Mountain West Basketball: NBA Draft Update

Mountain West Basketball: NBA Draft Update

Boise State

Mountain West Basketball: NBA Draft Update


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Mountain West Basketball: NBA Draft Update

A look at the current draft projections for some Mountain West stars mentioned nationally. 

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Let’s take a look at where some of our favorite MW stars stand going into June. 

As the world of sports seeks to get back to business as “normal” worldwide after coming to a sudden halt in late March, the NBA is tasked with rescheduling their current season, free agency, and all draft-related activities in the coming months.

The anticipated early entrant withdrawal date on Wednesday, June 3rd has been pushed back like many other draft related deadlines. There hasn’t been any mention of a new deadline, but the NCAA said it would be set once a more concrete pre-draft schedule was announced by the NBA.

The early entry withdrawal deadline was not the only date pushed back as the draft lottery, scheduled for May 19th and the scouting combine, scheduled to be held May 21st-24th were also moved further back to possibly August.

The only date that has remained untouched is the draft itself, which is still scheduled for June 25th, but likely to change. But one thing is for sure, there are still a couple of decisions to be made by Mountain West players to keep their names in the draft or return next season.

There is definitely an unknown or mystery element to this year’s draft process, players who may normally opt to stay in the draft due to an unforeseen rise in stock after in person player workouts may not have that opportunity. Aside from the draft related activities that were canceled, third party events that can attribute to a player’s stock like the Portsmouth invitational in Virginia was also canceled. So as travel and in person activities are still under scrutiny and regulation going into June, some players only have their in season film to help boost any chance at hearing their name called on draft night, whenever that may be.

So let’s take a look at six different mock drafts and big boards from across the industry to see how folks think the conference’s top talent will fare in this year’s draft class.

ESPN-Updated Friday 5/29/2020 Tuesday 6/2/2020

CBS Sports-Published 5/12/2020

The Athletic-Published on 5/5/2020 *Subscription is needed to view The Athletic’s content

Sports Illustrated Top 80 Rankings-Published on 5/6/2020

The Ringer’s 2020 NBA Draft Guide-Updated 05/19/2020

Guys who could return next season

© Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports(2)

Derrick Alston Jr. |Junior Guard |  Boise State

Projection: Late second round to undrafted

CBS Sports: 65th

ESPN: 95th

NBA 57th (big board)/58th Mock draft

The Athletic: 57th

Sports Illustrated: not ranked

The Ringer: not ranked

Alston Jr. is a legacy draft prospect, as his father was drafted in the second round and 33rd overall in the 1994 draft out of Duquesne. His father’s NBA career was short lived (a little over two seasons), but played almost two decades overseas and has since made a career in coaching in the NBA and NBA G-League as the current head coach of the Westchester Knicks.

Alston Jr. is an intriguing prospect as a 6-9 guard who can handle the ball and get his teammates involved when he drives the lane. According to this Idaho Statesman article, Bronco head coach Leon Rice mentioned Alston’s recent return to campus in late may, but had no update on his current status regarding the NBA draft.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico at San Diego State

Matt Mitchell |Junior Forward | San Diego State

Projection: Undrafted

CBS Sports: not ranked

ESPN: not ranked

NBA not ranked

The Athletic: 82nd

Sports Illustrated: not ranked

The Ringer: not ranked

Mitchell was a terrific player on what may have been one of the best Aztec teams in school history. He began the season coming off of the bench for the Aztec’s first 13 games before reentering the starting lineup and never leaving. His development over the course of the season elevated Mitchell to a spot on the All-Mountain West first team come season’s end.

After declaring for the draft in late April, he spoke with Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune revealing anything but eagerness to jump to the NBA.

“I was definitely going back and forth on the decision to put my name in,” Mitchell said. “But at the end of the day, I felt it was the best thing to do for myself and help myself in the future. All I’m looking to get out of this is to get feedback about what I need to get better at, what they’re looking for me to do better next season.

“And if they do open for workouts, under God’s graces, I would take workouts if asked. That’s all I’m looking to get out of it. I don’t think I’m looking to leave this year.”

Mitchell is extremely self-reflective and understands the current situation globally and how it limits exposure and potential in-person contact with NBA teams. He also understands the possible need to return for next season to develop his game into what maybe some NBA scouts are looking for from him. If he returns he will be one of the conferences best players and a front runner for preseason player of the year, but with a delayed withdrawal date we may wait awhile to hear anything back.

Decided to stay in the draft

NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at Fresno State

Malachi Flynn | Junior Guard | San Diego State

Projection: Early first round to mid-second round

CBS Sports: 45th

ESPN: 38th

NBA 39th (Big Board)/41st (Mock Draft)

The Athletic: 37th

Sports Illustrated: 29th

The Ringer: 36th

The reigning Mountain West Player & Defensive Player of the Year really left his mark on the Aztec program and conference in just one season of play. His presence on the court elevated San Diego State to a top-5 ranking, automatic NCAA tournament bid and a near perfect season.

