High-major conferences dominate college basketball and therefore have the bulk of the market share when it comes to producing NBA talent.
Even though these big name leagues with blue blood programs produce most of the players set to hear their names called on draft night, that doesn't mean there aren't other paths to the league. Mid-major programs are sending quality players to the NBA with regularity and savvy teams will look past the high-major conferences to find value in underviewed athletes.
NBA DRAFT 2020: Big Board of 60 top prospects
Every year, there are under-the-radar players who end up drastically outplaying their draft position. Oftentimes these players come from mid-major programs, out of the eye of national coverage.
This year should be no different, so here are some deep sleepers from outside the power conference structure that could end up having fruitful NBA careers.
Anthony Lamb, Vermont
A career 16 point per game scorer in college over four seasons, Anthony Lamb knows how to put the ball in the bucket.
Vermont has been a consistent winner in the America East conference over the last few seasons and a large part of their success is the leadership of Lamb. Offensively, he has been a load for opponents to handle, using his muscular frame to initiate contact on the inside before finishing. While his strength is a positive, it isn't something he relies on solely to score, as he also has fantastic touch around the rim, something any player transitioning to the NBA needs to finish around shot blockers.
Lamb is also a dominant rebounder who takes pride in that area of the game, something that will make him a valuable role player. With Lamb having so much individual success over four years in college, it makes sense that he'll find a way to carve out a career in the NBA.
Malik Fitts, Saint Mary's
Nearly every NBA team is looking for capable 3-and-D wings and Malik Fitts is a player ready to take on that role.
Standing 6'8" and weighing 230 pounds, he's got a body ready for the rigors of the pros and after hitting over 40% of his threes for two straight college seasons, he's shown shooting consistency.
Fitts plays a safe, fundamental style of defence that jives with what NBA coaches are looking for. He plays under control, knows where to be in rotations, and doesn't gamble. Capable of guarding perimeter players or bigs on the inside he's as versatile as they come and that makes him easily projectable to the NBA.
Not just a shooter, Fitts is also great around the rim finishing straight line drives or posting up similar sized players. He averaged 17 points per game for Saint Mary's last season, a number that's actually lower than it could have been given the fact that Saint Mary's perennially plays at one of the slowest paces in college basketball.
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Teams looking to bolster their frontcourt with an experienced college player will fall in love with Nathan Knight, a stat sheet stuffer with NBA size. Averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds last year as a 6'10", 250 pound center he started to gain some NBA attention. When you watch Knight play it's easy to forget how big he is, as often he's moving like a much smaller player but when it's time for him to grab a contested rebound or scrap for a tough bucket, he makes his physicality known.
Knight has great hands around the rim, something that will be on display at the pro level where he'll be catching bounce passes off the short roll and dump off passes around the rim. Once he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it, either demonstrating his forte of scoring the rock or skipping it to the opposite corner for an open jumper for his teammate.
Free throws are one of Knight's main weapons as he got to the line as much as anyone in college basketball last season. There, he shot 77%, a great mark for a centre and perhaps an indication that his 31% 3-point stroke will improve.
Multiple NBA teams employ big-bodied centers off the bench who come in the game as interior bucket getters and Knight is someone who is up to the job.
Malachi Flynn, San Diego State
Malachi Flynn had his stock surge from the past college basketball season as his San Diego State team's surprising success elevated him to a position where he'll be on an NBA roster next year.
Flynn checks a lot of the boxes you want from an NBA point guard.
First, he can shoot off of movement and from range. Sprinting into catch and shoot attempts or stepping back against tight defence were where most of his 3-point attempts came from and despite the extreme level of difficulty of these shots, he hit them at an impressive 37%. The ability to score off pull-ups makes him outstanding as a lead guard in the pick and roll, something perfect for the NBA.
While Flynn is excellent in a scoring role, he also thrives as a distributor and he was one of the best decision makers in college basketball a year ago. Even though he was an incredibly high-usage player who drew the main attention of every scouting report, he only had 1.8 turnovers a game while being one of college hoops' best passers averaging 5.1 assists.
Flynn is simply one of the highest IQ players in the draft who can either get a shot off for himself or run an offense and involve his teammates. He'll look totally comfortable as a backup NBA point guard.
Yoeli Childs, BYU
BYU had one of the most potent offences in the country last year and a large reason why was the play of Yoeli Childs.
Averaging 22 points per game, he was an offensive monster who was impossible to stop in the pick and roll game. Adept at catching the ball in the short roll he became a massive threat in the middle of the floor. With the ability to pass to an open shooter or use a few dribbles before scoring, he was able to get just about anything he wanted offensively and with NBA teams loving that style of short roll big man, he should have a list of suitors.
Childs also shows major potential as a shooter after posting a ridiculous 49% three-point stroke in his senior season. Considering he was a 32% long ball shooter up until that point in his college career, it's safe to say his senior shooting was a bit of an anomaly but he did show flashes that he could stretch an NBA floor.
In a backup big, NBA teams are looking for difference makers who can step in and make their presence felt with energy plays and Childs can do that. His scoring touch is undeniable and teams will see him as someone who can be utilized as a screener with his ability to roll, pop, or post up his man if there is a switch.
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