Villanova wing Saddiq Bey is the most underrated prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft class.
At 6-foot-8 and 216 pounds, Bey — a 20-year old sophomore — averaged 16.1 points and shot 45 percent from three for Villanova this past season, but the crux of his potential as a pro actually comes on the other end of the floor.
Bey is one of the most versatile defenders in this year’s draft class. He was the best defender on Villanova this season, a year where the Wildcats finished 36th nationally and second in the Big East in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Throughout the season, he was given the first crack at guarding every opponent’s best perimeter weapon, from Marquette’s Markus Howard to Seton Hall’s Myles Powell to Kansas’ Devon Dotson. He has the length, the agility and the ability to flip his hips, which allows him to keep the quicker guards from turning a corner and beating him to the rim. He’s also able to navigate screens and keeps shooters from getting open looks off of pindowns.
Over the course of the last five years, Villanova has grown into being a program that is known for their ability to develop NBA role players. Part of the reason their alumni have success in the NBA is that Jay Wright loves switching defensively and does not mind having his guys guard bad matchups. That was no different this past season. It’s why I project Bey as a plus-defender in the NBA. It’s not hard to find clips of him walling up against bigger defenders and holding his own in the post. And while he’s not a great rebounder statistically, it’s also not all that hard to find examples of him boxing out much bigger, much better rebounders in front of the rim.
He’s a three that can stay in front of point guards and hold his own against fours in the paint.
Those are the kind of defenders that you want in the NBA draft, especially when they shoot the ball as well as Saddiq Bey does.
On the season, Bey hit 45 percent of his three while shooting more than five threes per game. He finished the season in the 98th percentile nationally in terms of spot-up shooting, according to Synergy, and he also showed the ability to catch-and-shoot on the move. Villanova’s offense doesn’t feature all that many situations where players run off of pin-downs, but there are a few examples of Bey running off of screens and hitting threes. Playing in Villanova’s system also allowed him to showcase his feel for being able to move with a driver to free himself for a clean look. He’s not year a great shooter off the dribble but that’s something that he can continue to develop with time and work.
The other thing that interests me about Bey is that he does have some ability as a playmaker. He was 5-foot-8 as a freshman and 6-foot-1 at the end of his sophomore season. He was a point guard growing up, and you can see it in his reads as a point guard. He can see when no one tags the roller. He has shown the ability to make cross-court passes off the dribble when a tagger leaves a shooter in the corner. He’s not Trae Young, but he doesn’t need to be to be effective as a 3-and-D wing in the NBA.
Now, there are some real concerns about him and what his ceiling can be because his has a startling lack of burst off the dribble and finishing around the basket. He’s not blowing by anyone. His first step is slow, and his strides are not long. He’s not going to cross up a defender and get to the bucket; one of the weaknesses in his game is that he can get sloppy with his dribble. He’s not a blow-by artist, either, and in theory, that’s fine. The role he’s going to be asked to play in the NBA won’t put him in may isolation situations.
The concern is that he struggled to beat closeouts as well. In the NBA, he’s going to be a floor-spacer with gravity, meaning that his value is in forcing a defender to remain attached because of the threat of his jumper. In order for him to be more than that, he needs to be able to makes defenses pay when they succeed in running him off of the three-point line, and I think there’s an easy fix here.
I mentioned it earlier, but Bey has short strides. You’ll see it in the example below:
Bey is able to use his dribble to get Creighton’s Ty-Shon Alexander, one of the best defenders in the Big East, off balance. He gets his shoulders past Alexander, but his first step after the crossover is a short stride; he needs two dribbles to get from the three-point line to a ten-foot pull-up, and that gives Alexander ample time to contest.
Bey is never going to be an explosive slasher, but putting in the work to lengthen his stride on his first step should make him a more effective player off the bounce.
And when he does that, I don’t see any way that he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo — and Ryan Arcidiacono, and Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges, and Eric Paschall — in becoming a good role player that finds a way to last in the NBA.
