“My name was still called. You know, it wasn’t called on TV, but it was still called.”
That’s what Nate Hinton, the new two-way guard for the Dallas Mavericks, told me about how draft night played out for him.
He’s not wrong. He wasn’t one of the lucky 60 guys to get their names called on TV during the draft. Instead, he’ll go down in the books as an undrafted free agent signee. But who cares? What does it matter if you get a call saying you’re going to get drafted 59th overall or get a call saying you’re going to be signed as a free agent? After draft night, it’s a clean slate. Once you’re in the league, you’re in the league.
Nate Hinton is a relatively unknown name amongst everyday NBA fans. He wasn’t a 5-star recruit out of high school. He didn’t play for a Power 5 school. He was projected by most to get drafted in the 50s, if at all. But don’t be surprised if he’s a household name amongst hoops fans by the time his career is all said and done.
Hinton isn’t one of those classic undersized scoring guards you see go undrafted every year (see Markus Howard for reference). You know, one of those guys who will probably put up big scoring numbers in the G League but might never crack an NBA rotation. No, with his unique skill set, Hinton should be able to carve out a role right away.
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Hinton has an elite NBA frame for a guard. He’s big, strong, fast and bouncy. He’s also one of the toughest and hardest working players to come out of the 2020 draft class. An ideal NBA body and a drive to succeed that’s unmatched can (and likely will) take you a long way in this league. Did I mention he’s the best rebounder in the class? Not the best rebounding guard — the best rebounder. Period.
If you don’t believe me, just ask the man himself.
“I’m the best rebounder, guard or big, that was in the draft,” said Hinton when I asked him about his best skills. I clarified later in the interview to make sure I heard him correctly and he reassured me that he is, in fact, the best rebounder in the class. Period.
And honestly, he’s right.
During his sophomore year at Houston, Hinton hauled in 8.7 rebounds per game and had a 15.7 total rebound percentage. If you scale up to the per-100-possessions metric, he averaged a wild 17.2 rebounds. Remember, he’s 6-foot-5, not 7-foot-5. Those are dang-good rebounding numbers.
When you watch Hinton, it’s pretty clear that his rebounding isn’t all athleticism and drive. That’s certainly part of it, but he also has a crazy ability to watch shots go up and know how they’re going to bounce off the rim. It’s Dennis Rodman-esque.
Remember that famous clip from The Last Dance where Rodman was talking about studying the ball coming off the rim and knowing the angles that the ball might fly around at? This clip:
That’s what Nate Hinton reminds me of. When I told him that, he agreed. “I definitely felt that,” said Hinton. “When [Rodman] said that, I’m like ‘Okay, so I’m not crazy. I’m not the only one thinking like that.’”
No, Nate, you’re not crazy at all. In fact, it’s that line of thinking that might make you a very successful NBA player.
Dennis Rodman isn’t the guy Hinton models his game after, though. I asked Hinton to name some players he’s been watching recently that he can model his game after. Some names he included: Jimmy Butler, Patrick Beverley, and Marcus Smart. Notice anything similar among those three guys? They all made their mark in the league by making the hustle plays, by working harder than everyone else on the floor, and by doing all of the dirty work that most players don’t want to do. They can all also knock down open shots and help make plays with the ball in their hands (Butler, obviously, at an incredibly high level).
After talking with Hinton, one thing he made clear is that he’s hungry. He’s not just content knowing he made it to the NBA. He knows the work is just beginning. Check out his response when I asked him what the Mavs are getting with a guy like him:
“The Mavs are getting a winner, a competitor, a dog, somebody that’s relentless,” said Hinton. “I’m Mr. Whatever You Need Me To Do.”
What’s not to love about that answer? The first thing that came to his mind wasn’t the fact that he’s an underrated scorer or a guy that can get out and score in transition. He wanted to make it known that he’s a grinder. He’s going to do the little things. He’s not going to quit — ever. Those are the types of guys that turn from two-way players to consistent rotation players. Those are the kind of guys that retire with nice careers to look back on. Those are the types of guys that help elevate a team. The Mavs aren’t short of skill guys. They have arguably the most skilled offensive player in the league. They need more guys like Hinton. Guys that do the things no one else wants to do.
I wanted to get to know Nate Hinton the person, not only Nate Hinton the NBA player, so we talked about some fun stuff to go along with all the deep dives on rebounding. Some of the highlights include him thinking he could’ve been an NFL player if he didn’t go after basketball (I believe him). His favorite basketball movie is “Like Mike,” which means he’s not only a good basketball player, but a respectable movie critic with impeccable taste. Lil Baby is who he’s listening to most right now, and “Sum 2 Prove” is his favorite Lil Baby song because similarly, he feels like he has something to prove.
There’s no question about it, Nate Hinton is ready to be a Dallas Maverick. He’s already used to Texas, and he’s ready to embrace it even more.
“I’m looking for the flyest cowboy hat and the flyest cowboy boots,” Hinton joked. “If somebody’s out there that’s willing to do that, I’ll be grateful. I’m ready for it. I’m Texas all in.”
Can somebody hook him up?