Perhaps no position is more important to modern basketball than the wing.
Anywhere between 6'4" and 6'9", playing from the 2 to the 4 and residing somewhere on the spectrum of slashing, defending and shooting, the 3-and-D wing is essential. Some lean toward three-point shooting, some toward defense, and others just fall somewhere in between.
It's why a perfectly serviceable Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the third-best player during the Los Angeles Lakers' championship run. And it's why the shooting-leaned Duncan Robinson and defending-leaned Jae Crowder were both key to the Miami Heat's.
No one knows what to expect from the 2020 NBA draft, especially outside of the likely top three selections: Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball. Past those prospects, the draft does have talent among wings, some leaning toward three-point shooting, some toward defense, and some somewhere in between.
After Edwards and Deni Avdija's upside, four wings stand in their own tier: Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, Saddiq Bey and Aaron Nesmith.
Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
The most highly touted of the quartet, Okoro is a 6'6" defensive maestro who possesses rare explosiveness and a tremendous work ethic. His 28.6-percent rate from deep and 67.2 percent from the free-throw line are ugly, but his floor feels remarkably steady.
The Atlanta Hawks already have three young wings with upside in Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish, but the 19-year-old Okoro could be a great addition at No. 5. Should he develop a three, the Hawks gain a potential star. Should he not, they gain impressive depth.
Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
The most balanced of the quartet, Vassell is a 6'7", 194-pound wing who is the consummate 3-and-D, but he has shown flashes of playmaking upside. A suffocating defender with a slick, high-release jumper, the 20-year-old's development as a ball-handler and shot-creator suggest serious upside.
Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA
Devin Vassell is my 6th-ranked prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s an elite defender, good shooter & flashes off the dribble scoring skill. He hit one dribble jumper as a freshman then 39 as a sophomore after improving his handle. 🏀Full scouting report: https://t.co/p18NPLs3iM https://t.co/YJdo6TV9Ui
Having shot 49.0 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three and 73.8 percent from the line, Vassell projects as a safe, balanced wing. Considering he continues improving as a playmaker and fills out his frame, the New York Knicks could happily make him 2020's eighth selection.
Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
The most divisive of the quartet, Bey is a big wing with big upside. At 6'8" and 216 pounds, he's just one inch taller than Vassell but 22 pounds heavier. Nonetheless, he played the same role for Villanova, shooting lights-out from deep while guarding the opponent's best player on the other end.
Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass
Ridiculous shooting from Villanova's Saddiq Bey against Georgetown. Scored 33 on 8-10 3PT while spending good amount of time defending the 6-2, energetic Mac McClung. Strong 6-8 forward, now up to 44.6% 3PT, 63% TS, 38 assists to 20 TOs. Building a 1st-round case. https://t.co/6i16LzQ2VG
His shot feels a little restricted on the gather, but the release is pure, and he knocked in a comfortable 45.1 percent from deep and 76.9 percent from the line as a sophomore. He's not the most explosive or fluid, but his skills, size and feel for the game make him an excellent candidate for a Washington Wizards team that is eager to amass talent at No. 9.
Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
Lastly, the shooter. Vassell and Bey are highly touted for their jumpers, with the former hitting 41.5 percent on 3.5 attempts per game and the latter 45.1 percent on 5.6. Nesmith? 52.2 percent on 8.2 attempts per game—and many were tightly contested or off-the-dribble. The 6'6" wing is a gunner.
In fairness, the first two played at least 30 games in 2019-20, while injury limited Nesmith to just 14. But still, the Vanderbilt star's form is picture-perfect, and his shooting percentages are staggering (especially when you add on an 82.5-percent clip from the free-throw line across 46 NCAA contests).
Adam Spinella @Spinella14
Aaron Nesmith shot up #NBADraft boards before his serious foot injury. He's proved to scouts he can score off common NBA screening actions within the Jerry Stackhouse offense. Read more on him and other draft prospect shooters here for @bballwriters https://t.co/zEqIflSmWC https://t.co/NLaOGd3qoV
Even disregarding his flashes of defensive and playmaking upside, Nesmith is the draft's purest shooter. That could make him a great grab at No. 12, should the Sacramento Kings decide they're confident that the 20-year-old can bounce back from his 2019 foot injury.