Saddiq Bey is one of the safest picks in this year’s NBA draft, and given the success Villanova players have, I cannot understand why he isn’t valued higher by the industry.
Patriot League punts on fall football as SEC leaders meet
The Patriot League joined the Ivy League on Monday, punting on football and other fall sports because of the pandemic while holding out hope games can be made up.
The Patriot League said its 10 Division I schools will not compete in any fall sports, which include football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and field hockey. The council of presidents said the league will consider making up those seasons in the winter and spring if possible.
The conference is mostly comprised of private schools located in the Northeast that offer limited athletic scholarships. Pennsylvania rivals Lehigh and Lafayette have played 155 times, more than any two opponents in college football history.
Army and Navy are also Patriot League members, but not in football.
The Patriot League competes in Division I’s second tier of college football (FCS) like the Ivy League, which announced a similar decision last week. Unlike the Ivy League, the Patriot League participates in the FCS playoffs.
Meanwhile, at the top of college sports, Southeastern Conference athletic directors met in person in Birmingham, Alabama, to discuss how the SEC can have a football season as COVID-19 cases spike throughout much of the South.
No final decisions were expected to be announced, but the meeting comes just days after the Big Ten and Pac-12 said they would play conference-only schedules this fall in football and a number of other sports.
SEC football media days, the unofficial start of the season for many fans, had been scheduled to begin this week, but the coronavirus pandemic forced all FBS conferences to hold those events online this year. Even some of those – for the SEC and ACC – are now on hold.
Some programs are taking steps toward playing in and even starting their football seasons on time. Monday was the first day the NCAA allowed football players to take part in mandatory team activities with coaches, including unpadded walk-through practices.
Florida State posted a video on social media of its team hitting the field with players and coaches wearing face coverings and shields to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Pac-12 football teams will have to wait. Last week, conference presidents delayed mandatory team activities for Pac-12 athletes, acknowledging it would likely delay the start of the fall sports seasons.
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard in a letter to fans posted online said the school is trying to balance the health and safety of athletes with the drastic financial repercussions of not having a football season.
“If we are unable to play sports this fall, the athletics department would incur approximately $40M in unfunded expenses in the next six months,” Pollard wrote.
College football season was scheduled to start with a handful of nonconference games – three involving Pac-12 teams – on Aug. 29, before a full slate around Labor Day weekend from Sept. 3-7.
The Patriot League has seven schools that play football: Bucknell, Colgate, Lehigh, Lafayette, Holy Cross and affiliate members Georgetown and Fordham.
Lehigh and Lafayette, located 17 miles apart in Eastern Pennsylvania, started playing in 1884, sometimes as many as three times in a season. Only in 1896 was the rivalry not played since it began.
Army and Navy play in college football’s highest tier of Division I and were exempt from the Patriot League’s decision regarding other fall sports. The Patriot League council said the service academies will be allowed to pursue competition in those sports in which they usually compete within the conference, including soccer and volleyball, as the schools’ leaders see fit.
Northwestern’s Phillips to chair NCAA men’s hoops committee
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Northwestern vice president Jim Phillips was chosen Monday to chair the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2021-22 season, succeeding Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
Phillips, who is in his fourth year on the committee, will spend the upcoming season as vice chair.
Phillips was the first active athletic director to serve on the Board of Directors and Board of Governors, and he was elected first chair of the NCAA Division I Council in 2015. He also sits on the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors and is vice chair of LEAD 1, an organization made up of athletic directors from all 130 schools that participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The rest of the Division I Men’s Basketball committee includes Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson; Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett; Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade; Bradley athletic director Chris Reynolds; Toledo athletic director Mike O’Brien; SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland; Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard; and North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
The current chairman, Duke athletic director Kevin White, will rotate off the committee on Sept. 1.
Longtime coach, executive Craig Robinson hired to lead NABC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Longtime basketball coach Craig Robinson, who has spent time in both the college and professional ranks, was hired Monday as executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Robinson will take over for Jim Haney, who has held the influential position for the past 29 years.
