2020 NBA Draft: Updated Big Board Entering March
The 2020 NBA draft board continues to get shaken up by late bloomers and surprise prospects whose ongoing consistency has strengthened their credibility.
A number of breakout players have moved up, with their improved play no longer looking fluky entering March. One new name appeared in our projected lottery and a few more made top-30 debuts.
There still isn't a major difference between prospects in the top 10, and draft order/team fit could play a role in where everyone should go during the June 25 event.
Advanced stats accurate heading into Wednesday, February 26.
Life Sports Media Entertainment founder and CEO, and current agent of Pascal Siakam, Todd Ramasar, joins The Full 48 with Howard Beck to discuss Pascal Siakam, Baron Davis, player development, lessons learned from Bill Duffy and Arn Tellem, his own playing days at UCLA, and his favorite memories of Kobe Bryant.
50. Desmond Bane (TCU, SG, Senior)
Always worth tracking for the shooting range and consistency, Bane has expanded his playmaking this year, averaging 3.8 assists per game to go with the 41.7 percent three-ball. He's offering an interesting mix of 6'6" size, versatile shot-making skills and passing—a package that the right supporting role could optimize.
49. Ashton Hagans (Kentucky, PG, Sophomore)
The draw to Hagans stems from his quick defensive hands. I'm not ready to buy his shooting or playmaking IQ, but in the right role, a team could use him for his ability to pressure opposing backcourts and make ball-screen reads as a driver and passer.
48. Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State, C, Junior)
With 39 threes through 27 games after making 26 in 32 contests as a sophomore, Wesson deserves second-round consideration for his mix of post play, passing, rebounding and sudden shooting potential. His lack of offensive wiggle and defensive upside points to a role-playing big at best, but in the 30s or 40s, Wesson's floor could be high enough.
47. Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF, Senior)
Medicals could play a key role in Tillie's final big-board ranking, given the numerous lower leg injuries he's suffered. Durability aside, he's a 6'10" forward who's shooting above 39.0 percent from three for the fourth consecutive season, and his skill level on post-ups and passes still pops consistently.
46. Scottie Lewis (Florida, SF, Freshman)
Lewis possesses special athleticism and defensive quickness. For a wing, a 5.1 block percentage highlights his special reaction time and explosion. However, he's scored in double figures twice over Florida's last 13 games, and he's totaled 19 assists all season. Lewis' shooting development (34.6 percent 3PT, 81.4 percent FT) will determine how many years it takes for coaches to trust him on an NBA floor.
45. Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF/C, Freshman)
Jackson-Davis may have moved the needle with a 27-point, 16-rebound effort against Minnesota last week. He's still more old-school than a modern NBA big. But at 6'9", 245 pounds, he demonstrates impressive fluidity on post-ups, cuts, rolls, putbacks, fast breaks and shot-blocking attempts.
44. Jordan Nwora (Louisville, SF/PF, Junior)
Louisville has lost three of five games, and Nwora has struggled during the losses (combined 6-of-25 from the field). The recent no-shows, plus poor performances against Duke, Kentucky and Texas Tech are worrisome for a prospect who's turning 22 in September. Still, Nwora's mix of 6'7" size, 40.7 percent three-point shooting and overall shot-making versatility remains appealing for a second-round pick.
43. Xavier Tillman (Michigan State, PF/C, Junior)
The right veteran team with enough scorers could land a steal with Tillman. Averaging 10.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, he's an impact hustler, passer and defender. A capable three-ball (13-of-46) may be enough for Tillman to carve out an NBA utility role.
42. Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)
Nnaji effectively uses his 6'11" size, mobility and timing for post-ups, putbacks and finishes. His soft touch shows on his mid-range jumpers and free throws (78.1 percent). There isn't an exciting feature to Nnaji's game—he lacks face-up moves, passing, shooting range and shot-blocking potential. But teams looking for frontcourt depth could value Nnaji's interior instincts and effort level.
