Villanova Wildcats

2020 NBA draft profile: Saddiq Bey would be a great fit for the Sixers, but will they have a chance to take him?

2020 NBA draft profile: Saddiq Bey would be a great fit for the Sixers, but will they have a chance to take him?

Saddiq Bey

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 215
School: Villanova

Saddiq Bey went from a fringe first-round selection to a potential lottery pick in the span of about three months. Bey's stock has soared as NBA executives and draft pundits familiarize themselves with tape of his sophomore season at Villanova. 

Earlier this week Bey won the Julius Erving Award, which is presented annually to the best small forward in college basketball. He averaged 16.1 points and shot 45.1 percent from three-point range, leading Villanova to another Big East regular season championship and earning First Team All-Big East honors. 

Bey confirmed this week that he plans to "test the waters" of the NBA pre-draft process. It remains to be seen what that process will consist of given the league's uncertain timeline. Bey added that he wants to keep his options open and hasn't ruled out returning to Villanova for his junior season.

But an objective assessment of the situation reveals that Bey has likely played his last college basketball game. Jay Wright encourages his players to enter the draft if they are projected to be a first-round pick. Bey is expected to be chosen somewhere in the 10-20 range. 

Strengths

Bey is extremely versatile. He often brought the ball up the floor and got Villanova into their offense, excelling in a "point forward" role. He's also deceptively strong and effective posting up smaller defenders. He can shoot from the perimeter, score from mid-range and finish at the basket. There isn't much he can't do offensively. 

That being said, Bey's defensive ability may his greatest attribute. He can guard point guards or power forwards. Wright often put Bey on the opponent's best player — regardless of position — late in games. He has the length and lateral quickness to stay with quicker players and the size and strength to hold his own against more physical opponents. 

Bey also has all the intangibles that are commonly found in draft prospects from Villanova. He's a team-first guy who is accepting of whatever role gives his team the best chance to win. His work ethic is outstanding, as evidenced by the improvement he made between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Bey is still getting better and has a ton of potential on the NBA level. 

Weaknesses

He needs to be more consistent with his offensive production. Bey was held to single-digit scoring games nine times during his sophomore year. There were several games when he just wasn't as involved in the offense as you'd expect him to be. Then again, that may be a product of him being unselfish and willing to take a step back when one of his teammates is clicking offensively.

He's certainly athletic enough to succeed at the pro level, but he's not the type of explosive athlete who is going to consistently break defenders down off the dribble.

Bey's rebounding numbers left a bit to be desired last season. In fact, he averaged fewer rebounds as a sophomore (4.7) than he did as a freshman (5.1), despite playing significantly more minutes this past season.

Fit

Bey would be a tremendous fit for the Sixers. He'd be a perfect complement to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on both ends of the floor. He would get plenty of open looks playing alongside the Sixers' two superstars and would greatly enhance the team's defensive identity. 

He's mature enough coming out of college that he would be ready to contribute immediately. He'd also be willing to play a supporting role and won't get frustrated by a lack of touches on the offensive end. 

The only question is whether Bey will be available when the Sixers select in the first round. They will likely pick in the 21-22 range. The way things have been trending, Bey may be long gone by that point.

 Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

What can we expect from the Villanova Wildcats next season?

What can we expect from the Villanova Wildcats next season?

This was supposed to be a big week for Villanova. They were supposed to be preparing for their 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last 16 years. They likely would have been a 2- or 3-seed in the 68-team field, one of a handful of teams with a legitimate shot of winning a national championship.

The Wildcats were playing at a high level entering the postseason. They won seven of their last eight games to secure a share of the Big East regular-season championship. Considering the lack of dominant teams in college basketball, Villanova had every reason to think it could capture the program's third national title in the last five years.

But with college basketball and the rest of the sports world shutting down indefinitely, Jay Wright and co. can only look ahead to next season. And next year could be special. With no scholarship seniors on this year's roster, there's a chance everyone could return for the 2020-21 season. If that happens, Villanova should begin the season ranked in the Top 5.

But several key questions must be answered before the Wildcats and their fans can start dreaming of another national championship.

Will Saddiq Bey return for his junior year?

