The Top-Five Most Underrated 2020 NBA Draft Prospects
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
With the 2020 NBA Draft just over two weeks away, the anticipation is beginning to skyrocket, but perhaps it’s for different reasons this year. This year’s draft class was coined as unpredictable; there is no clear-cut top prospect, while there also isn’t much separation between the various first-round talents. Throw in the coronavirus limitations, and teams are virtually drafting blind in a sense. The only film that organizations do have access to are pre-NCAA tournament action, as most of the in-house workouts and draft combines were canceled. Before March, this year’s field already contained a handful of under-the-radar guys, but the pandemic has steadily increased those numbers. Let’s take a look at the five most underrated prospects in the 2020 draft class.
5. Jay Scrubb
The JUCO standout decided to forgo the season at the University of Louisville and remain in the draft class; many experts felt like Scrubb’s stock would have benefited significantly had he spent a season in college, but he possesses all of the tools to succeed. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 21.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG last season at John A. Logan College. Scrubb will need to show that he can shoot the deep ball respectively, at the next level, but has the potential to be a sure-fire double-digit scorer in the NBA.
Scrubb lands at no. 5 on this list, simply due to the fact that he remains undrafted in many mock drafts, and if he is drafted in those scenarios, it’s almost always in the late-second round. It is my firm belief that a team would take a chance on him in the late-first or early-second had there been a draft combine or in-house workouts. His jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism doesn't come by often, and he represents a possible three-level scorer. It may take a season or two for him to get acclimated with professional basketball, but he will likely have a solid career.
4. Aaron Nesmith
Before his season was cut short due to injury, Nesmith was lights-out. In 14 games, he averaged 23.0 PPG while shooting a staggering 52.2% from behind-the-arc on 8.2 attempts. Watching him play, it was clearly evident that he wasn’t just a spot-up shooter, but instead he was able to comfortably create his own shot, in a Klay Thompson-like fashion.
The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is due to the fact that most experts have Nesmith in the late-lottery range. However, his extreme three-and-D potential will bode well for his career; he isn’t on Isaac Okoro or Devin Vassell level in terms of defense, but he can switch on 1-5 because of his length and quickness. Nesmith should be able to make an impact right away in situational circumstances, but his upside on both ends of the court could have him flirting with start-potential.
3. Paul Reed
Reed’s style of play would translate in any of the eras of the NBA; he’s a physical forward that crashes the glass, plays effective defense, and knows his role on offense. In the 2019-20 campaign, Reed averaged 15.1 PPG and 10.7 RPG, to go along with 2.6 BPG and 1.9 SPG. He has shown the ability to be extremely efficient around the rim, but struggles hitting the deep ball.
In all honesty, I could see Reed playing a huge role for any team that drafts him; he possesses a high motor and IQ despite being a tweener for his 6-foot-9 frame. Reed projects to be a glue guy at the next level; simply put, his strengths are valuable regardless of system. He will do all of the dirty work on both ends of the court, while he may not ever be more than a 8-9 PPG scorer, his defensive presence more than makes up for any woes.
2. Elijah Hughes
Age issues paired with injury and defensive concerns have hindered the Syracuse product’s stock, but there is a lot to like about his upside. Taking context into account, the infamous zone that coach Jim Boeheim runs did not do any favors for Hughes in terms of showing his abilities on that end. However, he still projects as a serviceable defender in the NBA.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the exciting traits. Facing every opponent’s best defender as the primary scorer for the Orange last season, Hughes averaged 19.0 PPG on 43/34/81 splits. As a prospect, his scoring repertoire is similar to that of Jimmy Butler’s: a distinguished bucket-getter that excels in the midrange and getting to the rim due to strength and proficient handles. Currently rated as a high-to-mid second round prospect by many, Hughes will have the ability to be a tertiary or even secondary scoring option for an organization in the future. Although the concerns listed above are valid and in some ways justified, the offensive upside Hughes’ has is not possessed by many in this class.
1. Kira Lewis Jr
For the record, Lewis is my favorite prospect in the 2020 draft class; the 6-foot-3 guard was tasked with a do-it-all type role for the Alabama Crimson Tide this past season. Before we talk about why he’s the most underrated prospect, we need to address the concerns. Finishing around the rim and being a true distributor at the next level will. At times, Lewis is a tad bit too careless with the ball, resulting in a slew of turnovers.
It is true that Lewis will need to become more efficient around the rim, but he’s extremely crafty. He’s the quickest player in the class, and he possesses elite downhill speed as well. His game and career trajectory could be similar to that of De’Aaron Fox; an extremely quick lead guard that is tough to guard, with a growing perimeter game and distributing abilities. On the defensive end, his active hands allow him to be a disruptor in passing lanes and for opposing ball handlers. Most experts have Lewis in the 12-20 range, but he ranks as the sixth-best prospect on my big board.