The 2019-2020 college basketball season is suddenly over. The NCAA tournament was canceled over the coronavirus pandemic, taking away a critical opportunity from players looking to boost their NBA draft stock and pro scouts aiming to make one last evaluation on prospects.
With the basketball world on indefinite hiatus, it’s time to check in on where things stand with the 2020 NBA Draft.
This draft was thought to be wide open at the top from the very beginning. Nothing that happened over the course of the season changed that. There remains no consensus choice for the No. 1 overall pick, with LaMelo Ball and Georgia freshman shooting guard Anthony Edwards thought to be the front-runners right now. While both are young players with considerable upside, each has obvious flaws in their game. Don’t be surprised if another player from a growing list of challengers eventually stakes their claim to the top pick once the lottery is held.
1. Golden State Warriors - LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
There’s a case to be made for Ball as the best pure talent in this draft. It starts with his prodigious passing ability and elite vision that allows him to make every read on the court as a 6’7 lead guard. Ball doesn’t just pass to open teammates — he passes his teammates open. NBA teams should be willing to live with a little recklessness for the thrill of a truly special facilitator who can create transition opportunities out of thin air and whip passes with either hand in the half-court. Ball’s passing ability is boosted by his advanced handle. Despite being one of the youngest prospects in this class — he doesn’t turn 19 years old until the end of August — Ball might already be its tightest ball handler.
Ball failed to score efficiently (46 percent true shooting) during his season in Australia, but he did show great touch on floaters and rare rebounding ability for a guard. His shot selection has come under fire for his propensity to take deep pull-up threes, but if he’s eventually able to hit those shots with some consistency as he gets older, it will be a huge boon for his game. The defensive end is a real question for LaMelo, where he often lacks focus and obviously lacks functional strength.
If the Warriors do win the lottery, expect this pick to be very much open for business in trade talks.
2. Atlanta Hawks - Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Edwards will be in contention to go No. 1 overall regardless of who lands the pick because of his mix of youth, tools, and upside. The freshman guard had some brilliant highs during SEC play, dropping 36 points on South Carolina, 32 points on Florida, 29 points on Texas A&M, and 26 points on Arkansas and Tennessee. He has an enticing intoxicating combination of strength, ability, and athleticism that is best used when he decides to consistently put pressure on the rim. While he only made 29.1 percent of his threes, he was able to get shots off from deep at a high volume, shot well from the foul line (77 percent), and made three or more three-pointers in 13 of his 31 games.
Anthony Edwards is such a powerful and explosive athlete pic.twitter.com/ePPxtnNjsY— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) March 9, 2020
At the same time, it isn’t difficult to poke holes in Edwards’ game. His scoring efficiency was a tick below average (52.5 true shooting percentage) and he’s prone to lapses in effort and focus defensively. He has been shaky as a decision-maker with the ball in his hands and likely does not project as a full-time offensive initiator. He still has a tendency to settle for difficult shots rather than get to the rim or make easy play.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Okongwu — a high school teammate of LaMelo Ball on Chino Hills — has skyrocketed up draft boards during his season at USC simply by being one of the most productive freshmen in the country. The 6’9, 245-pound center is so solid on both ends of the floor, with his impact showing up in catch-all metrics like box score plus-minus, where he ranks third in the nation. Okongwu scored efficiently all season (64.5 percent true shooting), showing the ability to consistently finish with his off-hand and the explosive to power through the defense for a dunk. He’s been a monster on the offensive glass, ranking in the 90th percentile on putbacks, per Synergy Sports. He’s also been effective on hard rolls to the basket and on his post-up opportunities. While he’s a non-shooter from three-point range, he still has so many different ways to score.
Onyeka Okongwu, good lord. Great anticipation for this steal and then the big dunk pic.twitter.com/GQ7Oanft1R— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) February 23, 2020
Okongwu’s defense might be even better than his offense. He’s a skilled rim protector with a nearly 10 percent block rate and has shown a keen awareness of knowing when and how to help. Cleveland has drafted point guards high in the lottery the last two years, and could use a smart, young big like Okongwu to help everyone else slide into their role.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Avdija has appeal as a 6’8 combo forward who does a little bit of everything. He’s at his best in transition as a grab-and-go rebounding threat whose ability to push the break leads to scoring chances for himself and his teammates. He’s an impressive passer and solid overall decision-maker for a forward who can cleanly handle secondary playmaking duties as he continues to get tighter as a ball handler. He already understands how to cut into open spaces in the halfcourt. When all else fails, Avdija can turn to a solid post-game with the size to punish mismatches. His combination of size and feel also helps him hold up defensively, where he’s shown an impressive understanding of when and how to help.
