Hughes bound for Utah Jazz as NBA Draft’s 39th pick

Elijah Hughes drafted No. 39

Syracuse men's basketball standout forward becomes the Orange's first draft pick since 2017.
Published: November 18, 2020 | Updated: November 20th, 2020 at 11:44 am
Syracuse's Elijah Hughes prepares to make a drive while covered by North Carolina #1 Leaky Black.
SU's Elijah Hughes prepares to make a drive while covered by North Carolina's Leaky Black in February.

The New Orleans Pelicans selected Elijah Hughes with the No. 39 pick Wednesday in the 2020 NBA Draft, but he is headed for the Utah Jazz via trade. His selection makes the standout forward the first Orange player taken since 2017.

Just hours away from the ESPN Headquarters where this year’s NBA Draft took place, Hughes watched his name be read by Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner, just past 11:20 p.m. Surrounded by family, Hughes broke down in his mother’s arms after being announced as the No. 39 pick, now knowing he was one step closer to his professional basketball dreams.

Hughes was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Player of the Year earlier this year during his redshirt junior season with the Orange. He was also named first-team All-ACC last year after leading the conference in points per game (19.0), points (609), field goal attempts (465) and minutes played (1,175:11).

The Beacon, N.Y., native transferred Syracuse following his freshman year at East Carolina. In just two seasons under Jim Boeheim, Hughes was consistently one of Syracuse’s most prolific producers, coming in second in points behind Tyus Battle in 2018-19 and leading the team in 2019-20.

While Hughes’ offensive statistics are what earned him ECAC and ACC honors, the 6-foot-6 forward is also talented in shutting down opponents. He was top three on the team in blocks and top five in rebounds the past two seasons.

“He’s really, truly a guy for the modern NBA,” said Boeheim during a ‘Get To Know’ segment on NBATV. “He shoots the three. He can shoot off the dribble with pull-ups and he can still get to the basket. At 6-foot-6 and about 220, he’s strong and physical enough to play that way. That’s something I think for the NBA. I just think he’s a much more valuable player for the NBA than people had thought.”

Hughes is the first Syracuse player to be drafted since Tyler Lydon was selected 24th by the Utah Jazz before being traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2017.

Mock drafts had Hughes falling between No. 24 and No. 52 in Wednesday’s draft, with most seeing Hughes going in the second round. Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo projected Hughes would go to the Sacramento Kings with the 52nd pick, while The Athletic’s John Hollinger selected the Syracuse forward as one of his sleepers outside of the first round.

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is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse.