• daltonpence

Top Three Potential Steals in the 2020 NBA Draft

Updated: Jul 4

With the season finale set to start up in Orlando in just under a month, NBA teams are scrambling to make sure everything goes smoothly. Times are tough, and uncertainty reigns supreme. The same can also be said about the 2020 NBA Draft.

The date of the draft is tentatively set for October 16th, but the lack of effective combine workouts and additional film makes scouting even more challenging than usual - more of a shot in the dark, really. As a result, some players will be drafted higher than they should, while others will fall significantly. Despite this being a weak class overall, there are a couple of hidden gems that just might slip and fall to an attentive (and, of course, lucky) franchise this year.

Let’s take a look at the top three draft night ‘steal’ candidates.

Cole Anthony

How could an almost consensus-lottery prospect be a top steal in the draft? Currently, Anthony is the 5th-ranked player on my draft big board, but before you dismiss this notion: just hear me out.

This is no knock on Anthony Edwards, who is a great talent and a top-five prospect in his own right. With that being said, why does Edwards not get criticized for being on a bad team, but Anthony does? On a nightly basis, the UNC point guard faced the best defenders the opposing teams had to offer, while receiving little help from his supporting cast in Chapel Hill. He averaged 18.5 points (on 38/35/75 shooting splits), 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. As a team, the Tar Heels shot a staggeringly poor 30.4% from behind-the-arc, which is good for 310th in the nation. With little spacing and help, Anthony struggled to efficiently lead the offense, but this is where we have to take context into account. 

Anthony possesses elite speed and quickness, along with translatable three-level scoring. He will need to improve as a distributor, but he is able to create his own offense and is a high-energy competitor. Anthony’s commitment to attacking the glass on rebounds and his tendency to keep his hands active on defense are both modern backcourt luxuries. All in all, there are a ton of valuable qualities that get constantly overlooked by inefficiencies and team-wide Tar Heel woes. Even if his facilitating and overall defense don’t improve significantly, he’s an extremely athletic and gifted scorer, a role many NBA teams still hold in high regard.

Paul Reed

The DePaul product has been pegged as a first-round talent since the beginning of the college basketball season, but he still gets overlooked as one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this year's draft. A lot of Reed’s ceiling banks on the development of  his offensive identity. Some are turned off by his age (21) and lack of height (6-foot-9), but his game is actually quite translatable to the modern NBA.

He doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well from deep (33% on 1.1 attempts per game in three collegiate seasons) and his footwork definitely needs some refining, but with a good to great development team, he projects as a double-digit scorer in a Pascal Siakam-type mold.

However, if his offensive identity never comes around, he’s still a high-energy lockdown defender. This past season he averaged 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 2.6 blocks per game, respectively. His willingness to attack the glass on both ends, when paired with high-basketball IQ, will lead him to possibly being an elite defender at the next level. On top of that, he has good length, a great motor, and exceptional athleticism (think Brandon Clarke in a sense). Every team with championship aspirations needs a player or two who play with constant energy on both ends of the court.

Elijah Hughes

Unlike Anthony and Reed, Hughes isn’t usually found in my first-round big boards and mock drafts. He’s a 22-year-old with injury concerns and defensive struggles; however, there are a handful of valuable qualities that he possesses.

For starters, he projects as a volume three-level scorer (19 points per game, 34% from deep on 7.1 attempts per game). Hughes can score in a multitude of ways, whether it be using his strength to get to the rim or excelling in catch-and-shoot scenarios. Inconsistency around the basket and even shooting woes are justified concerns, but he has the length and speed to improve in both aspects. Shooting just over 81% from the charity stripe bodes well for future shooting development as well.

One can say that the Syracuse zone hindered some of Hughes’ defensive abilities, but he will still need to work on staying in front of his defender (likely to be mainly athletic wings). However, his floor is a rotational plug-and-play type guy, but could reach starter status as a 3-and-D wing with some refinement at the pro level.

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