The brother of former first lady Michelle Obama, Robinson has been the vice president of player development for the New York Knicks for the past three years. That job included the title of general manager of the G League’s Westchester Knicks.
Robinson also had a similar role with the Milwaukee Bucks after spending eight years as a Division I coach, first at Brown in the Ivy League and then during six seasons with Oregon State, where he led the Beavers to four postseason appearances.
Robinson was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton. He also has worked in the private sector in finance.
James Wiseman is the new blueprint for evaluating bluechip prospects
The closest thing you will find to a consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft is James Wiseman.
In a year where every top prospect has warts, Wiseman’s athleticism given his size and his measureables makes it easy to not only envision his role early on in his NBA career but also a path to being a perennial All-Star. This is a draft class where the trendy No. 1 pick in mock drafts can’t shoot or play defense. Risk averse GMs will love a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan that can move his feet.
But what makes me so interested in Wiseman has less to do with who he is as a player than what he signifies as a prospect.
James Wiseman is the blueprint for what evaluating blue-chip prospects will look like if the G League’s Pathway Program manages to attract a significant number of elite players in the coming seasons.
For those unaware of Wiseman’s path to this point, in the hours leading up to the start of Memphis’ first game of the season, news broke that Wiseman was not only considered ineligible by the NCAA, but he had gone to a courthouse to file an emergency injunction to maintain his eligibility and get on the court. The program kept up this charade for three games before finally realizing that playing chicken with the NCAA over amateurism bylaws was not in their best interest. Wiseman sat out, applied for reinstatement and was given a 12-game suspension. Midway through that suspension, he quit the team.
After playing just those three games.
All told, Wiseman logged 69 minutes of college basketball, with just one of the three games that he played coming against competition worth evaluating him against. The last time we saw him on a basketball court was on November 12th of 2019. By the time the 2020 NBA Draft actually happens, James Wiseman will be more than 11 months removed from playing in a competitive basketball environment and nearly 18 months removed from the last real opportunity NBA front office types had to evaluate him in extended, competitive settings.
He’s hardly an unknown, mind you. He played in the McDonald’s All-American game, the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit. More importantly, at least for evaluation purposes, he participated in the typically-intense practices for those events. All of his games from the Nike EYBL heading into his senior season in high school can be found on Synergy. He’s been involved with USA Basketball dating as far back as the U-16s.
But part of the reason that the NBA instituted the one-and-done rule in the first place was because you can only get so much out of evaluating elite prospects against high school competition. While college basketball and the NBA are very different, there is value in seeing how these players pick up concepts, how they work within a structured offense and defense, how they adjust to the way defenses play them as their strengths and weaknesses show up on film, whether or not they can accept the role they are being asked to play, how they handle the pressure of competition that comes with high major college basketball.
That’s not the only reason — letting schools pick up the tab for a year of development is certainly a major part of it, as is having control over a player’s age 28 season instead of their age 18 season — but if NBA teams didn’t find value in scouting players in these settings they wouldn’t shuttle scouts and front office types all across the country to see them play live.
They didn’t get any of that with Wiseman, just like they likely won’t get any of that with Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix or anyone else that plans on taking that route. And that’s significant. Wiseman turned 19 years old on March 31st. This year of development that NBA teams are in the dark about is one of the most important periods of development for any prospect. The COVID-19 era has created a lot of unknown and uncertainty when it comes to the 2020 NBA Draft, and for my money no one will have been as impacted as James Wiseman.
As far as the actual basketball is concerned, what makes Wiseman so intriguing is his agility, mobility and athleticism given his 7-foot, 250 pound frame and 7-foot-5 wingspan. He is an elite lob target and rim runner that consistently beats defenders down the floor in transition. There aren’t many people on the planet that will be able to contest him at the rim, and when Wiseman opts to go full bully-ball, he’s dominant.
