2020 NBA Draft: Boom-or-Bust Prospects to Watch at Every Position

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 8, 2020

2020 NBA Draft: Boom-or-Bust Prospects to Watch at Every Position

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Certain NBA draft prospects carry the boom-or-bust label because of their perceived high ceilings and low floors.

    They have enticing physical traits and skills that seemingly create star potential. But they also have weaknesses that suggest their games may not translate well to NBA play. 

    The following five prospects could wind up in the 2020 lottery for their upside. They also have the most bust potential compared to others who may go in their draft range. 

Point Guard: Killian Hayes (France, 2001)

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    TF-Images/Getty Images

    Draft ceiling: Late lottery

    Boom comparison: Goran Dragic

    Bust comparison: Shane Larkin

    The scouting report on Killian Hayes features exciting strengths and unique production for an 18-year-old in Eurocup. But it also contains worrisome weaknesses that have birthed debate about how his game will translate to the NBA. 

    He's become one of the draft's most polarizing prospects, especially since he's a point guard. It will probably cost a lottery pick to get him, and taking him that highly likely means expecting a quality starter. 

    Hayes' immediate draw stems from his playmaking. His 6.2 assists per game rank fourth in Eurocup. An excellent passer, particularly in ball-screen situations, Hayes creates opportunities for teammates and gets them the ball with high-level deliveries off the dribble. 

    Meanwhile, in 26 games this year (Eurocup, German BBL, German Cup), he's sporting an ugly 26.8 turnover percentage. Hayes' decision-making can be wild when he's picking his spots on drives and pass attempts.

    But he's been an efficient scorer, shooting 47.6 percent while expanding his shot-creation ability using drives, improvisation and step-back jumpers. He's developed an impressive runner in the lane, and he's made notable progress around the perimeter.

    However, Hayes lacks burst and explosion. Can he blow by and separate as well against NBA defenders? And despite the improved shot-making, he's still converting fewer than one three-pointer per game (25 total) on 32.5 percent shooting.

    A mixed bag defensively, Hayes has good possessions, making strong off-ball reads to rotate or close out. And he has bad ones on which he's beaten too easily off the bounce. 

    Teams may struggle to decide where it's worth drafting Hayes. On December 11, he went 1-of-5 against AS Monaco. A week later, he finished with 25 points and five assists against Maccabi Rishon Lezion.

    Some scouting departments may see an exciting lead guard who can generate offense in a variety of ways. Others may see a player who's difficult to trust in a lead-guard role if he struggles to shoot, separate or take care of the ball.      

    If he reaches his ceiling, Hayes will follow in Goran Dragic's footsteps, compensating for his athletic limitations with scoring and passing skills and craftiness. Worst case, he's another Shane Larkin: too inefficient offensively for a guard who can only play on the ball. 

Shooting Guard: Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, Freshman)

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    Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

    Draft projection: Late lottery to 20s

    Boom comparison: Jason Richardson

    Bust comparison: Jerome Robinson

    A top-10 freshman scorer, Jahmi'us Ramsey has caught the attention of NBA scouts, including some who didn't anticipate following Texas Tech once Jarrett Culver left after last season. 

    The eye test loves Ramsey's picturesque jump shot as well as his athletic, 195-pound body. But for a 6'4" prospect, he hasn't flashed the playmaking to be considered a combo guard. He's been heavily reliant on perimeter shooting, but he's also only played nine games, and a 66.7 percent free-throw clip raises questions about the legitimacy of his 48.9 percent three-point mark.

    Ramsey's three-point accuracy seems unsustainable. He grades in the 27th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and dishes out 1.6 assists in 28.9 minutes per game. We've seen one successful isolation drive to the basket. What if his shot stops falling at this rate? 

    However, Ramsey, 18 years old, could generate lottery buzz for his production (17.4 ppg), athleticism, shot-making and defensive potential. A team may want to take an early flier on a young scorer with a convincing jumper and plenty of room and time to improve off the dribble.

    Maximizing his potential could have Ramsey looking like Jason Richardson, another high-flyer and shot-maker who didn't need to be overly creative to generate offense or highlights. Bust potential kicks in if Ramsey struggles with shooting consistency, shot selection and distributing like 2018 lottery pick Jerome Robinson.

