Plenty of Minnesota in The Athletic’s Latest NBA Mock Draft

Photo: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

To most people, Minnesota is known as the State of Hockey. Since 2006, the state has annually hosted Hockey Day Minnesota to showcase talent throughout the state. Current NHL players like Zach Parise, T.J Oshie and Ryan McDonagh + a bunch more all hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. However, Minnesota is oh-so-subtly becoming the State of Basketball, the latest example of this being the 2020 NBA Draft. 

The NBA Draft and Lottery are still a ways away, thanks to COVID-19. The draft is set to take place on October 16th (lottery: August 25). The Athletic released their sixth 2020 NBA Mock Draft, earlier this week. As you might have guessed when you opened this blog, Minnesota could play a major role in that first round.

NameSelection #TeamCollegeAgeHeight & Position
Tre Jones23Miami HeatDuke20 years old; sophomore6-2 guard
Zeke Nnaji24Utah JazzArizona19 years old; freshman6-10 forward/center
Daniel Oturu28Toronto RaptorsMinnesota20 years old; sophomore6-10 center
Tyrell Terry30Boston Celtics (via MIL)Stanford19 years old; freshman6-1 guard

The Athletic projects that four Minnesota natives will hear their names called on draft night, all of them slated to go in the first round: Tre Jones (Apple Valley), Zeke Nnaji (Hopkins), Daniel Oturu (Cretin-Derham Hall) and Tyrell Terry (DeLaSalle).

Tre Jones

After playing two years for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, it’s no surprise to see Jones on this mock draft. The Apple Valley native averaged 16.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 42.3% from the field and 36.1% from deep.

The younger brother of NBA PG, Tyus Jones, Tre led Duke to a 25-6 record this past season and was named the 2019-20 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and 2019-20 ACC Player of the Year. According to experts, some of Tre’s strengths are his defense and basketball IQ, but you don’t have to read it to believe it; just look at the clip below.

“He made things happen on both ends of the floor and set a tone for Duke. Ultimately, the big question is about his jump shot. He hit 36 percent of his 3-pointers, but most of those came directly off the catch and that number is the result of a hot shooting final seven games.”

“[Drafting Tre in the 1st round] requires you to trust that his improvement as a shooter off the catch is real, and teams aren’t totally convinced yet. One thing going in his favor is that he is considered a super high character kid that will work to rep out jumpers until he gets it right.”

Sam Vacenie – The Athletic

Zeke Nnaji

First, let’s just get this out of the way: Zeke Nnaji would be a great fit for the Jazz in more than one way. Second, Zeke Nnaji is really good at basketball. The former Hopkins star averaged 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 57% from the field this past season at Arizona. He put up those numbers while playing with fellow highly-touted prospects in Josh Green and Nico Mannion). 

Nnaji was not only named to the 2019-20 All-Pac 12 Freshman Team, but he was also named to the 2019-20 All-Pac 12 First Team and was the 2019-20 Pac-12 Rookie of the Year. That’s not bad for a guy who is just as good a musician. While his 3-point percentage wasn’t the best — he only shot 29.4% from deep — Nnaji seems to be working on that everyday (as shown below). Additionally, Darren Wolfson recently reported that Nnaji is set to meet with the Timberwolves next week.

“The Minnesota native isn’t a particularly great defender right now, but he has good lateral quickness and should be someone who can slide with opposing guards on the perimeter and not be a liability. He also has tremendous touch around the basket and great body control mixed with underrated physical strength.”

“Getting guys who are 6-foot-11 who has potential to shoot it and defend on the perimeter while constantly playing with a high-level motor is super valuable. I don’t know that Nnaji will ever be a star, but I feel confident he’ll likely stick around for a while.”

Sam Vacenie – The Athletic

Daniel Oturu

Vacenie thinks Daniel Oturu was better in college than he will be in the NBA. This past season, Oturu absolutely dominated, putting up gaudy stats of over 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, this past season for the Gophers. 

During a five game stretch in January where the Gophers played Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State; Oturu averaged 25.2 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 57.1% from the field and 45.5% from deep. Dan was also named to the 2019-20 All-Big Ten Second Team and 2019-20 All-Big Ten Defensive Team. He’s also been training with Tre Jones this off-season, too How is this guy sliding down draft boards…?

“Why isn’t Oturu set to go higher on draft night? Well, he’s a bit undersized for the center position. At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he’ll be a touch undersized for the average NBA center. Second, his movement skills are a bit off. He’s not wildly explosive or athletic, and his overall agility and lateral quickness is a bit stiff. He got by in college, but NBA teams have a concern that putting him in greater space will only exacerbate the issue.

Oturu is more Ibaka than Gasol as he’s not a particularly good passer and is much more comfortable spacing and shooting.

Sam Vacenie

Tyrell Terry

Tyrell Terry is maybe the smartest prospect in the draft this year. In his freshman season at Stanford this past winter, Terry exceeded all expectations and averaged 14.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 44.1% from the field and an outstanding 40.8% from beyond the arc.

How does that three-point percentage stack up against other prospects in the first round? Well, that 40.8% is only behind Jahmi’us Ramsey’s 42.6% and Saddiq Bey’s 45.1%. Those numbers also earned him a spot on the 2019-20 All-Pac 12 Freshman Team.

“Terry is arguably the best shooter in the draft, a player who hit over 40 percent from 3 and 89 percent from the line. He has a long history of being a knockdown guy throughout the course of his high school career so far. He’s good as a shooter on pull-ups, and he’s good as a shooter directly off the catch.”

“He’s 160 pounds and his frame gives teams some pause. He needs to get stronger and keep putting on weight to deal with the rigors of the NBA. Second, his handle is a bit loose. He shows creativity and great body work to get opponents off-balance, but also has a tendency to pick up his dribble far too early.”

Sam Vacenie

Minnesota will most likely have four Minnesotans drafted this year, which will break the record from 2015 in which both Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn were drafted. This is outstanding for the basketball community in the Twin Cities and beyond. Hopefully, this draft will lead to more and more Minnesotans being drafted in the future. 

Carson Ruen | Minnesota Sports Fan

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