The problem, however, is that Wiseman does not always go full bully-ball. One of the knocks on him is that he has a tendency to drift in and out of games, that he doesn’t always utilize the physical gifts he has. Despite the very limited minutes that he played this past season for Memphis, it is still pretty easy to find clips of Wiseman opting for fadeaway jumpers instead of powering through opponents that are half-a-foot shorter than him. One of the prevailing thoughts on Wiseman is that he envisions himself as someone in the mold of Giannis, or Pascal Siakim, or even a Bam Adebayo; that he wants to be a perimeter-oriented, ball-handling big.
And to be frank, there is some skill there. He can make shots out to about 15 feet, and that was before the 11 month layoff he’s had to improve his game. He’s a good post scorer with the ability to play facing-up. He can handle the ball a little bit and create for himself. But there is a significant difference between being capable of something and being good enough that an NBA organization is going to build a game-plan, let alone a franchise, around it.
I think the key to Wiseman’s career is going to depend on what he envisions himself to be and the way that he carries himself as a professional. I’ll start with the latter. Scouts have had questions about his competitive drive and how much he loves the game for years. He has a tendency to coast through games, playing like he’s in cruise control for stretches. The fact that he left Memphis midway through the season helped reinforce this belief to doubters.
But leaving was also completely understandable given the context of his suspension and the way the school handled it. And if you remember, Deandre Ayton had some of these same concerns coming out of high school. No one is asking those questions after he became the first player in NBA history under 22 years old not named Shaq to average 19 points, 12 boards and 1.5 blocks.
Sometimes, big men aren’t entirely motivated to play when the competition physically cannot compare.
The other part of it is something that I already mentioned. Wiseman, for years, has been intent on showcasing what he can do playing on the perimeter, and while he is certainly skilled for a 19-year old 7-footer, he is not what you would consider skilled for a basketball player. He doesn’t have a great feel away from the basket, his shooting stroke is a little wonky and he’s not a great passer.
Where he should thrive is as a defender. All the physical tools are there for Wiseman to develop into one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, and while he found himself out of position at times as a freshman, that is hardly uncommon for freshmen big men early in the season. He’ll get better on that end as he gets coached up, and his ability as a lob target means that there already is a role he can play in an NBA offense.
Put another way, if he decides that he is going to follow in the mold of Myles Turner, I think he’ll be a very, very good pro. Turner is in his fifth season in the league, has been a starter on playoff teams since midway through his rookie season, is one of the best defensive players in the league and is averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 boards and 2.1 blocks for his career.
If he embraces the defensive side of the ball and buys into being a rim runner, a lob target and a guy that punishes switches while occasionally taking opposing bigs away from the basket, I think Myles Turner is his floor. In that scenario, in the 2020 NBA Draft James Wiseman has the highest floor and ceiling combination.
But that’s a big ‘if,’ and a question only James Wiseman can give us an answer to.
2020 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Is James Wiseman the No. 1 overall pick?
Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft. Who are the best 2020 NBA Draft prospects?
This mock draft, however, is going to be slightly different than some of the past mock drafts that we have run here at NBC Sports.
I joined forces with Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin over the weekend to go through the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft pick by pick. I know the players. Kurt knows the teams. We recorded the entire conversation and published them as a pair of podcasts. The first ten picks ran in the College Basketball Talk feed, which can be found here. Picks 11-30 can be found in the Pro Basketball Talk feed, which is here.
This is how the breakdowns are going to work: I’m going to embed the CBT podcast at the top, complete with timestamps for when each pick is actually discussed. I’ll embed the PBT podcast after the top ten picks with the timestamps for the final 20 picks listed as well. The breakdown of why each player fits on each team can be found in the podcasts. In the body of this post will be breakdowns of the actual prospects themselves.
One programming note: We simply used the order that teams finished for the order of selection. We’ll be repeating this exercise a couple of more times before the draft itself takes place using different draft orders. This year, more than years past, the order at the top of the draft is going to impact what the top five looks like.
