2020 NBA Draft Big Board: Who Is LaMelo Ball's Biggest Threat for No. 1?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 16, 2020

2020 NBA Draft Big Board: Who Is LaMelo Ball's Biggest Threat for No. 1?

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    No prospect has been able to replace LaMelo Ball at No. 1 on our NBA draft board while he recovers from a foot injury.

    The difference between No. 2 and No. 10 is also minimal. It's possible No. 5 could move to second in our rankings, depending on which team is projected to select once the lottery is set.

    The parity in this year's field should make for an unpredictable draft. And without an obvious, consensus order, fit could play a huge role for scouting departments as they put together their boards.

    These rankings are based on personal scouting and conversations with NBA scouts.

Nos. 50-41

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    50. Ashton Hagans (Kentucky, PG, Sophomore)

    Coming off a 15-point, nine-assist, nine-rebound game against Alabama, Hagans is on the rise. Scouts have always questioned whether he offers enough offensively. But he's turned the corner as a playmaker while maintaining his reputation as a pesky on-ball defender (2.2 steals per game).


    49. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Junior)

    Kispert's shooting, ball skills and efficient play will give him a chance to stick without any standout athletic ability. He's converting 59.7 percent of his twos and 42.2 percent of his threes while generating 25 points on 24 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions (92nd percentile).

    48. Desmond Bane (TCU, SG, Senior)

    On track to finish above 42 percent from three for the third consecutive year, Bane also improved his playmaking (3.4 assists per game) and defense (1.6 steals per game) this season. Athletic question marks remain, but between his consistency, shooting range and more complete play as a senior, Bane has become worth a second-round look.


    47. Saben Lee (Vanderbilt, PG/SG, Junior)

    Lee's shooting has been a question mark, but it's improved (1.3 three-pointers per game, 35.2 percent), and he's still averaging 15.7 points and 5.1 assists per game. He'll have more of a green light to take over with Aaron Nesmith lost for the season to a stress fracture in his foot. Lee is exceptionally quick and advanced around the basket (67.6 percent).

    46. Derrick Alston Jr. (Boise State, SG/SF, Junior)

    This is the second consecutive year Alston has made a big jump. Averaging 19.7 points and 3.1 assists per game, he works as a 6'9" ball-handler who gets incredible extension on his drives, passes off the dribble and makes 2.2 threes per game. An obvious lack of strength and explosiveness raise questions about whether he can execute against NBA wings.


    45. Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, C, Freshman)

    Off our board to start the year, Nnaji quickly found a spot, and he's kept one on the first-round fence with consistent, efficient production (16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds per game, 66.2 percent FG). There isn't anything flashy about his skill set or athleticism, but for a 6'11" big, he possesses good scoring instincts inside, a live motor on the offensive glass and promising mid-range touch (79.8 percent FT).


    44. Grant Riller (Charleston, PG, Senior)

    Riller's physical limitations and shooting have worked against his draft case over the years. But this season, he's improved his pull-up game (43.4 percent) while ranking in the 89th percentile or better out of pick-and-rolls, isolation and spot-ups.


    43. D.J. Carton (Ohio State, PG, Freshman)

    The 2021 draft may be more appropriate for Carton, who's just starting to draw attention for his crafty ball skills and 39.2 percent three-point shot. He'll have a better chance to build a case for scouts when he averages more than 7.5 shots and 2.9 assists per game.


    42. Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Terry's obvious skill level, production (15.3 points, 3.5 assists per game) and efficiency have enticed me to start looking past his 6'2", 160-pound frame and limited athletic ability. He's shooting 67.7 percent at the rim, 41.6 percent from three and 89.7 percent from the free-throw line, flashing a sharp package of ball-handling, shot-making, passing and finishing.


    41. Cassius Winston (Michigan State, PG, Senior)

    The NBA success of three- to four-year college guards like Devonte' Graham, Fred VanVleet, Jalen Brunson and Aaron Holiday can't hurt the perception of Winston as a pro prospect. He'd been playing his best ball before Sunday's disaster against Purdue, having averaged 24.4 points and 6.8 assists on 50.0 percent shooting from three over Michigan State's previous five games. His athletic limitations are obvious and concerning, but at some point, it's worth betting on Winston's skill level, intangibles and production in a backup role.

