Column: Malachi Flynn can be a difference-maker in the NBA

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File photo

Then-junior guard Malachi Flynn looks to drive to the basket during the Aztecs’ 73-60 win over Air Force at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on March 5.

by Dustin Magallanes, Contributor

With Kawhi Leonard adding another NBA Championship and Finals MVP to his growing list of accolades last year, we were given a reminder how dominant of a player he is on both ends of the floor.

Not only does Leonard stand to serve as living proof that champions can be cultivated out of San Diego State, but the Toronto Raptors as a whole showed just how valuable the role player can be. Had it not been for Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who produced some indomitable performances off the bench in the NBA Finals, the Raptors’ first title may have ceased to exist.  

SDSU men’s basketball’s success, on the other hand, can largely be attributed to another guard in Malachi Flynn. He was able to reignite SDSU’s basketball program in a way that allowed for many fans to start anticipating a possible Final Four appearance.

Having possessed the two-way ability of Leonard and the spark plug exuberance of VanVleet, Flynn has the intangibles to be a key contributor on an NBA roster.

Flynn is coming off a record-breaking junior season for the Aztecs which culminated in him receiving a spot on the John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and earning a Mountain West Conference Player of the Year award. Moreover, Flynn’s excellence on defense earned him a MWC Defensive Player of the Year award, further exemplifying his dominance on both ends of the floor.

In a scouting culture that is rapidly becoming more immersed in advanced analytics, it is becoming easier to overlook basketball’s most important stat: wins.

The Aztecs at one point were the last undefeated Division I team in the nation, outlasting the traditional basketball powers in route to a historic season.

At 17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game with a 44.1 field goal percentage, Flynn’s junior season statistics jumped off the page as he was able to contribute in a variety of different categories. However, unlike former highly-touted basketball prospects in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Flynn’s numbers directly translated to wins.

The Aztecs soared to heights that no other team had reached in school history when they got off to a scorching hot 26-0 start. This led to plenty of national recognition as the Aztecs continued their ascension up the AP Top 25. The newfound level of team prosperity combined with Flynn’s production really showcases what Flynn can potentially bring at the highest level.

This is where Flynn can leave his mark. His experience as the offensive centerpiece of a top ranked basketball program will help aid his transition into the NBA.  

Having often lured the best perimeter defenders the MWC has to offer, Flynn is well versed in being able to facilitate an offense despite significant defensive pressure. Additionally, the Tacoma, Washington native’s shooting from beyond the 3-point line (37.3%) — combined with his ability to be an offensive hub — allows him to be an intriguing off-ball shooter. 

Currently, projections have Flynn mocked as a high as a late first-round pick, which leaves his exact NBA destination even more unclear.  However, taking a flyer on Flynn will pay dividends for any team that is looking for a polished ball handler off the bench.

As evidenced by the reigning champion Raptors, star players have the capability of carrying teams to the promised land, but sometimes it’s the role players that have the power to sway an entire series one way or another.

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