Villanova wing Saddiq Bey is the most underrated prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft class.
At 6-foot-8 and 216 pounds, Bey - a 20-year old sophomore - averaged 16.1 points and shot 45 percent from three for Villanova this past season, but the crux of his potential as a pro actually comes on the other end of the floor.
Bey is one of the most versatile defenders in this year's draft class. He was the best defender on Villanova this season, a year where the Wildcats finished 36th nationally and second in the Big East in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Throughout the season, he was given the first crack at guarding every opponent's best perimeter weapon, from Marquette's Markus Howard to Seton Hall's Myles Powell to Kansas' Devon Dotson. He has the length, the agility and the ability to flip his hips, which allows him to keep the quicker guards from turning a corner and beating him to the rim. He's also able to navigate screens and keeps shooters from getting open looks off of pindowns.
Over the course of the last five years, Villanova has grown into being a program that is known for their ability to develop NBA role players. Part of the reason their alumni have success in the NBA is that Jay Wright loves switching defensively and does not mind having his guys guard bad matchups. That was no different this past season. It's why I project Bey as a plus-defender in the NBA. It's not hard to find clips of him walling up against bigger defenders and holding his own in the post. And while he's not a great rebounder statistically, it's also not all that hard to find examples of him boxing out much bigger, much better rebounders in front of the rim.
He's a three that can stay in front of point guards and hold his own against fours in the paint.
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Those are the kind of defenders that you want in the NBA draft, especially when they shoot the ball as well as Saddiq Bey does.
On the season, Bey hit 45 percent of his three while shooting more than five threes per game. He finished the season in the 98th percentile nationally in terms of spot-up shooting, according to Synergy, and he also showed the ability to catch-and-shoot on the move. Villanova's offense doesn't feature all that many situations where players run off of pin-downs, but there are a few examples of Bey running off of screens and hitting threes. Playing in Villanova's system also allowed him to showcase his feel for being able to move with a driver to free himself for a clean look. He's not year a great shooter off the dribble but that's something that he can continue to develop with time and work.
The other thing that interests me about Bey is that he does have some ability as a playmaker. He was 5-foot-8 as a freshman and 6-foot-1 at the end of his sophomore season. He was a point guard growing up, and you can see it in his reads as a point guard. He can see when no one tags the roller. He has shown the ability to make cross-court passes off the dribble when a tagger leaves a shooter in the corner. He's not Trae Young, but he doesn't need to be to be effective as a 3-and-D wing in the NBA.
Now, there are some real concerns about him and what his ceiling can be because his has a startling lack of burst off the dribble and finishing around the basket. He's not blowing by anyone. His first step is slow, and his strides are not long. He's not going to cross up a defender and get to the bucket; one of the weaknesses in his game is that he can get sloppy with his dribble. He's not a blow-by artist, either, and in theory, that's fine. The role he's going to be asked to play in the NBA won't put him in may isolation situations.
The concern is that he struggled to beat closeouts as well. In the NBA, he's going to be a floor-spacer with gravity, meaning that his value is in forcing a defender to remain attached because of the threat of his jumper. In order for him to be more than that, he needs to be able to makes defenses pay when they succeed in running him off of the three-point line, and I think there's an easy fix here.
I mentioned it earlier, but Bey has short strides. You'll see it in the example below:
Bey is able to use his dribble to get Creighton's Ty-Shon Alexander, one of the best defenders in the Big East, off balance. He gets his shoulders past Alexander, but his first step after the crossover is a short stride; he needs two dribbles to get from the three-point line to a ten-foot pull-up, and that gives Alexander ample time to contest.
Bey is never going to be an explosive slasher, but putting in the work to lengthen his stride on his first step should make him a more effective player off the bounce.
And when he does that, I don't see any way that he doesn't follow in the footsteps of Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo - and Ryan Arcidiacono, and Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges, and Eric Paschall - in becoming a good role player that finds a way to last in the NBA.
Saddiq Bey is one of the safest picks in this year's NBA draft, and given the success Villanova players have, I cannot understand why he isn't valued higher by the industry.
2020 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Saddiq Bey is the most underrated player in this class originally appeared on NBCSports.com