41. Paul Reed (DePaul, C, Junior)
DePaul only has two wins since the new year, clouding Reed's junior production. He also hit a wall as a shooter (31.4 percent from three), hurting his first-round chances. Still, his physical tools, skill flashes and unique defensive production (1.9 steals, 2.6 blocks per game) remain intriguing for a second-round pick.
40. Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG, Sophomore)
Henry's stats aren't always indicative of his impact. The 9.9 points per game on 34.6 percent shooting from three are still disappointing, but he checks an appealing mix of boxes with his capable jumper, passing and defensive IQ. He also has the 6'6", 210-pound body for those features to translate.
39. Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)
Ramsey missed all eight of his shots Tuesday after the most complete game of his season in which he posted 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists against Iowa State. I'm not banking on anything carrying over to the NBA except for his shot-making, as his limited handle for creation and untrustworthy defense are tough to look past. But the eye test loves his jumper (43.5 percent 3PT), even if his 63.9 percent free-throw shooting is worrisome.
38. Devon Dotson (Kansas, PG, Sophomore)
From an NBA perspective, Dotson fails to stand out because of his limited tools, explosion and shooting range. But he's also running the nation's No. 1 team and leading the Big 12 in scoring at 17.9 points per game. It's worth considering Dotson as a change-of-pace NBA reserve who can put pressure on opponents with his open-floor speed, quickness off the dribble and pesky defense.
37. Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG, Junior)
Obvious physical and athletic limitations work against Flynn's draft case. It's tough to picture any upside. But his shot-making, passing skills and defensive peskiness have reached levels worth taking seriously when projecting his NBA chances. Running the 27-1 Aztecs, Flynn ranks in the 88th percentile or better in isolation, pick-and-roll ball-handling and spot-ups.
36. Saben Lee (Vanderbilt, PG/SG, Junior)
Averaging 23.1 points over Vanderbilt's last seven games, Lee has taken over since Aaron Nesmith's foot injury ended his season Jan. 8. His jump shot is still a giant swing skill, but he pops with NBA-caliber burst off the dribble and strength for finishing at the rim. If there could be such thing as a driving specialist, it would be Lee.
35. Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
The decline in value of NBA centers who aren't shooters or switchable defenders hurts Carey. But he's too strong and skilled around the basket to write off. Carey should continue to give lineups an interior scoring presence and cleanup man—there just isn't an enticing need to reach on him high in the draft.
34. Daniel Oturu (Minnesota, C, Sophomore)
Averaging 20 points per game, Oturu has been a force in the post, where he goes to work 31.8 percent of the time. But the pro potential shows on the flashes of shooting (17-of-49 3PT) and takes to the basket after he spots up (14-of-19). While his production may lead some to believe he's a first-round talent, concerns about his movement/explosiveness, reliance on strength, jump-shot legitimacy and 77 turnovers to 32 assists say to hit the breaks.
33. Tyler Bey (Colorado, PF, Junior)
New to the board, Bey has made an impression with his defense and flashes of shooting that look real despite limited attempts. Skepticism over his 6'7" size and lack of scoring upside is understandable. However, he's made 48.9 percent of his jumpers in the half court. And he's excellent at contesting shots, rebounding (career 19.0 percent REB) and finishing at the rim (63.1 percent).
32. Cassius Stanley (Duke, SF, Freshman)
For Stanley's NBA chances, his 37.8 percent three-point mark needs to translate. His shot-creation and passing are too limited for him to get away without a threatening jumper. However, he will be one of the draft's most explosive athletes, and between his easy-bucket bounce and defensive effort/quickness, Stanley may only need a set jumper to make it as a pro.
31. Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State, PF, Sophomore)
Woodard has only hit the 20-point mark once this season and doesn't offer a ton of scoring upside. He's emerged as a potential first-rounder for his impressive NBA body (6'7", 235 lbs)/athleticism, offensive efficiency and defensive quickness/physicality. Though not creative with the ball, Woodard picks up baskets off it by spotting up and cutting. He's shooting 46.0 percent on 63 three-point attempts.
