Some pundits were surprised by the Washington Wizards' selection of Rui Hachimura in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. There were several other young, exciting and flashy prospects that projected to have a higher ceiling when the Wizards picked ninth.
Going in that direction was the trend for the previous general manager for years in D.C. But new GM Tommy Sheppard took a player that was slightly older, developed and able to make an immediate impact for the team. The only drawback is that many don't anticipate a player like that to grow much further in the NBA as opposed to the other options.
It's a different draft strategy that is sometimes contingent on the needs of an organization. For the Wizards, Hachimura was a piece that was meant to add to the John Wall (when healthy) and Bradley Beal core.
Hachimura, on top of being a little bit older (he was 21 when drafted) than some of the other prime draft prospects and more developed, was noted to be of high character and coachable. It has paid off for the Wizards in Year One with Hachimura.
Is that draft ideology going to be similar in the 2020 NBA Draft for the Wizards? Perhaps this is how Sheppard will operate his draft night thinking while he is in command. If so, here are some of the draft prospects that fit the 'Rui Hachimura mold' of being developed, slightly older and coachable.
Obi Toppin (PF, Dayton)
As one of the most electric players of the college basketball season, Obi Toppin quickly raised his draft stock to a top-10, potentially top-five prospect this year. As a dunking threat and do-it-all forward, there are several teams that could utilize his skill set.
All signs point to him being a likable player. There's never been a bad report about Toppin, and several teams were high on him after he withdrew from the draft process in 2019. Even as the star player on a mid-major program that had No. 1 seed aspirations, he was quick to share the ball and get his teammates involved.
Most people don't realize that he is one of the older lottery prospects. Toppin is 22, only one month younger than Hachimura is right now. Toppin redshirted his first season with the Flyers before playing his last two seasons.
Being redshirted when one has the talent Toppin always has had also indicates his coachability. He's a popular pick among many fanbases and is sure to make a seamless transition to the NBA.
Projected Draft Range: Top-10 pick
Aaron Nesmith (SF, Vanderbilt)
Many celebrate Aaron Nesmith's determination and hard-working personality for how he went from no high-major college offers his junior season of high school to a potential lottery pick in three years.
For Vanderbilt head coach and former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse, the biggest trait he loves in Nesmith is his work ethic. Stackhouse gave Vanderbilt a huge role entering his sophomore season and he faced it head-on: be the team's star player.
Like Toppin, he came back for another season with the Commodores after testing the NBA waters his freshman year. But his second season was cut short with a right foot injury. What is favorable for Nesmith's upside is that he has a defined role that he can fit into as a three-and-D threat after shooting 52% from deep last season.
He doesn't necessarily have the experience (just turned 20 in October) of these other prospects to fit like Hachimura. But he comes from a system that had several NBA tendencies with Stackhouse at the helm.
Projected Draft Range: Late lottery
Saddiq Bey (F, Vanderbilt)
There's no one more disciplined in the NBA game from the college ranks than Jay Wright's Villanova prospects. Saddiq Bey becomes the latest, one that actually left early, to make the jump to the NBA.
In high school, he also played at two elite programs in D.C.'s WCAC, meaning he's had the experience of playing among the best for years. He's extremely coachable and a nice plug-and-play fit that is willing to do whatever is best for the team.
While quiet, he's a big lead-by-example type of player that keeps his head down and keeps working.
At 21 years of age, Bey will be one of the older prospects to go in the first round. Both years with the Wildcats he played as a starter and was a significant piece in the lineup. From freshman to sophomore year, he saw a modest jump in production and efficiency.
Projected Draft Range: Late lottery-mid first round
Jalen Smith (PF, Maryland)
Jalen Smith is yet another first-round prospect that entered the draft in 2019 but returned to school to better his draft odds.
He's another well-liked guy that several teams are reportedly interested in given his personality and the skills that he brings as a lengthy stretch-four. Every interview he has is with a big smile, and he is known to have good relationships with all of his teammates.
Smith will become the second big man prospect in a row to come out of College Park, joining Bruno Fernando. His coachability is through the roof after some of the drama the Terrapins had this past season. Smith was all-in on Turgeon's system and winning the Big Ten title. Many scouts weren't thrilled about how Smith was being utilized after some players left the program and thought he hurt his stock.
It didn't matter to Smith, 20, who still will end up being a first-round pick out of this class. It also may lead Smith to even having more potential at the NBA level than some of these other prospects.
Projected Draft Range: Mid to late first round