Saddiq Bey Is Primed To Impress In NBA

Saddiq Bey is about to make an NBA team very happy.

On June 9, the Villanova sophomore announced he would forego his final two years of eligibility and remain in the NBA Draft. Come October, an NBA team stands to benefit from that decision.

So, what is it about Bey that makes him such a tantalizing NBA prospect? For starters, there’s his prototypical size and length, things that make him a prime candidate to fit perfectly into the way the game is currently played. He stands at 6’8” with a nearly seven-foot wingspan. There are also his sophomore stats at ‘Nova: 16.1 points and 4.7 rebounds for an anomalously young Wildcat team that needed players to step up in the absence of any scholarship seniors. Most impressively, Bey shot 45.1% from beyond the arc in 2019-20, fourth-best in the NCAA.

In addition, Bey has shown a willingness to do the dirty work on the defensive end. More importantly, he wasn’t limited to defending players his size. In a Big East conference driven by guard play, Bey routinely guarded smaller, electric scorers like Myles Powell and Markus Howard. Villanova head coach Jay Wright told NovaIllustrated.com, “I told a lot of NBA guys that in our league, to guard Myles Powell and Markus Howard, who are tiny, quick little jets, to be able to guard those kind of guys at 6-8 is really impressive and then also guard big guys. I think he’s really got the potential to be a complete player.” That ability summons another trait that is in vogue in today’s NBA: versatility.

If 45.1% three-point shooting, an almost seven-foot wingspan and a willingness to commit on the defensive end and an ability to guard multiple positions don’t scream 3-and-D success, what does?

Sure, elite three-point shooting, prototypical NBA size, a good defensive mentality and versatility paint the picture of an intriguing prospect, but those attributes only tell part of the story regarding Bey’s NBA potential. To get the full picture of Bey as a prospect, we need to look at where he is at on his development curve.

First some background. Bey came to Villanova ranked 120th in his class by Rivals and after a late decommitment from N.C. State. Players in that range aren’t usually considered to be on the fast track to the NBA lottery, or really to the NBA at all for that matter. Yet here we are, two years later, with Bey heading to the draft as a consensus first-round pick and potentially a lottery pick.

He joined a highly touted freshman class at Villanova and quickly established himself as the most college-ready member of the group. Wright, notorious for relying on, and deferring to, seniors and experienced players, ended up playing Bey 29.6 minutes per night. The overlooked freshman responded by giving the Wildcats 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while connecting on a respectable 37.4% of his attempts from deep on 3.6 attempts per game.

As a sophomore, with his field goal attempts per game rising from 6.6 to 11.8, Bey improved his FG% from 45.8% to 47.7%, powered by his impressive 45.1% clip from deep on 5.6 attempts per game. He nearly doubled his scoring to 16.1 PPG, improved his assist totals from 1.3 APG to 2.4 and posted similar rebounding numbers. In the process, he earned All-Big East honors and skyrocketed up NBA big boards from the fringes of being selected to solidly in the first round.

And his coach doesn’t think Bey's development is done, putting him in the unique position of being able to contribute to an NBA team right away while also having the ability to make noticeable improvements. “I think he’s really unique in the sense that he’s one of those guys that’s ready to play in the NBA right now but he’s also still one of those guys that’s very valuable because he’s got an incredible upside,” Wright said. “He’s at a point where he can help a team right away but he’s also at a point where he’s going to continue to grow as he’s in the NBA and get a lot better while he’s there.”

It's worth noting that Bey’s development story shares similarities with some of the other recent Villanova players to head to the NBA. Ryan Arcidiacono (57th in his class), Mikal Bridges (95th), Donte DiVincenzo (120th) and Eric Paschall (unranked, originally a Fordham commit) all came to Villanova with little NBA attention. Two of them (Bridges, DiVincenzo) ended up as early entrants to the draft. Now, Bey is ready to add another chapter to what has become somewhat of a 'Nova trademark.

There’s no quicker way to carve out a role in the NBA than by knocking down threes and playing defense, especially if you are a switchable defender. While Bey will have to prove his three-point shooting will translate to the next level, his 37.4% mark as a freshman indicates his elite accuracy from deep last season wasn’t a fluke. As for being a switchable defender, anyone who follows college basketball knows it’s no picnic defending players like Powell and Howard, and Bey was able to change games with his work in that department.

Like most prospects, Bey doesn't come without concerns. He lacks explosiveness, leaving his offensive game lacking in isolation situations. He'll have to show he still has long-range shooting with a deeper three-point line in the Association. But his defensive ability, basketball IQ and potential for further development serve to calm those concerns, especially in this year's draft.

In Bey, you have a player that posted top-flight three-point shooting numbers, has shown eagerness and versatility on the defensive end, owns a prototypical NBA body, possesses a strong mindset and comes from a program that has a pedigree of transforming overlooked recruits into NBA players. His attributes fit well into the modern game and there’s reason to believe he’s not done getting better while still being able to contribute immediately.

You should be keeping an eye on Bey when the draft rolls around.

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