Memphis holds off Boise State rally for 64-53 1st-round win

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PORTLAND, Ore. — DeAndre Williams had 14 points, Jalen Duren made a crucial basket down the stretch and No. 9 seed Memphis held off a second-half rally by Boise State for a 64-53 victory Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers (22-10), whose poor start to the season had coach Penny Hardaway dropping expletives in a press conference, are into the second round in the West Region and will play top-seeded Gonzaga or Georgia State on Saturday.

Duren finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who were 9-8 after 17 games but went on a late-season charge to reach the tournament for the first time since 2014. The Tigers have now won 13 of their past 15 games.

Abu Kigab had 20 points to lead the eighth-seeded Broncos (27-8), the Mountain West regular-season and tournament champs, who were making their first appearance in the tournament since 2015..

Boise State trailed by 19 at the half but, taking advantage of a cold snap by the Tigers, narrowed the gap to 42-35 with 9:45 left. The Tigers had scored just four second-half points before Williams’ dunk with 9:18 left got them going again.

Kigab hit a 3-pointer and a short jumper to get Boise State within 49-43 with 5:55 remaining, but Williams answered again with a 30-pointer for the Tigers. And when the Broncos closed to 56-51 with 1:26 left on Naje Smith’s layup, and the teams traded foul shots, Duren’s layup pushed the margin to 60-53 and gave Memphis some breathing room.

Alex Lomax, hobbled in the first half by an ankle injury, added some clinching free throws for the Tigers.

It was a disappointing finish to a dream season for longtime coach Leon Rice, whose Boise State teams had been dumped from the NCAA Tournament in First Four games their past two trips. The Broncos beat San Diego State to win the Mountain West tourney title and their 27 wins set the school record for a single season.

If it was a dream season for the Broncos, a good chunk of it was a nightmare for Hardaway and the Tigers. They had one of the nation’s top recruiting class, led by Duren and fellow early arrival Emoni Bates, but Hardaway struggled to find a solid lineup until January – Bates had not played since Jan. 27 because of a back injury.

The Tigers have hit their stride down the stretch, though, reaching the title game of the American Athletic Conference tourney before losing to Houston. And they kept that momentum going into Thursday’s first-round game, going on an 8-0 run early to take a 27-17 lead when Bates hit a 3-pointer with 4:26 left in the half.

Lomax hit a 3 a few minutes later that gave Memphis a 38-19 lead at the break, but he came down hard and appeared to injure his left ankle. He was limping as he headed for the Tigers’ bench but returned to start the second half.

BATES IS BACK

Bates, who reclassified as a freshman, traveled to Portland with the team but it wasn’t certain he would play until the moment he stepped on the court. He warmed up before tipoff and was in uniform for the game, finally checking in with 5:57 left in the first half. His 3-pointer was his only points of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis, which beat Boise State in last year’s NIT, had a big advantage on the boards (39-30) to overcome 15 turnovers and pull away down the stretch. But it will take a better performance on the offense end if the Tigers want to beat their likely second-round opponent Gonzaga, the national runner-up a year ago.

Boise State, which ranked 17th in the nation for defensive efficiency, had not trailed by more than seven points at halftime before Thursday. The Broncos nearly overcame the deficit but it proved to be simply too much.

UP NEXT

Memphis faces Gonzaga or Georgia State for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Mitchell, Shackel lead No. 22 Aztecs to 10th straight win

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SAN DIEGO — Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel came up big in their final game at Viejas Arena, putting No. 22 San Diego State in position to clinch a repeat Mountain West Conference title.

Mitchell hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left and fellow senior Schakel made four free throws in the final 8.7 seconds for the Aztecs, who beat Boise State 62-58 Saturday for their 10th straight victory.

Schakel finished with 17 points, and Mitchell had eight points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Sweeping the two-game series against the Broncos means the Aztecs (19-4, 13-3) can repeat as MWC regular-season champions if they win at UNLV on Wednesday night.