Shooting is Avdija’s clear swing skill. He hit just 33.6 percent of his threes and 52 percent of his free throws. His shooting form is solid and he has been able to get his shot off from deep with volume. He’ll need to find a way to hit improve his efficiency from long-range and get to the foul line regularly to fulfill his potential in the halfcourt.
5. Detroit Pistons - Killian Hayes, G, Ulm
Hayes, a 6’5 French combo guard, has made major strides during his first season in the German league. While not the most explosive athlete, Hayes still projects as a primary creator because of his skill in the pick-and-roll. No, Hayes won’t dust defenders off the dribble, but he knows how to manipulate pace with the threat of his pull-up shooting and the ability to rifle passes with his left hand. He’s scored efficiently all season (59 percent true shooting) and has been money at the foul line (87 percent) despite struggling to shoot from three-point range (29 percent).
As his shooting improves, Hayes will have the ability to play on- or off-the-ball as a high-level passer. A team like the Pistons, desperate for help in the backcourt, should be thrilled if he’s available when they pick.
6. New York Knicks - Obi Toppin, C/F, Dayton
Toppin has been nothing less than the most spectacular player in college basketball as a redshirt sophomore for high-powered Dayton. A 6’9, 220-pound big man, Toppin dunks everything in the paint, attacks the offensive glass, and has the body control and touch to finish more efficiently than any player in college basketball. He ranks No. 3 in the country with a 68.4 true shooting percentage and is currently in the 99th percentile for points per possession. His outside shot has also made major strides, as he’s made 39 percent of 82 attempted three-pointers this season.
Obi Toppin's synergy profile. He ranks in the 99th percentile of points per possession this season. pic.twitter.com/uD6OQ8Ihj9— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) March 11, 2020
Toppin is not the most engaged defender and there’s also the open question of how he’ll ultimately be used at the NBA level. Does he defend enough to be a full-time five? Does he have the perimeter game currently required to be an NBA four? Toppin is a unique talent, but his unassailable production and obvious physical gifts means he’s likely a top-10 pick.
7. Chicago Bulls - Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
Maxey didn’t have Kentucky’s offense to himself this season playing alongside Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickely in the backcourt, but John Calipari’s team often looked best in his hands. The 6’3 guard is lightning-quick with the ball, possessing a rare blend of speed and power that makes him a force in transition and a formidable scorer at the rim. There aren’t many players in this class who can create their own offense off the dribble while doubling as a heady enough passer to hit an open teammate. Those are the boxes Maxey checks.
Tyrese Maxey's finishing is SO good. Between the touch, his ability to dislodge players on drives and at the rim, smarts using the rim to protect against rim protectors, ability to finish with both hands, etc...he has it all in the paint.— Spencer (@SKPearlman) February 20, 2020
Awesome finisher. pic.twitter.com/qill1Alq21
The freshman guard plays with a competitive fire that also translates on the defensive end. He will get in the chest of opposing ball handlers and use his quick hands to disrupt change-of-direction drives and force turnover opportunities. He doesn’t have great size and isn’t yet a money shooter — though he’s much better than his 29 percent from three would indicate — but he’s simply one of the safest players in this draft because of his well-rounded, two-way skill set.
8. Charlotte Hornets - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Wiseman was the No. 1 recruit in the country entering the season when he chose to play for his high school coach Penny Hardaway at Memphis. While he only played three games amid an NCAA scandal before deciding to leave school for good, Wiseman showed everything that makes him a polarizing prospect in draft circles.
He is massive for a center, standing at 7’1, 240 pounds, with a 7’6 wingspan. He showed himself to be a more disciplined defender in his short time in the NCAA, not biting on as many shot fakes and occasionally impressing with his verticality. He is simply not the quickest off the ground, which hurts the sky-high defensive upside many of his most ardent believers see in him. His offense is pretty rudimentary at this point, though he’ll be able to score a bit just on his physicality. The ideal outcome for him is something like De’Andre Jordan with less bounce. He will probably go higher than this, but he’s not the slam dunk prospect some thought he’d be coming into the year.
