Whenever the Philadelphia 76ers are looking to add players to the team, whether its through the draft of free agency, all fans have this question at the front of their minds: Can he shoot?
At the time of the season’s suspension, the Sixers ranked 14th in team three-point percentage and 22nd in attempts per game, both fairly mediocre marks. The team’s biggest problem, the supposed lack of compatibility between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, stems from a deficiency in shooting prowess. Embiid is better at banging in the post than he is at launching triples, Simmons quite literally refuses to attempt said shots, and the players that often surround those two aren’t threatening enough to keep the help defense on edge.
Enter Saddiq Bey. The 6’8”, 216-lb wing had a breakout year in his sophomore season at Villanova, increasing not only his volume scoring in going from 8.2 points per game to 16.1, but also increasing his efficiency, boosting his True Shooting Percentage from 57.1 to 60.8, and his three-point percentage from 37.4 to 45.1 on 5.6 attempts per game.
Not only is Bey a deadly-accurate long-range shooter, his release is lightning quick, making him unbothered by late contests from defenders (Bey is #41).
Bey can even can these three-point bombs off creative and quick-hitting sets. In almost Klay Thompson-like fashion, Bey is able to come off weird and disjointed movements, only to immediately square up and display perfect form as he goes up for his shot.
Guards setting screens for pick-and-pop opportunities is one of the best actions in modern basketball. In that play above, Bey sees that his defender is stepping out to hedge on point guard Colin Gillespie, and expertly slips it without even making contact on his ball-screen.
Bey also has an intriguing and patient mid-range game. He isn’t some springy, hyper-athletic bouncer, so he can’t just elevate and hang when he goes up for jump shots from 12 to 15 feet. However, Bey does have a massive frame and muscular shoulders, and he uses this to his advantage, staying under control and waiting for the right moment to rise up over his defender.
This patience also translates to Bey’s tendencies when attacking the basket. He’s not looking for some up-and-under reverse spin. He doesn’t avoid contact and try to rely on any upper echelon skill. Rather, Bey baits opponents with the threat of his jump shot, then uses that impressive size again to shield off opponents and finish strong at the rim.
That second finish in the clip above is a beauty. Bey shows great on-court intelligence in setting up that backdoor cut, and even greater intuition in that cagey shot-fake before going up for the layup. It’s those smart, “He knows what he’s doing,” kind of plays that separate end-of-the bench players from key rotational pieces in the NBA.
But don’t think that Bey is some unathletic, underdog player who can only survive in the big leagues if he does all the right some. The man is 6’8” for crying out loud, and in the right situation, can combine his basketball-smarts with explosiveness to leave his defenders in the dust.
In that play above, the key is how quickly he fakes the initial action before going backdoor for the dunk. His defender has only fully reacted to the move by the time Bey is a full step in front of him and has already received the pass from his teammate.
Bey also flashes his athleticism in corralling offensive rebounds in crowds near the basket. He has good timing, good touch when he needs to simply tip the ball back in, and shows high levels of energy and effort in pursuing the ball.
Bey even has an impressive post-up arsenal. It’s almost as if he’s mimicking Embiid himself on some of his shots, positioning himself in the mid-post, lulling defenders to sleep with a variety of jab-steps before finishing them off with a silky smooth jumper.
That massive frame of his also comes in handy during more traditional post-ups. Bey punishes undersized players with old-schools hook shots combined with creative footwork.
All of this seems good. Everything to this point about Bey is incredibly enticing, especially from the vantage point of a devout Sixers’ fan. But what are his flaws? What are the things that should make us worried about him starting his professional career in Philadelphia?
While it’s not nearly as bad as that of our previously scouted prospect in Cassius Winston, Bey is not a good defender right now. Particularly, he struggles when guarding the ball-handler in pick-and-roll actions.
Bey’s willingness to get physical on offense and take contact on that end of the floor strangely doesn’t translate to his defense. In those clips above, he almost appears afraid of getting hit by the screen. He ducks around them slowly, not flipping his hips fast enough and getting behind the ball handler which creates a disadvantage for the defense at-large. It’s like he’s trying to defend a pick-and-roll like Matisse Thybulle without possessing the same other-worldly reach and recovery speed.
For how engaged and active he can be when doing the little things on offense, he looks lackadaisical when tasked with off-ball defense. Just a simple off-ball screen sends him spiralling into confusion, as any somewhat-complicated switch gets lost in his transmission, leaving him to stand lost in the middle of the paint as one of his teammates try to redirect him back to the right position.
Bey even had multiple cases where didn’t bring the proper engagement in on-ball defense. In the next set of clips, he comes out on his defender flat-footed and upright on both occasions, which both leads to corner threes for his opponents after his teammates were forced to help and try and fix his mistakes.
However, Bey is far from a lost-cause on that end of the floor. Unlike Winston, he does possess the size, strength and burst necessary to bother fellow high-caliber athletes when they attack the rim. Particularly, guards have trouble going through him when he gets his bulky chest fully in front of them, and have trouble drawing fouls as Bey smartly hold both his arms completely vertical.
The next video is by far the best possession of team and individual defense I saw from Bey. He recognizes that his teammate has been beat and instinctively seals off that opening, then recovers to his own man with speed, yet remains under enough control to not let up a blow-by and contest the shot at the rim.
In terms of offensive weaknesses for Bey, there was only one minor nitpick that I could come up with: his less-than-stellar ball-handling. This flaw was especially noticeable when he tried to generate off-the-dribble three-point attempts. He’s not inept in that area, but it certainly seems to be uncomfortable for him operating above the arc.
Notice how on that play above he looks uncertain about what to do, as he lacks confidence in his handling-ability. He does not possess the intricate and precise moves needed to properly generate good shooting rhythm.
This lack of handling also hurts him when he attacks the rim in a hurry, not in the patient manner that was detailed earlier.
Without taking his usual jump-stop to gather himself in traffic, Bey is unable to connect his moves into a functional sequence, and instead loses the ball in transmission.
But y’know what? That’s okay. Bey’s dearth of ball-handling and off-the-dribble creation means he probably won’t end up being an All-Star, but it in no way he can’t be a quality NBA player, especially for a team like the Sixers.
His shooting prowess would immediately take at least one defender out of the picture on a given possession, and in moments where the offense seems to be sputtering, a Bey post-up can serve as a potential bail-out. Defensively, he’ll probably struggle as a rookie, but given his physical profile, as well as the flashes he’s already shown, I’d bet he at least gets to the level of a solid defender after a few years of professional coaching.
Really, the only problem with Bey is that the Sixers might not have a chance to draft him. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had him going 18th in his last mock draft, and Jonathan Givony of ESPN had him going 21st.
However, Bey is certainly not a unanimously agreed upon top-20 pick. The latest mock draft at Tankathon had him as the 27th overall pick, and Brian Schroeder of Uproxx recently rated him as only the 48th-best prospect in the class.
Personally, I’m really high on Bey as a prospect, and even higher on him as a fit with the Sixers. This draft is full of guys that make you scratch your head and wonder whether they’ll boom or (more likely) bust. Bey is not like that. He’s a solid shooter with an ideal NBA body, and after one season under Jay Wright, greatly improved in all facets of his game. Something would have to go horribly wrong for him to be anything less a serviceable sixth or seventh man that can come in and get you buckets when you need them.
In terms of comparisons, he reminds me of the Morris brothers, except without the ball-hoggery and determination to fight any human being that comes across his path. If you think about it, a more sensible Morris brother would be a pretty good player, and that’s exactly what I think Saddiq Bey is going to be.