When Xavier Tillman was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies, it felt like his fit with the organization was perfect. He brought a physical style of play with a high IQ and many Michigan State fans believed that he could have a Draymond Green-type role in the NBA.
Like Draymond, Tillman had a slow start to his Michigan State career before becoming a star by his junior year. He left after his third year and the Grizzlies jumped at the opportunity to take him in the second round. He joined former teammate Jaren Jackson Jr. in Memphis and, also like Draymond, his role in his first two years was pretty limited. Actually, Tillman started more games through his first two seasons (14) than Draymond (13).
Tillman’s third season was his best yet. He averaged a career-best 19.3 minutes, started 29 games, shot 61 percent from the floor, and averaged 7.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals. Oh, and he played the role of hero for a game in the playoff series vs. the Lakers.
His third-year breakout is likely why Memphis decided to exercise its team option on Tillman, bringing him back for another season.
Tillman will be guaranteed over $1.9 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Xavier Tillman facing a huge fourth season
There’s no doubt about it, this season is the most important to date for Tillman.
While he’s being retained and guaranteed a solid chunk of change in the final year of his rookie contract, he could earn himself a nice payday if he has another big season. He took a step in the right direction in 2022-23 but he needs to become more than just a decent bench player, he needs to show that he can be a legit starter in this league.
If the former Michigan State star can put up somewhere between 10-15 points and 6-8 rebounds per game, we could see him earn a hefty contract next summer and be set for life.
Spartan fans everywhere will be rooting him on.