9. Washington Wizards - Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
Anthony was getting top-three hype in some draft circles before tearing his meniscus and missing nearly two months for North Carolina. His return has been a mixed bag, with some great performances (25 points vs. Syracuse on 7-of-11 shooting from three; 28 points vs. Wake Forest) and some underwhelming ones (nine points on 4-of-14 shooting vs. Duke) happening in equal accord.
The case for Anthony starts with his tough shot-making and the ability to blow by defenders off the dribble (he’s in the 92nd percentile on isolations). He isn’t quite as explosive going to the rim as some hoped given his high school reputation, but he still drew a lot of fouls on a per-minute basis. How he leverages his own scoring ability to make his teammates better will remain an open question. Ultimately, he could be best playing with another high-level initiator and slotting into a secondary scoring and playmaking role off the ball.
10. Phoenix Suns - Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
Okoro might be the best defensive prospect in this class. The 6’6 wing has the combination of strength, quickness, and discipline to guard up to four positions in the league. He’s a sharp help defender, showing a keen awareness of when and how to rotate. He is both tough to screen on the perimeter and tough to score on at the rim when he walls up and stays vertical to challenge a shot. His steal numbers were depressed in a conservative Auburn defense, but he is exactly the type of versatile defender the NBA covets.
Some more handles from Isaac Okoro and a quick change of direction out of the PnR to get to the basket and finish through two defenders pic.twitter.com/rZ0eXxrleu— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) January 24, 2020
His offense isn’t nearly as impressive. Okoro is a rough shooter who will likely be ignored on the perimeter and hurt spacing early in his career. He is a good cutter and has shown surprising ability as a passer and decision-maker, giving him an avenue to positive offensive contributions down the line. The team that drafts him would do well to move him around offensively instead of forcing him to space the floor.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
Haliburton’s season ended early after fracturing his left wrist, but before the injury he was building a solid case for himself as a top-10, maybe even top-five, pick. A long and thin 6’5 point guard, Haliburton put up some truly mind-boggling offensive efficiency numbers last year in a small role for the Cyclones as an under-the-radar freshman. He was the focal point for Iowa State this year and was able to up his usage while largely maintaining his efficiency, finishing with 63 percent true shooting.
He is possibly the most unique talent in this class. Haliburton is an advanced passer, a deadly catch-and-shoot threat, and a heady defender. At the same time, he isn’t an explosive athlete going to the rim and can’t consistently create offense off the dribble. He feels like he’d fit best in a low-usage offensive role where he can focus on playmaking, spacing the floor, and playing help defense.
12. Portland Trail Blazers - Devin Vassell, F, Florida State
Vassell has quietly shot up draft boards this season by starring for a Florida State team that won the ACC. The 6’7 wing easily projects into a 3-and-D role at the next level. He’s been a major threat on catch-and-shoot situations all year (80 percentile) and has shown the ability to hit movement threes. He’s also getting 21 percent of his offense in transition, where he ranks in the 94th percentile.
Just watch Devin Vassell for the whole possession. He does every small thing you can think of on defense while off the ball. Signaling, talking, pointing, telling teammates where to be, rotating to take away passing lanes, etc. Once again, the best team defender in the country pic.twitter.com/HjW7IWkiAw— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) February 2, 2020
Vassell projects as an immediate contributor defensively, where he was sharp with his rotations for a top-15 Florida State unit. This combination of length, shooting, and team defense will hard to pass on in the lottery.
13. Sacramento Kings - Josh Green, G/F, Arizona
Green feels like a safe bet to be a solid rotation player even if he lacks the star upside teams ideally want in the lottery. An athletic 6’4 wing, Green is a downhill offensive player and stout defender who could be able to guard three positions. He isn’t much a creator off the dribble in the halfcourt, but he’s good attacking the rim in transition. Shooting is his clear swing skill. Right now, he’s able to hit open catch-and-shoot attempts from deep at a 34 percent clip, but lacks the shot diversity to do much else.