In normal times, Saturday would have been Senior Night for San Diego State. Since fans haven’t been allowed at games all season, coach Brian Dutcher held a private ceremony for the five seniors after practice Friday.

“Some of the emotions are taken out because the fans aren’t here,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time we’re still happy for each other, especially it being Senior Night and Jordan and I, our last game in Viejas. Putting all the blood, sweat and tears that we did, I do think to some extent we do take joy out of this, getting the W on our last game on this home court. But at the same time we’re not done, we’re still going.”

BSU (18-6, 14-5) came into the series with a half-game lead. On Tuesday, the Mountain West awarded San Diego State a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico. Those games do not count in SDSU’s overall or formal conference record, but will count for seeding and conference championship implications.

Broncos star Derrick Alston Jr. had a miserable game, scoring just seven points – 11 under his average – on 2-of-12 shooting. He went 1 for 9 from 3-point range.

Mitchell had two big plays in the closing minutes. With the Aztecs leading by two points, he stole the ball and fed Keshad Johnson for a slam dunk. A few minutes later, he fed Nathan Mensah for a layup and a 56-53 lead.

It was a grind-it-out win for the Aztecs.

“Boise’s a good team. They make things hard,” Dutcher said. “A lot of the game looked disjointed and that’s because we guard hard. It’s two good teams knowing what each other’s strengths are and doing a good job of trying to take them away. It didn’t look free-flowing or smooth, but it was beautiful to a coach.”

Schakel came up big despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. He drew his second foul midway through the first half, his third early in the second half and then his fourth with 4:17 to go.

“It’s not hard to stay locked in in a game like this, everything that’s at stake,” Schakel said.

Boise State got within one point several times in the closing minutes, including after 3-pointers from Devonaire Doutrive and Marcus Shaver Jr.

But the Broncos could never get the lead and had to foul. Schakel made two free throws with 8.7 seconds to go and two more with 5.8 seconds left, sandwiched around two free throws by Doutrive.

Doutrive made the second of two free throws with 3.8 seconds left before Mitchell sealed it with two foul shots.

Schakel also had two clutch 3-pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the second half.

After the Broncos closed to 38-36 on two free throws by Emmanuel Akot, Schakel hit a long shot from the left wing and then hit one from the right corner before tumbling out of bounds.

Shaver and Doutrive scored 13 apiece for BSU. Mladen Armus had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

“It didn’t end up the way we wanted. We didn’t make the shots we wanted to make,” coach Leon Rice said. “But we fought, we outrebounded them and did some things that show how tough we were. But in the end we’ve got to be able to make some shots.”

On Thursday night, SDSU blew a 17-point lead before winning 78-66 in overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Boise State: The Broncos are 8-58 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including 3-33 under Rice. One of those victories came at Viejas Arena on Feb. 28, 2015, 56-46 against No. 24 SDSU.

San Diego State: Dutcher started all five seniors: Mitchell, Schakel, Terrell Gomez, Trey Pulliam and Joshua Tomaic. The NCAA will grant everyone an extra year of eligibility, but Mitchell, who toyed with entering the NBA draft last before returning, almost certainly won’t be back.

UP NEXT

Boise State plays its regular-season finale Tuesday night at home against Fresno State

San Diego State ends its regular season at UNLV on Wednesday night in the makeup of one of two games that had been postponed.

Mitchell leads No. 22 SDSU past Boise State 78-66 in OT

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SAN DIEGO — After breezing through eight straight wins by an average of 26.4 points, No. 22 San Diego State was brought back to reality by Boise State.

Matt Mitchell scored 24 points, including four in overtime, and the Aztecs overcame 29 points by Derrick Alston Jr. to beat the Broncos 78-66 on Thursday night for their ninth straight win.

Trey Pulliam matched his career high with 18 for SDSU, which blew a 17-point second-half lead before recovering in overtime to take the inside track to repeating as Mountain West Conference regular-season champion.