Nos. 40-31

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    40. Abdoulaye N'doye (Cholet, PG/SG, 1998)

    A 6'7" guard/wing, N'doye is enjoying a breakout season in the Jeep Elite league, averaging 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per game on 41.4 percent shooting from three. He might not be quick or sharp enough to play point guard in the NBA, but his versatility at both ends has become worth talking about. He'll be one of the older international prospects, turning 22 in March.

    39. Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona, SF, 2000)

    Bolmaro has had impressive—yet brief—moments with the big boys in the Spanish ACB and Euroleague. And he's been a standout with Barcelona II in the LEB Silver league, finishing with 20 points on Saturday. The 6'7" wing possesses notable confidence and versatility as a slasher, shot-maker and passer.

    38. Carlos Alocen (Tecnyconta Zaragoza, PG, 2000)

    Averaging 7.6 points and 2.9 assists per game on 48.1 percent shooting for a 12-5 team in the Spanish ACB, the 19-year-old point guard has become a prospect to watch for the 2020 draft. Alocen won't ace any athletic tests, but his ball skills, crafty playmaking and off-the-dribble fluidity have been eye-catching. Even his jumper has looked promising at times, though he's been far more accurate in ACB play (16-of-46 3PT) than the Basketball Champions League (8-of-41 3PT).


    37. Devon Dotson (Kansas, PG, Sophomore)

    With a spike in usage to 26.3 percent from 19.4 percent, Dotson has raised his scoring average to 18.0 points per game. He'd earn more support from scouts by improving his three-point shooting (31.3 percent, 4.3 attempts per game), but Dotson's identity revolves around his ability to apply pressure with his pace, quickness off the dribble and defensive peskiness.


    36. Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State, C, Junior)

    Wesson's scoring output hasn't changed from last year, but he's become a more serious pro prospect by improving his shooting (42.9 percent from three) and rebounding (9.6 boards per game, up from 6.9). Enough flashes of post play, a jumper and strong, interior presence help make up for his limited face-up game and lack of defensive versatility/upside.


    35. Jordan Nwora (Louisville, SF, Junior)

    After a disappointing effort in a loss to Kentucky on December 28, Nwora has averaged 21.3 points and 8.0 rebounds and has shot 14-of-24 from three over Louisville's last four games. Improved shooting has taken his offensive game to a new level, and though his upside as a passer and defender appears limited, Nwora suddenly has a convincing mix of 6'7" size and shot-making versatility.


    34. Xavier Tillman (Michigan State, PF/C, Junior)

    Tillman is putting together one of the most rare statistical seasons in recent memory, averaging 10.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.2 blocks per game. The only other NCAA players to match those numbers were Tim Duncan (twice) and Bo Outlaw, and Tillman is starting to make some open threes (9-of-28). He's a low-ceiling big without exciting athleticism or scoring, but his finishing, passing, defense and hustle hint at a steal and role-player potential.


    33. Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Lewis' athleticism, defense and energy should buy him time (in the minds of scouts) to sharpen his offensive skills and decision-making. His scoring and playmaking lack polish, but enough flashes of shot-making and slashing create hope.

    32. Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG, Sophomore)

    Averaging 9.6 points per game, Henry hasn't made the expected jump offensively as a sophomore. He will check an attractive group of boxes if his three-ball improves (16-of-47). At 6'6", Henry excels as a slasher, passer (3.1 assists per game) and defender. Shooting represents a major swing skill.

    31. Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)

    Ramsey has played his way into the 2020 draft conversation by sinking 44.8 percent of his threes with picturesque shooting form. He's struggled on pull-ups (26.5 percent) and finishes at the basket (46.4 percent), but the draw to Ramsey stems directly from his shot-making, transition offense and defensive tools/quickness.

Nos. 30-21

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    30. Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos B, C, 2001)

    Over the summer, Pokusevski earned a spot on 2020 watch lists by averaging 1.5 threes, 3.7 assists and 4.0 blocks per game at the U18 European Championships. Most of his minutes this year have come in Greece's second division (HEBA A2), and his body looks nowhere near ready for NBA play. But at 7'0", he could possess one of the draft's most rare packages of shooting, passing and defensive potential.


    29. Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Averaging at least one three-pointer, steal and block per game, Woodard has emerged as an interesting draft prospect. His explosive, 6'7" body bodes well for his defensive success in the NBA. He isn't a creative scorer or passer, however, so scouts must decide how legitimate his 51.4 percent three-ball is, since he only takes 2.3 per game and shoots 61.9 percent from the free-throw line.


