Now that former Villanova star Saddiq Bey answered one question by deciding to stay in the 2020 NBA Draft, it's time for the next question. What are the chances the Sixers draft Bey?
The Sixers have the 22nd pick of the draft, at least for now. That pick belongs to the Thunder and is protected 1-20. If Oklahoma City struggles in Disney World later this summer and drops a couple spots in the standings, its pick won't convey to the Sixers.
Even if the Sixers hold on to the Thunder's pick, there's also the matter of whether Bey will be available when they're on the clock. He's projected as a top-20 pick in most mock drafts.
So the stars would have to align in order for Bey to wear a Sixers jersey next season. One person close to Bey is holding out hope.
"I'm biased, I would love to see him with the 76ers," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said on Tuesday. "I would love any of our guys to be with the 76ers because I'm a fan of our guys and a fan of the 76ers."
Bey will become the seventh Villanova player drafted in the last four years. The Sixers had an opportunity to take all six of the previous Wildcats over that span but passed, with the exception of one technicality. For about a half hour in 2018, the Sixers had Mikal Bridges, who they took with the 10th pick. Then they traded Bridges to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and a future first-round pick.
Wright believes Bey is the type of prospect who could entice the Sixers to reverse that trend.
"You look at a guy like Ben Simmons who is a great point guard but he can play off the ball, too," Wright said. "Saddiq can actually guard a point guard, handle the ball and he can shoot it. So you'd have a guy with Ben Simmons who could guard smaller players but also could shoot the ball. Those characteristics could help any team, and I think it could definitely help the 76ers."
Bey says he'll be happy to play for whichever team drafts him. He continues to work out in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and is eager to get his professional career started. But he stressed that his decision to leave Villanova wasn't easy.
"I had a lot of factors to keep in mind and I think that's what made it hard for me to make a decision," Bey said. "Playing with my team, going back to school, getting my degree, competing for a national championship. It wasn't just one factor. It was hard on both ends, there were a lot of pros and cons."
Wright understands why Bey's decision was difficult. But the coach agrees that the timing is right for his star player to make the leap to the NBA.
"He wanted to win a national championship and he knew we had a good team coming back," Wright said. "He wanted to get closer to his degree and he didn't want to leave his teammates. But the information we got back said he will be a first-round pick. He's really unique that he's ready to play in the NBA right now, but he's also really valuable because he has an incredible upside."
If Bey continues to improve at the rate he did during his two years at Villanova, the sky is the limit. He was one of the best players in the country this past season as a sophomore, averaging 16.1 points and shooting 45.1 percent from three-point range. Bey won the Julius Erving Award as the best small forward in college basketball.
Wright didn't envision Bey becoming this good this soon.
"We thought by the end of Saddiq's senior year he could be an NBA player," Wright said. "We didn't know if he would be a second-round pick, free agent, first-round pick. But he just continued to improve on the court and off the court he showed a level of intelligence and maturity that is just off the charts.
"At the beginning of his freshman year, he was a defensive player who teams didn't guard. We just wanted him to rebound and defend. By the end of his sophomore year, when we put together a scouting report, whoever the best player was on the other team, he guarded him. And when the game was on the line, the ball was in his hands. We were going to him with the game on the line. That's how far he came in two years. Just incredible development, and I think it's going to continue."
Bey's departure certainly doesn't improve Villanova's outlook for the 2020-2021 season. The Wildcats very likely could have started the year as the No. 1 team in the country if Bey decided to return for his junior season. But even without Bey, they'll still be a top-10 team capable of contending for a national championship.
Seniors Colin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels and sophomores Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore will start next season. Cole Swider, Brandon Slater, and Bryan Antoine are all candidates to fill the fifth starter spot. Wright mentioned Antoine as someone who will have an opportunity to play a bigger role next season.
Villanova has lost a handful of star players early to the NBA in recent years and managed to survive. Don't expect next season to be any different.
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