Following a banner 2019 that saw Ja Morant selected second overall, four first-rounders taken, and 10 picks in total, the 2020 NBA Draft was not quite as impressive for the mid-majors. But there were still moments to celebrate, including a lottery selection and a flurry of picks late in the second round.
Our beloved Obi Toppin, the National Player of the Year, caught some heat from #DraftTwitter after going eighth overall to the New York Knicks. Yes, Toppin is older and his defense is suspect, but I’m convinced the reaction wouldn’t have been nearly as strong had he been drafted by literally any other team. He’s a score-first power forward on a team that desperately needed a playmaking guard. Other than that, his scoring ability alone should be enough to earn him a rotation spot early on.
San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn found himself in the opposite position of Toppin. The Aztec point guard was selected 29th overall by the Toronto Raptors, a team that may need a new backup point guard soon as former Wichita State star and all-time mid-major favorite Fred VanVleet is about to get PAID. Flynn is someone who was projected as pro-ready, the Raptors are known to give rookies a chance to earn a rotation spot, and he fills a position of need for the 2019 champs. It’s a perfect match.
After a long wait between Flynn’s selection at the bottom of the first round, four of the final 10 picks were from mid-major schools. Boise State’s Justinian Jessup was a surprise selection at 51st by the Golden State Warriors. Charleston’s Grant Riller fell further than expected, all the way down to the Charlotte Hornets at 56th. Nevada’s Jalen Harris is set to join Flynn in a suddenly mid-major-heavy Raptors backcourt, as Toronto selected him 59th. And Mr. Logan, Utah himself Sam Merrill was taken as the final pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. Based on their offseason so far and Mike Budenholzer’s love of playing 11-deep, Merrill may find himself with a shot at cracking the rotation. Of these four, Riller seems the most likely to make an immediate impact, especially considering Jessup had already signed a pro contract in the NBL.
A number of un-drafted mid-majors signed free agent deals on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. Here is a running list of those signings:
Killian Tillie | Gonzaga | Memphis Grizzlies
Nathan Knight | William & Mary | Atlanta Hawks
Malik Fitts | Saint Mary’s | Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan Ford | Saint Mary’s | Los Angeles Clippers
Trevelin Queen | New Mexico State | Houston Rockets
Nate Darling | Delaware | Charlotte Hornets
Jahlil Tripp | Pacific | Memphis Grizzlies