So many times throughout the NBA draft process, teams and talent evaluators will fall in love with the word "potential." It's understandable. When we look back at the Russell Westbrooks of the NBA Draft, or the prospects that were drafted on what they might become instead of focusing on college production, the word potential carries a heavy punch. But, for every Russell Westbrook, there's also a Hasheem Thabeet.
Sometimes evaluators will chase potential and will overlook the value that a player might bring immediately. To cross-reference sports, it's like swinging for a home run every time you step up to the plate. Some of the best GM's in the NBA realize they don't need a home run every time. Why not slowly add the right pieces to the puzzle and hit singles and doubles each time at the plate?
While the potential might not jump off the page to some, Villanova sophomore forward Saddiq Bey has the potential to be an absolute steal in this draft. Bey carries himself on the floor like a seasoned NBA veteran. There's no panic, no fear of the moment. Instead, Bey just finds a way to impact a game in any potential way he can. Isn't that the exact recipe that an organization should want to find when they are adding a rookie to their roster?
While some might argue that the Villanova sophomore struggles with explosiveness on his first step, there's a counter-argument for Bey's game. A number of times when Saddiq is getting downhill, you'll notice that he doesn't give up on a play just because of a tough defender. Bey lulls you to sleep, countering with spin dribbles, hesitations, and a variety of counter moves. His footwork is his bread and butter. When Saddiq doesn't need to use counters to get by you, he has no problem going right after you, just like the clip above.
Now some might wonder why I like to call this clip "Basketball IQ" and allow me a minute of your time to properly explain. This clip ties in beautifully to the clip above as well. Notice the initial switch on the high ball screen. Once Saddiq realizes he has a smaller defender on him, he decides to take him off of the dribble. But notice the awareness and IQ to not rush this drive. Saddiq shows enough patience to realize he can get exactly where he wants to get by just putting in the effort off the dribble.
Saddiq should transition effortlessly as a secondary playmaker at the NBA level. He possesses a lightning-quick release and can either take you off the dribble or flash off a P&R action. Here's a good example of just how valuable he can be. Simple action here but Saddiq doesn't need a lot of room to operate. He's a tough shot maker, and his quick release allows him to only need a small window of space to hurt you.
EFFORT & PATIENCE
The thing that stands out in this play is the overall effort by Saddiq. This takes no talent, all it takes is desire. Bey crashes the glass viciously and is able to create another possession for Nova. Some might argue that Saddiq should have gone right back up with this shot, but I like the patience to regroup and get a better shot. Great patience and footwork here by Saddiq to get a good shot after the offensive rebound.
FEEL FOR THE GAME
I love this job by Saddiq to get downhill with a purpose. Notice the initial ball screen up top here by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Saddiq Bey ranked "Excellent" (88th percentile) as a P&R ball handler this year. Here we see the feel for the game stand out. Bey knows he has a trailing defender chasing him from behind, but notice the small hesitation here. Just by doing that, Bey allows his teammate to roll, and the Penn help defender finds himself in trouble.
OFF THE DRIBBLE
Remember when I said that the Villanova sophomore doesn't need a lot of space to operate? This clip should be a nice example of that. Whenever you have a prospect that is transitioning as a potential "3-and-D" asset, you want them to be able to spread the defense in a variety of ways. Yes, being a lethal catch-and-shoot weapon is nice, but can you also create off the dribble? Here's a nice example of Bey doing that.
Footwork makes the dream work. I love the patience here by the sophomore to allow this play to develop. These are the types of plays that show Bey having a veteran presence when he plays the game. Once Saddiq gets both his man and the help defender to react, he spins back towards the baseline to get himself a beautiful two.
FOOTWORK PART II
Here we go with another opportunity for Saddiq to take a smaller defender off of the dribble. There are some flashes of Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce in Saddiq's game. Now, just hold on before you throw your computer to the ground let me explain first. Pierce was phenomenal off of the dribble of using a variety of body and head fakes while getting in and out of his dribble to set up defenders. I'm not saying that Bey is going to have the same career Pierce has, but there are some flashes of that in his game off of the bounce.
If you shoot over 45% from three during the season, you better be able to create off of the bounce as well. Here we get a nice look at Bey creating off a counter. Saddiq should transition as a high basketball IQ player who can score at three levels.
I wanted to make sure to include the next couple of clips in this film room write-up. If you didn't already know, Villanova head coach Jay Wright has a philosophy with his program. If you can give up a shot and make a pass to get someone a better shot, you're playing Villanova Wildcats basketball. This might be why NBA front offices and scouts have Nova players in such high regard, as they should transition smoothly to the NBA level. Now Saddiq could have easily taken the three-pointer off of the initial catch. Instead, a nice shot fake allows for Bey to get ahead of steam towards the hoop before the defense collapses. So by giving up his initial shot, Saddiq has now created a wide-open look for his teammate on the opposing wing.
VISION PART II
Again, another great example of Bey and his playmaking ability. Has a shot attempt initially, but another fake and drive sets up his defender for a much better look on the opposite wing. The small things are everything when you watch a prospect like Saddiq. Notice the awareness for him to fill out in the corner as well as waiting for the help defender to commit before he kicks out to the right-wing.
While this might seem like an "average" play to the ordinary fan, it's also important to show the awareness and ability to create space. With a player like Saddiq Bey, the smallest window is more than enough. When you have a good combination of footwork and shooting ability, it makes you a dangerous player. A simple jab step and Saddiq has the defender back peddling.
There's few players I enjoyed watching more in this draft class throughout the collegiate season than Villanova's Saddiq Bey. The sophomore does a fantastic job on both sides of the ball and can impact a game even when he's not scoring. With previous Villanova players having success in the pros such as Warriors rookie Eric Paschall, Mavericks guard Jaylen Brunson, and Suns rising wing Mikal Bridges, it wouldn't be a surprise for Saddiq to get drafted higher than some might expect. Currently, Saddiq Bey ranks 16th on our 2020 NBA Draft Board but is trending upwards.