CBT’S 2020 MOCK DRAFT PODCAST
1. Golden State Warriors: (11:22)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: (19:03)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: (23:25)
4. Atlanta Hawks: 27:53)
5. Detroit Pistons: (31:58)
6. New York Knicks: (37:40)
7. Chicago Bulls: (43:15)
8. Charlotte Hornets: (47:57)
9. Washington Wizards: (55:23)
10. Phoenix Suns: (58:30)
Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.
The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to quit on his Memphis team in December, halfway through a suspension for break (admittedly silly) NCAA rules.
My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.
Edwards is the best scorer in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level bucket-getter that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. Ask Michigan State. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.
But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settled for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hit a couple in a row, but he shot 29 percent from three as a freshman. That speaks for itself, although part of that inefficiency absolutely stems from the load he was asked to carry. Edwards was not getting too many easy looks created for him.
There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.
Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that, if I were an NBA GM, I would want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.
The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that is versatile offensively — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game, he’s a capable and willing passer. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter. And while there is some value in being capable of guarding fours or fives, there are some valid questions about whether or not he’ll be above average guarding either.
I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.
I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:
Okoro is another guy that I would want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that better fits that role than Okoro.
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball. He definitely is a capable and willing playmaker.
The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.
I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be you thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.
But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-7 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star feature guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every read you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.
Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality. There are risks here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class.
The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence. He may have a high ceiling, but there’s also some bust potential at play. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.
6. New York Knicks: KILLIAN HAYES, Ratiopharm Ulm
Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-5, 200 lbs Key Stats: 11.6 ppg, 5.4 apg, 29.4% 3PT Full Scouting Report
Hayes is a flat-out terrific passer out of ball-screens, and the coaches at Ulm this past season knew as much. To put this into perspective, Hayes played 33 games for Ulm this past season and, according to Synergy’s video logs, ended a possession by using a ball-screen 428 times. That’s an averaged of 13 ball-screens per game. He played 25 minutes per game. Do the math, and Hayes played out of a ball-screen once every two minutes for the course of an entire season, and that only counts the possessions where those actions resulted in a shot or a turnover.
And given the direction the NBA is heading, the success that Hayes had in that kind of action is notable. As I mentioned, he is a terrific passer that can makes all of the reads when he is going to his dominant left hand. He can get to the rim, his floater is solid and he has the size (6-foot-5) to be able to see over defenses. Where he struggles a bit is when he is forced to go to his right. He also was an inconsistent three-point shooter, hitting just 29 percent while attempting more than three threes per game. The stroke doesn’t look bad, and he has terrific feet and handle, creating all kinds of space for himself to get step-back jumpers off.
The key is his jumper. If that comes around, if he develops into a guy that can play on or off the ball, he’ll be a great pick up at No. 6. But that is a big ‘if’.
The intrigue with Avdija is the shooting and playmaking that he provides as a 6-foot-9 power forward type. At the lower levels of international basketball, he played as something of a point forward, and while he’s someone that profiles more as a complimentary players that a full Luka Doncic, his ability to pass and operate in pick-and-rolls at his size is going to make him a useful player down the road.
The key for Avdija long-term is two-fold: What does he turn into defensively, and how well can he shoot the ball? He’s never consistently shot it at a high percentage from beyond the arc, and that’s concerning given the fact that he has consistently been a sub-70 percent FT shooter throughout his time in the youth ranks. But passing translates, size translates and shooting can be taught. If he continues to improve defensively, he’s got a chance to be a good starter in the league for a long time.
8. Charlotte Hornets: ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 1.2 spg, 72% FT Full Scouting Report
For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produced at the college level, both as a scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 15-for-35 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-19 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line on 143 free throws.
Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.
9. Washington Wizards: TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State
Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 175 lbs Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg, 41.9% 3PT Full Scouting Report
Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.
If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level?
I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.
Vassell was one of the breakout stars of the ACC, leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooter. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and he’s proven to be a playmaker on that end of the floor — he averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s precisely what you look for as a 3-and-D wing. In a 2020 NBA Mock Draft where it’s hard to find sure things, Vassell, on paper, seems to be as close to a known quantity as you are going to get in this range.
