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Draft Preview

NBA Draft Prospects: Early Second Round

by Ryan Knaus
Updated On: July 22, 2020, 3:00 pm ET

 

The first exhibition games to be played in the NBA ‘bubble’ in Orlando are set to be played this week, followed by the season’s official re-opening on July 30. Before shifting our attention entirely to the re-start, though, we’ll take another look at Rob Dauster’s top prospects for the 2019-20 NBA Draft. This week, we’ll be looking at the top of the second round – the 31-40 range. If you missed any of the first three installments, you can find them right here: 1-10, 11-20 and 21-30.

 

Here’s a final reminder about the existing draft-order picture for all 30 teams (subject to change, depending on what happens in Orlando):

 

Win%

Odds of Top-4

Odds of #1 pick

Golden State Warriors

23.1%

52.1%

14.0%

Cleveland Cavaliers

29.2%

52.1%

14.0%

Minnesota Timberwolves

29.7%

52.1%

14.0%

Atlanta Hawks

29.9%

48.1%

12.5%

Detroit Pistons

30.3%

42.1%

10.5%

New York Knicks

31.8%

37.2%

9.0%

Chicago Bulls

33.8%

32.0%

7.5%

Charlotte Hornets

35.4%

26.3%

6.0%

Washington Wizards

37.5%

20.3%

4.5%

Phoenix Suns

40.0%

13.9%

3.0%

San Antonio Spurs

42.9%

9.4%

2.0%

New Orleans Pelicans

43.8%

6.2%

1.3%

Sacramento Kings

43.8%

5.7%

1.2%

Portland Trail Blazers

43.9%

2.4%

0.5%

Orlando Magic

46.2%

-

-

Brooklyn Nets

46.9%

-

-

Memphis Grizzlies

49.2%

-

-

Dallas Mavericks

59.7%

-

-

Indiana Pacers

60.0%

-

-

Philadelphia 76ers

60.0%

-

-

Houston Rockets

62.5%

-

-

Oklahoma City Thunder

62.5%

-

-

Miami Heat

63.1%

-

-

Utah Jazz

64.1%

-

-

Denver Nuggets

66.2%

-

-

Boston Celtics

67.2%

-

-

LA Clippers

68.8%

-

-

Toronto Raptors

71.9%

-

-

Los Angeles Lakers

77.8%

-

-

Milwaukee Bucks

81.5%

-

-

 

With those tentative draft odds in mind, let’s look at Rob’s prospects in the 31-40 range, plus some reactions from Ryan Knaus.

 

31. Tyler Bey, Colorado

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-7, 218 lbs

Key Stats: 13.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.2 bpg, 41.9% 3PT

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.

Ryan’s Reaction: In previous draft preview columns, I discussed the growing importance of versatile wing players – even strict 3-and-D wings find themselves in high demand these days. Bey’s strong rebounding and defensive numbers speak to his natural timing, athleticism, and the fact that he reportedly has a 7’1” wingspan despite being 6’7”. He didn’t take a ton of 3-pointers for Colorado as a junior, at 1.0 per game, but he did connect on 41.9% of those attempts. He’s already 22 years old, which is one reason he might slide into the second round of the draft, but I can see him as a sporadic fantasy option on the right team.

 

32. 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 has 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: Winston is the Big Ten and Michigan State all-time leader in assists, which speaks to his steady leadership in four NCAA seasons. The bad news is that he does in fact project as a backup PG, barring something unexpected in the coming months, and that’s a dubious spot for a rookie to find fantasy value. Even as a senior, Winston committed 3.2 turnovers to go along with his 5.9 assists, with declines in points, FG%, rebounds, assists and even blocks (he blocked 12 shots in nearly 4,000 minutes of college ball). He’s not a reliable source of steals, either, which leaves him as a potential low-end dimes and threes guy in deep leagues. And that might be the best-case scenario for his inaugural NBA season.

 

33. 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 sdepg, 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: A regression in Dotson’s 3-point shooting this season gives me pause (down to 30.9% from 36.3% as a freshman), but I won’t quibble with his overall production. His usage was way up at 26.4% as a sophomore, and his PER jumped to 24.9 with a rise in assists but a dip in turnover rate. Rob alluded to his aggressive on-ball play and driving skills, both of which would benefit from some added muscle on his frame – and he can make teams pay if they send him to the line (83.0% accuracy this year). The key for me is steals. If he somehow earns a big enough bench role to play 20 minutes per game, he could be worth a fantasy pickup simply for 1.2 steals and a handful of across-the-board stats.

 

34. Malachi Flynn, San Diego State

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs

Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.5 rpg, 37% 3PT

Flynn was 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 turned 22 in May. It made 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 and somewhat limited physically. 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. That's worth an early second round pick.

