Biggest Question Marks for LaMelo, Wiseman and Every Projected NBA Lottery Pick
Before feeling comfortable using a lottery pick on a prospect, NBA front offices will have at least one question to discuss pertaining to how that player's game will translate.
Athletic or physical limitations, lower skill levels and uninspiring intangibles are behind most of the concerns during the scouting process.
For each projected lottery pick in our latest mock draft, we pinpointed the biggest question marks teams will have while trying to assess the players' potential and value. The players are in alphabetical order by first name.
Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Biggest question mark: Shot selection/impact on winning
Given his natural talent, skill level and production, Anthony Edwards will have a case to be the first player picked in the 2020 draft. But does his particular game translate to winning?
Though capable of catching fire and carrying a team for stretches, Edwards can get too caught up in trying to look pretty with hero jump shots. Sometimes, he forgets he's 6'5" and 225 pounds. Through 12 games, he's already taken 53 pull-ups in the half court alone. Only 15 have gone in.
Edwards' shot-making ability is apparent, and that's what leads to some overconfidence. There isn't a one-on-one jumper he can't hit. But he's shooting 30.0 percent out of isolation, and despite his power and explosiveness, he's converted just three half-court drives to the basket all season.
While Edwards has looked fine catching-and-shooting off the ball, when defenders close out on him from the wings, he likes to put the ball on the floor and settle for a quick pull-up instead of attacking hard to the rim. From spot-up position, he's 2-of-18 on dribble jumpers.
Shot selection will be a question on his scouting report. Is his style of perimeter scoring conducive for efficient individual and team basketball?
Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
Biggest question marks: Decision-making and finishing
Is Cole Anthony's inefficiency a result of poor decision-making or too heavy of a workload?
That will be the question NBA teams ponder from now until the draft, especially if he doesn't return from his current knee injury.
On one hand, North Carolina shoots 29.9 percent from three as a team and doesn't offer much spacing for its lead guard. Anthony (33.3 percent usage) is forced to make a lot of plays on his own in tight windows.
But does that excuse his 36.8 percent field-goal mark or 3.4-to-3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio? Even in transition, Anthony has struggled mightily (15-of-35, 24th percentile).
His perimeter game has been solid, as he's making 2.4 threes per game and 41.9 percent of his pull-ups. Teams won't question Anthony's scoring ability. They will ask about his potential to make the game easier for teammates and whether his struggles converting inside (6-of-21 at rim in half court, 3-of-14 on runners) are tied to poor finishing touch or limited room to operate.
Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)
Biggest question mark: Upside
While most lottery prospects are top options in college, Deni Avdija is averaging just 5.9 points in 18.1 minutes per game overseas. Most of Maccabi Tel Aviv's possessions feature him standing around the arc or cutting. His lack of usage and production make it tougher to feel overly confident in using a high draft pick on him.
Avdija hasn't been able to showcase much of the shot-creation and shot-making he flashed over the summer at the U20 European Championships. Teams have to assess whether Avdija can be the go-to scoring force he was for Israel or whether he projects as the spot-up role player he's been in the Euroleague.
Under the NBA lens, there is plenty to like about his 6'8" size and versatility and being a combo forward who can handle, drive and pass and make jump shots when set.
But he's never been consistent from three or the free-throw line, even as a junior player. And he lacks explosiveness and wiggle, raising questions about how much separation he can get to score one-on-one, finish at the rim or play-make.
His positional tools and ability to do a little of everything, including defend, point to a high floor. But scouts aren't convinced about his ceiling, and he won't have a great opportunity to extinguish that fear taking 4.6 shots per game.
Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF, Freshman)
Biggest question mark: Scoring potential/shooting
Without a great deal of obvious star power in the upcoming draft, Isaac Okoro's defense and toughness could be enough for a team in the lottery. But how effective of an NBA scorer can he be?
That answer will be partially determined by his shooting development. He's just 5-of-23 from behind the arc with one made pull-up all season. The eye test shows a fixable jump shot, and he did flash promise playing EYBL. Since he isn't a high-usage creator, though, it will be critical for Okoro to become a threatening spot-up shooter.
Otherwise, while he's super-efficient converting inside the arc (67.1 percent), his skill level isn't advanced. He can work from the post, and he's an effective straight-line driver and cutter. But Auburn doesn't give Okoro the ball and ask him to create.
His future pro team won't either. The question with Okoro is his offensive ceiling and how much stock teams should put into his current lack of scoring skills for a wing or forward.
Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
Biggest question mark: Translatable skills/strengths and intangibles
NBA teams will be enticed by the idea of Jaden McDaniels, a 6'9" combo forward with three-point range and face-up shot-creation skills. But will he ever have the skill level to consistency execute or the feel to know how and when to optimize his tools and versatility?
Though he has the size of a 4, McDaniels plays like a guard, which has its pros and cons. A player with his height and fluidity should be converting more than 43.6 percent of his shots. While he can score in a variety of ways, he isn't proficient in any.
What's McDaniels' most translatable skill or strength?
He's developed a capable jump shot, but he's not a volume or consistent shooter (18-of-49 3PT). He can maneuver off the dribble and pass (2.5 assists), but he's not a true playmaker, and his 20.7 turnover percentage highlights a lack of polish. And while he makes defensive plays on the ball (1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks), he lacks awareness for team defense in the half court.
McDaniels' positional tools and skill set hint at a mismatch and star potential. But it's difficult to pinpoint a signature skill that's bankable, while questions about his intangibles (motor, decision-making) have been asked since high school.
James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
Biggest question marks: Skill level, feel/awareness, fit and motor
Questions won't prevent James Wiseman from slipping in the draft, but teams will still have a lot to ask, since he left Memphis after three games.
General managers will hope to learn some answers during workouts, though you can only find out so much in a one-on-none setting.
An athletic, 7'1" frame and 7'6" wingspan drive Wiseman's appeal. But where is his skill level at? Of his 20 made field goals at Memphis, 17 were either off putbacks (five), transition (six), cuts (three) or rolls (three). And Oregon, the only opponent Memphis faced worth taking seriously from a scouting perspective, didn't have a starter taller than 6'8".
In high school, Wiseman often tried to prove he had perimeter creation and jumper skills, but he's clearly far from being a face-up threat or reliable shooter.
And though his length should continue translating to shot-blocking, rejections don't necessarily equate to defensive impact. His pick-and-roll instincts and coverage away from the basket remain question marks. And there were scouts who didn't love his lack of intensity and motor, though he did help ease concerns at April's Nike Hoop Summit.
Wiseman also isn't one of the new-school bigs for a modern NBA that values centers who can stretch the floor, play-make or seamlessly switch. He'll need to be paired with a certain type of power forward.
Obvious talent in what's considered a weak draft will keep Wiseman high on most boards. But taking him in the top five will still mean having to look past a handful of questions.
Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)
Biggest question marks: Shooting and decision-making
After shooting 14-of-77 from three last year in France's top league, Killian Hayes had an obvious individual goal for 2019-20. Teams are looking closely at his jump shot.
Currently shooting a combined 32.4 percent on 3.0 attempts per game (Eurocup, German BBL, German Cup), he has made a sizable jump forward this season. But the low volume and percentage will still lead to question marks on the scouting report.
Hayes isn't explosive off the dribble, and therefore his shooting development will be key for his scoring potential. He delivers flashes of timely drives, runners and improvisation. But he'll have a tough time justifying lottery value if he can't become an average shooter at the least.
Otherwise, his 3.4 turnovers are mostly a reflection of poor judgment and recklessness. And since he's not much of an off-ball player, teams may be hesitant to hand the keys over to a teenager who isn't a reliable shooter or decision-maker.
LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)
Biggest question mark: Scoring inefficiency
Despite across-the-board production, LaMelo Ball was shooting 37.7 percent in the NBL (Australia) before going down with a foot injury.
He's an excellent passer, and he uses strong ball-handling skills, vision and IQ for playmaking and setup assists to teammates. To score, however, Ball leans on inefficient methods.
For shot creation, he often relies on deep, contested pull-up threes after a flurry of dribbles—just to gain rhythm—that don't take him anywhere. And at this point, he's not a consistent-enough shooter from distance (25.0 percent 3PT). The dance-and-launch method results in teammates just standing around watching as well.
He's also more comfortable releasing off the dribble than the catch, which will work against him if he's drafted to a team that already has a lead guard.
Inside the arc, Ball takes an unusual number of floaters. Even when working one-on-one, he seems to prefer separating into tougher runner shots than stopping and popping with a mid-range pull-up or step-back. And while his touch is impressive, one can only be so efficient with such a heavy dose of one-footed floaters outside the paint.
At the rim, Ball has an advanced layup package fueled by coordination and ambidexterity. But he still lacks strength and explosion, and depending on such a high level of precision may make it tough to finish at a good rate in the NBA.
Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
Biggest question marks: Creating separation and defense
Nico Mannion's passing skills have popped most under the NBA's scouting lens. His playmaking has been more convincing than his scoring.
