What Scouts Are Saying About the Top 2020 NBA Draft Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 1, 2020

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 30: LaMelo Ball of the Hawks and RJ Hampton of the Breakers during the round 9 NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Illawarra Hawks at Spark Arena on November 30, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

While Bleacher Report has been providing NBA draft analysis all season, it's important to hear what scouts are thinking since their opinions are fed to general managers, who then make the selections. 

Scouts provided quick-hitter thoughts on many of the NCAA and international players expected to declare in 2020. These are general feelings toward prospects off the top of professional evaluators' heads, as opposed to in-depth reports that would contain more numbers and details. 

We used the most notable quotes and followed up with our own brief assessment summarizing where we stand heading into February. 


Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Likes to play with freedom, run up and down. He can definitely score. He'll struggle with called plays and slower ball. AAU product. Low basketball IQ.

B/R's take: Edwards' production hasn't translated to consistent impact at Georgia. Many of his biggest scoring outbursts have come with his team trailing big. He's arguably a top-three talent, and he figures to continue scoring at the next level based on his physical tools, athleticism, shot creation and shot-making skill. But he doesn't show a good feel for how to efficiently hunt for offense in the half court, and his defense has been brutal at times. He's still a high pick in a perceived weak draft.


Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

Scout's take: "My concern is his attack game to finish at the rim versus length. Also shoots in volume instead of facilitates. Still one of the better players in the class. Can score at will."

B/R's take: Through nine games before Anthony's knee injury, he was just 6-of-21 at the rim while averaging 3.8 turnovers to 3.4 assists. The sample size is also tiny, and North Carolina has a weak team without shooters to space the floor. We're buying his scoring ability being similar to Jamal Murray's. The playmaking IQ is a bigger concern that raises questions about his potential as a lead decision-maker, also like Murray. 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 07: Cole Anthony #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives past Kihei Clark #0 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on December 7, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ry
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Daniel Oturu (Minnesota, C, Sophomore)

Scout's take: "This kid is a riser. Plays hard and with defensive toughness. Loved him when scouting him live, and I'll continue to watch."

B/R's take: We've been hesitant about Oturu, a center with limited bounce, 61 turnovers to 23 assists, a suspect jumper and a post-up-heavy repertoire. But it's tough to ignore his 19.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game on 58.8 percent shooting. If his ceiling is a backup center, then to us, he's not an exciting enough gamble in the first round. Although, it sounds like some scouts detect more upside and are higher on his shooting and rim protection.


Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)

Scout's take: "Very safe pick. Rotation player at least, but he has the upside to be better. Knows how to play and shows a ton of confidence."

B/R's take: Put Avdija in the high-floor club. For a 6'8" forward, he checks enough boxes with ball-handling, shot-making, passing and defensive IQ. His jumper hasn't fallen in Euroleague, but he's shooting 59.3 percent inside the arc and 16-of-45 from deep in the Israeli BSL. The eye-test results on his jumper are more encouraging than the percentages suggest. He should be worth drafting after the first four or five picks are made. 


Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)

Scout's take: "I like Okoro. I think he can be a solid 34 percent shooter from three by the time he's 24 like Marcus Smart. I have him capped as a good decision-maker and passer from the wing more than a secondary playmaker, so if his scoring and shooting are average, he's just a good backup or situational starter. I feel like with Okoro, you're betting on his intangibles giving you Malcolm Brogdon or Kawhi Leonard gains."

B/R's take: We have Okoro top-three right now, higher than other media outlets and, seemingly, most scouts. He'll be a surefire plus contributor for his defensive toughness/versatility and offensive efficiency, finishing and passing, plus he has an A-plus grade for intangibles. His jumper isn't there yet, but he turned 19 years old on Jan. 26, and our eye test buys his form, work ethic and lengthy window to improve. 

Thomas Graning/Associated Press

Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)

Scout's take: "I have issues with the big fella. Undersized for a center, limited outside game, no handles."

B/R's take: For similar reasons, we're not particularly high on Stewart's NBA upside, though he does seem to have a floor as a backup. It's difficult to fall in love with his ceiling given his lack of versatility, shooting, passing and defensive potential. He'll try to maximize his powerful tools the way Montrezl Harrell has, but Stewart isn't as mobile or explosive. He shouldn't be any team's first-round target but rather a Plan B in the 20s.


Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

Scout's take: "He's not Kevin Durant. Seen him a lot over the years. Thin frame. Floats too much."

B/R's take: The idea of a 6'9" forward with guard skills is enticing. The reality of McDaniels isn't. He shoots 40.0 percent from the field and has 65 turnovers to 41 assists. Talent alone makes him worth drafting in the first round, but he doesn't have the polish, basketball IQ or motor to create any optimism that he will maximize his potential. He continues to slide in our rankings. 


James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Buyer beware. He's very average. Needs to get stronger with lower body and upper frame and show more of a chip on his shoulder."

B/R's take: Wiseman has been Nos. 8-11 for us all season. And he's only that high based on his 7'1", 240-pound size, 7'6" wingspan and athleticism. We see him being good for easy finishes and shot-blocking. But Wiseman doesn't possess any obvious, translatable skill. We see him as more of a Plan B option in the late lottery than a must-have target.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Josh is a catch-and-shoot player. Defends, but he's lower for me, around Nos. 18-28. Needs work on creating shots and making players around him better."

B/R's take: Green's defense is definitely ahead of his offense, which isn't ideal for a wing. But he does have the chance to be a special defender thanks to his quickness, athletic ability and effort. At the least, he'll be an exciting transition weapon offensively. He has a nice floater for slashing from the wings, as well. The hope is he can become a threatening enough spot-up shooter since he isn't likely to add much creation or playmaking. We have Green in a tier above this scout. 


Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)

Scout's take: "Stud. He's the real deal. Knows how to play. Passing will translate. Really nice pace to his game."

B/R's take: Hayes' playmaking always stood out, but he's really strengthened his image and draft case with improved scoring skills—floater, perimeter shot-creation, shooting. His production in Euroleague (12.8 points, 6.2 assists) is promising for a 6'5", 18-year-old guard. And we love the fact he's making 88.2 percent of his free throws across all competitions in 2019-20. He's moving closer to our top tier. 


Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF/C, Senior)

Scout's take: "Injuries worry me over the past three years. Knows how to play, though. NBA fit. Stock will plummet if he doesn't show well in predraft medicals."

B/R's take: Tillie should be worth late first-round looks, assuming no medical red flags pop up. With a clean bill of health, his combination of 6'10" size, remarkable shooting consistency, passing IQ and adequate defensive foot speed would be enough for him to crack a rotation and stick. 


LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)

Scout's take: "Buying LaMelo as a top pick. He's one of the more talented players in the draft, though somewhat of a product of the quality of draft. But I feel as sure about Ball as I do about Anthony Edwards."

B/R's take: We have Ball as a soft No. 1 overall. He won't be for every team, specifically those with ball-dominant point guards. But his positional size (6'5", 180 lbs), passing, shot-making capabilities, finishing potential and love for the game create the most favorable low-risk, high-reward projection. 

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Solid backup for our league. Struggles to finish at the rim. Great kid. Winner. Just not a star."

B/R's take: Our take on Mannion is starting to align with the scout's. He doesn't create much separation for himself, and he rarely gets to the basket. His shooting and passing skills are legitimate. His competitiveness makes it easier to buy him figuring things out. But it feels safer to project a second-unit guard than a quality NBA starter at such a competitive position. 


Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)

Scout's take: "I'm a huge fan of Toppin's game. Confident player with the ability to play inside and out. Plays hard, never quits on plays."

B/R's take: Toppin's power and athleticism are highly convincing. His post play, shooting and passing development have raised his ceiling. Consistent volume stats and efficiency make him easy to buy. He seems to have the body, bounce and offensive game to become a similar producer as John Collins, even if his defense remains average.


Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Huge fan of Big O's game. Widely known as a solid two-way player. Plays defense and can score on the block. He's going to be a huge contributor in our league."

B/R's take: Okongwu has been near our top five since November. Consistency has made it easy to keep him there. With 6'9", 245-pound size, quick feet, bounce and ultra energy, he's a terrific finisher and rim protector, but also a skilled post player with improvable shooting touch. Another scout pegged his floor as a big man Patrick Beverley. He's a no-risk, high-upside draft option. 