“We knew this kind of game was coming,” coach Brian Dutcher said. “It’s getting to March, it’s getting to conference tournament, it’s getting to another hard game with Boise and hopefully if we play well enough, the NCAA Tournament. The rest of the games are probably going to have a feel like this.”

SDSU (18-4, 12-3) took a half-game lead over Boise State (18-5, 14-4), which had its four-game win streak snapped. On Tuesday, the Mountain West awarded San Diego State a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico. Those games do not count in SDSU’s overall or formal conference record, but will count for seeding and conference championship implications.

That means the Aztecs control their own destiny. They host BSU again on Saturday and then finish with a rescheduled game at UNLV on Wednesday night.

Alston scored 22 points in the second half, including Boise State’s first 11 points, to help bring the Broncos back from a 17-point deficit. BSU used a 14-0 run to pull to 52-51, getting three 3-pointers from Emmanuel Akot and a 3 from Alston.

“He just flipped a switch and was a great competitor in the second half and we’re going to need every second of that when we play them again,” coach Leon Rice said.

After Abu Kigab missed two straight inside shots, Alston hit a step-back 3 to tie it at 58 with 1:39 to go.

Mitchell converted a three-point play for a 61-58 lead and then hit two free throws with 27 seconds left for a 63-60 lead. RayJ Dennis hit a 3-pointer to tie it with 9.3 seconds left.

Mitchell was called for a charge and the game went to overtime. Mitchell made two shots sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Jordan Schakel, and BSU never recovered. Alston was 0 for 2 in overtime and Boise State, the league’s highest-scoring team, had only three points in the extra period.

Mitchell said the only thing to do after blowing the 17-point lead was “just look your teammates in the eyes and tell them to dig in. It’s something we’ve done in practice and we’ve dealt with different types of adversity. Boise State coming back from a 17-point lead was today’s type of adversity.”

The Aztecs fattened up on the conference’s second-tier teams during their winning streak and then came out strong against the Broncos.

SDSU put on a defensive clinic in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers while BSU went just 3 of 17 on 3-pointers.

Pulliam had 11 points in the first 20 minutes, including a jumper off a rebound at the buzzer for a 29-17 lead.

“When you dig yourself that big of a hole, it’s a long way back and a whole lot of energy,” Rice said. “Our guys left it all out there. That first half they dictated everything that we did and we dug ourselves a big hole because that’s how soft we were that first half.

“We adjusted and fixed it the second half, and I was proud of that.”

Rice said he knows both teams will be eager for Saturday’s rematch.

“These are two really, really good teams and that showed up tonight. We were getting blasted and we didn’t lay down. Got it to overtime but didn’t have enough in the tank,” he said.

BSU took 40 3-pointers, making only 12.

BIG PICTURE

Boise State: The Broncos are 8-57 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including 3-32 under Rice. One of those victories came at Viejas Arena on Feb. 28, 2015, 56-46 against No. 24 SDSU.

San Diego State: The Aztecs are playing for their eighth regular-season MWC title. They won the championship last year en route to a 30-2 overall record. They were expecting a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UP NEXT

The teams finish their two-game series on Saturday afternoon.

No. 14 Texas Tech routs Sam Houston St to improve to 2-0

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Mac McClung is already doing for No. 14 Texas Tech exactly what he told coach Chris Beard he would after transferring from Georgetown.

McClung had 18 points to again lead the Red Raiders in scoring as they improved to 2-0 with an 84-52 victory over Sam Houston State on Friday.

“No surprises with Mac, He’s delivered,” Beard said.

“We knew what we were getting into when Mac was coming, he’s a scoring guard,” said Terrence Shannon Jr., one of Tech’s returning players. “He’s doing well out there right now. … We’re happy for him scoring the ball well.”

Marcus Santos-Silva, a graduate transfer, had 12 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes to just miss out on another double-double. He is the only Texas Tech senior after starting all 64 games for VCU the past two seasons. Shannon had 10 points as the Red Raiders shot 50% percent from the field (26 of 52) and led by as many as 38 points.

