 class and can avoid health-related questions, Tillie would be an attractive second-round prospect for a number of NBA teams. For the Hawks, he would be an intriguing fit as a player that can dribble, pass, and shoot with great size, and the theory of Tillie on the second unit makes sense. If healthy, Tillie would fall comfortably in the top 45 players available in this draft (at least for me) and that would place him firmly in the mix when discussing Atlanta’s plans.
A lot can change between now and late June but Killian Tillie checks a lot of boxes and, if he can improve his durability while adding physical strength, the makings of a quality NBA role player are easy to see.