Ryan’s Reaction: Realistically, most second-round picks won’t make a sustained fantasy impact – especially as rookies. That holds true for Flynn, who just doesn’t ‘pop’ in any given area beyond pick-and-roll play. That’s an extremely valuable skill (and helped him lead the entire NCAA in Win Shares this year) but it may not translate to fantasy value beyond a handful of dimes. He shot 37.3% from deep this year but that dips to 35.1% from NBA distance. He averaged 17.6 points but needed 33.4 minutes and 26.8% usage to get there. His ability to create high-value shots for himself, particularly near the rim, is in doubt. There are also questions about his ability to defend bigger guards, all of which adds up to a ‘pass’ for me in fantasy drafts.

 

35. Nico Mannion, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs

Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 33% 3PT

The argument for drafting Mannion in the first round is that his floor is high 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 has a chance to 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 that 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: Echoing what I wrote about Flynn above, I think Mannion’s pick-and-roll skills will be the key to him earning backup minutes early in his NBA career. Looking at pick-and-roll situations including both his shooting and passing, he generated 0.985 points per possession. That’s in the 84th percentile, per Synergy Sports. He’s shown a knack for catch-and-shoot and can shoot off movement, so there could be some off-ball potential here. The bad news is that defense is yet again a question mark for Mannion, and the reported wingspan is concerning (from 2019, but still). He also finished his lone season with Arizona shooting 39.2% from the field and 32.7% from deep, setting up too many problematic angles for me to approach him this year.

 

36. 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 at the college level. 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: Pons took a quantum leap during his junior year, as Rob points out, operating efficiently (55.5% on two-pointers, 34.9% from deep) despite vastly increased minutes and usage. He even pulled up his anemic FT shooting from 40.0% as a sophomore to 63.8% this year, showing the coachability that will be critical for him to succeed in the NBA. His total rebound rate of 9.3% is head-scratching for a guy with his physical specs and jump-off-the-screen athleticism, but at least he found his way in the shot-blocking department with 2.4 swats per game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s drafted higher than this by a team willing to develop him for a few years. If he lands in an ideal situation, I might consider him for blocks as a flier in a 14-team league.

 

37. 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: Azubuike did have an impressive senior campaign, ranking first in FG percentage (74.8%), ninth in Player Efficiency Rating (31.3), 10th in total rebound percentage (21.5%) and third in Defensive Rating (82.9). The field goal percentage, boards and blocks all look great, but I have no answer for Rob’s questions about his anemic offensive repertoire and potential lack of footspeed/team concepts defensively. In addition to simply fouling a guy who shot 41.6% from the line in four NCAA seasons, teams will happily double-team and try to make him a passer – not exactly one of Azubuike’s strong suits.

 

38. 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 guarding twos and threes in the NBA.

Ryan’s Reaction: Nwora may need to be a SF/PF in the NBA, to ‘hide’ the defensive questions Rob raises. It’s certainly not out of the question given his solid size and strength, plus the fact that he can potentially be a legit stretch-four option. Having shown limited ability to create his own offense, that will be key for Nwora – he shot a mediocre 55.2% at the rim vs. college opponents, but was north of 46% on 3-pointers from NBA range.

 

39. 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?

Ryan’s Reaction: Riller’s offensive skills are unquestioned, whether he’s leading pick-and-rolls, isolating and showing off his explosive first step, or spotting up off-ball. He had an effective FG% of 54.8% despite a huge workload at 33.9%, albeit against defenses in the CAA. One problem for Riller is that he’s already 23 years old, so teams may assume that what we’ve seen is all he can offer. There are some concerns about his ability to defend consistently, though that may have been due to his huge workload on offense. Plus, there are very few college players period, let alone lead guards, about whom we are sold defensively out of the gates. If he lands on a team in need of instant scoring and capable playmaking, it’s feasible for Riller to have a fantasy impact in 2020-21.

 

40. 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.

Ryan’s Reaction: Stanley said in a recent interview that he hopes to add some muscle as he heads into the NBA, and highlighted an interesting fact – 100% of his made 3-pointers this season were assisted. He said that shows he’s “learned how to really master the wings and corners when it came to catch and shoot opportunities.” Whether teams agree with that optimistic take, or view it as a warning sign, remains to be seen. From the fantasy point-of-view, I don’t see where Stanley can be a clear-cut asset. With late-first and second-round talent, you’re often just hoping for some category-specific ‘specialist’ value – a player who gets a lot of assists, steals or blocks, for example. Stanley seems more likely to become a modest 9-cat type guy, contributing a bit across the board without tanking you in any category. Depending upon your league types and approach to building a fantasy hoops squad, that might not be a bad thing.

Ryan Knaus
Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.