Mountain West Players To Watch For The 2020 NBA Draft
Six Mountain West players to watch for next year’s draft
Queta, Alston headline Mountain West’s pro prospects in ’19-20
Nevada’s Cody Martin, San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels, and Wyoming’s Justin James heard their names called in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Let’s take a look at the Mountain West players who could also be selected in next year’s draft.
Neemias Queta, Utah State
ESPN 2020 Mock Draft: 53rd to Cleveland Cavaliers
’18-19 stats: 35 G, 27.1 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 61.4 FG%
Utah State’s diamond in the rough will very likely be donning an NBA jersey this time next year. A late signee and relative unknown last summer, Queta bursted on the scene and drew considerable interest from NBA scouts. The Portuguese native ranked in the top four at this year’s combine in height without shoes, standing reach, and wingspan. On the floor, Queta joined Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Tyrus Thomas, and Derrick Favors last year as freshmen to average 11 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and an assist per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. Continuing to get a feel for the game and developing on offense would help propel Queta to a first round draft prognostication next year.
Derrick Alston, Jr., Boise State
ESPN 2020 Mock Draft: 45th to Sacramento Kings
’18-19 stats: 33 G, 27.9 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 38.4 3P%
Alston is an intriguing prospect because his game could be easily translatable to the next level if he improves in certain areas. In many ways, Alston’s pro potential is similar to Jalen McDaniels’, Thursday night’s 52nd selection. Alston needs to add to his ridiculously lanky frame at 6-8/185, but he’s already a knockdown shooter – converting nearly 40 percent of his 144 three-point attempts and a tremendous 81.8 percent clip at the free throw line – and keeps turnovers at a minimum. If he adds muscle, does a better job on the boards, and proves that he can defend multiple positions, Alston would be a great 3&D wing with plus length at the next level.
Sam Merrill, Utah State
’18-19 stats: 35 G, 35.3 MPG, 20.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, 37.6 3P%
The reigning Mountain West Player of the Year is a better NBA prospect than most people probably imagine. Merrill is an excellent scorer at all levels, finishing around the rim acrobatically and knocking down 42.4 percent of his 542 career attempts from downtown. The big leap that Merrill took as a junior was on the defensive end, where he was often looked upon to defend the opponent’s best shooter. Merrill has a solid frame and could be the type of guy to come off the bench to provide productive minutes and perimeter shooting as a role player.
Vance Jackson, New Mexico
’18-19 stats: 32 G, 27.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 33.3 3P%
Jackson, the Connecticut transfer, is a 6-9, 230-pounder who plays like a guard and has shooting range that extends beyond the perimeter. He can also score at all three levels with some consistency and has a good body for the next level. Making a bigger impact on defense and in the rebounding game could help scouts take notice of the California native.
Carlton Bragg, New Mexico
’18-19 stats: 24 G, 23.9 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 49.7 FG%
The former five-star and Kansas and Arizona State transfer is now making the most of his remaining college eligibility in New Mexico. Bragg’s offensive game is lacking in terms of pro potential, where the 6-10 forward converted just 20 of his 72 field goal attempts last year away from the rim. A decent jump shot away from the paint and continued intensity on defense will not only help the Lobos but also Bragg’s longevity wherever he plays professionally.
JaQuan Lyle, New Mexico
’16-17 stats: 31 G, 29.3 MPG, 11.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 40.7 3P%
It’s been two years since Lyle last saw the floor, sitting out the ’17-18 season after transferring over from Ohio State and also missing last season with an Achilles injury. Age is already a factor for Lyle, something front offices always have in mind when analyzing prospects. A breakout junior campaign could be huge for Lyle, though. He’s an elite passer, a knockdown perimeter shooter, and possesses a good deal of athleticism. Locking down on the defensive end while remaining efficient and productive on offense is key.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.