    28. Paul Reed (DePaul, C, Junior)

    Nerlens Noel was the last player to average at least 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. Reed's defensive playmaking (3.1 blocks, 2.0 steals per game) has been a notable development, particularly since the 6'9" big man is also averaging a double-double (15.5 points, 11.4 rebounds per game). He's become worth thinking about as a first-round pick, though he'd make it easier by making more jump shots during conference play.


    27. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Freshman)

    Robinson-Earl continues to slide down our board, as his athletic limitations have held him back and his jumper stopped falling. He's still a skilled big worth tracking for his post footwork, hands around the basket, mid-range touch, rebounding instincts (9.7 per game) and intangibles.


    26. Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)

    Stewart's appeal isn't upside—it's a high floor that seemingly guarantees a team will get a strong low-post scorer, forceful offensive rebounder and tough competitor. He hasn't made a three-pointer yet, and he's totaled just 11 assists in 524 minutes, so drafting Stewart means accepting a specialty role player who lives in the paint.


    25. Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, C, Senior)

    Tillie's injury history is a concern, as is his general lack of burst. But in 97 career games at Gonzaga, he's a 44.5 percent three-point shooter. This season, he ranks in the 90th percentile on post-ups and 88th percentile on rolls to the basket, and his defensive mobility/range has looked encouraging.


    24. Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

    An 18-year-old sophomore, Lewis is still ahead of the curve despite some on-and-off performances as a second-year player. His quickness to break down defenses pops first. Lacking explosiveness around the rim, he'll need his jumper and pull-up game to improve, but he's flashed enough promise with his spot-up shooting, driving footwork/speed and playmaking potential.


    23. Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF, Freshman)

    Over Memphis' last six games, Achiuwa is averaging 19.3 points and 11.2 boards on 66.7 percent shooting. But he's also 5-of-8 from three. His size (6'9", 225 lbs), strength and foot speed for defensive versatility may be the bigger draw. Offensively, he lacks polish in terms of shot-creation/execution and decision-making. At least, however, Achiuwa should have success with cutting and finishing, crashing the glass and guarding multiple positions.


    22. Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

    Interior defenses haven't had any answer for Carey, who ranks in the 88th percentile on post-ups and 91st percentile on rolls and has shot 73.3 percent at the basket. A limited shooter (4-of-15 jump shots), passer (16 total assists) and switch defender, he won't be worth reaching for. But Carey figures to be strong and skilled enough to carve out a niche as an inside scorer.


    21. Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

    For a 6'9" forward, McDaniels has scoring versatility—fueled by flashes of wing-like shot-creation and shooting—that hints at mismatch potential. He's too far away from it, however, converting just 42.1 percent of his shots while racking up 58 turnovers and 38 assists. McDaniels checks in as one of our five boom-or-bust 2020 draft prospects.

Nos. 20-15

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    20. Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

    Williams' appeal first stems from his physical profile (6'8", 225 lbs). His mix of strength and mobility creates enticing defensive upside, plus potential as a cutter, finisher and offensive rebounder. Williams isn't an advanced scorer, so his shooting development will be key. Even though he's missed 20 of 29 threes, it's promising that he's made 86.2 percent of his free throws and 11 of 19 pull-ups.


    19. Theo Maledon (ASVEL, PG, 2001)

    Maledon hasn't shot or defended well enough to compete with the top NCAA point guards for lottery looks. But for a 6'3", 18-year-old, he's still shooting 47.8 percent in Euroleague, compensating for a lack of burst with speed changes, finishing instincts in the lane and a decent pull-up/floater package.


    18. Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)

    A foot injury just ended Nesmith's season, forcing scouts into a judgement call on a smaller sample size of elite shot-making against mostly weak competition. Sinking 4.3 three-pointers per game at a 52.2 percent clip, he was building a case as the draft's top shooter. He shot 47.8 percent out of spot-ups and 51.0 percent off screens. However, Nesmith didn't flash any creation or playmaking skills, totaling 13 assists in 500 minutes.


    17. Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)

    With terrific anticipation, instincts and athletic abilities, Vassell has turned into one of the nation's better defenders. And with his 6'7" size to go with plenty of quickness and bounce, it's easy to picture his effectiveness carrying over to the pros. Whether he offers enough offensively is the question, but he has made 20 of 54 threes (37.0 percent) while flashing signs of an improved pull-up game.


