The 2020 NCAA Division I men’s national basketball tournament is just a couple weeks away. Many of us put our bracket pools together, but as NBA fans, we’re also looking at how some of the nation’s top college basketball players could be a fit at the pro level.
For much of the season, I planned on starting up content on NBA Draft prospects earlier since the Wizards were clearly on the outside looking in with the playoff picture. But in the last few weeks, Washington has quietly moved up to ninth in the Eastern Conference standings and ... we might as well see this playoff push through.
Still, the odds of Washington making the playoffs isn’t very high. So here is a list of the top five prospects from non-power conferences, which we will define as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, Southeastern (SEC) and Big East Conferences. This season, teams from outside these six conferences are punching well above their weight. Three teams: Gonzaga, Dayton and San Diego State are in the Top-5 of the men’s basketball rankings at the moment.
Could you see any of these prospects in a Wizards uniform? And of the players who could be a lottery pick, should the Wizards pick them if the opportunity is there?
Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
The Dayton Flyers are currently the third ranked team in both of the major polls with a 27-2 record. The combo forward is averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while making 63.2 percent of his shots. Toppin will probably not be challenged too much for the rest of the regular season and A-10 tournaments, but the Flyers will play the Rhode Island Rams, the second-place team in the conference on Wednesday which should give us a good showcase game before the Big Dance.
Assuming he goes pro, Toppin will likely be a lottery pick, but the Wizards already drafted Rui Hachimura last season, and I’m not sure he is the best fit for D.C. if the Wizards miss the playoffs and win a Top-4 pick in the lottery.
You can see highlights above from a Jan. 14 game against VCU where he scored 24 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis
Since James Wiseman left midesason, Achiuwa has emerged as the Tigers’ top NBA draft prospect, where he is averaging 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The Tigers are among the better teams in the AAC and even defeated Houston, the frontrunner earlier this season.
Like Toppin, Achiuwa plays the same position Hachimura is, but he could be a better rebounder given his athleticism. Still, his free throw shooting numbers (sub 60 percent) is poor, though they can be fixed with time.
You can see his highlights of his 22 point, 17 rebound performance against Cincinnati on Feb. 13 above.
Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
Flynn is a redshirt junior after playing two seasons at Washington State. He is averaging 17.6 points and 5.1 assists this season for the Aztecs, who are 28-1 this season and just 17-1 in Mountain West Conference play. Needless to say, San Diego State is a Top-5 team at the moment.
So far, Flynn has scored in double digits in all but one game this season and could be a good point guard at the NBA level. There’s also a good chance he’ll be available in the second round. The ESPN and NBADraft.net Draft boards both list him in the Top 50 among draft prospects.
For the Wizards however, point guard is a position where they seems to have enough depth, especially if John Wall can play at a high level next season. You can watch Flynn’s 36 point performance against Nevada from Feb. 29 in the video above.