McClung, the leading scorer for the Hoyas last season, has 38 points in 41 minutes of action in his first two games for the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-2 junior guard is 13-of-21 shooting, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. In the first eight minutes against Sam Houston State, he had two 3-pointers among 10 points as Tech already had a 20-4 lead.

“Mac’s playing the game the right way. He’s not forcing anything. He’s trusting the offense, he’s trusting his teammates. He’s trusting himself,” Beard said. “He came in here is a guy that has an edge second to none. … He’s the ultimate competitor, but also an unbelievable teammate.”

McClung scored 20 points in a 101-58 win over Northwestern State in his Tech debut, when Santos-Silva had 10 points and 13 rebounds while playing 18 minutes in that game Wednesday.

Zach Nutall had 14 points to lead three players in double figures for Sam Houston State (0-2), which shot only 31% from the field (17 of 54). Demarkus Lampley added 12 points and Bryce Monroe had 11.

“I thought we were a little intimidated and I thought their defense was so good that it took us out of what we wanted to do, and it took Zach out of the game, which I knew that was what they were going to try to do,” coach Jason Hooten said. “We’re not good enough yet when someone plays like that to figure out that second or third option, or take advantage of something they’re not doing.”

Nutall was coming off a 36-point game in the Bearkats’ season-opening 97-67 loss at SMU two nights earlier, when he was 12-of-23 shooting and had six 3-pointers. But he missed all six of his field-goal tries and had only four free throws at halftime against Texas Tech, where he finished 5-of-17 shooting overall and was 0 of 3 on 3s.

Sam Houston State’s roster has nine newcomers, five junior college transfers and four freshmen, and had pauses during preseason practice because of COVID-19 issues. Nutall, a junior guard, is the only of four returning lettermen with more than one letter.

BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: Hooten called three timeouts in the first 10 1/2 minutes of the game, the third when the Bearkats were already down 18 and Nutall had missed his first five shots.

“I really was disappointed in the start. I still think we’ve got a few guys with the deer in the headlights look,” Hooten said. “I just think we’ll be better. We’ll be better for it.”

Texas Tech: Texas Tech has three transfers among their seven newcomers in McClung, Santos-Silva and sophomore guard Jamarius Burton from Wichita State. Burton had eight points and three rebounds. … The Red Raiders are 62-9 at home under Beard, who is in his fifth season with the Red Raiders.

STEPPING UP

After two lopsided wins, their third game in five days will be more of a test when the Red Raiders play No. 17 Houston on Sunday, before playing St. John’s.

“These two games, we’re going to learn a lot about our team through the great competition,” Beard said. “There’s an unselfishness and a flow to our team right now. It’s fun to watch.”

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State: Plays Boise State on Sunday at Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Texas Tech: Plays No. 17 Houston on Sunday, also at Dickie’s Arena.

Mountain West to begin conference schedule in December

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The Mountain West Conference will play an 18-game basketball schedule, starting in late December.

The season will begin on Dec. 29 and conclude March 6, according to a news released issued Friday.

Each team will play nine home games and make nine road trips, with individual schedules to be released later.

The conference tournament will be held March 10-13 in Las Vegas.

Utah State won last year’s Mountain West tournament by defeating San Diego State in the title game, just before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NCAA pushed back the start of the 2020-21 basketball season to Nov. 25 due to the pandemic.

2020 NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Where will Obi Toppin get picked?

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Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft. Who are the best 2020 NBA Draft prospects?

One thing that needs to be mentioned before we get into the meat of this 2020 NBA mock draft is that the only thing certain about the draft is that, eventually, it is going to happen.

When will the 2020 NBA Draft happen? Right now it is scheduled for June 25th, but that seems likely to change at some point. We can’t hold the draft until we have a draft order, and we won’t have a draft order until the NBA season finishes. If you haven’t noticed, it seems pretty unlikely that the NBA will start again until at least May.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

There are also questions about the way the pre-draft process will play out. Prospects will not be flying around the country to participate in workouts. They will not be going from team-to-team to conduct interviews. It seems unlikely that there is going to be a combine in mid-May, if at all. There is a real feeling amongst NBA teams that they have scouted these prospects in person for the last time.

