This article is a facsimile of an earlier version published on The Basketball Writers (TBW), which recently closed its doors.
Knowing your biases helps you better navigate and contextualize player evaluation (whether your own or another's) as well as hold yourself accountable.
Any decision-maker on an organizational level has to do a deep dive to understand themselves if they are to do what's best for the organization as a whole. That process of self-reflection and objective study seeks not so much to remove biases, but to become better equipped to acknowledge them.
By doing so, biases move out of blind spots where we often don't feel their presence. Once in the light, they serve as important conversations to determine what truly is best for the whole.
In that light, I've tried to look at a few biases I certainly hold and examine not just why I hold them, but also whether they are based on any data or important context. Hopefully, this study does two-fold: Lend credence to why I harbor a lot of the draft opinions I hold, as well as opening a dialogue where those readers who disagree begin to examine their own biases.
I've written about my biases before, resulting in the following beliefs: shooting is the most important skill, weight or strength isn't a great reason to avoid a prospect, avoid drafting those who played in a 2-3 zone exclusively, and some college coaches are to be trusted more than others.
On that last point, Saddiq Bey is the primary benefactor of decades of role player success coming from the Jay Wright program at Villanova. Consistently, Wright churns out players who are well-rounded due to the nature of his offense, skill development program and their consistent retention of players into their upperclassman years.
To understand Bey is, therefore, to understand Wright and the Villanova system. Wright has long played a 4-around-1 motion offense with more reads and open movement than strict rules. Every perimeter-bound player must be able to dribble, pass and shoot since the offense is so widely based on penetrate-and-kick principles. All players have ball screen skills, and they are almost always consistent 3-point shooters.
Villanova men play balanced and under-control. They teach jump stopping in the lane, playing off two feet and facilitate understanding of help rotations so the decision point on drives is accurate. On defense, Wright has long employed a switching scheme, which not only prepares prospects for the current NBA climate but is an incredible teacher of weak-side responsibility to neutralize interior mismatches.
Bey shot 45.1 percent from 3-point range on 5.6 attempts a night. Over his two years at Villanova, he was a 41.8 percent shooter from deep. He checks the shooting boxes, and as a late-bloomer who played point guard in high school, his perimeter skill is up to the Villanova standard.
With a 6'10" wingspan, point guard skills from before his growth spurt and high-level defense so he can guard 2 thru 4, Bey checks a lot of boxes for scouts looking towards the modern NBA.
Of the three players considered potential 3-and-D players garnering lottery consideration (Bey, Aaron Nesmith and Devin Vassell), Bey's form is also the most unorthodox. He's not a fluid athlete by any means, but his shot is consistent and there's enough of a sample size to feel confident in what we've seen. His range is deep and he was trusted as a top threat at Villanova.
Wright's ability to groom players who understand their role is a massive part of Bey's appeal. Wright doesn't produce many stars (Kyle Lowry may be the lone exception), but guys like Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Eric Paschall have all carved out important roles early in their careers.
Most importantly, none in that group are defensive liabilities. Bridges, the best defender of the group, is most similar to Bey, both in body type and developmental progression. Mikal did three years at Villanova and was a lottery pick. Bey should be on the same trajectory, with an extra year for NBA teams to reap what they sow.
That defense is perhaps is most important trait. With his size, guarding 2 thru 4 will be a massive part of his development. Bey isn't the quickest on his feet (we'll get to that later), but he's smart enough to make up for it. He takes great angles on guards, plays with his arms up and uses his length to bother shooting and passing lanes. He's functional in all the right areas. Too many times we get caught up in looking at max vert, lane agility drills or sprint times to determine how athletic someone is. Bey's athleticism is proven by how he defends. He's going to be fine.
The biggest red flag with Bey's game is how simple his drives are and how little change of speed he possesses.
Most guys of his length have a long enough first step to get around their man, even if their first step isn't quick. Bey doesn't seem to unlock either, making most of his drives the back-down, patient, controlled variety. That lack of speed limits his upside as more than a specialty wing player who knocks down shots and defends.
It also handcuffs one of the more appealing aspects of his background: his time spent as a point guard at Sidwell Friends in Washington DC. Bey doesn't separate off the pick-and-roll, with slow first steps and a desire to methodically draw the big away from the basket. That may be effective enough in college, but few NBA teams hard hedge or instruct their big to leave the lane. Bey isn't explosive at using screens, so he won't attack the switch as or before it happens. Against drop coverage, opposing guards can fight their way back into the picture before Bey capitalizes on the advantage gained of the screen.
Of course, his strength and foot speed issues show up more on defense. He was burned by hesitation dribbles all the time and doesn't react well to players with momentum. While I love his methodical half-court defensive profile and how he can guard inside the 3-point arc, he'll be exposed in areas where he's asked to extend his coverage and cover more ground.
Overall Analysis and Draft Projection
Despite those lateral quickness concerns in open spaces, Bey notches himself as a top-ten pick in my book. In a weaker draft class, there are two ways to go. One is to swing wildly on a high-risk, high-reward player because the field is so volatile or filled with low ceilings that, comparatively speaking, there's no better time to swing hard. The other notion is that safe picks have even more value, as they add consistency to a franchise in a year where that's hard to find, making consistency more valuable than before.
Bey threads the needle between both very well. His floor is pretty high, as evidenced by consistent shooting, solid defense and size profile. He should be able to be a solid role player right away. But Bey's ceiling is also higher than most give him credit for. Numerous Villanova guys come into the NBA and take significant steps forward in years 2, 3 or beyond. If Bey is the next guy in that trend, I'd struggle to pass up on him, especially knowing he's one of the most consistent shooters, a skill so highly coveted nowadays.