As it stands now, it appears that former Syracuse basketball player Elijah Hughes will remain just that: a former Syracuse basketball player. At last mention, Hughes has decided to keep his name in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Assuming there is a draft this season and Hughes is a part of it, where is he projected to go?
First, let’s look at his scouting report. Hughes’ calling card is on the offensive end. With the ability to shoot from deep, pull up in the mid-range and get to the basket, Hughes is a professional scorer at all three levels. He does well off the ball, coming off screens. He is an able ball-handler, who can facilitate off the dribble. And at 6-feet, 6 inches and 215 lbs, Hughes has an NBA body to attack the basket and absorb contact.
Defensively, overall, Hughes is adequate. He has good anticipation in the passing lanes and, especially, in blocking shots.
In terms of production at the college level, Hughes compares with several Syracuse wing players in the last 15 seasons. Here’s a list of comparable Orange players in their final (or only) season in Syracuse:
Among this group, Hughes scored more points and dished out more assists per game than anyone else and held his own in the other categories.
Now, in terms of where each guy was selected in the draft, the Syracuse players have run the gamut:
- Wesley Johnson: 4th overall in 2010
- Dion Waiters: 4th overall in 2012
- Malachi Richardson: 22nd overall in 2016
- Donte Green: 28th overall in 2008
- Kris Joseph: 51st overall in 2012
- Demetris Nichols: 53rd overall in 2007
- Tyus Battle: undrafted in 2019
- Oshae Brissett: undrafted in 2019
Now, Joseph and Nichols both spent four seasons at Syracuse. The rest, however, exited college early. Each going fourth overall, it’s hard to argue with Johnson and Waiters leaving early from a financial standpoint. But, from a basketball standpoint, each guy on that list that left early could have used another year (or more) of development.
Hughes is probably in the same boat. But, if he keeps his name in the draft, he is projected to go anywhere from the early- to late second round. NBADraft.net, as of April 20th, was the most optimistic, predicting he would go 32nd overall to Charlotte. NBADraftroom.com has him going 49th and tankathon.com has him projected to go 50th.
While there is a pretty sizable group of Syracuse players to compare him to, is there a good NBA comparison to make, should Hughes get drafted and stick on an NBA roster? How might his skill set project in the NBA?
A realistic expectation for Hughes falls somewhere in the group of the following players:
- Dwayne Bacon (Charlotte)
- Denzel Valentine (Chicago)
- Wes Iwundu (Orlando)
- Oshae Brissett (Toronto)
With the exception of Valentine (a first-round pick), the rest were either selected in the second round or undrafted. However, these guys all possess good NBA size, the ability to handle the basketball and won’t hurt a team in a role of less than 20 minutes per game. Of the group, Bacon is probably the best comparable. Bacon has split time between the G League and the NBA and can be a rotation player on a developing team.
If Hughes reaches his maximum potential, the likely list of comparables looks like this:
- Danuel House Jr. (Houston)
- Cam Reddish (Atlanta)
- Dion Waiters (Los Angeles Lakers)
- Dillon Brooks (Memphis)
- Josh Hart (New Orleans)
While Waiters and Reddish were lottery picks and Hart was a first-round pick, Brooks didn’t get drafted until the 45th overall pick and House Jr. was undrafted. These guys have all carved out roles for themselves as streaky scorers who average close to or above double digits, logging minutes in the upper 20s.
Waiters was more effective (albeit with little efficiency) in his prime. Reddish’s potential threatens to unlock another level to his game after only his first season in the league. House Jr. gets the green light on a Houston team that begs its players to fire from distance at will. From this list, Brooks and Hart offer the best possible comparisons to Hughes as guys do not do anything particularly flashy, but are very effective role players on playoff level teams.
If Hughes became like Hart or Brooks, he would end up having a very productive NBA career. More likely, he will become more like Bacon, which is nothing of which to be ashamed.
However, it seems Hughes is destined to be another Syracuse player on the long list of really good college players that gets lost in the shuffle at the next level.