PBT’S 2020 MOCK DRAFT PODCAST
11. San Antonio Spurs: (Open)
12. Sacramento Kings: (5:52)
13. New Orleans Pelicans: (8:58)
14. Portland Trail Blazers: (13:50)
15. Orlando Magic: (19:01)
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): (21:32)
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): (25:53)
18. Dallas Mavericks: (28:10)
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): (30:30)
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): (36:54)
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): (40:34)
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): (44:27)
23. Miami Heat: (46:10)
24. Utah Jazz: (49:07)
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): (51:20)
26. Boston Celtics: (53:02)
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): (56:34)
28. Toronto Raptors: (58:24)
29. Los Angeles Lakers: (1:00:12)
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): (1:03:46)
The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he did make some threes this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.
But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He was a freshman this season and he is just two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who was a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.
Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this. That’s the kind of leap that Buddy Hield made heading into his senior season. Nesmith is just a sophomore.
That said, Hield won at a significantly higher clip than Nesmith did, and Hield did it against Big 12 competition. Nesmith’s season was cut short before he really got into the teeth of SEC play. But I’d be willing to roll the dice on his shooting carrying him to a role in the league.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for during the season.
I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.
The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He plays like Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?
What I will say is this: Anthony did become a better passer later in the season, as he gained more confidence in his teammates and after he went through a stretch where he was shooting the Tar Heels out of games. That’s a good sign, but I still have my doubts.
Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-8, 216 lbs Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 45% 3PT Full Scouting Report
Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I would want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.
Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He hit 45 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game, and he finished in the 98th percentile nationally in spot-up shooting, according to Synergy. He has shown some playmaking ability, and while he’s not much of an off-the-dribble shooter at this point in his development, he is capable of playing as the handler in ball-screen actions. Most importantly, as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.
But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they were the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who was a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.
So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all four of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.
Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.
And while he would show flashes of being the dominant scorer Kentucky needed him to be, the Wildcats late-season surge was a direct result of Immanuel Quickley’s improvement, not Maxey finding consistency. We spent the entire season saying “just wait until Maxey finds his stroke” and he never really did. He needs to be able to make that shot because the rest of his game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.
Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he was limited as a scorer in the half court — 1.19 PPP in transition vs. 0.825 in the half court — and part of that is due to the fact that he shot just 33.3 percent on jumpers in half court offense.
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): PATRICK WILLIAMS, Florida State
The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams was coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. No one ever puts up huge numbers in a Leonard Hamilton program. What they do is incubate players that project as role guys in the league. At 6-foot-8, Williams is a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and that can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed. And while the shooting stroke was somewhat inconsistent this past season, the potential is there — he did shoot 84 percent from three this year.
Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. Again, that will come with time.
The biggest concern I have with Hampton — who played this past season in Australia — is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington
On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page. His ‘wow’ moments pop.
On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet with slender shoulders and skinny legs. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And during Pac-12 play, all of the red flags came to the forefront. Emotional outbursts led to far too many technical fouls. He led the Pac-12 in fouls and turnovers. He averaged just 11 points during conference play. He was benched for the last ten games, and Washington wasn’t definitively better with him on the floor.
He’s the lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): TYLER BEY, Colorado
Bey is one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft class. At 6-foot-7, he’s an exceptionally springy athlete that has proven himself to be an impact rebounder at the collegiate level throughout his career. He’s also proven himself to be a playmaker defensive – averaging more than a block and a steal per game as a redshirt junior – while hitting 42 percent of his threes this past season. The consistency of his jumper may end up being what determines whether he sticks in the NBA for good. He profiles as a versatile forward at the next level in a draft where, in the late-first and early-second, there aren’t many of those available.
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): TRE JONES, Duke
Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. He was the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. His box score numbers were impressive, and his impact on basketball games goes well beyond the box score.