Lacking a degree of explosiveness off the dribble, Mannion has made just four shots at the basket in the half court this season. And he's just 1-of-9 out of isolation, raising questions about his ability to create enough separation.
Mannion manages to compensate with shot-making versatility and shooting range. But teams may wonder how dangerous of a scorer he'll be if he can't go one-on-one or get all the way to the rim.
They'll also question his defensive potential without much length and limited athletic ability. He can be easily eliminated with a screen, and he lacks the size to effectively switch onto wings or forwards.
Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)
Biggest question marks: Shooting legitimacy and defense
From being left off last year's NBA combine list to now a 2020 lottery candidate, Obi Toppin has made significant improvement. He's averaging 19.8 points on 61.9 percent shooting. Teams will be asking whether the early signs of shooting are legitimate and whether he can develop into a plus defender.
Toppin has made 13 of his 37 three-pointers this season. However, after combining to hit five of his eight triples in consecutive days against Georgia and Virginia Tech, he's made just five of his last 22 over Dayton's previous eight games.
He's also shooting 65.5 percent from the free-throw line. Is his jumper on track to become a threatening every-game weapon in the pros? Or was the hot start fluky?
And how effective can he be defensively, both containing around the perimeter and protecting the basket? Opponents are making 44.1 percent of their post-ups against Toppin, who also grades in the 10th percentile guarding spot-ups.
His NBA value will wind up taking a big hit if it turns out he can't stretch the floor or be a useful defensive player.
Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Biggest question mark: Skill level/set for modern NBA
It took roughly three weeks for Onyeka Okongwu to jump from off our preseason board to No. 6 by late November. He made that strong of an impression with his tools/athleticism, energy, shot-blocking and flashes of skill.
The only question is how much to downgrade Okongwu for his older-school offensive game. Though an impressive post scorer, he hasn't flashed much shooting (0-of-3 3PT), ball-handling or passing (1.0 assists in 28.3 minutes). He'll be a 6'9" center, unable to stretch the floor or add much defensive switchability. The 245-pound freshman grades in the 25th percentile guarding spot-ups.
It's easy to feel confident in his post game, finishing and rim protection translating. But he doesn't offer much versatility during an era when it's seemingly valued more than ever.
RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)
Biggest question mark: Upside
Before suffering a hip injury in the NBL, RJ Hampton put together a highlight reel that checked boxes, from transition scoring and attacking to playmaking, shot-making and defense.
However, he doesn't check the most important boxes in bold. What's Hampton's future NBA identity? He isn't a primary facilitator (2.5 assists). He lacks refined moves for perimeter shot creation in terms of pull-ups and step-backs, and through 12 games, he made 11-of-34 threes.
Hampton has a quick first step for driving and smooth fluidity in the open floor, but his finishing touch in the half court isn't special, either.
Optimists may describe Hampton's combo game as versatile. Skeptics question what his NBA bread-and-butter will be and whether he can be strong enough in any one area to separate himself from other guards.
Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
Biggest question mark: Scoring potential
Tyrese Haliburton's level of passing IQ and decision-making may remind some of Lonzo Ball. So should his lack of athleticism and scoring skills.
Averaging 7.7 assists to 2.5 turnovers, Haliburton will drive interest with his playmaking acumen. But despite his 17.3 points per game, he still lacks the burst to create separation inside the arc, and he isn't a threatening pull-up shooter.
Playing 35.6 minutes per game (11 games), Haliburton has 14 total field goals at the rim and 10 made dribble jumpers. He averages 2.0 free-throw attempts. His 0.7 points per possessions as a pick-and-roll scorer rank in the 42nd percentile, and he's generated two isolation buckets all season.
The good news is that he's making 2.5 threes at a 42.4 percent clip. Haliburton has been money shooting off the catch (51.4 percent), which should allow him to play either backcourt position.
But without the jets to explode past his man and a limited pull-up game, there are questions about his scoring potential from the lead-guard position.
Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Biggest question mark: Upside
Tyrese Maxey is perceived by scouts as one of the draft's safer picks for 2020. But how high is his ceiling?
At 6'3" without exciting explosiveness, he lacks mismatch tools/athleticism. And coaches aren't likely to use him as a primary initiator (18.6 assist percentage), so he'll likely be paired with a playmaker and wind up being guarded by NBA 2-guards.
He's a scorer by identity, but his shooting has been inconsistent (29.6 percent 3PT), particularly from off the ball, as he's just 9-of-35 on catch-and-shoot jumpers.
His high floor is propped up by versatile shot-making ability with pull-ups and runners, enough passing skills and defensive toughness. But there are questions about his upside, given his pedestrian size and burst, streak shooting and limited facilitating instincts.