What does that mean for the players that have declared, or will declare in the coming days and weeks?

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | Early Entry Tracker

Well, they won’t be able to convince teams that they were capable of doing things that they weren’t allowed to do within the confines of their college team. They won’t be able to spend eight weeks doing nothing but perfecting a three-point shot to look good at the combine or during workouts. They won’t be able to show out during the NCAA tournament and turn themselves into a first round pick.

This is all new and unprecedented.

So with that in mind, a couple programming notes:

First and foremost, I am not projecting which teams will be picking in specific slots. There are just far too many question marks about right now, particularly when you consider that the NBA changed the way their lottery works this season. So for now, this is just a ranking of who I believe are the best available players.

Secondly, I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a 2020 NBA Mock Draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.

Hey, at least I’m being honest about it.

So without further ado, here is the NBC Sports 2020 NBA Mock Draft.



2020 NBA MOCK DRAFT

1. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia, SG

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 40% FG, 29% 3PT

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.

2. LAMELO BALL, Australia

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-7, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 17 ppg, 7 apg, 7.5 rpg

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.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

3. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Details: 19 years old, 7-foot-1, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg

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.

4. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 bpg, 63% FG, 39% 3PT

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:

5. 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

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.

6. ISAAC OKORO, Auburn

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 29% 3PT

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.

Here’s a breakdown from January:

7. 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

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.

8. COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 35% 3PT

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.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

9. TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 29% 3PT

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.

10. SADDIQ BEY, Villanova

Details: 20 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.

11. R.J. HAMPTON, Australia

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 188 lbs
Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 31.7% 3PT

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.

12. DEVIN VASSELL, Florida State

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 12.7 ppg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 42% 3PT

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.

13. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.1 spg, 33% 3PT

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.

14. NICO MANNION, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 33% 3PT

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.

15. AARON NESMITH, Vanderbilt

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 213 lbs
Key Stats: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 52.2% 3PT, 8.2 3PAs

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.

16. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Details: 18 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.

17. PATRICK WILLIAMS, Florida State

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 32% 3PT

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.

18. JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-10, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 bpg, 34% 3PT

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 a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.

19. JALEN SMITH, Maryland

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 37 3PT%

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.

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20. TRE JONES, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 36.1% 3PT

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.

21. JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 43% 3PT

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.

22. KIRA LEWIS Jr., Alabama

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 165 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 spg, 37% 3PT

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.

23. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 43% 3PT

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.

24. JOSH GREEN, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 210 lbs
Key Stats: 12.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 36% 3PT

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.

25. VERNON CAREY, Duke

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-10, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 38% 3PT

Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. To be frank, I’m not really all that concerned about the offensive side of the ball with Carey. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?

26. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-8, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.2 spg

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.

27. DANIEL OTURU, Minnesota

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 20.1 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 37% 3PT

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.

28. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-11, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg

Nnaji is the most explosive big in this 2020 NBA mock draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?

29. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.1 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 spg, 31% 3PT

At some point it just becomes impossible to ignore the production. Dotson averaged 18-4-4 for the best team in college basketball, showcasing the ability to get to the rim almost at will while playing tough, aggressive on-ball defense for the best defensive team in the sport. There are some concerns — he’s very right hand-dominant, he shot 31 percent from three, he’s not physically imposing — but he’s worth a flier in this draft class.

30. UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 7-foot, 250 lbs
Key Stats:13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 75% FG, 44% FT

I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that Doke helped his professional outlook more than any player in college basketball this season. He was the most dominant defensive force in the sport. His ability to control the paint was unmatched, but he shed enough weight and improved his footspeed enough that he was able to shutdown pick-and-roll actions playing drop coverage, something we are seeing more of in the NBA.