Small Forward: Jaden McDaniels (Washington, Freshman)

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Draft projection: Late lottery

    Boom comparison: Brandon Ingram

    Bust comparison: Kevin Knox

    Washington's Jaden McDaniels has the potential to spark imaginations with his 6'9" size and guard skills. That mix hints at upside that's likely to draw top-10 interest. But how realistic is it to expect McDaniels to become sharp enough around the perimeter that he's consistently scoring on pull-ups, step-backs, threes and floaters—shots that drive his appeal as a mismatch and separate him from other forwards?

    On one hand, he's flashed glimpses of distance shooting, mid-range shot-creation and athletic finishes at the rim. And at 19 years old, he still has a big window to build on each of his these skills.

    But he also isn't proficient in any offensive area, ranking in the 37th percentile as a spot-up player, 54th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, 49th percentile off screens, 28th percentile as a cutter and 43rd percentile in transition. He's made two isolation baskets this season. 

    Averaging an encouraging 2.4 assists, McDaniels has delivered some impressive passes. But a sky-high 3.5 turnovers per game (for a non-lead guard) highlight his lack of polish and questionable decision-making. 

    Exciting sequences of shot-blocking and defensive range have also been clouded by lapses in awareness.

    His talent and skill versatility will have every lottery team thinking about McDaniels' potential. He also deserves to be on bust watch (if taken that highly) because of a lack of bankable strengths and uninspiring intangibles. 

    He could wind up mirroring oversized wing Brandon Ingram (6'7", 190 lbs) by gradually sharpening his shot-creation and shot-making skills. McDaniels will look more like Kevin Knox if he struggles with physicality, one-on-one scoring execution, shooting consistency and defensive IQ. 

Power Forward: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, Freshman)

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    Draft projection: Late lottery to 20s

    Boom comparison: Josh Smith

    Bust comparison: Noah Vonleh

    There seems to be a divide among evaluators regarding Memphis' Precious Achiuwa, with some drawn to his physical profile and skill flashes, and others hesitant about his unrefined offensive game. 

    Is he just tools and athleticism or is there a translatable skill set he can eventually activate for scoring versatility?

    A best-case scenario shows Achiuwa, 6'9", 225 pounds, outworking bigs and finishing through them inside, attacking from the wing, knocking down spot-up threes and shaking in the post. Worst case, he can't create his own shot, hit jumpers or make anyone better.

    While he's averaging 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on 50.0 percent shooting, he's also 5-of-21 from spot-ups, 5-of-18 while shooting off the dribble, 44-of-78 (56.4 percent) from the free-throw line and 4-of-11 in the post while racking up 35 turnovers and 13 assists.

    Teams should feel somewhat comforted by his ability to fall back on his defense, given his strength and foot speed for the perimeter and switching. But if he goes in the lottery, which seems possible, the team that drafts him will hope to add an inside-out scoring threat. 

    However, he isn't a shooter, dangerous ball-handler or sound decision-maker. If he can't improve in these areas, he'll resemble Noah Vonleh, who doesn't have a core offensive skill or strength. Becoming a threatening face-up player, capable shot-maker and defensive force could help earn Achiuwa some Josh Smith comparisons from the latter's days with the Atlanta Hawks.

Center: James Wiseman (Memphis, Freshman)

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Projected: Top three

    Boom comparison: Myles Turner

    Bust comparison: Damian Jones 

    Despite playing just three games at Memphis, James Wiseman figures to be one of the first prospects drafted in 2020. His 7'1", 240-pound frame, 7'6" wingspan and athleticism create the perception of upside that someone is bound to bite on in the top three.

    But a lower skill level and questionable feel raise questions about Wiseman's chances of maximizing his potential. Justifying top-of-the-draft value will require fairly significant improvement in his shooting, passing and general shot-creation.

    He's a bust candidate based on where he's projected to go and how far he'll have to come fundamentally.

    However, he has flashed glimpses of touch, back-to-the-basket moves, the ability to hit step-back jumpers and solid rim protection. And if he can tighten up each area over the next several years, there won't be many bigs who can match his tools, bounce, shot release point and physical advantage on defense. 

    We could either be looking at an inside-out scoring center, double-double machine and defensive anchor, like Myles Turner, or just another rim runner and lob target with shot-blocking numbers, like Damian Jones, who still holds NBA value, but not the kind a team will want in an early lottery pick.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, RealGM, Sports Reference