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  • Collin Sexton’s Ferocity Is Only Matched by Knicks’ Controversial Interest in the Point Guard

Collin Sexton’s Ferocity Is Only Matched by Knicks’ Controversial Interest in the Point Guard

Photo: Bailey Carlin/TKW Illustration
Sexton has been tied to the Knicks for a long time. Should Steve Mills and Scott Perry look to add a point guard, and if they should, will Sexton be their guy?

I first fell in love with Collin Sexton’s game during the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, when Alabama was fighting for their spot in the NCAA tourney. A number nine seed in the tourney, they ended up playing the top-ranked team in Auburn. When crunch time came, the freshman point guard turned his game up a notch to pull out the upset win for his team. In total, he tallied 31 points, along with seven boards and one dazzling behind the back assist.

This was just one of several signature performances from Sexton that showcased his ability to single-handedly take over a game. In total, he averaged 24.2 points in his five postseason games. Throughout both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, he flashed a certain “I’m going to win this game for us NOW” mentality, which isn’t exactly teachable. However, for all his mental grit and competitive drive, Sexton does have some major red flags that make it tough to see him as a complete point guard on the pro level.

Sexton will in all likelihood be on the board when the Knicks pick at nine, so what would he look like playing in the orange and blue? Is he a worthy backcourt mate for Frank Ntilikina?

To play well with a guard like Ntilikina, who is still developing as a playmaker, a player needs to be able to get to the rack, collapse defenses, and facilitate. Let’s take a look at which of those categories Sexton checks off.


Perpetual Explosiveness

Sexton is a classic ball-dominant scoring guard. His first step is quick, and he can get around his defender with or without a screen, which allows him to get to the cup, as evidenced by his 252 free throws in just 33 college games. He gets going downhill quickly and can get his shot off from a variety of angles. Sexton also changes pace remarkably well to keep his defenders off balance and create shots for himself. The way he finishes so fluidly with either hand reminds me of Donovan Mitchell, but at this point, he still seems more comfortable going to his right:

Though he is slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, Sexton is strong in the lane and plays with great physicality. He uses his strength well to pull off small tricks—like keeping defenders on his back—and is able to bang with the big bodies (at least at the collegiate level). He also finishes well through contact:

When examining his strength and quick twitch ability, he at times looks like a Russell Westbrook–type player on the floor. However, he also has some of the same problems that have plagued Westbrook throughout his career.

Turnover Woes

Considering the fact that Sexton won’t have nearly as much responsibility in his rookie season as he did at Bama, his turnover numbers can be taken with somewhat of a grain of salt. His usage rate in his inaugural campaign should not be anywhere close to the 32.9 percent mark we saw last year.

Regardless, it can’t be overlooked that he turned the ball over a whopping 3.7 times per game last season. His assist to turnover ratio is under two, which, frankly, isn’t so great. While Sexton has a tight handle and can dribble through double teams with ease, his poor decision-making sometimes leads to turnovers. He plays a little bit eager at times, which can cause him to force passes when he should have been looking to shoot and vice versa. Sexton also has a tendency to play a little out of control, almost like his body is moving just a hair faster than his mind.

The passion he plays with is both a vice and a virtue.

Pump Up the Jumper

Sexton’s jump shot is a bit funky. His release point is too low—almost right in front of his face—and his arc is flat. The point guard’s follow through also isn’t very smooth, but he’s still a good shot creator. He can get to the bucket whenever he wants, and can create all types of space for himself with a combination of herky-jerky hesitations, step backs, pull ups, and fade aways.

His ability to create shots would certainly be a nice complement next to a player like Ntilikina on the perimeter. However, the biggest thing about his shot is a glaring inconsistency with his balance. He’ll need to study video of guys like Damian Lillard to figure out how to stay squared to the rim and use his step-backs for good, rather than someone like Brandon Jennings, who doesn’t square to the basket on his fade aways and step backs.

Sexton does have an efficiency problem that, in my mind, leaves his pro comparison closer to a Reggie Jackson than a Russell Westbrook in the pros. He shoots 44.7 percent from the floor and 33.6 percent from deep.

He displays some vision, but it’s a stretch to call him a natural distributor. If teammates make good cuts around him while he’s driving, he can find them, but he isn’t creating too much for his teammates. Too often, Sexton puts his head down when going to the rack, restricting his ability to see the floor. But anyone who can suck defenders in as well as Sexton has the potential to grow into a strong drive-and-kick player.

Defensive Spark plug

Sexton’s physical tools bode well for his defense in the NBA. From a physicality standpoint, he can stay with anyone in the league, and as an on-ball defender, he doesn’t get blown by very often. The former Alabama star is also good at beating attackers to the spot. He makes dribblers uncomfortable, playing with energy and getting up under them, similar to Marcus Smart. Unfortunately, Sexton’s aforementioned over-eagerness leads to bad gambles. At times, he’ll over-help, over-commit to one side, or over-anything, really. He’s just an over the top player, in general.

While he has good anticipation to get his hands in passing lanes and get out in transition, at 6’2”, Sexton doesn’t possess the size to dominate opposing point guards.

So Would He Be a Good Fit?

In Collin Sexton, we have a passionate, semi-inefficient, ball-dominant point guard who can get to the rack and score in bunches. The Knicks were 29th in the league in drives per game last season, and it’s been a while since they’ve had a dynamic point guard that can force his way to the line and knock free throws down consistently. Someone who loves the spotlight like Sexton and thrives under pressure might just have the drive to improve his game under the MSG lights. It certainly would be fun to watch.

However, inconsistent shooting and poor decision-making are two traits that the Knicks can’t afford from a starting point guard. The team has plenty of time to find a good candidate for the long-term at guard, whether that ends up being Frank, Trey Burke, or neither. There are plenty of prospects in this draft that come from winning cultures, each of which could end up being a foundational piece for New York’s future. That includes Sexton. Despite the positives, the Knicks would be better off taking a lengthy or athletic wing who plays under control and can shoot the trey.

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