At some point, you've probably heard that the 2020 NBA Draft class is pegged to be a weak draft.
Draft classes are often assessed based on their potential star power, and rightfully so. The draft is a time to get excited about your favourite franchise selecting a young and talented player that could help turn things around quickly or brighten a team's future.
And while this draft class isn't known for having a sure-fire No. 1 pick like last year's Zion Williamson, or even a player like No. 2 pick and reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant who was expected to immediately speed up a rebuilding process, it's worth putting it out there that the prospective role player talent in this class runs deep.
There are several players that have the tools to enjoy long and successful NBA careers if placed in the right situation. While they may not average 25 points per game or win MVP awards, they have the skillset to do all the little things that every championship-hopeful team could ask for.
In looking back at the past 20 NBA draft classes for a comparison, the 2008 NBA Draft stuck out to me for a couple of reasons.
While this is by no means to suggest that the 2020 draft class will produce a Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook or Kevin Love, I think it's very capable of mimicking it's lengthy list of players that had more than just one cup of coffee in the league.
Of the 60 players selected back in 2008, a remarkable 29 players played eight or more seasons in the NBA. 21 of those 29 players (over one-third of the prospects drafted) spent a decade or more in the league.
When scanning the list of names, there were five players drafted in 2008 that I, ironically enough, already used as player comparisons in my 2020 NBA Mock Draft. Jerryd Bayless, Goran Dragic, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan are all players that could fit the bill of prospects selected in 2020.
I also do not doubt that there's players similar to that of D.J. Augustin, Nicolas Batum, Mario Chalmers, Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee, JaVale McGee or Marreese Speights waiting to be discovered in this draft class. It's not the most captivating group, but there's no denying the important roles that each and every one of those players have filled for teams that had (or reached) championship aspirations.
The 2020 draft class has a paralleled feel to it.
Two names to familiarize yourself with right away - Florida State wings Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell.
Williams is a 6-foot-8 forward with explosive athleticism and 6-foot-11 wingspan that makes him an enticing prospect pegged to go in the lottery. He only averaged 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in his lone season at FSU, and he's not yet a knockdown shooter, but his motor and versatility leaves reasonable belief that he could become a small-ball big in today's fast-paced NBA. Already drawing comparisons to Houston Rockets undersized centre PJ Tucker, Williams is a consistent 3-point shot away from filling that role perfectly.
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And then there is his teammate, Vassell, who leads a list of 3-and-D prospects aiming to give NBA rosters a jolt of what every team in the league looks for these days.
At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Vassell is seen to be one of the best perimeter defenders in this draft class. He's quick and wiry, using his length to disrupt opponents as an on or off-ball defender. While his ability, or lack thereof, to create his own shot limits his potential as a scorer, he shot over 41% from 3 in each of his two seasons at Florida State. He has the makings of a perfect 3-and-D wing projected to be selected as early as the top-10 in this year's draft.
3-and-D prospects have never been more valued than they are right now and that's why there's more than a handful of players trying to fill that role in this draft class.
Other premier ones to be aware of on draft night - Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith and Arizona's Josh Green.
Nesmith is considered to be just under Vassell in this department, but he's a better pure shooter. After averaging 11 points per game and shooting 33.7% from long range as a freshman, Nesmith bumped those numbers up significantly to 23 points per game at a 52.2% clip as a sophomore. Taking 115 3s is no small sample size, but a stress fracture in his foot did limit him to just 14 games played. He's not as fluid on the defensive end, but at 20 years old, there's plenty of progress to be made there.
As for Green, he's the best ball handler and shot creator of the bunch, his shooting numbers (36.1% from 3) just aren't as eye-popping after one season at Arizona. He's more than just a 3-and-D wing, possessing skills to finish at the rim to go with a knack for scoring as a cutter, but he still falls under that classification based on the role he'll likely play at the next level. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and strong 210 lbs. frame, he should have no issues defending anyone on the perimeter.
To round out the list of 3-and-D players that come to mind, TCU wing Desmond Bane is a four-year player with a guard skillset that should find a home with a team looking for a player that could make an impact off the bench right away.
MORE: Fawcett: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 2.0
Another veteran college player who's name is picking up steam as the draft grows closer is San Diego State guard Malachi Flynn.
Flynn is coming off of a successful season at San Diego State where he'd lead the Aztecs to a 30-2 record this past year. It was a decorated campaign, as he was named a Consensus All-American to go with Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honours. He's constantly making the right reads as a floor general, knocks down shots when he needs to and prides himself on the defensive end as one of the toughest on-ball guard defenders in the country. With shades of Fred VanVleet, the team that selects Flynn gets a player ready to take on an important role as a backup point guard immediately.
And last, but not least, Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey is a younger player that has true star potential if he reaches his ceiling but should find a role as a bench scorer in the meantime. Maxey provides instant offence off the bench as a shot creator, although he might take time to find his groove as a bucket-getter at the next level. While he'll likely have to play off-ball until his passing and decision-making develops, he has the capability to sustain the part of a Lou Williams-type in the near future for the team that drafts him.
Just because the 2020 draft class isn't loaded with superstars doesn't mean it's not worth following along with and tuning into. We could look at NBA rosters 10-plus years from now and find players from this class littered all around the league, filling important roles just as we do with the 2008 draft class.
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