The big question is if he is quick enough to be able to do that at the professional level as well, because he is never going to be a threat to do anything offensively more than four feet away from the rim and he’ll always be a Hack-a-Doke risk given his free throw shooting.

But a year ago, I would have said there was no chance that Azubuike could play in the NBA. None. And now I think that he’ll be an effective piece for a team that is creative in the way they use him in certain matchups.

31. CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 193 lbs
Key Stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 36% 3PT

Stanley is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class. He’s a guy that projects as a plus-defender as a result. If you assume that his 36 percent three-point shooting is for real, he’s a solid 3-and-D wing prospect that could find a way onto a roster. His shooting mechanics are a little funky, and he was flat-out bad shooting off the dribble, but he was in the 87th percentile nationally on all jump shots at 1.099 PPP and the 93rd percentile nationally on catch-and-shoot jumpers at 1.312 PPP, according to Synergy.

32. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-6, 215 lbs
Key Stats: 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 35% 3PT

Pons is the best athlete and the best defender in this entire 2020 NBA mock draft class. You often hear things like “he can guard all five positions” which tends to be an exaggeration. Not for Pons. He can, quite literally, guard any point guard, any center and anyone in between. He can play the four, and at times even the five, in small-ball lineups in the NBA to great effect. What makes him even more intriguing is that he shot 42 percent on unguarded catch-and-shoot threes. I think this is the most important number when it comes to his three-point shooting, because these are the face-up, step-in threes that he’ll be shooting at the next level.

The thing about Pons is that he played the three as a sophomore. As a junior, he was Tennessee’s four, which meant that instead of coming off of screens to get a shot, he was stepping into them as a trailing big or catching and shooting as a floor-spacer. This is the role he would play in the league.

Put it all together, and I’ll buy on a player that has an elite NBA skill with the potential to fill out his game to be effective in a role.

33. PAUL REED, DePaul

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 1.9 spg

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been two high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle and Nerlens Noel. Noel is the only other high-major player to average 1.9 steals and 2,5 blocks. While Reed is shooting just 16-for-52 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 75 percent free throw shooter the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in, even with DePaul’s late-season swoon.

34. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 30% 3PT

Dosunmu is a tough player to project. On the one hand, he has all the physical tools to be a capable combo-guard in the NBA, and he proved himself as a slasher and clutch-shot maker as a sophomore. On the other hand, in a year where he was trying to prove to NBA scouts that he can be a consistent three-point shooter, his numbers dipped from 35 percent to under 30 percent. He has a reputation for being a worker and a good locker room guy, and given his ability to defend both backcourt positions, I certainly think it’s reasonable to bet on him getting better as a shooter in the second round.

35. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.5 rpg, 37% 3PT

Flynn is in a tough spot. On the one hand, he just finished his fourth season in college by having an All-American campaign while leading the Aztecs to a 30-2 record and the brink of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. He turns 22 in May. It makes sense for him to leave now, striking while the iron is hot.

But just how hot is that iron, so to speak? Flynn is a plus-shooter that shines in ball-screens and thrived in an offense that was built entirely around his ability to do those two things. But he’s 6-foot-1, somewhat limited physically and looking at being a preseason first-team All-American if he returns to school.

At this point, I think that he is what he is as a player — a career NBA backup with a chance to get a couple of contracts in the NBA doing just that.

36. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-7, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 40.2% 3PT

Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.

37. GRANT RILLER, Charleston

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 21.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 36% 3PT

Riller is just a bucket-getter. He’s crafty off the bounce, he can finish around the basket and he is a capable three-point shooter. He also has positional size to play lead guard in the NBA. What’s the downside of drafting him in the second round and seeing what he develops into?

38. MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-9, 224 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 36.4% 3PT

Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that was used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.

39. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 14.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 42.5% 3PT

Wesson is the guy that was helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.

40. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 21.0 ppg, 2.9 apg, 30.6% 3PT

Powell’s efficiency numbers were way down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.