14. New Orleans Pelicans - R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers
Plenty of questions about RJ Hampton's game (touch in paint, passing / feel, physicality, etc), but his burst is absolutely NOT one of them. From his first step to acceleration (including after the gather), Hampton's burst is elite pic.twitter.com/yk6bnOX4ru— Spencer (@SKPearlman) December 26, 2019
Hampton reclassified late in the summer and decided to turn pro in New Zealand rather than play college basketball in the United States. The Dallas native was having himself a solid season as a 6’5 combo guard before a hip flexor injury ended his season. Hampton is a slashing guard who is at his best pressuring the basket. He doesn’t have the vision and passing chops to be a lead point guard right now, but he can still make simple reads and handle facilitating in a pinch. Shooting will be swing skill. He made just 15-of-51 three-point attempts (29 percent) before the injury.
15. Orlando Magic - Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Mannion is a skilled offensive point guard whose lack of size and athletic pop leaves questions about how his game translates to the next level. He is one of the most versatile shooters in this class, hitting threes off the dribble, becoming a master at relocating for threes off-the-ball, and showing soft touch on his floaters when attacking the basket. He’s also a solid passer who can run pick-and-roll but often gets into a tough spot if he’s forced to finish over length.
Defensively, he’ll only be able to guard one position and badly lacks strength. The Magic are widely known to value length in the draft, but perhaps someone with Mannion’s high-end offensive upside based on his shooting and passing talent is worth going in a different direction.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) - Aleksej Pokuševski, C, Olympiacos
Pokuševski is a 7-footer who plays more like a guard. Often stationed outside the three-point line on offense, the Serbian is a capable catch-and-shoot threat from deep with a quick trigger. He can also make plays as a passer, using his size to see over defenses and find cutters. He badly needs to add strength to compete to improve his interior finish and hold up defensively.
17. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies) - Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne
Tony Parker’s understudy in France, Maledon is a 6’5 point guard who can hit shots while playing a heady floor game. Maledon isn’t going to dust defenders off the dribble or have the speed/power combination to finish through length at the rim. What he can do is run offense as a secondary creator and stretch the floor with his jump shot. How he holds up defensively could be the biggest question.
18. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers) - Aaron Nesmith, SG, Vanderbilt
Nesmith might be the best shooter in this class. The 6’6 sophomore guard was making 52 percent of his three-pointers before suffering a season-ending foot injury, showing a rare ability to knock down tough shots off of movement. That’s how he’s going to be used in the NBA, too. There isn’t much upside for him as a creator or finisher on offense. Defensively, he’s solid if unspectacular, knowing where to be and how to use his length while having the greatest blend of speed and strength.
19. Dallas Mavericks - Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
Like his teammate Vassell, Williams is yet another 3-and-D prospect for Florida State. At 6’8, 225 pounds with a 6’11 wingspan, the freshman has nice size for a combo forward. He’s a strong team defender who has put up big defensive playmaking numbers — 5.6 percent block rate and 2.6 percent steal rate — all year. He can slide into a complementary role on offense as a floor spacer who takes open threes (32 percent from deep) and can attack a closeout.
20. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers) - Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
Bey has become one of the best wing scorers in college basketball as a sophomore. His biggest strides have come as an outside shooter, where he went from hitting 37 percent of his threes as a freshman to 45.1 percent as a sophomore. Bey has even been given the opportunity to run the offense for Villanova in a pinch, playing as a de facto point guard for stretches. While he has nice size at 6’8, 215 pounds, he lacks top-end NBA athleticism and will have a lot to prove defensively.
21. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets) - Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
A consensus top-10 recruit out of high school, McDaniels is a long and skinny 6’9 forward with some shooting ability — hitting 43-of-127 shots from deep (33.9 percent). While his tools are intriguing, the production hasn’t always been there. He’s shown a noticeable lack of burst going to the basket and has failed to score efficiently throughout the season. McDaniels ranks in the 43rd percentile in halfcourt scoring opportunities, and in the 28th percentile in transition. It’s still possible someone buys the upside he showed in high school, and he goes much higher than this.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder) - Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama
Lewis started his career at Alabama as a 17-year-old freshman, making him the youngest sophomore in the country. He turned into one of the best players in the SEC this season, averaging 18.5 points per game and raising his numbers across the board from his freshman year. The 6’3 guard one of the fastest players in this class with the ball in his hands. He excels at putting pressure on the rim, even if he still struggles to finish over length. While not a natural playmaker, Lewis showed improved playmaking chops with the Tide this season. He’d be a nice value pick at this point for Philadelphia.
