The Villanova Wildcats had only five players selected in the NBA draft from 2000 to 2016, but have been on a hot streak ever since. Jay Wright’s program has produced six draftees since 2017, including four first-rounders.
Nearly all of those recent picks quickly established themselves as quality role players. Josh Hart, Omari Spellman, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Eric Paschall have already started a combined 255 games in the NBA.
The next Wildcat slated to join the ranks of the big leagues is sophomore forward Saddiq Bey, a 21-year-old defensive ace with a big-time 3-point shot.
Considering how many recent Sacramento picks have flopped and fallen out of the league, the Kings would be wise to take a look at Bey. While he is not expected to make an All-Star team any time soon, he is perceived as an absolute lock to stick in the NBA.
Some players are all about their stat lines. They come in, get their numbers and get out. Bey is the opposite of that. He is a team player through and through, and his basketball IQ is impressive. He’s not the best passer or scorer in his class, but his unselfishness and shot selection make it look that way at times.
Bey is a fantastic team defender as well. He’s highly switchable, and he held his own against every position on the floor this season. While he is not a off-ball playmaker, he is highly disciplined and displays great defensive fundamentals. Since he is accustomed to Jay Wright’s switch-heavy scheme, he should transition into the pros with ease.
And while switching onto guards was no problem for Bey, it’s even more impressive how often he guarded them from the start. Villanova treated him as a one-size-fits-all defender, and it worked. That probably won’t be the case in the NBA, but he should still be able to handle most forwards just fine.
Bey also has one elite offensive weapon in his toolbox: The catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. He’s not going to take many shots off the dribble, but he is automatic if you get him the ball for an open look. His 45.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc on an average of 5.6 attempts per game make him one of the best bombers in the nation.
All of Bey’s downside can be traced back to his below-average athleticism. At the best of times, his lack of burst is limiting. At the worst of times, it is debilitating. He does a fantastic job compensating for his lack of speed and leaping ability by using his hustle and intelligence, but there are major concerns about how plodding Bey will look against NBA competition.
His slow first step makes Bey an ineffective driver. He simply can’t get around a well-positioned defender. This is probably why he is such a great team player – he needs to be. Bey will work off a screen, or pass and relocate, but he can’t be relied upon to create off the bounce unless he has a serious mismatch or an off-balance defender.
Since he is not a high-level initiator or shot creator, Bey is stuck as a low-usage option. If he is going to be a part of a good offense, he is going to need a ton of help. We are talking multiple dynamic weapons, not just one star. His shooting ability makes him playable, but it doesn’t make him a valuable offensive player.
Bey’s defense is the main reason that teams will want him on the floor, but there is one concern to point out on that side of the ball as well. Bey produced very few steals and blocks relative to other prospects expected to go in the first round. Despite playing 33.9 minutes per game this season, he averaged only 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks.
FIT WITH THE KINGS
Saddiq Bey, like many of his fellow Villanova alumni, has all the tools to be a fantastic role player. His intelligence and secondary skills would help every single team in the league.
However, that type of player is most attractive to teams that are already established and successful, rather than ones that are looking to take a big step forward. He could be a great sixth man or a solid fifth starter, but that’s where his upside ends.
The Kings, who are right on that playoff bubble, could go either way on Bey. He plays a position of need and would immediately get into Sacramento’s rotation. He could grow into a starter as well and even replace Harrison Barnes in a few years.
But that is not a very ambitious goal. When drafting in the lottery, the traditional logic is to go big or go home. On the other hand, many home-run swings have resulted in strikeouts for Sacramento’s current front office.
It all comes down to how the Kings feel on draft night. If the team is looking for a star, Bey is not their man. But if they’re happy to take a guaranteed role player, Bey might be the safest bet in the entire draft.