In a draft class with no shortage of intriguing defensive players, these five prospects may turn out to be the best options to lockdown NBA wings
In today’s “switch everything” era of NBA basketball in which seemingly everybody can put the ball on the floor, shoot, and/or run pick-and-roll, every team could use extra help defending the perimeter.
The 2020 NBA Draft may present a relatively weak class in terms of star potential, but it does offer an enticing selection of high-IQ players who could, at the very least, carve out solid careers as versatile rotation pieces, largely thanks to their defensive impact.
On that note here are a few notable names to consider for teams looking to prioritize wing defenders in the Nov. 18 draft.
Who are the best wing defenders in the 2020 NBA Draft class?
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Okoro may end up as a top-10 draft pick purely due to his prowess as a perimeter defender.
A 6-foot-6, 235-pound bulldog, the 19-year old was one of the most dominant defenders in college basketball in his one season in the SEC who consistently embraced guarding the opposition’s best player, rightfully earning a place on the All-SEC Defensive Team for the 25-6 Tigers.
Okoro’s motor is always running — a quality reflected in his hustle plays and general ruggedness on defense. He can’t be bullied or moved off his spot, and he always makes life miserable for his matchups. Simply put: if you’re going up against Okoro, you better prepare for an intense and bruising few hours.
Okoro stays locked in for full possessions and rarely makes a mistake. He doesn’t fall for fakes and has minimal issues switching onto bigger players. He’s not a major steal-chaser, opting for a more disciplined approach.
Beyond his physicality and mindset, Okoro is fundamentally and instinctually sound, and he does all the little things well. He understands team schemes, battles through screens, and his combination of size and lateral quickness is ideal for a switchable modern wing defender in the NBA.
He projects as a lockdown, dependable defender in crunch-time, a la Andre Iguodala or Marcus Smart. He isn’t particularly long, but his explosive leaping ability combined with his effort should render him an effective shot-contester.
Possible fit(s): Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 5), Phoenix Suns (No. 10), San Antonio Spurs (No. 11).
Devin Vassell, Florida State
If Okoro isn’t the premier wing defender in the draft, then that label goes to Vassell.
At a lanky 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Vassell has incredible tools. Unlike Okoro, he is a risk-taker, and will aggressively attack opponents’ tendencies and anticipate passes. His footwork and body control enable him to impressively recover and reposition, even if he gets beat.
He has quick reflexes and hands (he averaged 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes for the Seminoles in 2019-20), and more than held his own against forwards and guards. He’s fluid, agile, and wiry, and his surprising quickness matches his imposing length. Vassell is unrelenting in his effort and hustle. Like a great linebacker, he makes a palpable and disruptive impact on nearly every possession.
You can beat him with strength, but not activity. His ability to close out on shooters is second-to-none among his class, and his understanding of rotations and team schemes is apparent on film.
Possible fit(s): Phoenix Suns (No. 10), San Antonio Spurs (No. 11), Sacramento Kings (No. 12).
Saddiq Bey, Villanova
Bey could play crunch-time minutes for a Finals team, right now.
He’s got ideal size (6-foot-8, 216 pounds, 6-foot-10 wingspan) that allows him to play multiple positions and seamlessly switch onto guards. He’s a smart individual defender and successfully matched up with some of college basketball’s best wings and guards, including Myles Powell, Devon Dotson, Robert Woodard, and Markus Howard.
His foot speed is average, but he compensates with his understanding of the game and A+ effort. He shrewdly navigates screens, even as the ball and players whip around.
Bey offers an enticing blend of size and quickness, and his shot contesting and recovery skills are solid, though he rarely gets beat. Like Okoro, he’s not a gambler, though his excellent ball-denial skills limit his opportunities to create turnovers.
More importantly, you can safely assume that any player who improved over multiple seasons (two, in Bey’s case) under Jay Wright at Villanova is an ultra-competitive hard worker with a mature appreciation for the little things it takes to win.
Bey will always be in the right place at the right time and someone whom any coach can trust in big moments. Wherever he goes, he will immediately set an example with his communication and intensity on the defensive end.
Possible fit(s): Sacramento Kings (No. 12), New Orleans Pelicans (No. 13), Boston Celtics (No. 14), Portland Trail Blazers (No. 16), Dallas Mavericks (No. 18).
Josh Green, Arizona
Green, a bouncy 6-foot-6 guard, plays like he has the turbo button held down at all times. His fast, polished and physical defensive approach have him projected as a mid-to-late first-round selection. He possesses fluid above-the-rim athleticism, especially in transition, leading me to believe that he could be a frequent chase-down block candidate — on layups and jumpers.
Green likes to get a bit aggressive on D, as he clearly has confidence in his lateral quickness and improvisational skills. He will gladly put his chest into players as they attack and invade their personal space – stretching out to half-court. As superstars like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard inspire more players to casually pull up from 30+ feet, Green is the type of defender you want on the wing.
In general, he brings a productive verve to the defensive end, and seems to enjoy jumping into lanes and cutting off dribble-drives. His 6-foot-10 wingspan allows him to defend taller wings, too. Despite his aggression, Green rarely gets beat by crossovers and tends to stay on-balance. He may be the laterally-quickest player in the class.
Alongside a scoring point guard, Green — a capable spot-up shooter — could make an immediate impact.
Possible fit(s): Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 17), Brooklyn Nets (No. 19), Denver Nuggets (No. 22), Utah Jazz (No. 23), Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 25).
Tyler Bey, Colorado
Bey won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20, and it’s easy to see why. He’s light on his feet and can cover more ground than you might expect. Like his fellow classmate named Bey, he’s capable of guarding 1-through-5, can jump passing lanes and protect the rim.
At 6-foot-7, 216 pounds, with a ridiculous 7-foot-1 wingspan, Bey has elite versatility and athleticism and it’s hard to see him ever being on the wrong side of a mismatch.. He’s smooth and explosive, which manifests on both ends, especially in transition. If he does get beat by a quicker guard, he can recover with his length and hops. Like the other players on this list, his high IQ is a huge contributor to his defensive impact. His activity levels should impress scouts.
Bey mostly played the 4 for the Buffaloes, but he should spend most of his time at the 3 in the NBA.
Possible fit(s): Miami Heat (No. 20), Boston Celtics (No. 26 or 30).