Tremont Waters almost didn’t go to LSU. In fact, the New Haven (Conn.) native almost stayed close to home to play for Yale, his NCAA first-round opponent on Thursday. He talked with the New Haven Register about it before the 79-74 LSU victory in Jacksonville (Fla.).
“I was really considering going to Yale,” Waters said on Wednesday. “(Jones) lets his guards play. They have a great system in place. Whenever you have a program that lets their guards go to work, why wouldn’t a guard want to play there?”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound point guard is surely happy with his decision. In his second year in Baton Rouge, he averaged 15.1 points and 6 assists per game for the SEC regular-season champions.
He hit those averages against the Bulldogs to put his Bayou Bengals on the doorstep of the Sweet 16 Saturday versus No. 6 Maryland.
With handles like that, is Waters earning any NBA Draft love? Let’s take a dive into his prognostications, as well as mock drafts and big boards.
Tremont Waters NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
Currently, there’s not a lot of attention for Waters on mock drafts or draft boards. Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype aggregates 5 separate mock drafts and doesn’t list Merrill on any of them.
ESPN lists him well outside the second round as the No. 80 “best player available,” as well as the No. 13 point guard. Some incredibly productive college guards trail him, including Marquette’s Markus Howard and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston.
The connective tissue there? All of them stand 6-foot-1 or smaller. The top-6 point guards are all at least 6-foot-3.
Analysts do seem to be in consensus that he’s one of college basketball’s best this year. ESPN’s John Gasaway put Waters in his top-10 players in the NCAA Tournament.
“Yes, Waters’ shot selection can at times be … innovative? Bold? Something less euphemistic?” Gasaway writes. “Be that as it may, the sum total for LSU is a 5-foot-11 distributor and scorer who somehow converts 51 percent of his 2s and is also a constant thorn in the side of the opponent’s point guard.”
SI.com’s Jeremy Woo sees Waters as a late second-round pick, placing him No. 57 on his prospect rankings.
A slippery scorer and playmaker, Waters has emerged as the primary catalyst and connective tissue for an LSU team that has really turned things around in conference play. In spite of his size, he finds ways to impact the game all over the floor, with a knack for stealing the ball, finding open teammates, and even contributing on the defensive glass. Waters’s overall feel is impressive, and while his three-point shot has been a little streaky and his height will make him a situational liability on defense, he certainly has the chops to make it work as a backup point guard at the NBA level.
Tremont Waters NBA Draft Scouting Report
Let’s look at this tape of his game against Florida on March 6. The Gators have a top-15 defense according to Ken Pomeroy, so Waters’ 19 points and 6 assists came against a good challenge.
What first stands out is his quick-twitch athleticism, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He’s taking risks by poking for steals, but that’s a function of the LSU up-tempo pressure scheme. He forces 2 steals by harassing the Florida guard into traffic.
He has range on his shot, as well, nailing one well beyond NBA range. His shot selection can be an issue, as he only hits 32.9 percent of his triples.
He’s also just an excellent facilitator, setting up a pair of alley-oops and patiently finding man underneath the basket on an inbound.
He reminds me of a smaller version of Trey Burke, the former Naismith winner from Michigan who now plays in Dallas. Both are willing to get out of position on defense to get a steal, and neither of them have any fear taking any shot.
Sometimes, those are positive qualities, and NBA teams have shown a proclivity for smaller point guards that can provide automatic offense (think Nate Robinson, later-era Isaiah Thomas).
However, Waters is someone who should prove himself in the G-League before taking the next step to the pros. I have a bit of hesitation that he looks better because he is perfect for LSU’s system, and that he wouldn’t fit on just any roster.