2020 NBA Draft: Ranking the top six 3-and-D pro prospects in this year’s class

As the NBA game evolves, the importance of the 3-and-D player — the archetypal prospect who can knock down 3-pointers and defend at a high level — continues to increase in value. Every team is in search of the next Danny Green or Trevor Ariza or Klay Thompson: low-usage, high-impact presences who contribute to winning that, in many ways, can play a perfect complement to stars around them.

This year’s draft looks like a prime time to be on the hunt for them, too. 

So if you’re a team with a star — or stars — in place, which 3-and-D role player might make the most sense? Which prospect who fits the billing is likely to be off the board first?

We’ve ranked this year’s top 3-and-D prospects to formulate a cheat sheet of sorts. Below are the top six, all of whom we currently project to be first-rounders in our updated Top 100 Big Board.

1. Devin Vassell, Florida State

A 6-foot-7 wing with a wingspan pushing 7-foot, Vassell is one of the best defensive playmakers in this class regardless of position. He rated top-25 among ACC players last season in league play in steal rate and block rate, while averaging 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Couple that with his 41.9% accuracy from distance over his two seasons at FSU, and it’s easy to see why teams are in love with Vassell’s two-way potential.

Draft range projection: 6-15

Want more analysis of the top prospects in the NBA Draft? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take a deep dive on the top players heading to the next level.

2. Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Auburn one-and-done standout Isaac Okoro is one of the more challenging prospects to peg in this draft. He could go No. 4 in this draft just as easily as he could slip to the mid-teens. But I suspect he’ll find a happy medium in that projection, with Cleveland (No. 5), Atlanta (No. 6), Phoenix (No. 10) and Sacramento (No. 12) among the more sensible landing spots due to fit and current roster construction. Okoro puts the D in 3-and-D — and not so much the 3, having hit just 29% from 3-point range at Auburn — but no matter. The shot will come. And defensively, he looks like a versatile and physical defender who can guard multiple positions and plays a physical brand of basketball that translates to winning. 

Draft range projection: 4-15

3. Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

To categorize Nesmith as a 3-and-D prospect, I’ll admit, is to undersell his skill set by miles. He’s a skilled shooter who can drill shots on the run, peeling off screens and pulling up off the bounce. He’s more than a two-trick, 3-and-D pony. But his talents give me a high degree of confidence that, at minimum, he’ll be a reliable and impactful shooter right away. He made 52.2% of his 115 3-point attempts last season and was on track to post one of the most prolific 3-point shooting seasons ever at the college hoops level before a season-ending injury derailed his campaign. Regardless of where he lands, some team will have no issues putting to use his scoring ability on the perimeter, and his 6-6 frame portends well for his development as a defensive talent to match his offensive production.

Draft range projection: 6-15

4. Saddiq Bey, Villanova

This kid is First Team All-Looks-The-Part. 6-foot-8 wing with a plus-2 wingspan. 21-year-old with a frame to match the experience. And oh, by the way, he’s a killer on both ends: he shot 41.8% from 3 in two seasons at Villanova on 306 attempts, while defensively locking up the opponent’s best offensive weapon and showing he is capable of guarding every position. That’s an extremely valuable skill set. Of course, teams at the top of the NBA Draft often go young — and so a 21-year-old like Bey may not be first preference for some — but he’s a high-floor player who you can be sure will make an immediate impact. The further he slips, the more head-scratching it’s going to look in a few years.

Draft range projection: 8-20

5. Josh Green, Arizona

Having played a complementary role at Arizona last season as a freshman next to Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, Green already has proven he can perform well in a 3-and-D role. At UA he shot 36.1% from 3-point range and averaged 1.5 steals per game, using above-average athleticism to his advantage to operate as a versatile perimeter defender. Will the shot hold, though? That remains a question. Arguably, it’s the question. He finished the season on a high note to tick his averages up. His form could use a tweak or two, and rating in the 11th percentile as an off-screen shooter, per Synergy, is concerning. But he’s a fine catch-and-fire shooter who can make shots when open and embraces the role as a two-way force. Plenty of upside that suggests his range, which I’ve listed below as late lottery to early second-round, will likely settle somewhere closer to the former. Hes No. 25 in the CBS Sports Top 100. 

Draft range projection: 14-30

6. Robert Woodward, Mississippi State

The combination of tools Woodard has at his disposal — the positional size, the defensive smarts, the IQ and the improved jumper — are all moving his stock up after a breakout sophomore season into first-round territory. He’s 6-7 with a reported 7-1 wingspan who can muscle up defensively and knows how to use that frame to leverage his way into positioning on offense around the paint, too. Best of all, he improved as an outside shooter last season, hitting 42.9% from 3-point range after a freshman season in which he shot just 27.3%. The shot remains a work in progress, but he’s flashed enough potential and has the size and skill to warrant consideration as a top-10 player in the 3-and-D archetype this year.

Draft range projection: 14-30


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