Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon commented recently that compared with recent offseasons, this year was not as difficult. He knew Bruno Fernando was leaving, Jalen Smith was definitely staying and Anthony Cowan Jr. was certain to come back after putting his name into the NBA draft pool.
Now that the 2019 NBA draft is over, with the Terps remaining nearly intact from last season, Turgeon has a few months before he starts worrying about next year’s draft — most of those concerns dealing with Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) and fellow sophomore Aaron Wiggins.
Both players have been mentioned on several 2020 NBA mock drafts.
Coming off a solid, if erratic, freshman season that was capped by an exceptional performance in the NCAA tournament, Smith is projected to be a lottery pick by NBA Draft Room (No. 8). Others have him going later in the first round, including NBAdraft.net (No. 19), Yardbarker (No. 21), Bleacher Report (No. 27) and Yahoo Sports (No. 29).
But the 6-foot-10 forward, who based on recent posts on social media has added some bulk to his skinny 215-pound frame, has also been mentioned as a second-round pick by ESPN.com (No. 32). ESPN consistently (and accurately) had Fernando dropping to the second round while many others kept him in the first round.
Fernando was picked No. 34 by the Philadelphia 76ers and was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
Smith can certainly heed the lesson learned by Fernando, who returned for his sophomore year thinking that it would help turn him into a first-round pick this year. One thing is clear: not only does Smith have to get stronger, he has to improve his 3-point shooting to become a first-round pick. He shot just 26.8% from beyond the arc as a freshman.
That’s not the case for Wiggins, who as a freshman led the Terps in 3-point shooting at 41.3%. He, like Smith, has to get stronger. But many compare the 6-6 wing to the Hawks’ Kevin Huerter, who, despite not putting up huge numbers as a sophomore at Maryland, was able to use a strong performance at last year’s NBA draft combine to become the No. 19 overall pick.
Much as it was on the court last season, it’s feast or famine for Wiggins when it comes to the 2020 NBA mock drafts.
While both NBAdraft.net (No. 20, one spot behind Smith) and Yahoo Sports (No. 24, five places ahead of Smith) have Wiggins in the 2020 first round, NBA Draft Room has Wiggins going No. 40. ESPN doesn’t even have Wiggins in the second round.
Cowan, who despite being one of the top guards in the Big Ten the past two seasons has never garnered much attention in the mock drafts, was projected as a late second-round pick (No. 56) by NBAdraft.net.
Surprisingly, one current Terp who is flying way under the mock draft radar is sophomore Eric Ayala. Though his name has yet to appear on any mock drafts, several NBA scouts have said the 6-5 point guard will likely be invited to the league’s combine by his junior year, perhaps even next year.