Draft Lead

2020 NBA Draft: Top 5 Underrated ACC Prospects

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Widely considered the best conference in the country, the ACC is known to produce both elite and underrated draft prospects. Former prospects such as Malcolm Brogdon, Luke Kennard, John Collins and Mfiondu Kabengele all significantly increased their draft stock and firmly established themselves on draft boards from season’s beginning to end after being underrated by the draft community. These are the top ACC prospects who are looking to follow in their footsteps:

PG Xavier Johnson (Pittsburgh, Sophomore, 6’3/185lbs)

Amongst last year’s famed ACC freshman class (Williamson, Barrett, Reddish, White) Johnson emerged as one of the best freshmen and players in the conference. Equipped with a quick first step, speed in the open floor, creative ballhandling, shooting range and craftiness around the rim, Johnson wreaked havoc on the ACC en route to averages of 15.5ppg/3.9rpg/4.5apg while shooting 35% (37-105) from deep.

Combined with impressive comfort in ball screens as both a scorer and playmaker as well as attractive defensive tools (size, length, lateral quickness), there is a ton for NBA scouts to fall in love with. Arguably my favorite underrated prospect, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson considered in the first round.

C Jay Huff (Virginia, RS Junior, 7’1/243lbs)

With a long 7’1 frame, Huff possess the soft touch from deep and rim protection teams covet in the modern day big (42% career three point shooter with 16 makes, 0.8bpg in 9.2mpg). Expected to see a bigger role for Virginia this year, Huff displayed his ability to be a weapon in pick and pop/roll situations, attack closeouts with direct line drives and flashed good footwork defending in space against ball screens in limited minutes last year.

Despite strength and vertical athleticism concerns, Huff is a prospect that with a productive season will have his name buzzing because of his unique combination of size, coordination, mobility and three point shooting.

PF/C Mamadi Diakite (Virginia, RS Senior, 6’9/224lbs)

As a long, mobile, explosive and quick twitched big without a refined offensive game, Diakite excels by playing to his strengths as a rim runner, rim protector (1.7bpg) and finisher. His greatest impact on the next level will be defensively with his shot blocking and switch-ability on ball screens, but he has flashed offensive tools-attacking closeouts with direct lines, comfortable mechanics out to three and the utilization of fairly smooth post spins and step backs.

Although his rebounding numbers for someone possessing his size and athleticism are disappointing, (4.4rpg in 21.8mpg), Diakite should hear consistent late second round buzz with another productive year. He has room to rise with advances in his offensive game, especially if he develops as a floor stretcher (28% career three point shooter on 8-28 3PA, 39.8% on two point jumpers last season).

PG Markell Johnson (North Carolina State, Senior, 6’1/175lbs)

After testing NBA Draft waters, Johnson returns as one of the ACC’s best point guards and players. Despite concerns about his size, Johnson is an active defender (1.2 spg) that is capable of creating shots for both himself (12.6ppg with 42.2% of his offense unassisted) and his teammates (4.2apg last season, 7.3apg as a sophomore) while spacing the floor from three (42% with 2.1 makes per game).

Ball security along with balancing scoring and facilitating will be key for Johnson– he can become turnover prone and solely focused on facilitating, which leads to him being passive and not in his ideal attack mindset. Making strides in those areas should help solidify Johnson as a potential backup PG prospect.

SG/SF Alex O’Connell (Duke, Junior, 6’6/190lbs)

As a 6’6 smooth shooting wing, O’Connell’s combination of positional size, athleticism and three-point stroke projects as an easy role fit as a three-point specialist. Shooting 41% from three for his career (52-125 3PA) along with all 52 of his made threes being assisted, O’Connell thrives as a dangerous catch and shoot floor spacer that teams must account for when he is on the floor. This was evident last year in his two breakout games against Syracuse, which saw O’Connell post a total of 36 points and knocking down 9 of 16 three-point attempts, but those type of games were far too infrequent. O’Connell’s stock will go as his consistency goes.

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