The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nico Mannion
Position: Point Guard
2019/20 stats: 32 G, 32.3 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.0 bpg, 39.2 FG% (4.5/11.5), 32.7 3PT% (1.7/5.1), 79.7 FT%
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, Sports Illustrated 17th, Ringer 25th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 22nd
5 things to know:
*Mannion went to Arizona as the ninth-ranked prospect in his class and was expected to do big things with the Wildcats. He was a part of a starting lineup that is set to produce two other NBA first-round picks. At times he was overshadowed by his teammates but still managed a modest role in their offense. Some argue he was hampered by trying to fit into the system and get his teammates involved and didn't fully get to showcase his talents. Others believe he was too lackadaisical.
*Many purists of the game will be happy to know that Mannion is a true pass-first point guard. Those that are critical say he's too much of a pass-first guard. It led him to over five assists a game with Arizona and had him in a secondary role in the team's offense. Most of his shots came from kick-outs, pull-up jumpers or play breakdowns instead of him initiating his own shot.
*Mannion is small, 6-foot-3, without a big reach. Players of a smaller stature have found success in the league, but his limited 6-foot-2 wingspan will be a knock on his upside as a draft prospect. He will get drafted but a team or two will likely favor another point guard with favorable physical dimensions for the NBA.
*When he was just a freshman in high school, a Sports Illustrated article deemed him a 15-year-old (sorta-maybe) basketball prodigy. Throughout his life, he's always had the attention of scouts and recruiters. In eighth grade he received a Division I offer from Cal State Northridge. He personally made the effort to re-classify from the 2020 class to 2019 and is one of the youngest players in this year's draft.
*As a dual-citizen from the United States and Italy, Mannion has played in both of the national teams' systems. In 2018 he was on the senior Italian national team for the European Qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup where he played one game. He became the fourth-youngest player in team history.
Fit with Wizards:
A point guard-heavy draft class could entice the Wizards to perhaps draft the point guard of their future. At 29, Wall is not getting any younger and his injury history does lead one to question his longevity in the league. If he does indeed come back as strong as he and the team believe, then they won't need a point guard right away. That's where Mannion could come into play.
Depending on which team drafts Mannion, he is not projected to be a Day 1 starter. There are still some lapses in his game that need addressing, such as his ability to penetrate, separate and even his burst off the dribble.
Some encouraging signs point Mannion being able to be an ideal combo guard that can play the one or two positions. He's a knock-down shooter as well as his passing skills and vision are at an elite level. That would afford Washington the flexibility to have a guard be able to play spot minutes for both Wall and Bradley Beal while being able to play alongside both of the stars.
Again, there is whether the Wizards would want to spend their first-rounder on a player whose only path to playing next year is coming off the bench. The team might not have the roster flexibility to do so if they are drafting in the top 10.
With that being said, point guards are difficult to project out of college. If the Wizards firmly believe Mannion can be their guy past the John Wall era, he might be worth considering.
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