    16. Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Bey had been moving up the board, even before Saturday's 33-point effort that included eight three-point makes. He isn't the quickest or bounciest, but for a 6'8" forward, there is too much to like about Bey's package of strength, shooting, passing and defensive tools. He's up to 45.2 percent on threes with 42 assists and 22 turnovers.


    15. Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)

    Jones hit three triples Saturday against Wake Forest, and he's at 35.7 percent from behind the arc this season. His passing IQ and defense are what teams can bank on, but the improved shooting, including off the dribble (42.3 percent), should secure him a spot in the first round.

Late Lottery

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    14. Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Green projects as a role player, but the high likelihood that his strengths will translate creates a floor that deserves extra value in a draft that has a lot of perceived uncertainty.   

    His quickness, athleticism and effort have resulted in exceptional defense in terms of pressure, controlled closeouts and playmaking. 

    He's further behind offensively, and he'll need his jumper to improve to justify a lottery selection. But Green is a tremendous transition weapon who's flashed touch on his floater off slashes, catch-and-shoot potential and passing IQ.


    13. RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)

    Hampton has had trouble since he returned from a hip injury, shooting 7-of-23 over three games. This season, he's flashed a variety of skills—just no signature strength. 

    However, his versatility is a plus. A 6'5" combo guard, Hampton has proved to be a fluid transition scorer with a quick first step in the half court. He's not a pure shooter or facilitator, but he's capable from three (when set) and able to set up teammates with advanced passes off the dribble.

    It's worth valuing Hampton's comfort level with scoring, playmaking and playing on and off the ball.


    12. Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)

    Shooting just 33.0 percent over Arizona's last eight games, Mannion has had trouble executing as a scorer. Still, his playmaking and shot-making skills continue to breathe air into his draft stock and lottery potential.

    Scouts aren't ready to jump off the bandwagon with Mannion generating .881 points per possessions (75th percentile) as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and averaging 6.3 assists and 2.7 turnovers per game. He's also making 1.6 threes per contest and 85.7 percent of his free throws.

    The eye test suggests his jumper is better than the 33.3 percent three-point mark indicates. And though Mannion hasn't been getting to the rim (8-of-13 at the basket in half court), Arizona also starts two interior-oriented bigs (Zeke Nnaji, Chase Jeter) to congest the lane.

    There are questions about the height of Mannion's ceiling because of his lack of explosiveness and length for separating and defending. But he still comes off as an NBA guard—savvy and skilled with a sharp competitive edge.


    11. Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Consistency has made Obi Toppin's breakout more convincing. He's finished with at least 15 points in all but two games while also averaging 21 points against power conference opponents Georgia, Kansas, Virginia Tech and Colorado. 

    From a scouting perspective, the challenge is deciding how much stock to put into his shooting (33.3 percent 3PT, 70.8 percent FT), defensive projection, average rebounding numbers (10.1 per 40 minutes) and age for his class (turns 22 in March). 

    Because otherwise, Toppin's scoring and passing skills have caught up to his power and explosiveness. Shooting 78.6 percent around the basket, 84.4 percent off cuts and 92.9 percent off putbacks, he also ranks in the 93rd percentile on post-ups and 98th percentile in spot-ups (29 possessions).

10. James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    No. 10 may seem low for James Wiseman, but his physical profile alone (7'1", 240 lbs, 7'6" wingspan) isn't convincing enough, since he didn't flash any bankable skill before he left Memphis in mid-December.

    He still earns a lottery grade based on his easy-basket potential as a finisher and his shot-blocking upside. And since high school, he has flashed glimpses of solid post play and mid-range touch.

    His floor points to a high-percentage scorer, putback machine and rim protector. Those types of centers—who can't stretch the floor, pass or seamlessly switch—aren't as valuable today. Still, Wiseman would be a steal this late if his one-on-one game, shooting and defensive awareness suddenly clicked.

9. Deni Avdija (Israel, SF/PF, 2001)

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    Deni Avdija's production isn't overwhelming, which could make it tougher for teams to feel confident in taking him early. But he's having his best stretch of the year, putting up a 22-point, five-assist, two-block game in the Israeli BBL on Saturday. And despite a limited, fluctuating role, he's been efficient all season, even shooting a respectable 45.7 percent in Euroleague.

