In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we examine Houston’s Nate Hinton.
A cursory glance at Nate Hinton’s box score statistics likely would not lead an observer to believe that he was a highly intriguing NBA Draft prospect. Outside of his rebounding prowess (more to come on that trait), Hinton’s raw numbers don’t blow anyone away, averaging 10.6 points per game in the AAC as a member of the Houston Cougars. However, Hinton brings a number of interesting things to the table as a potential NBA role player, especially when diving deeper into his overall profile.
Hinton, who was named first team All-AAC for the 2019-20 college basketball season, stands at 6’5 and 210 pounds with a reported 6’9 wingspan. Those measurables aren’t overwhelming for an NBA wing, but they are perfectly adequate, especially when paired with a motor that runs hot. Hinton turned 21 years old in June after two seasons at Houston and, while he did leave open the possibility of a return to college, the ultimate decision was to pursue a professional career.
Defensively, Hinton makes a tangible impact, and he will need to see that translate to the professional level in order for him to carve out a long-term NBA role. His catch-all metrics on the defensive end are very strong, and the Houston defense was markedly better when he was on the floor. While he doesn’t have overwhelming havoc numbers, Hinton does sport a more than acceptable 2.9 percent career steal rate, and his rebounding prowess helps to round out the full defensive package.
While his size is reason for hesitancy in this particular area, Hinton was a genuine terror on the glass in college. That was especially true on the offensive side, where he grabbed 9.7 percent of available rebounds, and Hinton was also very strong defensively, with a 22.0 percent defensive rebound rate. In terms of raw numbers, Hinton averaged 8.7 (!) rebounds per game in only 30.3 minutes, which is jarring for a player of his size, even in the AAC. Given that he will be a wing at the NBA level, his rebounding won’t make or break his career in all likelihood, but it is an unquestioned positive and another indicator of his motor, ability to leap, and willingness to jump into the mix.
On the ball, Hinton is an annoyance to the opposition in the best way, with the ability to shadow ball-handlers and use his physicality to present tangible resistance. He may not be full-fledged “shutdown” defender given his modest measurements, but Hinton projects to be solid-or-better against most wings, even when tasked with difficult assignments.
Off the ball, he feels the game at an exceptionally high level. He knows how to close out on shooters, read passing lanes, position himself well and bring help when warranted. As always, it can be difficult to translate college schemes to what players will be asked to do in the NBA, but Hinton’s feel — beginning in his freshman season and moving into his second year — really jumps off the screen defensively.
As one may expect by examining his 17.9 percent usage rate as a sophomore, Hinton does not project as a star-level offensive prospect. With that said, he does present a package of useful abilities, all of which can be combined to effectively fill a vital role.
Hinton is a strong spot-up player by the numbers, both in letting it fly as a jump shooter and attacking close-outs when given the opportunity. He converted 38.7 percent of his three-point attempts, on 7.6 shots per 100 possessions, as a sophomore, and Hinton will need to be guarded by professional defenses.
As a ball-handler, he isn’t suited to be a primary option, but he is a capable play-maker and creator as a secondary option. Hinton isn’t an advanced passer at this stage, as evidenced by a 12.9 percent assist rate last season, but he did make strides and can make simple reads. Furthermore, he is a willing ball-mover, and Hinton can’t be taken advantage due to his ability to handle the ball and make decisions.
From the perspective of the Atlanta Hawks, Hinton would be quite interesting with the No. 50 overall pick. Intel-based big boards are split on Hinton’s prospect status, with some seemingly giving him a legitimate chance to be selected in the 2020 draft and others pointing to a Two-Way or training camp invitation path. At No. 50, though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Hawks could be more drawn to Hinton as a jack-of-all-trades role player that doesn’t need the ball to be effective.
Judging by the current public perception surrounding the 2020 class, Hinton likely won’t break into the top 40 and, by proxy, may not receive an immediately guaranteed NBA contract after the draft. That shouldn’t be a deterrent from serious interest surrounding Hinton as a prospect, however, with the upside to be an NBA wing that can hold his own on offense, make an impact on defense, and hold down a rotation role for multiple seasons.