By Conor Gereg
With the NBA set to return July 30th, the league’s player draft can begin to find its footing with an October 15th target date. The top of this year’s draft crop will be represented by a litany of players who haven’t had much, if any, impact on college basketball. Prospects like Lamelo Ball (Australia), R.J. Hampton (New Zealand), James Wiseman (a 3-game stint at Memphis), Dani Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm), Aleksej Pukusevski (Olympiacos B), and so on. Just after the top-tier of prospects resides a glut of proven commodities, players who have carved out a name for themselves at the highest level of the college ranks.
Here’s a list of who we can expect to represent the Big East come October’s draft, a collection of talents that has not only survived the rigors of one of the nation’s toughest conferences but this group of players come complete with time-tested talent that this league is known for producing.
Saddiq Bey – Sophomore – Villanova – 6’8” 215 lbs – Bey led the formidable Wildcats in scoring with just over 16 PPG but it’s Bey’s potential as a high-efficiency shooter that has NBA scouts salivating, shooting a blistering 48.4% from 3-point range. The Villanova forward has also proven he’s capable of holding his own in the interior, reeling in 4.7 RPG. Despite his length, Bey isn’t much of a presence at the rim (0.4 BPG) but instead feels much more comfortable atop the perimeter; his quick feet allow him to keep up with smaller opponents switching on nearly any defensive assignment. The offensive end of the floor is where Bey will earn his praise; one of this draft’s best shooters but also a careful steward with the ball, committing just 1.5 turnovers for a player with such a high usage rate (22.8 usage percentage in 2019-2020). Bey is the epitome of modern day NBA forward: an adept, high-efficiency scorer with length enough to guard nearly every position.
Paul Reed – Junior – DePaul – 6’9” 222 lbs – A double-double machine, Reed is equipped to play the mobile interior position at the NBA level. The DePaul big man notched 16 double-doubles (14.9 PPG and 10.6 RPG) but extrapolate those numbers to a full 40 minutes and they’re jaw dropping: 19.1 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks. Perhaps equally as encouraging to scouts is Reed’s ability to harness a venerable shooting stroke, knocking down 40.5% of his 3-Point attempts as a sophomore (albeit a small sample size of 37 attempts) but a formidable 74% FT gives hope that Reed can serve admirably as a modern-day mobile NBA stretchy big man.
Projection: Late-First Round
Markus Howard – Senior – Marquette – 6’0” 176 lbs – In an NBA where size means less and positionless basketball means more, Howard will be an immediate spark plug at the next level. Need an immediate injection of offense? Howard can fill it up at historic levels (46.9 points per 100 possessions–for context, last year’s #1 pick, Zion Williamson average 41.2 points/100 possessions). Even if Howard doesn’t get the volume of opportunities he had at Marquette, he has the transferable skills to make a professional impact (a career .427 3-Point Percentage and .88% career from the charity stripe). Howard is a player built to make a positive contribution to the evening box score at the professional level.
Projection: Early- Second Round
Myles Powell – Senior – Seton Hall – 6’2” 185 lbs – Powell finished second in the league in scoring with 21.0 PPG, trailing only Markus Howard as one of the conference’s top offensive threats. Powell’s 2,252 career points tells us he can score the ball but scouts will inevitably ask a dying question: but what is he–a point guard or a shooting guard? How about this: it doesn’t matter. Powell can win games with the ball in his hands (a 35.5% usage rating last season–second to only Markus Howard) and will impact the game positively at the defensive end as well, illustrated in his 2.0 SPG during his junior season in South Orange.
Projection: Mid-Second Round
Ty-Shon Alexander – Junior – Creighton – A second-team Honorable Mention last year, Alexander took a major step in his junior season, tallying 16.9 PPG while shooting nearly 40% from distance (39.9%). Had Alexander returned for a senior season he would be a front-runner for Conference Player of the Year; instead, Alexander will bring a rare combination of offensive (118.6 Offensive Rating) and defensive acumen (1.3 SPG) to the pro ranks this fall.
Projection: Late-Second Round
In the mix, and perhaps worthy of kicking the tires:
Naji Marshall – Junior – Xavier – 6’7” 218 lbs – The Musketeers’ forward has illustrated a clear talent for scoring and rebounding (16.8 PPG & 6.3 RPG) but Marshall’s passing can’t be overlooked from the wing position, dishing out 4.5 assists per 40 minutes.
Kamar Baldwin – Senior – Butler – 6’1” 190 lbs – Had their been a postseason Baldwin would have eclipsed the 2,000 point plateau (finishing with 1,956) but the skills Baldwin posses make him a desirable late-draft flyer for any team looking to add a skilled commodity who can be trusted to get a bucket in the most difficult of scenarios (a mere 2.0 turnovers per contest while shooting 85% from the charity stripe).
Alpha Diallo – Senior – Providence – 6’7” 212 lbs – Diallo has started all but one game for the Friars since the start of his sophomore year and with a high-level of dependability teams are getting a talented wing player who has the size (and skill) to score and rebound at either forward position (17.2 points per 40 minutes played and 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes played).
Tyrique Jones – Senior – Xavier – 6’9” 240 – Jones is built to rebound at an elite level (15.7 rebounds per 40) while playing savvy defense (a mere 2.4 fouls per contest in 2019-2020). While Jones won’t ever anchor an NBA defense he’s certainly worthy of valuable minutes somewhere.