    Over the summer, scouts saw Avdija take over as a No. 1 option at the U20 European Championships, where he flashed attacking ability, shot-making skills and point-forward playmaking. This year, he's been mostly a spot-up player, making it tougher to assess his effectiveness as a creator.

    Off the ball, his shooting has been erratic. He's a combined 19-of-57 from three. But he hasn't had opportunities to build a rhythm while standing around the arc. And he's capable from outside for a 19-year-old, 6'8" combo guard.

    He's also played the right way for Maccabi, rarely forcing shots while maintaining his competitiveness and effort on defense.

    Avdija may lack the explosiveness and burst to consistently separate for clean looks against NBA opponents. However, his tools, approach, skill versatility and impressive defensive range/IQ scream a floor of NBA role player. A best-case outcome is an offense running through Avdija the way Israel's did in July.

8. Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)

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    The believability meter for Tyrese Haliburton's pro potential has risen dramatically this season.

    He's more than doubled his scoring rate to 16.6 points per game from 6.8. It's still Haliburton's passing IQ that separates him from other guards, as he's averaging 7.7 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game, even though his teammates shoot 29.4 percent from three. His facilitating will continue to drive his NBA value, while having more dangerous scorers and shooters around him should only optimize his special playmaking instincts.

    However, he's moved into the top 10 because of his improved jumper and scoring in the lane. Haliburton is making 2.5 threes per game at a 41.7 percent clip, and after converting just one pull-up and two runners as a freshman, he's already hit 10 dribble jumpers and 11 of 23 runners in 2019-20.

    A lack of blow-by explosiveness remains a drawback. He is not the type to breakdown defenses with penetration. His pull-up is also still questionable because of a low-pushing release that doesn't appear conducive to shooting off the dribble.

7. Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Tyrese Maxey moved into our top 10 after he scored 26 points against Michigan State on opening night. He's still there, despite only shooting 28.1 percent from three.

    The eye test sees long-range misses that will eventually turn to more consistent makes. He's hit 10 of 21 jumpers inside the arc (half court), 39.1 percent of his pull-ups and 80.3 percent of his free throws. And in Kentucky's win over Louisville on December 28, he took over, hitting four of five triples on his way to 27 points.

    Otherwise, Maxey uses an effective mix of speed changes, strength, coordination and touch to attack and finish runners or layups, before or after contact. He ranks in the 84th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and that's with teammates missing 14 of 19 spot-up shots from Maxey's ball-screen pass-outs. Though not a lead initiator, he's still a threatening setup man out of different situations.

    While his ceiling carries questions because of a lack of size/athleticism for a 2-guard, his scoring versatility, secondary playmaking and intangibles help Maxey look like a safe pick anywhere in the No. 5-10 range.

6. Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)

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    Killian Hayes has taken a sizable step forward this year as Ratiopharm Ulm's 18-year-old lead guard.

    After a strong December, highlighted by a 25-point effort against Maccabi Rishon, Hayes is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 assists on 39.0 percent shooting from three in 10 Eurocup games.

    The key development has been his sudden success around the perimeter, both as a shot-maker and shot-creator. He's expanded his scoring versatility, adding dribble jumpers and more runners to his repertoire.

    He's also shot 86.0 percent from the free-throw line since 2018-19, a promising indicator regarding his touch.

    Playmaking and passing are still Hayes' bread and butter, though his decision-making isn't always on point (85 turnovers in 24 games between Eurocup, German BBL). It's also still worth questioning his lack of explosion for a lead guard whose jumper still isn't a major strength.

    But for a 6'5" guard his age, it's impossible to ignore his production overseas and skills improvements.

5. Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

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    Scouts are wondering if Cole Anthony will suit up for North Carolina again, since he hadn't made the most convincing NBA case before he suffered a meniscus tear in mid-December. I'm still valuing the eye test over the inefficient numbers he registered while carrying a giant workload for a team that shoots 29.5 percent from three.

    The 6'3" lead guard still scored 19.1 points per game, burying defenses with pull-up jumpers and threes that also highlighted shot-creation skills. He only shot 6-of-21 around the rim and averaged 3.8 turnovers per game, but it's worth betting that his finishing and passing will benefit from more NBA space and better teammates.

