NBA Draft 2020
Who’s a boom and who’s a bust?
Spoiler alert: The NBA Draft 2020 will be polarizing. It’s nothing new that evaluations of NBA talents are wide ranging, but the differences in opinion this year are extreme. The pessimists are forecasting the worst class of talent in the past decade while other experts prognosticate hidden potential and exciting long-term projects.
The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. And here is FIVE’s introduction to the Class of 2020 and a mock draft of the first round.
Which player will be the first to put on the cap of his new basketball team? Most mock drafts have Anthony Edwards as number one while playmakers LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes as well as center James Wiseman have also spent time as the top projected pick. Rightfully so?
Looking for No. 1
Combo Guard, Georgia, 1.96 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 19.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 105.8 ORTG, 47.3 eFG%
Even before the 2019-20 NCAA season, Anthony Edwards was not only the most-hyped college freshman but also the hottest favorite for the first pick. Twelve months later, the NBA Draft 2020 is right around the corner and Edwards is still the favorite to hear his name called first.
The “Antman” did not have the most spectacular season as the power guard dealt with the enormous pressure of expectations. Georgia Bulldogs fans had hoped he could lead them to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. What resulted was a 16-16 record and second-to-last place in the SEC.
In his 32 games, Edwards displayed his scoring instincts and ability to create his own shot at any time – from the outside, mid-range or at the basket. He did not perform as reliably as a playmaker though, usually choosing his own shot instead of driving and passing to open teammates. It should be noted that the Bulldogs lost all three games in which Edwards scored more than 30 points.
Guard, Illawarra, 2.01 meters, 19 years
Stats: 17.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 25.0 3P%
LaMelo Ball personifies the controversial draft class like no other. Evaluations of the youngest Ball brother are extremely wide-ranging. He is either a wild baller with streetball flair, questionable shot selection and no defensive skills, or a brilliant playmaker who can orchestrate an offense with his overview, ball handling and passing skills.
Without question, Ball polarizes people. He has been in the public limelight since he was a 14-year-old freshman alongside his brothers at Chino Hills High School, dishing full-court assists and regularly taking shots even Steph Curry would question. Spectacular? Definitely. Substance? This is where things get murky.
After playing in California, Lithuania and Ohio, Ball spent last season with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian NBL, where he showed he can be effective on the professional level with his style of play. In 12 NBL games as primary ball handler, Ball showed why some scouts say he has the most potential of all the players in the draft.
Ball must continue to work on his offense and learn that sometimes less is more. And after years of being questioned for his defense, the guard showed at least pleasant improvements with the Hawks. Still, it seems he gets caught on every pick and his poor positioning creates holes in his team’s defense.
Center, Memphis, 2.16 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 19.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 70.4% FT, 80.0% 2FG
Sixty-nine minutes – that how long James Wiseman played in the NCAA this past season. The NCAA suspended Wiseman for 12 games due to rules violations regarding payments to high school talents. The top recruit from the past high school class shortened his season even more when he left Memphis.
That ended Wiseman’s NCAA career at just three games. NBA scouts and draft analysts have been left with the challenge since then of trying to properly determine his strengths and weaknesses.
Sure, the pluses for the youngster are pretty evident: 2.16 meter height and 2.30 meter wingspan to go along with good coordination allowing the the big man to keep up in transition situations. Wiseman is not a massive center in the post like Greg Oden was at his age but more a gazelle-like athlete like modern big men.
The 19-year-old is strong offensively in the pick-and-roll when he rolls to the basket and finishes lob passes. His sheer length made him nearly unstoppable on offense and also allowed for effective rim protection on defense.
The problem with Wiseman being a potential top three pick comes from the current value of NBA centers who play as rim-runners on offense and function primarily in drop coverage on defense.
Point Guard, Ulm, 1.96 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 11.6 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.2 RPG, 21.8 3P%, 63.2 2FG%
Where would Killian Hayes be in NBA mock drafts if his production in the last 12 months didn’t come against teams like medi Bayreuth and Maccabi Rishon LeZion but rather against the top American talents in the Big Ten or Pac 12 conferences? Certainly he would be much more prominent in the debate for the first pick than he currently is.
Hayes’ development in his lone season with ratiopharm Ulm was phenomenal. The French point guard showed at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 that he is one of the most promising NBA talents in his class, helping his team to the Final as he averaged 16.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.7 steals. He showcased his ability to shoot off the dribble and serve as creative playmaker – even though he mostly played off the ball with the French team.
Last season in Ulm, head coach Jaka Lakovic gave Hayes full responsibility for the team’s offense as an 18-year-old. As a ball handler, Hayes showed his strengths in the pick-and-roll offense. And his overview and passing are among the best in this year’s draft class.
The Frenchman is not an über-athlete who can pressure a defense solely with his first step quickness and power to the basket. Hayes forces too many complicated plays that often lead to direct turnovers and fastbreak points for the opponents. Defensively he shows a willingness to play within the team concept, making his one of the best point guard talents this year.
The rest of the Top Ten
Basketball savants, Three-and-D specialists and defensive experts: This year, the chances are good that the best player in the draft class will not be among the top three picks. Here are the remaining candidates from the prognosticated Top Ten.
Center, USC, 2.06 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 1.1 APG, 64.5TS%
Going into the 2019-20 NCAA season, Onyeka Okungwu was ranked fifth on ESPN’s list of best centers in the class behind James Wiseman, Isaiah Stewart, Vernon Carey Jr. and Armando Bacot. The 2.06 meter big man started the season strong, with two 20-10 double-doubles, and ended up shooting up mock draft boards.
