L.G. Patterson / Associated Press
Almost all the attention surrounding the prospect qualifies for 2020 NBA draft focused above, and rightfully so. Players like LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards are the most coveted of what appear to be generally weak concept classes.
But for teams that are only on the edge of the lottery and playoff battles, finding one additional work in class this year that can surprise everyone might be the difference between choosing the lottery again in 2021 or getting to the postseason.
Players like Brandon Clarke, Kevin Huerter and Landry Shamet come to mind; players who are likely not to become stars – at least at this point in their careers – but have become early difference makers who are pushing above their conscription.
In class 2020, we have collected a number of names that you may not have heard of – unless you are a college basketball basketball player – that can make a far greater impact than most people think.
Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
There are a number of players in this year’s collection of prospects who fit the NBA’s dreamed three-and-D prototype like Bey. In his second season in Colorado, the 6’7 “wing averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from three.
He is long, very bouncy and athletic, and he is not a player who will need a lot of work to perfect his shot to succeed at a professional level.
Weighing 215 pounds, he is a bit on the small side, but with a little more muscle in the frame, he can easily become a defender who can maintain several positions in the NBA, especially with his lateral and athletic speed.
His three-season improvement in Colorado was surprising, especially at the offensive end, and in the right system, he could be a good addition to opponents at the end of the first half.
Kira Lewis Jr., G, Alabama
For a new student, Kira Lewis Jr. as impressive as someone who is not an ordinary person in 2018-19. In his first season at Tuscaloosa, Lewis Jr. averaging 13.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 48.6 percent shooting. This season, he has improved almost everywhere.
Although Alabama is relatively difficult in the SEC, it is the only bright spot, collecting 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from the back of the arc.
He won’t get the same buzz draft as the other former Alabama guards at Collin Sexton, but Lewis has the potential to be just as productive. At 6’3 “, he has a good size for an NBA point guard, and his ability to score and distribute makes him an attractive prospect for teams in their late teens and early 20s who want to add depth immediately.
Jalen Smith, F, Maryland
Like Bey and Lewis, Jalen Smith is another prospect who took the productive 2018-19 season and built it on a massive scale last season.
As the frontline anchor of Maryland, Smith is a one-man destroyer, averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game which is impressive while also reaching 36.8 percent of his three-point effort.
Just like Bey did on the wing, Smith fit in with the role of the great NBA prototype. He stands 6’10 “and already has a significant mass at 225 lbs. His athleticism for someone is great in size, and he has a wingspan close to 7’1”.
But his offensive abilities can make him a very interesting player to consider for teams that don’t need plug-and-forward that will only fill minutes. He has a good shooting touch, and the increase in three-point shots from last season to this season is meaningless (the last 26.8 percent in 2018-19).
ESPN Mike Schmitz having him registered at No. 30 on the board of the latest prospects available, and if a team that composes within that range can get him, it’s probably one of the biggest thefts of the entire NBA 2020 draft.
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