    Anthony's offensive package consists of enough size, athleticism, ball skills and shot-making. Plus, he should add value with his defensive intensity/playmaking (1.9 steals per game) and rebounding (6.3 per game).

    Even if he struggles to improve as a decision-maker, Anthony should reach the level of a scoring ball-handler such as Jamal Murray.

4. Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Shooting 70.0 percent on post-ups and 73.7 percent on rolls, USC's Onyeka Okongwu is also allowing opponents to convert just 27.3 percent of their shots around the basket. He's been dominant in the paint at both ends, scoring off advanced moves and quick jumps while blocking 2.9 shots in 28.5 minutes per game.

    It's worth noting he did get outmuscled by Washington's enforcer Isaiah Stewart, another first-round caliber center.

    Some scouts would still rather bet on Wiseman, but for us, Okongwu has flashed lots of defensive upside and more scoring versatility than the other bigs.

    He's also made nine of 22 jump shots and 69.9 percent of his free throws, and if he can surprise NBA teams with more shooting touch in workouts, Okognwu's draft stock could mirror our big-board ranking.

3. Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

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    Anthony Edwards is bound to finish No. 1 for certain teams that could use a wing and see an obvious 20- to 25-point scorer.

    He continues to flash glimpses of advanced shot-creation and shot-making with pull-ups and step-backs from inside and behind the arc. And at 6'5" and 225 pounds, he doesn't carry questions about his ability to keep separating and executing against NBA defenders.

    There are questions about his shot selection and mentality, though. After a strong first half against Kentucky last week, Edwards seemingly got cocky by activating hero mode and settling for low-percentage highlight jumpers without attempting to attack or look for teammates.

    He had another weak showing at both ends against Auburn on Saturday, demonstrating poor judgement offensively and no defensive awareness or resistance.

    He happens to be a sharp passer when willing, but he also has difficulty resisting certain urges as a perimeter scorer. Edwards doesn't check the "makes teammates better" box the way our No. 1 can.

    Regardless, there is too much natural talent, skill and production to significantly dock Edwards for his decision-making. He'll fall under the same NBA umbrella as microwave scorer Donovan Mitchell.

2. Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    From No. 14 in August to No. 9 in November, Isaac Okoro keeps moving up the board with steady defense and toughness, plus more flashes of expanding offense.

    His tools, foot speed, strength and focus indicate the 6'6", 225-pound Okoro will be a plus-defender. Throw in his high-IQ passing and 65.7 two-point percentage, which he's built up by finishing with power and fluidity off cuts and drives, and the 18-year-old forward projects as high-floor, low-risk prospect.

    But it's games like the one against Vanderbilt last week, when he scored 23 points (and sunk a step-back three-pointer and beat defenders off the dribble) that suggest there is more scoring upside for Okoro.

    He still isn't a high-level creator, and he's shot only 7-of-29 from deep and 67.2 percent from the free-throw line. Okoro's defense and intangibles remain far ahead of his ball skills. But he only takes (and makes) good shots, and even without a one-on-one game or a reliable jumper, he makes an impact with his efficiency and intangibles.

1. LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)

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    A foot injury has kept LaMelo Ball out since November 30, and at this rate, it wouldn't be shocking if he's played his final game for the last-place Illawarra Hawks. Fortunately for his draft stock, North Carolina's Anthony has also been out, Wiseman left Memphis and Edwards' impact has fluctuated at Georgia.

    Before the new year, consecutive triple-doubles propelled Ball to No. 1 on our previous board. The NBL isn't the NBA or Euroleague, but the 18-year-old still averaged 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.7 made three-pointers against pros in their 20s and 30s.

    Any prior concerns about his style and overconfidence faded by the month. Ball played the right way in Australia, focusing on using his special passing skills, vision and basketball IQ to create quality looks for teammates. Along with his obvious physical development, he's also demonstrated a more mature approach.

    Questions remain about his scoring inefficiency and shooting. A 37.5 field-goal percentage and 25.0 percent three-point mark could make the lottery winner hesitant.

    My eye test still buys his ball-handling for creation, finishing coordination/ambidexterity, floater touch and shot-making. Even though his jumper needs work, he still buried 20 triples in 12 games. Keeping him at No. 1 means gambling on his potential to improve his shooting consistency and one-on-one execution while banking on his playmaking and transition play.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.


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