Five-minute draft guide: Major SEC influence on 2020 class
Sure, the Southeastern Conference may be recognized more for football than basketball, but the league has produced its fair share of successful hoops pros in recent years, led by Kentucky’s vast contingent of 26 players who appeared in an official game during the NBA’s 2019-20 regular season. Meanwhile, SEC and Gulf Coast region schools such as LSU (five players in ’19-20, including New Orleans guard Josh Gray), Alabama (three players) Mississippi State (three) and Ole Miss (one, Toronto’s Terence Davis) continue to supply the NBA with contributors.
If the consensus proves to be correct, the 2020 NBA Draft on Nov. 18 will feature at least five first-round picks from the SEC, including Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith, Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr. and Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey. Here are seven other SEC draft prospects you may need to know on draft night next month, with their respective “Big Board” rankings from three prominent websites. A number somewhere in the top 60 means a player is likely to be drafted, because the annual NBA draft consists of 60 picks:
Ashton Hagans, Kentucky guard
One YouTube scouting breakdown describes the 6-foot-3 point guard as “Pat Beverley 2.0,” a nod to the Georgia native’s aggressive defense and ability to pick up opposing guards fullcourt (1.9 steals last season). Hagans is also an excellent table-setter, averaging 6.4 assists as a sophomore.
CBS Big Board: 46
ESPN Big Board: 54
SI Big Board: 54
Key stat: 27 percent from three-point range in two-year college career. Draft analysts believe he needs to improve the mechanics of his jumper, which looks more like a “push shot” than a natural form.
Isaiah Joe, Arkansas guard
Prolific three-point shooter who took far more treys than twos during two-year career with Razorbacks. During his sophomore season, the 6-5, 180-pounder fired 10.6 attempts per game from beyond the arc, compared to just 3.2 tries from inside the arc. Also excellent foul shooter (89 percent last season).
CBS Big Board: 19
ESPN Big Board: 46
SI Big Board: 33
Key stat: averaged 1.7 assists in both college seasons; draft analysts list playmaking as an area that needs improvement.
Mason Jones, Arkansas guard
One draft scouting video describes the 6-foot-5, 200-pound shooting guard as “the best player in the draft (nobody is talking about),” alluding partly to the fact that Jones averaged 22.0 points last season. The Texas native, who turned 22 in July, was the SEC’s Player of the Year in ’19-20.
CBS Big Board: 56
ESPN Big Board: 70
SI Big Board: 51
Key stat: had two 40-point games last season, topped by 41 in a win over Tulsa. Shot 8/11 on threes at Texas A&M in a 30-point outing.
Skylar Mays, LSU guard
Baton Rouge native was a four-year starter for the Tigers, increasing his contributions and production each season. Mays initially considered leaving for the NBA following his junior season, but opted to return to school. A sturdy 6-4, 205-pounder whose style of play is somewhat reminiscent of retired point guard Andre Miller.
CBS Big Board: 49
ESPN Big Board: 45
SI Big Board: 45
Key stat: averaged a modest 2.9 assists in LSU career, but is frequently praised for his pick-and-roll acumen.
Reggie Perry, Mississippi State forward/center
A physical presence in the paint at 6-10, 250, he’s compared by NBADraft.net to formidable bigs Julius Randle and Danny Fortson. Perry is able to score on traditional low-post moves, including a trusty half-hook that helped him shoot 50 percent from the field last season.
CBS Big Board: 58
ESPN Big Board: 49
SI Big Board: 55
Key stat: averages of 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds as a Bulldogs sophomore last season. Went for 26 and 13 in win vs. Arkansas.
Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky guard
The surname might suggest a fleet-footed speed demon in the backcourt, but the 6-3, 190-pounder’s biggest strength is spot-up shooting. A part-time starter in both college seasons, he jumped from 35 percent on threes as a freshman to 43 percent last season.
CBS Big Board: 52
ESPN Big Board: 52
SI Big Board: 37
Key stat: 48/100 from three-point range last season in January, February and March. Career assist-to-turnover ratio was just 100/81.
Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State guard/forward
According to draft analysts, biggest NBA skill may be his defensive versatility. NBA.com describes the 6-7, 230-pound wing as having the “length to challenge shots and be a factor in the passing lanes, the strength to put a body on bigger players inside, and the agility to step out and guard on the perimeter.”
CBS Big Board: 29
ESPN Big Board: 26
SI Big Board: 43
Key stat: didn’t put up big offensive numbers in two-year college career (11.4 ppg last season), but shot 50 percent from field as a Bulldogs sophomore.