CORVALLIS, OREGON - JANUARY 25: Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans reacts after a dunk during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Gill Coliseum on January 25, 2020 in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)
Soobum Im/Getty Images

Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Achiuwa is playing better without Wiseman. Still think he's more of a solid backup or late rotation player."

B/R's take: This scout's projection matches ours. The flashes of set shooting and line drives are encouraging, but Achiuwa lacks a degree of skill and sharp decision-making. We picture him contributing by running the floor for easy baskets, cutting, crashing the glass and guarding and switching—all in a supporting role.


RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, PG/SG, 2001)

Scout's take: "I've got Hampton top-eight. Kid is a downhill player with the craft to create and slide his way to the basket. Huge upside, also a great person to be around."

B/R's take: Hampton can offer a little bit of everything, but he isn't advanced in any one skill. Versatility and 6'5" size/athleticism hint at a safe pick. Unlocking any star potential just means having to really sharpen his offensive skills, including shooting, finishing and creating without a ball screen.


Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)

Scout's take: "Huge fan of Jones' game. Knows how to run a team. Starting to make shots from deep. Handle is on a string. Brings toughness every day. Solid all around."

B/R's take: Jones was viewed as more of a fringe first-rounder last year. His improved shot and scoring ability put him in the lottery conversation of a weak draft. He'll stick around the NBA for his passing and defense, but he'll outproduce his draft slot if his stronger pull-up game turns out to be legitimate. 

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 21: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a play against the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 21, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)

Scout's take: "A lot of hype about Haliburton's game within our league. Really knows how to play. Passing skills are elite."

B/R's take: Haliburton has so many similarities to Lonzo Ball, from his size (6'5", 172 lbs), passing instincts, unorthodox shooting and defensive anticipation to his lack of explosiveness and limited scoring ability. It would be best if he landed with a team that can surround him with athletes and scorers. The right fit could optimize his special facilitating ability. He just has to prove he can make enough open outside shots. It's tough to picture him having a pull-up game based on his mechanics. 


Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)

Scout's take: "My comparison for Maxey is Wesley Matthews if he can develop a reliable jump shot. I'm lower on him than most. Not sure what I can trust him to do versus NBA athletes game in and game out except drive, kick and swing the ball."

B/R's take: Opinions are all over the place on Maxey. Nobody sees a star. The scouts who like him value his floor, and that's the case for us. We feel he's a better shooter than the numbers suggest. He lacks theoretical upside without size and athleticism for a guard who won't be a lead playmaker, but his shot-making, finishing, secondary playmaking and defensive toughness should still justify late-lottery consideration.


Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF, Sophomore)

Scout's take: "Huge fan of Bey's outside game and toughness. Coach Jay Wright speaks highly of his basketball IQ. I put a lot of stock into players from Villanova. His game will translate."

B/R's take: Bey wasn't on our board to start the season. He's top-20 now. At 6'8", 220 pounds, he shoots 46.5 percent from three and adds value as a passer (52 assists, 29 turnovers). He comes off as a three-and-D combo forward with solid intangibles for a role player.

VILLANOVA, PA - JANUARY 21:  Saddiq Bey #41 of the Villanova Wildcats celebrates a shot during a college basketball game against the Butler Bulldogs at the Finneran Pavilion on January 21, 2020 in Villanova, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG/SF, Freshman)

Scout's take: "Tough New Jersey kid who's a defensive stopper and likes to play in transition. Still needs a lot of work on his offensive game, though." 

B/R's take: Lewis isn't a strong decision-maker, playmaker or finisher. He won't be used for much creation, which hurts his value as a wing. But he has started to flash signs of perimeter shot-making. And Lewis' athleticism and energy have translated to a 5.9 block percentage and 2.9 steal percentage. The microscope will be locked onto his shooting, a game-changing swing skill.


Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)

Scout's take: "Solid player who runs a team without playing too fast. Knows the role of running an offense. Should be a solid backup in our league."

B/R's take: Even though Maledon has played well lately, it's difficult to picture him as a quality NBA starter based on his level of burst for separating and playmaking. He does have the body, passing IQ, shooting potential and coordination to compensate in enough ways for his athletic limitations. Projecting him as a backup seems like the most realistic outcome.


Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and Synergy Sports.