23. Miami Heat - Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona
A 6’8 point-forward who excels as a ball handler and passer, Bolmaro hasn’t played much this season for Barcelona’s top team in Euroleague, but his combination of size and skill is unique enough to warrant a first-round pick.
24. Utah Jazz - Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Jones was thought to be a possible first-round pick after his freshman season playing with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, but made the surprising decision to return to Duke for his sophomore year. All he did this season was win ACC Player of the Year. Jones upped his usage, increased in his scoring efficiency, and continued to make a big impact defensively. Just ask Cole Anthony how he feels about Jones’ defense: as Anthony shot 4-of-14 against Duke in their final meeting, Jones finished with 21 points, 11 assists, and the win.
25. Boston Celtics - Precious Achiuwa, F/C, Memphis
Achiuwa certainly passes the eye test. At 6’9, 225 pounds with a wingspan over 7’2, the freshman forward is long, strong, and explosive athletically. He has the perfect frame to be a modern four, with the size to pinch hit as a small-ball five. Achiuwa is capable of some incredible moments because of his physicality, but making consistently good decisions every possession remains a work in progress. His jumper (13-for-40 from three) is his biggest swing skill.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets) - Paul Reed, C, DePaul
Reed had an excellent junior year for a DePaul team that faded fast once conference play started. A 6’9, 220-pound big man, Reed was a force on defense — 9.4 block rate, 3.4 steal rate — while cleaning the glass. Scouts will hope he’s the type of big man who can hold his own defending the perimeter while still being a quality rebounder and rim protector. His offense was effective for DePaul all season (56.2 true shooting percentage) even if his corkscrew-style perimeter jumper and feel for scoring in the pick-and-roll remains in development.
27. New York Knicks (via Clippers) - Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
Bey is one of the best defensive prospects in this class. The 6’7 junior forward for Colorado boasts a 7-foot wingspan, sharp instincts as a team defender, and the speed to recover out on shooters. Bey also made major strides offensively this season. He got to the rim at will and finished top-20 in the country in free-throw rate. He graded out in the 88th percentile in half-court scoring efficiency and had a career-best 61.4 true shooting percentage. Adding a consistent three-point shot would take his game to another level.
28. Toronto Raptors - Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State
Tillman might have been the most impactful player in college basketball over the last season and a half. Michigan State took off when he replaced Nick Ward in the Spartan lineup as a sophomore. In a full-time role as a junior, all Tillman did was lead college basketball in box score plus-minus by anchoring Tom Izzo’s defense and acting as an indispensable part of its offense. A 6’8, 245-pound center, Tillman is neither the biggest or the fastest frontcourt prospect in this draft, but he might be the smartest. He always seems to know where to be and never wastes his movement. Known for his shot-blocking and rebounding, Tillman also finished in the 88th percentile of points per possession on offense.
29. Los Angeles Lakers - Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
Dotson is a strong and speedy point guard who helped make Kansas the best team in college basketball this season. The 6’2 sophomore played at an All-American level all season. On offense, Dotson showed the ability to get to the rim and finish when he’s there (he made 65 percent of his attempts at the rim, per hoop-math) while improving as a playmaker for his teammates. He excelled at applying ball pressure defensively and posted a monster 3.6 percent steal rate. His perimeter jumper is his swing skill.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks) - Vernon Carey, Jr., C, Duke
Carey was a top prospect out of high school who perhaps didn’t get as much attention as he deserved because it felt like his game didn’t totally translate to the NBA. While there’s still some truth to that, Carey had such an impressive season at Duke that he’s worth a shot late in the first round in a weaker draft. The 6’10, 270-pound center and son of the long-time Miami Dolphins left tackle by the same name, Carey has soft hands as a finisher inside and was much better as a rebounder than expected. He also hit 38.1 percent of his threes in 21 attempts. He might never be the type of switch frontcourt defender the NBA loves, but his talent is obvious.