Flynn also appears to be the only Mountain West player almost guaranteed to get drafted, appearing on all six mocks and big boards anywhere from the late first round to the middle of the second.

His ability to score, run a nationally ranked offense and effect the game on both ends of the floor really caught scout’s eyes as early as December with dominant performances in non-conference play. Flynn may have not had much more to prove to scouts if he returned next season but like many players around the country he felt like his stock did take a hit without being able to play in March. He spoke with ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on the process and the conversations he had with folks in his life to come to his decision.

“It was a tough decision deciding to declare,” Flynn said. “One of the biggest things that had me wanting to come back was not playing in March Madness.

“For me personally, March was going to be huge for my stock,” Flynn said. “The level of talent in the Mountain West was in question by some, which is not something I can control or really understand. In the tournament I could have shown that I can play at the highest level of the sport and win at the highest level. It would have been a huge positive for our entire team.”

“I showed NBA teams that I’m a winner, that I play the point guard position with a high IQ,” Flynn said. “I showed them how well I can play on and off the ball. That I can score, but also get teammates involved. I showed teams that I can defend bigger and smaller guys.”

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Jalen Harris | Redshirt Junior Guard | Nevada

Projection: Late second round to undrafted

CBS Sports: 70th

ESPN: 86th

NBA not ranked

The Athletic: 80th

Sports Illustrated: 60th

The Ringer: not ranked

Harris like Flynn leaves with eligibility left but not too much else to prove on the court next season. Harris and Flynn battled it out on the court in the month of February for what seemed like the conference player of the year award on the line. Well that ultimately went to Flynn but Harris leaves with a spot on the All-Mountain West first team and the Newcomer of the year award as he looks towards a professional career in the near future.

Harris is a bouncy combo guard who can outright score it, with six outings of thirty points or more this past season, three of which came in the month of February as he began to really catch steam. He can really do it all, as at one point he was leading the Wolf Pack in scoring, rebounding and assists before ultimately being overtaken by fellow stat-sheet stuffer Lindsey Drew in all categories but scoring by season’s end.

Harris has opted to stay in the draft but isn’t getting much love from media nationally as only Sports Illustrated have him ranked high enough to get drafted, with the last pick in the draft at 60th. Harris certainly has NBA potential but will have to rely on scouts viewing his game film during this time absent of in person workouts, which could have really helped Harris’ case. But with possible combine activities restarting in August, he could possibly get that chance. Harris also understands the idea of leaving with momentum on his side, as he spoke with Nevada Sports Net on just that subject back in early May before he made his decision.

“A lot of times, like most people on the outside looking in, you would think the way the game is supposed to work is you can come back, have a better year and go higher up in the draft and improve,” Harris said. “The thing in question is the game doesn’t work like that. How many All-Americans were seniors year this? Five, six, seven. And there are zero seniors going in the first round in the mock draft. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, but those are things you have to take into consideration because that’s how the game works.”

The Seniors

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Sam Merrill | Senior Guard | Utah State

Projection: Undrafted

CBS Sports: 98th

ESPN: 67th

NBA not ranked

The Athletic: 71st

Sports Illustrated: 57th

The Ringer: not ranked

Merrill is ready to take the next step in his basketball career, and as he leaves the Mountain West conference, he leaves as one of the best scorers and most accomplished players come conference tournament time in recent years. Merrill can knock down shots from a bit of everywhere while also having the ability to take over a game when necessary.

Only Sports Illustrated has him getting drafted with the 57th pick, but unlike some on the list he is mentioned in more than half of the mock drafts and big boards browsed to comprise this article, so there is that. Merrill is a perfect example of someone who may have seen their stock rise while playing against high level competition in the NCAA tournament.

“I think it’s tough for everybody right now,” Merrill said. “A guy in my position, I’m more of a fringe guy, a second-round guy, so I have to prove that I belong. I’ve just tried to do a good job with the interviews, but I do think not being able to get in front of teams is forcing them to a deeper dive on film, which could be an advantage.”

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Justinian Jessup | Senior Guard | Boise State

Projection: Undrafted

CBS Sports: not ranked

ESPN: 92nd

NBA not ranked

The Athletic: not ranked

Sports Illustrated: not ranked

The Ringer: not ranked

Jessup had a historic senior season, finishing his career as the Mountain West’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers (325) while setting many program records in the process. Jessup makes most of his living on beyond the arc, both offensively and defensively. There is always an opportunity in the NBA for a guy who can knock down threes and defend, so Jessup should get a shot at professional ball even if we don’t hear his name called in either rounds of the draft.


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