Killian Tillie, Forward, University of Gonzaga
- 6’10 220 lbs (6’11 wingspan), Cagnes France
- 2019-2020 season, 24 games, 24.6 minutes per game, 13.6 points per game, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks per game, 53.5% Field goal percentage, 40% three point percentage, 72% Free throw percentage
- Accolades: 2019-2020 All-WCC
- Advanced Metrics Strengths (per Tankathon) Assist-Turnover Ratio: 1.88, Offensive Box Plus Minus: 8.3, Offensive Rating 130.8, Turnovers: 1.5, Projected NBA: 3P% 36%, Offensive Win Shares: .176, Assists: 1.9, Win shares: .264, Steals: 1.5, Box Plus Minus: 12.0, Effective Field Goal % .613, Points: 13.6, True shooting % .630, Three-point percentage 40% Assists Usage: 0.57,
- Advanced Areas To Grow: Draft Age: 22.29 years old, Rebounds 5.0 per game, Offensive Rebounds: 1.2, Defensive rebounds: 3.8, Free Throw Rate: .270,
- Current Big Board Rankings: Tankathon 33rd, CBS Sports 42nd, The Ringer 37th, NBADraft.net 68th
Despite the Lakers proving teams can still be successful playing traditional bigs such a success Dwight Howard, today’s climate has certainly placed a premium on shooting. This goes especially for a big man who can shoot. Enter the center from Gonzaga, or is he solely a stretch-forward? That question will likely be the x-factor to the future of his professional career. I’m lead to believe his floor is decent either way with his offensive versatility.
The native Frenchman has developed into a staple over the past four seasons for the powerhouse Gonzaga program. He took a back seat his junior season to the likes of Memphis Grizzlies own Brandon Clarke and Wizards forward Rui Hachimura. However, I would be quick to interject that it speaks more so to the credit of the two latter talents, versus the deficiencies of the former. I have a feeling that barring him injury, Tillie in Memphis could force decisions to be made on some very beloved Grizzlies, (Looking at you Jonas Valanciunas).
WHAT HE DOES WELL
SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! (In my BlocBoy JB voice) I first advise one to listen to Memphis very own artist BlocBoy JB’s song “Shoot”, as they get familiar with guys like Killian Tillie. Likes most shooters, Killian isn’t ideal for offensive physical combat, in his case being putbacks and second-chance buckets. However, shooters have the burner to get the space needed in any circumstance. Killian Tillie is along the lines of guys like Duncan Robinson, aka Slim Dunc, guys who will spray the whole gym up with quick shot releases that gives “the ops” little to no room for error. Some life lesson remain the same, one being “Respect the shooter.” One thing Tillie has done, if nothing else, is earn the respect of the shooter, so defenders govern yourselves accordingly.
Gonzaga ran plays for Tillie as if he were a wing, and to watch it in live motion is absolute analytics porn. He has a very quick release and a smooth spin on the ball for nearly every shot he takes. As a result, he won’t have any issues dealing with defenses who run small and/or close out well on shooters. Maybe not deadly off the dribble, but pick and pop, spot-ups, runs via flare screens, mid or deep range, it doesn’t matter, he’s a red alert threat. So when Killie Tillie crosses half court, RESPECT THE SHOOTER, or get burned. Simple as that.
Surprisingly to most, Tillie is actually a rather solid defender all things considered, especially his battle with injuries. Killian is a verbal guy on the floor which is a huge plus because he communicates his understanding of what’s happening on the floor with his teammates in real time. He reacts accordingly as well. He’s also a pretty mobile “big man,” so he uses his combination of mobility and high-level hoops IQ to read plays defensively and anchor as needed. He’s willing to “Grit ‘N’ Grind” in the paint or slide his feet in spots if taking an off the dribble assignment. Small Ball coaches dream.
As a passer, Killian is truly an instinctive passer, nearly in the mold of Marc Gasol and Kevin Love, guys who often activate their break-starter badges by making quick outlet passes off of inbounds and rebounds. When on ball, Tillie anticipates the angles his teammates will take off the dribble, based on his understanding of each teammates’ abilities and tendencies. He also understands the opportunities different angles present on the court and uses this intangible to create fast break opportunities, and efficient offensive possessions in general. This makes the Gonzaga Bulldog a triple threat in pick-n-roll as a passer, shooter or finisher at the rim.
His versatility makes you wonder at times why he isn’t a lock for teams wanting to take a risk on him in late first round or early 2nd round, at the latest. He can play some point-center offensively, and hold his own with several archetypes as a rotating defender. His shooting ability makes me believe teams are almost too afraid of his injury history, because that’s the only thing that I can see preventing Tillie from being worthy of a late first round pick. His age shouldn’t be too concerning, he’s a average age four-year prospect, not Chris Weinke.
WHERE HE CAN IMPROVE
Developing a better nose and motor for rebounding would be my first suggestion.
At only 5.0 rebounds per game as a senior, one can make a strong argument his role as more of a perimeter scorer and rotating defender takes him away from most rebounds, I’d also attribute his lackluster production on the boards to a lack of anticipating missed shots and locating the ball while in the air to know where to be as it comes down. Most “bigs” of his age and caliber are maybe slightly better rebounders, but he isn’t awful either, so I wouldn’t go too far with that assertion. When you also consider his lack of free throw attempts, one must again consider where he is asked to play on both sides of the ball and how much more closer to the basket can you ask him to be with his versatile skill set.
His injury history raises some concern for some admission well as his age, but unless his medical report is close to the Porter Brother’s levels, I believe the strengths of Killian outweigh the areas of concern enough to where if he fell to Memphis in the early 40’s, we maybe talking about a pretty good draft day steal.
Killian would be an awesome backup for Jaren Jackson Jr, although neither is gonna compensate for the other man’s lack of rebounding. Being he was just teammates with Brandon Clarke at Gonzaga just over a year ago, I’m certain they would love to reboot the chemistry and highly complimentary play of each other as Memphis Grizzlies. Killian would also be an awesome fit next to the total opposite big man in Jonas Valanciunas. He would give Jonas even more space and another option to kick out to when smaller lineups lacking size try to double team the big fella.
Ja would be a match made in heaven for Tillie in many ways with both players abilities to pass, finish, shoot and make quick scoring plays from just about anywhere cross the half court line. He would also give players like Dillon Brooks more spacing to bully their way to the basket. They could even create better looks with Tillie on ball, allowing Ja to serve some plays as an off-ball scorer, while Tillie facilitates from in between the elbow and long range territory. Giving scoring guards like Dillon the spacing, passing and vision needed to be far more effective than with a Jonas or maybe even a Jaren for that matter.
Killian Tillie is a player who can be a serviceable versatile shooting big man at his floor, but again as long as he’s healthy. At his peak, I can see Killian becoming a very vital starter in the new era of small-ball lineups. If he can find a way to be the player he already is, and add a few more rebounds per game to his production, it would give him and his team more looks and opportunities to create even more offense and do more all around damage to the op’s defenses.
Tillie gives you essentially another’s proven wing on offense and another mobile, versatile big man who is also willing to get down and dirty in the paint. if need be, and follow a guy to the outside and dance with a perimeter scoring threat in spots. That’s some seriously needed arsenal in today’s NBA. I can actually see him becoming a 15/5/4 guy at his peak along with damn good versatile defense. That’s a double digit salary player in many cases.
NBA floor Comp: Frank Kaminsky
NBA Ceiling Comp: Peak Robert Horry/Davis Bertans/ Lite Jokic.