Bey is coming off a tremendous sophomore season. He led Villanova with 16 points per game and shot 45 percent from three-point range. He was named to the All-Big East First Team and is one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Award, given annually to the best small forward in the country.

At 6-foot-8, he has the size and versatility to be a very good NBA player. He's also an outstanding defender. Not surprisingly, he's projected as a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Wright has a history of encouraging his players to leave early for the NBA if they are guaranteed to be a first-round pick. Bey would seem to fall under that category.

Odds are that Bey has played his last game in a Villanova uniform. But there's always a chance he decides to come back. Maybe he wants to settle some unfinished business from this season being cut short. Maybe he wants the opportunity to compete for a national championship with his teammates. Time will tell. But if Bey comes back to school, Villanova will be on everyone's short list of national title contenders.

Can Bryan Antoine have a breakout sophomore season?

There will be a big opportunity for Antoine if Bey leaves for the NBA. Antoine was the headliner of Wright's star-studded 2019 recruiting class. But surgery last spring to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder cost him the entire offseason leading up to his freshman year. He wasn't cleared to play until right before Thanksgiving. Antoine showed some promise early on but was never able to fully catch up to the point where he could perform at a consistently high level. He did not play in eight of the final 11 games of the season.

Antoine's situation is a popular talking point among Villanova fans. Is he unhappy with his lack of playing time? Will he transfer to another school? Both Antoine and Wright seemed to accept the situation for what it was — unfair to ask Antoine to play at a high level after he missed all of the team's offseason and preseason workouts.

Now, he has a full offseason to work out, get stronger and better grasp Villanova's system. Don't be surprised if he returns to the form that made him one of the best high school players in the country.

Will Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore make the leap from good to great?

Villanova's senior class next season will be rock solid. Collin Gillespie should be one of the best players in the country. Jermaine Samuels — arguably the Wildcats' most clutch player — will return for a third season in the starting lineup. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree will be back as a key bench player and valuable leader.

But next season's sophomores will be the key to just how good Villanova can be. Robinson-Earl had a terrific rookie year that ended with him being named Big East Freshman of the Year. He finished a half-rebound shy of averaging a double-double. His footwork and touch around the basket are excellent. The challenge this offseason will be improving his perimeter jump shot.

Moore was arguably the second-best freshman in the Big East. He was Villanova's third-leading scorer at over 11 points per game. He is a dynamic scoring guard who fits perfectly in Villanova's offense. With a little more consistency, he should develop into one of the best guards in the conference.

Factor in Antoine's upside, and you can see the tremendous potential of next season's sophomore class.

Can the new guys help?

At this point, Villanova isn't expected to have any actual newcomers to the program. Eric Dixon will be a red-shirt freshman after sitting out this past season. Caleb Daniels will be a junior after transferring from Tulane. Both Dixon and Daniels should have the opportunity to earn significant playing time next season.

Dixon was the Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year as a senior at Abington HS. He's a big, powerful forward who hopes to follow in the long line of Villanova players who have benefited from a red-shirt year.

Daniels was Tulane's leading scorer as a sophomore at just under 17 points per game. He's a physical, playmaking guard with a skill set tailor-made for Villanova's system.

Wright will have lots of talent at his disposal next season. The sting of having this season cut short won't subside for a while. But it's easy to get excited about what lies ahead for the Villanova basketball program. 

Can Villanova get back to the Final Four earlier than expected?

usa-022020-villanova-basketball-justin-moore.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Can Villanova get back to the Final Four earlier than expected?

Is Villanova ahead of schedule?

It's a question worth considering as this college basketball season careens towards what figures to be an especially wild and unpredictable month of March. 

With no scholarship seniors on the roster, a lot of people - myself included - figured the Wildcats were a year away from seriously contending for another national championship. I expected this year's group to improve as the season progressed, compete for a Big East championship and maybe win a couple NCAA Tournament games. Then, with everyone returning for the 2020-2021 season, they'd be a Top 5 team with a legit shot of winning the program's fourth national title and third since 2016.  

But several factors have me thinking these Wildcats could arrive at the Final Four a year early.

