The 2020 NBA draft is filled with question marks, but the one thing teams can be sure of is the overall abundance of shooting. Here are some names to watch.
The 2020 NBA draft is roughly two weeks away and at this point, most are pretty familiar with the names at the top of the big board. However, every draft has a player or two that seemingly come out of nowhere and take the NBA by storm and this draft is likely no exception.
One of the most valuable commodities in today’s NBA is outside shooting; much like how you can never have too much pitching in baseball, you can never have too much shooting in basketball. Luckily for NBA teams, young players are becoming more proficient at knocking down deep shots every year, making it easier to find legitimate depth pieces well into the second round.
For what the current draft pool lacks in topline talent, they make up for with depth, particularly in regard to outside shooting. Most are at least aware of the elite shooters likely to go in the first round — such as guards Tyrese Haliburton and Desmond Bane and forwards Aaron Nesmith and Saddiq Bey — but teams should be able to find legitimate 40 percent 3-point shooters anywhere from pick 25 all the way through pick 60 (and perhaps into undrafted free agency).
Here are three more obscure names to know heading into Nov. 18.
Sam Merrill, Utah State, Big Board Rank: Unranked
Merrill is the type of player that draftniks love and the typical fan has likely never heard of. He is relatively stocky at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds and doesn’t possess a ton of raw athleticism, power, or speed. But he makes up for his lack of intangibles with perhaps the purest shot among the 2020 draft hopefuls.
Merrill connected on 42.0 percent of his 759 3-point attempts during his four years in Logan, Utah, and at that volume, it’s a pretty good indicator that his shot will translate to the NBA. His release isn’t lightning-quick by any means, but it is fluid and easily repeatable. He won’t be a starting-caliber player in the NBA and may require some seasoning in the G-League, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if he carved out a career as a corner spot-up specialist.
Isaiah Joe, Arkansas, Big Board Rank: 24
Joe may be one of the most intriguing prospects in 2020. He’s a bit lanky at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, but he has some of the deepest range in the draft and shot it very well (37.8 percent for his career) in college over a remarkably high volume (9.1 3FGA per game). His form airs on the side of quirky — it’s much more angular compared to Merrill’s for instance — but he is able to repeat it consistently; he may become an even scarier 3-point threat than he already is with some NBA-level coaching and minor shot adjustments.
Joe would be a great addition on a team looking for cheap outside shooting with future potential. Any team with a pick in the 25-45 range should think long and hard about snagging him. He’s no Tyler Herro, but he could end up be some version of Wayne Ellington, maybe better if his playmaking abilities continue to evolve.
Jordan Nwora, Louisville, Big Board Rank: 57
Nwora is much like Merrill in that he doesn’t bring much to the table beyond shooting, but again, if a team is looking for a spot-up corner threat, they could do worse than the forward from Louisville. Unlike the other two listed above, Nwora attended the virtual draft combine that took place over the last month or so, providing more data to pick apart his game with.
He was highly efficient from beyond the arc last season, particularly above the break. He ranked in the 94th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations (1.33 points per possession) in the half-court, according to Synergy, and in the 74th percentile in transition (1.17 points per possession).
Nwora’s game projects similar to that of Merrill at the next level. He’s not overly athletic and his shooting form could use some tweaks as his upper extremities tend to push the ball rather. But as with Joe, this is addressable and could push him into a regular role. His biggest downsides will be his lack of lateral quickness, particularly on the defensive end, and inability to be modular within an offensive system.