The 2020 NBA Draft concluded last Wednesday night as the next wave of young talent is now turning their lifelong dreams into reality. Until tip-off, we’ll all have our speculations and debates about who’s going to be the future and make their stamp in the league. College basketball’s “one and done” has become the norm for college hoopers for years and years now. It has reached a point in the modern day of NBA scouting that age and class is a determining factor whether a scout or GM feels a very talented player fits with the timeline of the organization even before the player steps onto an NBA court.
Last year two of NCAA’s most electrifying scorers in recent memory; combo guards Markus Howard from Marquette and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell were both named to AP All-America First Team. Markus Howard who had already been a reigning All-American entering his senior year averaged 27.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, & 3.3 assists and shot 41% from the three-point line on 10 attempts a game. Howard has been arguably one of college basketball’s prolific scorers over the past couple of years. Guard Myles Powell from Seton Hall also had a stellar close to his college career where he posted at least 20 points in both his junior and senior campaigns. Powell was also named Big East player of the year & won the Jerry West Award awarded to the country’s top shooting guard to add to his All-American senior season. Both Howard and Powell have been the engines to each of their team’s offenses before eventually getting to the professional level. You would think that two of the most dynamic scorers at the college level would without a doubt find an NBA home on draft night especially with how the three-point line has played a huge factor in their game and how the game is at the NBA level.
Markus Howard and Myles Powell were two of the biggest three-level scoring prospects coming into the 2020 NBA draft. Their lack of ideal NBA size, athleticism, and serious questions about their ability to be effective on the defensive end led to both of these score first combo guards to go undrafted. Markus Howard signed a two-way deal with the Denver Nuggets soon after the second round came to a close. New Jersey native Myles Powell also inked a deal with the New York Knicks where the infamous Madison Square Garden has become his backyard playground over the years as a Seton Hall Pirate. Given the respectable concerns of their size and defensive ability both of these guards going undrafted was definitely puzzling given their potential ceilings as offensive players. GMs prioritize not only the most talented players on the board but also how potential prospects could fit their ideal needs.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers struggled to find second sources of playmaking and offense come playoff time especially with season-ending blows to each of their primary ball handlers Giannis Antetokounmpo & Ben Simmons. At times the Sixers running their offense through shooting guard Shake Milton in crucial moments. Granted the Sixers were not prepared to be relying on the likes of offense of Milton to initiate offense perhaps we’ve normalized the fact that when we’re scouting all these guard prospects they need to have “ideal” size in order to be an effective player on both ends. Most of these prospects have already filled out their body height wise and are less than likely to make drastic changes to their physique. Yes the NBA is a different game physically but that’s why we have pre-draft workouts, coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and better yet training camp to help future guys make that NBA transition as smooth as possible. Why can’t some of these guys who are undersized be surrounded by other players that make up for their weaknesses? Steph Curry a guy who has made a name for himself as an NBA icon, champion, and future Hall of Famer as always been a guy who is at times helpless defensively but you know what you do; you go draft defensive versatile players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to take pressure off of Curry so he feels more comfortable on the other end. It allows you to hide him on less effective offensive players. You have a guy like Kemba Walker and make sure when he’s out there that most of his minutes are played alongside Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, guys that will guard the best offensive player on the opposing side. Look at the Atlanta Hawks, they already know what they have in Trae Young; a young transcendent score-first point guard but is also not known for his defensive intangibles. The Hawks go out and sign Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn; two players that can take that defensive pressure off Young. We don’t know how the NBA careers of Myles Powell and Markus Howard will pan out or if they’ll translate to the NBA game even with their inevitable ability to do so given their offensive talent and potential ceiling.
The college game and NBA game are so distinct in their own ways where college is so up and down and faster. You’ll rarely see full-court presses and zone coverages in the NBA unless necessary. There’s without a doubt more than just the factor of on-court ability that GMs weigh when deciding on the best possible prospect but they should begin to accept players for who they are and not instead reflect on their size or how handicapped they might be defensively especially before they play their first professional minute.