Hidden gems in the 2020 NBA draft who are currently dominating NCAA

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hidden gems in the 2020 NBA draft who are currently dominating NCAA

DunkWire

Hidden gems in the 2020 NBA draft who are currently dominating NCAA

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When analysts label a draft class as weak, that often refers to the talent projected early. But there are always good prospects waiting to be found.

Every year, there are players who either out of the second round or who went undrafted that emerge as solid rotational options in the NBA.

Below are guys who were not top recruits coming out of high school and have not been included very high on many mock drafts or big boards. Yet in their 2019-20 campaigns, each has shown appealing traits for their draft stock.

GRANT RILLER, CHARLESTON

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-foot-3, Senior

Charleston’s Grant Riller is currently averaging 22.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. The senior has been one of the most efficient and prolific scorers and creators out of the pick-and-roll. As such, his assist rate (31.7 percent) ranks second-best in his conference. When including assists, he is averaging 1.33 points per possession in a set offense. That ranks in the 93rd percentile this season, per Synergy. Despite his 6-foot-3 frame, Riller is shooting 71.6 percent within five feet of the rim and is capable of attacking the basket. He has also drawn 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranks No. 18 among all NCAA players. Overall, Riller is a high usage point guard who can potentially make an impact off the bench as an elite mid-major prospect.

DANIEL OTURU, MINNESOTA

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Center, 6-foot-10, Sophomore

Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu is averaging 19.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He has the best defensive rebound percentage (27.2 percent) in the Big Ten Conference. Meanwhile, he is averaging 3.0 blocks per game as well and his block percentage (9.4 percent) ranks third-best in the conference. On the offensive side of the ball, Oturu has connected on 80-of-98 (81.6 percent) attempts within five feet of the basket. That currently ranks as the third-best (minimum: 80 FGA) among all college basketball players. He has also shown some improvement as a potential pick-and-pop option at the next level. There is enough upside on both offense and defense to make him a draftable player potentially even in the first round, especially with his size.

JARED BUTLER, BAYLOR

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Guard, 6-foot-3, Sophomore

The Baylor Bears are off to an electrifying start to the season with an 11-1 record, including wins over Arizona and Villanova. The program has been led by sophomore guard Jared Butler, who has scored 17.3 points per game. Overall, Butler can shoot well off the catch or the dribble. The sophomore has scored up 2.9 three-pointers per game while shooting 42.2 percent from long range. There is serious 3-and-D potential, too, as he put up 1.5 steals per game and the Bears have a Top 10 defense in the NCAA. If his team keeps it up, there is a chance he plays his way into first-round consideration.

ELIJAH HUGHES, SYRACUSE

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Wing, 6-foot-6, Junior

Syracuse wing Elijah Hughes has put up 19.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He has mostly been used as a spot-up shooter this season, where he is averaging 1.12 PPP – which ranks 84th percentile, via Synergy. Hughes is also 24-for-29 (82.8 percent) on attempts within five feet, which ranks at No. 13 among all players with as many opportunities. Considering his playmaking numbers and rebounding ability, he brings a bit of everything needed to eventually crack a rotation in the NBA. Hughes currently falls No. 97 on ESPN’s big board and No. 92 on The Athletic’s with plenty of time still to rise.

KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR., FLORIDA

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Center, 6-foot-10, Senior

After three years at Virginia Tech including a redshirt season due to injury, Kerry Blackshear Jr. became a graduate transfer for the Florida Gators. Now in his final collegiate campaign, he is putting up 14.9 points along with 9.0 rebounds per game. His defensive rebound percentage (23.7 percent) currently ranks fourth-best among all players in the SEC. One thing to note is that he is 84.4 percent in free throws, which shows some promise for his shooting. Blackshear has taken more three-pointers each season he has played, currently averaging 0.9 per game. Overall, he has been a threat in the pick-and-roll both as a roller and on pick-and-pop plays for Florida.

NATHAN KNIGHT, WILLIAM & MARY

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Center, 6-foot-10, Senior

One of the most underrated players in the country is Nathan Knight, who has averaged 20.1 points per game. Overall, he is averaging 1.12 points per possession. That currently in the 95th percentile among all NCAA players, per Synergy. Only 10 players in the country have scored more field goals (75) within five feet of the basket. But the most important thing to know about the big man is that he leads all D1 players in points scored on pick-and-pop possessions, scoring 3.6 points per game. That is a trait that will undeniably impress scouts and executives considering how often this play is run in the NBA. Meanwhile, Knight has also pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game and his defensive rebound percentage (29.1 percent) ranks twelfth-best among all players in the country.

MALACHI FLYNN, SAN DIEGO STATE

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-foot-2, Junior

After 15 games, San Diego State is still undefeated – including four wins against conference opponents. Their best player has been junior guard Malachi Flynn, whose assist rate (30.7 percent) has helped keep them as one of the more relevant teams in the NCAA. His assist-to-turnover ratio (3.3) has been fantastic and he has looked sharp against Top 75 teams. Flynn is averaging 15.9 points per game and is shooting 43.0 percent from 3-point range. He has shown flashes shooting on handoffs and off screens. But his biggest strength has been his ability to help his team score in the pick-and-roll. When including his passes, per Synergy, Flynn ranks Top 25 in total points created in the PnR among all D1 Players.

MALIK FITTS, SAINT MARY’S

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Forward, 6-foot-8, Junior

Saint Mary’s has looked better than expected this season and currently have a Top 10 offense, per Ken Pomeroy. As a team, they have the best three-point percentage in the NCAA. Malik Fitts has helped lead this charge with 15.8 points per game while shooting 41.4 percent from three-point range. He is also grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game with a defensive rebound percentage (24.8 percent) that ranks second-best in his conference.

HONORABLE MENTIONS 

Darius Days, LSU (Forward)

Mason Jones, Arkansas (Guard)

Matt Haarms, Purdue (Big)

Nate Hinton, Houston (Wing)

Desmond Bane, TCU (Forward)

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