Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the ninth of a 12-part series over a six-week span.
Speculation continues to percolate, indicating the Warriors are more than willing to move down in the 2020 draft, even if they’re holding the No. 1 overall pick. Why not? There are plenty of intriguing players not projected as high lottery picks.
One such prospect is Villanova’s Saddiq Bey, who is equipped with many of the 3-and-D attributes the Warriors need and want.
Bey is well-coached, has a high IQ at both ends and during his sophomore season played wiser than the typical 20-year-old. He shoots a sweet 3, can guard multiple positions well and his work ethic affirms his hunger and squelches any questions about the love of the game.
He says his passion to improve comes from his mom, Dr. Drewana Bey, 1998 MVP of the North Carolina-Charlotte women’s team and now a superintendent of schools in Washington D.C. With an ambitious mentality and basketball credibility, Dr. Bey also was her son’s harshest critic during his run through the AAU circuit.
“Honestly, at a young age, you’re like, ‘Why am I hearing this right now?’” Bey told the Philadelphia Inquirer last month. “But it helped me, just her being there. She’s my role model. Everything she’s done in her life, I just look up to. So, I can’t really describe in words how much she’s meant to me.”
Bey enrolled at Villanova in 2018 as the lowest rated of four incoming recruits. Two years later, he was the team’s best player, leading the Wildcats in scoring and the Big East in 3-point shooting. He was a unanimous selection to the FIrst-Team All-Big East and also won the Julius Erving Award as college basketball’s top small forward.
Projected last fall as a probable second-round pick in 2020 or 2021, he’s now a lock to go in the first round, likely as a lottery pick.
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The Warriors, who first saw Bey while scouting Eric Paschall more than a year ago, are aware of Bey’s assets. They also recognize how far, and how fast, Paschall came -- and the reasons behind his rise -- before drafting him in the second round last June.
Villanova coach Jay Wright worked alongside Warriors coach Steve Kerr last summer as assistant coaches on the Team USA men’s national team. The two became close enough that after Paschall scored 34 points against the Portland Trail Blazers in November, Kerr joked that Wright is “the only guy that can keep Eric under 20.”
The Wildcats are a certified NBA training ground. Aside from wardrobes, Kerr and Wright have the same drive and principles, while running similar systems at both ends of the court.
“Most of the stuff we do here, I did at Villanova,” Paschall told me a couple months ago. “It didn’t take long to get comfortable because so much of what we do was familiar.”
Which is why Bey would have a bit of a head start with the Warriors. He’d walk into the building on Day 1 with a degree of trust and also a former college teammate in the locker room.
Among the NBA comps for Bey are Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton, a less pugnacious Marcus Morris and young Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison. In short, it’s a fairly wide variance.
As was the case with Klay Thompson coming out of Washington State in 2011, Bey is considered an average athlete. He lacks the 36-inch vertical or the hiccup first step.
Bey produces. Taking him in the top five is a big reach. Any later slot should be in play. Internal opinions are what matters, and the Warriors would have a good idea of what they’re getting.
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Saddiq Bey profile
Position: Small forward
Birthdate: April 9, 1999 (21)
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
2019-20 stats: 16.1 points (47.7 percent FG, 45.1 percent 3-point, 76.9 percent FT), 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists.
What they’re saying: “It’s really fitting that he wins the Julius Erving Award. He’s very similar. He’s multidimensional as a player, can guard different positions, can be creative offensively, he’s got great length. And then off the court, he’s kind of a quiet, classy, well-respected leader on this team, really intelligent, an undervalued defender, which I think Julius was, too. Maybe he’s not as flashy and pretty, but he’s very similar as a player and a person, mostly in terms of how he’s respected by his teammates.” – Wright, on Bey winning the Erving award