After a scuffle broke out in the second half of Alabama-Minnesota last November, every player on the Crimson Tide’s bench came onto the court, resulting in ejections for all and leaving Bama with just five players to finish the game. Minutes later, an Alabama player fouled out. Less than a minute after that, another left with an injury. Trailing by 13, Alabama would have to play the final 10-plus minutes 3-on-5.
And Collin Sexton nearly willed them to victory.
Sexton scored 17 of his 40 points while playing at a two-man disadvantage and got Alabama within three points late in an eventual 89-84 loss.
That heroic performance in a loss was a microcosm of Sexton’s lone season in Tuscaloosa. There weren’t those notable glorious achievements of making an All-American team, winning a conference championship or earning a Sweet 16 bid, but the pursuit of those goals with the Crimson Tide on Sexton’s back was thrilling to watch.
Sporting a top-20 usage rate in the country, Sexton was a one-man band at ‘Bama. The electrifying point guard averaged 19.9 points and 3.6 assists en route to being named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year. Sexton also put on a show in the SEC Tournament, carrying No. 9 Alabama to the semifinals with a game-winning buzzer beater and a 31-point effort in an upset over No. 1 Auburn. Those performances helped Bama lock down its first NCAA tournament trip since 2011-12.
The first thing that jumps off the screen while watching Sexton is the intensity he plays with. He’s Russell Westbrook-like in how passionate he is and it carries into his offensive game. Sexton is a downhill guard that relentlessly attacks the rim on fast breaks and in the half-court, as evidenced by his 7.6 free throw attempts per game. He possesses the handles and quickness to break down defenders and create separation for either a drive or a pull-up. He can use either hand in getting to the rim and finishing there.
Despite the offensive burden he shouldered, Sexton still managed to be efficient, shooting 44.5 percent from the field. And while he was clearly the most gifted offensive player on Alabama he was far from unselfish, as he only took 13.3 shots per game. Sexton's not an elite passer, but he's a willing one. In pick-and-rolls, he won't just put his head down and recklessly attack, but rather scan the entire floor and keep his dribble alive until making a decision.
On defense, he competes on-ball and has the frame (6-7 wingspan) and quickness to be a strong defender that can handle both guard positions.
There were some encouraging starting points for Sexton's shot at Alabama; he shot 77.8 percent on 252 free throw attempts and 33.6 percent on 131 threes. But there are questions as to how much he can develop and improve as a shooter. It's difficult to be an effective NBA guard without the threat of a shot, so how reliable Sexton's three-point shot and pull-up jumper are will have a large impact on his career trajectory.
He also needs to tighten his shot selection. He takes some ill-advised jumpers and tends to over-drive on attacks, leading to some tough contested shots at the rim. He'll have to work in a floater or short pull-up to combat that.
From his on-court mentality to his athleticism and style of play, Sexton does resemble Westbrook. But Sexton has a ton of developing to do with his game and body to reach Westbrook’s level. With that in mind, Kemba Walker and Eric Bledsoe are much more reasonable comps.
How he would fit with the Sixers
This all comes down to Sexton’s shot. If the Sixers are optimistic about it, then he theoretically fits with Ben Simmons. There can never have enough ball handlers and creators on the court at the same time as long as the spacing works. Also, if Markelle Fultz doesn’t turn into the high-caliber player the Sixers hope he can, Sexton would provide some insurance as a secondary creator behind Simmons. And the Sixers, who had the lowest pick-and-roll frequency this season, could add a different look to their offense.
Sexton seems to be a consensus mid-to-late lottery pick at this point. While Orlando would make sense at No. 6, his range will likely start with Cleveland two picks later. He shouldn’t make it past the Clippers at Nos. 12 and 13.