But more importantly, his jump shot showed real, tangible improvement. Jones made 36 percent of his threes and shot four of them per night. In catch-and-shoot situations, he made 40 percent of his jumpers and hit them at a 1.18 points-per-possession clip (or a 59% eFG, which was in the 82nd percentile nationally). His pull-up game isn’t there yet, but if he went from being a guy that teams flat-out did not guard beyond 12 feet as a freshman to a 36 percent shooter as a sophomore, whose to say his pull-up game won’t be next?
If Jones never gets any better, if this is who he is for the rest of his basketball career, he’s a backup point guard in the league until he doesn’t want to play anymore. If he continues to develop his shot, however, he could end up being a starting point guard. I find it hard to believe this kid isn’t going to keep getting better. In a draft like this, that’s great value this late.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech
I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.
But he’s a bouncy athlete that can play in transition, shoots the cover off of the ball and should be able to attack closeouts. The two major question marks are on the defensive end of the floor and shooting off of the dribble, but those are things that can be improved with time. He’s not the player that I thought he would be, but he’s still good enough that using a top 25 pick on him makes sense.
I may be out on a limb here, but I truly believe that Tillman is worth a first round pick, especially in this year’s draft class. There’s really two reasons for this: For starters, he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman. But he is also an excellent defender that can really read the game. Talk to people around the Michigan State program and they’ll tell you he ran everything defensively. It was his voice that teammates heard. Now, the major question mark is his size. At just 6-foot-8, can he defend fives? Is he quick enough to play the four? If we knew for a fact that the answer to both of those questions would be ‘yes, and he can do it very well,’ I would have him slotted as a top 20 pick.
The first clip here shows how effective he can be as the fulcrum of an offense. The second? Men his size aren’t supposed to be able to avoid a charge like that. pic.twitter.com/5EUGu4EUql
Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore — he enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old and won’t turn 19 until April — and he put up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. He also shot 37 percent from three for the second consecutive season. He’s slender, he’s turnover prone and part of the reason he produced as much as he did this season was because of the pace that Alabama played at. He’s worth a first round pick, especially considering his age.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): THEO MALEDON, ASVEL
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-4, 185 lbs Key Stats: 7.3 ppg, 2.7 apg
Maledon is an interesting prospect in a couple of different senses. On the one hand, he was 16 years old when he started getting senior minutes for an ASVEL club that make it back to the Euroleague this year. He’s trained with the French senior national team. He started 23 of the 46 games that he played in. But his role fluctuated throughout the season, his consistency waned and he battled a shoulder injury throughout the season. But he is a 6-foot-4 guard that can play on or off the ball that has shown the ability to play at a high level throughout his career.
26. Boston Celtics: ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs Key Stats: 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 77% FT
What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?
I also think Stewart is the kind of guy that will be hurt by the fact that there won’t be any workouts. He’s an impressive interview that could show off his shooting and, at least in theory, prove what he can do defensively.
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): JALEN SMITH, Maryland
Stix Smith was one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that stsrted to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. Defensively, he can protect the rim, but will that translate to the NBA, where every five he goes up against will have 20 pounds on him? And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.
All that said, over the course of the last eight weeks of the season, Smith’s potential turned into production. It was the biggest reason Maryland looked like one of the best teams in the country down the stretch. I’m willing to bet on him at the back end of the first round.
In a league where seemingly every team had a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center in the Big Ten. The numbers that he put up speak for themselves. He was one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better than some of the bigs slotted in front of him.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State
Winston did not have the season many of us expected him to have as a senior — understandably, given the death of his brother in November — but he still put up All-American numbers for a team that won a share of the Big Ten regular season title. He was playing his best basketball down the stretch, and he still have the highest basketball IQ of anyone in this 2020 NBA mock draft. He’s an elite passer and shooter that thrives in ball-screens. Yes, the defense and athleticism are concerns, but we said the same thing about numerous point guards that have made careers out of being backup point guards. Winston is the next in that pipeline.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): NICO MANNION, Arizona
I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes shots and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.
My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt, which is a problem for an NBA point guard. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what he does that truly sets him apart, and the fact that he was the leader of an Arizona team that kept losing games they shouldn’t lose is concerning.