Villanova won its 20th game of the season Wednesday night at DePaul, a convincing 91-71 victory in which the Wildcats made 18 of their 26 three-point attempts. They are ranked 12th in the country, with an opportunity to climb higher with a win Saturday at Xavier. They are 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the Big East, and a three-game losing streak a few weeks ago is starting to feel like a distant memory.  

As is often the case with Jay Wright's teams, this group is picking up steam as February comes to a close. They are playing that familiar selfless brand of 'Villanova basketball' that has served Wright's previous teams so well in postseason play. 

And, maybe most importantly, there aren't any dominant teams in college basketball this season. No teams that would be an insurmountable obstacle to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.

So does Villanova have a shot to win it all this year? Here are three reasons why it could happen, and three reasons why they could fall short.

3 reasons Villanova can win a National Championship

1. The Gillespie-Bey 1-2 Punch

Junior Collin Gillespie and sophomore Saddiq Bey are as good a duo as any in the country. Both guys are capable of carrying Villanova in March. Gillespie leads Villanova in scoring, assists and steals. He scored a season-high 29 points last Sunday at Temple and is averaging more than 18 points in his last 13 games. He's shooting 43 percent from three-point range over that span and is a strong candidate for First Team All-Big East honors.

Bey is in the midst of a breakout season that has put him squarely on the radar of NBA talent evaluators. He's averaging 15.6 points and 5.0 rebounds and leads Villanova with a 46 percent three-point accuracy. Like Gillespie, Bey has stepped up his production in recent weeks. He's averaging more than 17 points and is shooting 52 percent from three point range in his last 12 games. Of course, Bey is playing himself into becoming a potential first round draft pick, which would throw a wrench into the notion that everyone will be back for Villanova next season.

2. Three-Point Barrage

Villanova shoots a ton of three-point shots. It can be ugly when those shots aren't falling (more on that later). But when the shots are going down, they can beat anyone in the country, and we've seen the Wildcats at their best recently. Dating back to halftime of Sunday’s win at Temple and extending through Wednesday's win at DePaul, Villanova has made 31 of its last 46 three-point attempts, a staggering 67 percent.

It would be silly to expect that type of shooting to continue. But even if they can make close to 40 percent of their long range shots, they'll be a very tough out in March.

3. Freshmen Maturing

Villanova's two freshman starters are X-factors: the Wildcats are very difficult to deal with when Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore are playing well. Robinson-Earl was just named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season. He's averaging 10.9 points and 9.3 rebounds and has established himself as an elite rebounder on the collegiate level. He's also playing with more confidence on the offensive end, trusting his ability to knock down the perimeter jumper.

Moore was terrific against DePaul, scoring 17 points and making 4 of 5 three-point attempts. He's proven to be a very skilled guard capable of getting to the basket as well as scoring from the outside, and he plays a valuable role as a complementary scorer to Gillespie and Bey.

3 reasons Villanova could fall short

1. Trouble on the Boards

The Wildcats have been significantly out-rebounded on several occasions and are particularly vulnerable on the offensive glass. This problem is exacerbated when Robinson-Earl gets in foul trouble. They were out-rebounded by an average of nearly seven rebounds per game during a three-game losing streak in early February. Villanova currently ranks 129th in the country in rebounding margin, pretty average among 350 Division 1 schools. This is definitely something worth monitoring in March when each possession becomes more valuable.

2. Sleeping in the Streets

One of Wright's favorite mottos is 'Shoot 'em up and sleep in the streets'. It means, for better or for worse, Villanova is going to keep shooting. Wright doesn't want his players to hesitate when they have an open look. Shoot first and ask questions later. As mentioned earlier, when the Wildcats are making shots it's a thing of beauty. But when they're not, it can make for some agonizing offensive performances.

Villanova has its share of good shooters, but they also have several inconsistent shooters. In the one-and-done format of the NCAA Tournament, they're one cold-shooting night away from elimination.

3. Slow Starts

Villanova has struggled at the beginning of games quite a bit this season. It's not uncommon to look up at the scoreboard 10 minutes into the game and see them with 10 or 12 points. Sometimes they're able to overcome these sluggish starts, sometimes they're not. As the level of competition picks up in March, it becomes more difficult to climb out of a double-digit hole in the first half. Starting games with more energy will be a point of emphasis with postseason basketball right around the corner.