The Mountain West had one first-round pick and three second-round picks during the 2020 NBA Draft.
Four Mountain West alumni were selected during the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is how national media graded those picks.
Malachi Flynn 6’1” PG – San Diego State
No. 29 pick by the Toronto Raptors
Mostly positive reviews for him as a player and as a fit with the Raptors. Lots of comparisons to Fred VanVleet, who was also underrecruited in high school. Flynn’s size is frequently mentioned as a concern, but he is known for his consistency.
An ideal fit for a Toronto squad looking to bolster its backcourt. Flynn’s size makes him a bit of a risk, but the All-America guard benefited greatly from the virtual combine process in reminding scouts of his abilities that helped the Aztecs stage a historic 2019-20 season. Flynn’s underrated status could make him the Fred VanVleet of this draft class.
This pick made a lot of sense when many thought Fred VanVleet would leave Toronto. I love Flynn. He’s polished and smart and a proven winner, and he’s particularly great in pick-and-roll offense. Grade: B+
The feedback from teams on Flynn has been overwhelmingly positive over the last couple months—almost everyone was impressed in interviews—and he’s a tough, consistent performer with no real holes in his skill set. His size and advanced age are viewed as his only real drawbacks, and we saw Toronto win a title in 2019 deploying a pair of guards who match that criteria neatly. His feel and playmaking ability are stellar, and if Flynn follows in their footsteps, this could be another steal for the Raptors.
Never bet against Masai Ujiri in the draft. There’s always an experienced college point guard who has exceeded expectations toward the end of the first round, and Flynn checks every one of those boxes. He’s a well-rounded player with no holes in his game and the ability to contribute right away on both ends of the floor. The comparisons to Fred VanVleet might be a stretch, but they are also inevitable. Grade: A
Don't sleep on Malachi Flynn… the @Raptors certainly didn't.
— Stadium (@Stadium) November 19, 2020
Justinian Jessup 6’7” SG – Boise State
No. 51 Golden State Warriors (via UTA)
Jessup went higher than projected, but his shooting ability keeps getting mentioned. He finished his college career as the all-time three-point leader in Mountain West and Boise State history (325). He’ll be able to learn from Stephen Curry, known in the NBA as a three-point specialist. Jessup is currently under contract with the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League in Australia.
This is a bit high for Jessup — we had him well outside our second-round projections — but Golden State’s system makes the grade a little kinder. Jessup is an elite scorer with a killer outside game who shot 40.8% from 3 in four collegiate seasons, the exact skill set that bumps the grade up a tick. Grade: B
The Athletic (Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger)
Vecenie’s scouting report: One of the elite shooters of the 2020 NBA Draft. Hit well over 40 percent from 3 on a ton of attempts over his career at 6-foot-7. He took on tough defensive assignments at Boise, but he needs to prove that he can hold up in terms of strength at the NBA level. He probably doesn’t get drafted if Duncan Robinson didn’t become everyone’s favorite player in the bubble. But anyone who can shoot like this, I’m comfortable taking a shot on.
Hollinger’s team fit: I like this as a stealth stash pick for Golden St. Jessup is playing in Australia after a strong career at Boise State, and he has a combo of size and shooting ability that could make him a homeless man’s Duncan Robinson someday. Definitely worth a shot here.
It wasn't the #NBADraft day Justinian Jessup dreamed of, finding out he was selected by the @warriors in hotel quarantine in Sydney, but he's spoken to @SteveKerr and is ready to get to work with the Hawks.
— Hawks Basketball (@thehawks) November 19, 2020
Jalen Harris 6’5” G – Nevada
No. 59 Toronto Raptors
Harris is joining the same team as MW opponent Malachi Flynn. He can be versatile in the offense but could use a little more consistency. Harris is expected to be a role player for the Raptors.
The Raptors got one of the most productive scorers — averaging 21.7 points per game — in college basketball with the penultimate pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Not a bad get. His size and scoring ability from all three levels stood out in college, and he could give Toronto yet another potential bench weapon. Grade: B+
“An appealing athlete with some juice off the dribble, Harris had a big first year at Nevada after transferring from Louisiana Tech and sitting out a season,” Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo wrote of Harris. “While his game is ball-dominant and occasionally a bit wild, Harris’s athleticism and scoring instincts are impressive. He takes and makes a lot of tough shots, but will have to pick his spots better to succeed in the pros. As far as scoring is concerned, he’s a viable second-round option. But Harris will have to figure out what else he can bring to the table as a role player.”
Jalen Harris was a bucket during his lone season at Nevada. Considering the low draft cost, the Toronto Raptors would gladly settle for the 6’5” guard just providing occasional buckets north of the border, and he could be up to the challenge.
“He’s the type of player you can feed the ball to and ask to generate offense out of nothing,” Wasserman wrote. “He’ll have a chance to carve out a career for his ability to get his own shot from all over the floor off ball screens and isolations.”
Saying that, there aren’t many role players who just bring isolation offense to the hardwood, so Harris needs to make sure his athleticism can deliver some other on-court contributions, too. Grade: C
No matter the distance, we got you T.O. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/V8QiH4tVFQ
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 21, 2020
Sam Merrill 6’5” G – Utah State
No. 60 Milwaukee Bucks (from NO)
Merrill was expected to get drafted a little higher. During his time at Utah State he became known for his shooting ability, especially clutch three-pointers. His talent has not gone unnoticed.
Merrill was someone who steadily rose up our rankings as teams dug deeper because they fell in love with his scoring threat and ability to stretch the floor. He finds a perfect fit here with Milwaukee as they add another shooter to add next to Giannis, and at mid-second round value to boot. Grade: A
While technically this draft’s Mr. Irrelevant, Sam Merrill has a decent chance to deliver NBA relevance sooner than later. He never leaves home without his three-point cannon, which he used to splash 319 threes at a 42.0 percent clip across four seasons at Utah State. If that shot helps him see the floor as a spacer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 6’5” Merrill could emerge as a sneaky-good bargain.
“He doesn’t have Duncan Robinson’s size, but his shooting precision and basketball IQ are suited for a similar specialist role,” Wasserman wrote. Grade: B
Vecenie’s scouting report: One of my favorite picks of the draft. Merrill is going to make the Bucks because he’s an absolutely perfect bench player for them this season. He’s already 24 and has a very mature game, and he’s the kind of elite shooter they should be looking for off the bench. I had a high second round grade on him, so to get him at No. 60 is a steal.
Hollinger’s team fit: I’m a fan of Merrill and think he has a chance to make an impact because he’s a money shooter who shows kill as a secondary shot creator. He’s quite old for a rookie at 24 and he will struggle to defend, but skill wins in the current NBA. I think there’s a place for him.