As opposed to the other freshman centers like Stewart and Carey Jr., who excelled around the basket, Okongwu proved to be an agile big man with great leaping ability. He was highly efficient around the basket (72.6 FG%) and showed to have a soft shooting touch. He can finish with both hands and passes well from the roll to the basket or from the post. The Nigeria native is also an athletic presence on defense and an excellent rim protector.
Forward, Dayton, 2.06 meters, 22 years old
Stats: 20.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 2.2 APG, 684 TS%
The 22-year-old was without a doubt the best college basketball player last season, acting as the focal point of the best offense in the country with his skills as a small ball center and making the Dayton Flyers one of the favorites for the NCAA Tournament.
Toppin was a constant mismatch on the wing or in the low post, attacking slower defenders with his drive from the wing or hitting from the outside (39.0 3P%) if teams gave him space. He would also overpower smaller defenders around the basket.
As good as he was in college basketball, Toppin has his critics because his game relies more on power than explosiveness and dynamics. He also had problems at Dayton if he was forced to defend on the wings because of slow footwork and lacking agility.
Guard, Iowa State, 1.96 meters, 20 years old
Stats: 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG, 121.5 ORTG, 63.1 TS%
Tyrese Haliburton experienced a meteoric rise in the last couple of years, going from a no-name high school graduate to an elite freshman role player at Iowa State to the leader for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 gold medallists United Stats and most recently among the top playmakers in college basketball.
Haliburton played only 22 games this past season due to injuries but showed in those contests that he can be the primary offensive option and full-time ball handler. “Hali” increased his usage rate from 9.2 to 20.1, and he was the main reason the Cyclones remained competitive in the Big 12 Conference after the departures of Talen Horton-Tucker, Marial Shayok and Nick Weiler-Babb.
Haliburton is a tall playmaker with excellent basketball IQ, recognizing holes in the defense quickly and punishing the defense with perfectly-placed passes. He also plays good team defense.
Forward, Auburn, 1.98 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 116.5 ORtg, 68.4 TS%
When it comes to physical stature, very few players in the draft can match Isaac Okoro with his massive legs, wide shoulders and 220 pounds of muscle. Okoro pairs this physical dominance with excellent explosiveness and athleticism, helping him be an outstanding defensive talent who can play numerous positions at the NBA level.
Okoro conceded only 0.48 points per shot in one-on-one situations in his lone college season. He played mostly on the wing on offense for the Auburn Tigers, taking his shots either after cuts or on the spot-up. Instead of a three-and-D specialist, Okoro has the skillset to eventually take a role in the NBA as a secondary ball handler.
Forward, Tel Aviv, 2.05 meters, 19 years old
Stats: 9.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 58.8 FT%, 33.3P%
The young Israeli was impressive in both of his last two national team youth tournaments. Deni Avdija collected 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018 and had 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019 – helping Israel win the gold medal both times.
The versatile wing was the de facto playmaker and possesses very good passing skills for a player of his size, both in the pick-and-roll and post-up situations. His jumpshot is not yet one of his most effective weapons though Avdija seems to have worked on his form in recent months, as evident by his performance with Maccabi Tel Aviv after the Covid-19 break. He also seemed to be more agile and attentive defensively with Maccabi than he was with the national team.
Forward, Florida State, 1.98 meters, 20 years old
Stats: 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG
There was a time when every NBA team was looking for the next LeBron stopper – a powerful wing defender with very good athleticism who could slow down the opposing team’s best player. Most teams and experts have since figured out that it is less about individual skills as a one-on-one defender, and now they are looking for versatile defenders who can switch on everything to keep the various offensive players in check. Enter Devin Vassell.
The 20-year-old from Florida State University is the best team defender among all the wings in this year’s draft class. Vassell quickly anticipates opposing offenses’ plays and rotates accordingly. He is always under control and very attentive defending passes, collecting steals without losing sight of his man or giving up a good defensive positioning.
He also can act as a rim protector with his athleticism while knocking down three-pointers on offense making him the prototypical Three-and-D forward.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards (Georgia)
- Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (Memphis)
- Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball (Illawara Hawks / AUS)
- Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel-Aviv / ISR)
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Obi Toppin (Dayton)
- Atlanta Hawks – Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State)
- Detroit Pistons – Onyeka Okongwu (USC)
- New York Knicks – Killian Hayes (ratiopharm Ulm)
- Washington Wizards – Isaac Okoro (Auburn)
- Phoenix Suns – Devin Vassell (Florida State)
- San Antonio Spurs – Patrick Williams (Florida State)
- Sacramento Kings – Saddiq Bey (Villanova)
- New Orleans Pelicans – Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt)
- Boston Celtics – Cole Anthony (North Carolina)
- Orlando Magic – Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama)
- Portland Trail Blazers – Precious Achiuwa (Memphis)
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky)
- Dallas Mavericks – Josh Green (Arizona)
- Brooklyn Nets – Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos)
- Miami Heat – Jalen Smith (Maryland)
- Philadelphia 76ers – Tyrell Terry (Stanford)
- Denver Nuggets – R.J. Hampton (New Zealand Breakers)
- Utah Jazz – Théo Maledon (ASVEL)
- Milwaukee Bucks – Desmond Bane (TCU)
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Jaden McDaniels (Washington)
- Boston Celtics – Leandro Bolmaro (FC Barcelona)
- New York Knicks – Isaiah Stewart (Washington)
- Los Angeles Lakers – Cassius Winston (Michigan State)
- Toronto Raptors – Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State)
- Boston Celtics – Xavier Tillman Sr. (Michigan State)