30. Cassius Winston (Michigan State, PG, Senior)
Every team will have a discussion about how much of Winston's college success can translate to the NBA, given his production and limited tools/athleticism. His three-ball (40.9 percent), pull-up game (41.4 percent), runner (42.2 percent) and passing (5.8 assists per contest) should be enough for Winston to earn an NBA backup role, the way previous older college players such as Jalen Brunson, Shabazz Napier, Jevon Carter and Monte Morris have.
29. Grant Riller (Charleston, PG, Senior)
This marks the third year of volume scoring (21.5 points per game) for Riller, but this season, he's raised his pull-up percentage to 43.5 percent (from 35.0) and his spot-up percentage to 52.5 percent (from 39.5). He's on track to finish four years of college with a career 61.6 true shooting percentage. He lacks explosiveness and point guard feel for a 6'3" ball-handler, but he looks NBA-level quick, decisive and skilled on his scoring moves into drives and dribble jumpers. Riller's 63.6 percent mark at the basket also highlights special finishing instincts and an advanced layup package.
28. Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Stewart is a physical presence around the basket who provides low-post scoring and offensive rebounding. And that may be enough for the right team, assuming it's picking in the teens or 20s. I'd rather take a bigger swing on guards, wings or forwards, which causes Stewart's ranking to appear low. But he does seem to have a high floor that's propped up by a 250-pound frame, live motor, strong footwork in the paint and production to back everything up, including 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
27. Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)
On track to become one of five players (since 1992) to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a three-pointer per game, Smith is playing himself into the first-round discussion. No translatable face-up game suggests his upside is limited, but between his shooting potential (36.4 percent 3PT), rim protection and finishing (66.7 percent at rim), there should be a role for him.
26. Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)
Still younger than most freshmen, Lewis is an interesting case, given the rare experience and production for an 18-year-old, as well as the athletic limitations that will follow him into the league. Creating enough separation is his challenge, but breaking down defenses with his quickness off the dribble is Lewis' signature strength. He's improved his playmaking, while his shooting numbers are similar to last season's (1.8 3PTM, 36.0 percent). Lewis seems far enough along offensively based on the timetable he'll have to develop in the pros. But his lack of strength, explosiveness and facilitating IQ point to a lower ceiling than the upper-tier group of freshmen and international point guards.
25. Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)
Achiuwa's 6'9", 225-pound frame and mobility are mostly behind his 15.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. His tools and athleticism may be enough for him to continue to pick up easy baskets and make plays on defense. For him to become anything more than a backup NBA big or average starter, however, Achiuwa's scoring skills, shooting and decision-making need to make big jumps. He grades in the 23rd percentile out of spot-ups and 24th percentile in the post while shooting 59.1 percent on free throws and totaling 81 turnovers and 25 assists.
24. Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
Inconsistent scoring outputs trace straight to Green's shaky handle and jumper. He grades out in the 41st percentile in half-court offense, which hurts his NBA value and upside. But he ranks in the 82nd percentile in transition offense, thanks to his exciting athleticism and energy that also translates to defensive playmaking, pressure and excellent closeouts. He'll be a first-round pick for his energizer potential, though he deserves an additional boost for the flashes of three-point range, floaters and passing that can all improve.
23. Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)
Jones still looks like a backup, but improved scoring skills help raise his ceiling to high-end role player now that he's averaging 16.1 points per game and is shooting roughly 40 percent on half-court pull-ups. Regardless, his identity will always revolve around passing IQ and defensive toughness. It will be easier to see Jones' career taking off if he goes to a playoff team with an open role that values intangibles over offense.
22. Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG, Freshman)
Consistency through February has made Terry's smooth scoring and passing appear more convincing. Worries about his 6'2", 160-pound frame are fading, particularly with skill level and IQ seemingly becoming more important than tools and athleticism when projecting point guards. He's shooting 61.7 percent at the rim, 42.1 percent from three and 90.3 percent from the free-throw line. And though the 3.1 assists per game sound pedestrian, he's sharing the ball with junior guard Daejon Davis. He might wait to declare until 2021, but if I worked for a 2020 playoff team, I'd try to convince Terry to leave earlier. He's earning a first-round grade with his versatile shot-making and passing.
21. Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
McDaniels had been sliding down our board, though a recent stretch of hot shooting has served as a reminder not to jump off the wagon. The 6'9" forward is 11-of-24 from three over Washington's past five games. Flashes of range, ball-handling, pull-up ability and passing create visions of a future mismatch. But a 40.2 percent field-goal mark and 20.7 turnover percentage suggest he's too far away to be a lottery pick.
20. Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
Watching Mannion, it's tougher to picture a quality NBA starter now than it was in November. Saturday's game against Oregon marked the first time since Jan. 30 he shot over 40.0 percent. Concerns about his limited length and athleticism for cleanly separating have surfaced. I'm still buying his passing, shooting and floater game for scoring. Mannion possesses enough size (6'3", 190 lbs), skill, IQ and competitiveness to build an NBA career. It just might not be as a star point guard.
19. Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos, PF, 2001)
Every evaluator has been waiting for an opportunity to update their scouting report on Pokusevski. It may have to come in workouts, where he's still bound to make an impression with 7'0" size, wing-like fluidity and an effortless shooting stroke. Tape from the summer's U18 European Championships shows more passing skills (3.7 assists per game) and shot-blocking (4.0).
But buying in means looking past a rail-thin frame (200 lbs) that isn't designed to take contact. And he's played little against legitimate competition. Pokusevski, who'd been injured (knee) in Greece's second division this season, surfaced in Euroleague for two minutes last week. I spent more time reviewing film from last summer with Serbia, and the eye-test results on Pokusevski's coordination, ball skills and jumper are persuasive enough to look past the inefficiency from a skinny teenager.
It's tough to picture him playing NBA minutes anytime soon, but it's easy to understand why a team in the teens or 20s would pass on NCAA sophomores and juniors for an 18-year-old big with shot-creation skills and versatile shot-making ability off spot-ups, screens and dribbles.
18. Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona II, SG, 2000)
Bolmaro hasn't received as many Euroleague call-ups and minutes as scouts would like. It's tougher to get a look at the Argentine wing in the Spanish LEB Silver league. But he's putting up standout numbers there (15.6 points, 3.1 assists 1.7 threes per game) against pros in their mid-20s, helping to reassure that his talent and skill are superior for a 19-year-old. Bolmaro has distinguished himself over the years with his 6'7" size, flashy passes, off-the-dribble moves and three-point range. It would be nice to see him earn time with Barcelona's senior team before the draft, but it also wouldn't be surprising if he stood out over NCAA prospects during workouts.
17. Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)
Since Maledon is an 18-year-old point guard in Euroleague and Jeep Elite League, his production comes and goes. He had one of his better games against Strasbourg over a week ago, finishing with 20 points (three 3PT) and seven assists. His lowlights still point to a lack of burst. But Maledon has the timing and coordination down to drive and finish despite the athletic limitations. And he's flashed a believable skill level when making pull-ups, floaters, spot-up threes and passes.
16. Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)
A season-ending foot injury may wind up benefiting Nesmith from a draft-stock perspective. He went down before any shooting slump could surface, and many of this year's one-and-dones have hit a wall. Even though he only lasted 14 games, there was a satisfying sample size worth of shots from Nesmith, who made a ridiculous 52.2 percent of his 8.2 three-point attempts per game. He shot 53.6 percent off the catch and 51.0 percent off screens. On the downside, he demonstrated limited creation ability and off-the-dribble scoring, finishing with 13 assists in 500 minutes, generating six total points on 16 pick-and-roll possessions and converting 35.1 percent of his pull-ups.
15. Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Bey entered the season worth monitoring based on his 6'8", 216-pound size and flashes of wing skills as a freshman. The flashes have become every-game occurrences. He's shooting 46.5 percent from three and generating 1.02 points per possession (94th percentile) out of pick-and-rolls, mostly by attacking. Bey isn't the quickest defensively or most explosive scorer. Coaches will presumably prefer to play him at the 4. But his elite shot-making, physical drives and passing skills could lead to NBA rookie minutes.
14. Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)
Williams' draft case is built on flashes over steady production. His tremendous tools and athleticism, promising touch and live-dribble passes hint at an appealing trajectory. Scouts should be drawn to his powerful 6'8" frame that he uses to plow through contact on drives and finishes. He needs to improve his ball-handling skills for shot creation, but the eye-test results on Williams' 15 made threes, capable pull-up jumper and free throws (85.9 percent) have been encouraging for his offensive fit/value.
13. Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)
Though it's difficult to see anything more than an NBA role player in Vassell, he checks the right boxes with 6'7" size, active athleticism, 42.7 percent three-point shooting and outstanding defensive instincts. There will be teams that are happy to settle on adding a three-and-D wing over a high-upside, higher-risk flier. A developing pull-up jumper (37 percent) also suggests Vassell still has untapped scoring potential.
12. RJ Hampton (New Zealand, SG, 2001)
Shut down in January with hip trouble, Hampton seems locked into the late-lottery mix because of his perceived high floor for his 6'5" size, athleticism, versatility and comfort level overseas. There is also a mystery element that works in his favor. He only averaged 8.2 shots in 15 games overseas while playing entirely at 18 years old. Between the limited sample size and role, it's easier to be enticed by the flashes of transition offense, shot-making, playmaking and defensive reads. On the other hand, Hampton will enter the draft without a signature skill after he averaged just 8.8 points and 2.4 assists per game on 28.6 percent shooting from three.
11. Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
A broken wrist knocked Haliburton out for the season Feb. 8, but his special passing IQ for a 6'5" guard creates a level of certainty. I've used the Lonzo Ball comparison all season to highlight his strengths as well as his limitations as a scorer and athlete. Scouts will hope he's recovered for workouts to get a closer look at his unorthodox jump shot. Haliburton's 2020 draft-stock boost is tied to his 2.4 threes per game on 41.9 percent shooting. But with his slow, push release, there are questions about how well he'll shoot off the dribble. He'll finish at Iowa State having shot just 16-of-57 on half-court pull-ups.
10. James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
No 2020 draft prospect will match James Wiseman's mix of 7'1", 240-pound size, 7'6" wingspan and athletic ability. Even if his post moves, shooting and defensive IQ don't develop, he still possesses elite finishing ability and shot-blocking tools for NBA-starter value.
But I haven't been ready to buy his scoring skills. His shot-creation is choppy, and he won't drill jumpers consistently. He totaled one assist in 69 minutes at Memphis. Even though he's taller and longer than the draft's other coveted center, USC's Onyeka Okongwu (6'9", 7'1" wingspan), Wiseman doesn't seem as sharp offensively.
It's still hard to move him outside the top 10, given his elite physical gifts—even by NBA standards—plus the time and room he has to build on the flashes of jump hooks, spin moves, mid-range shooting and rim protection.
9. Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Playing alongside sophomores Hagans and Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey has had to share dribbles and shots, which factors into my evaluation. I'm higher on the freshman than his 13.9 points and 3.1 assists per game might indicate NBA teams should be.
His 29.1 percent three-point mark has been disappointing, but my eye test buys the made jumpers over the misses, and his 81.9 percent free-throw mark seems assuring. Maxey grades in the 91st percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, mostly because of how effective he is at driving off ball screens and finishing through contact with his coordination and strong, 198-pound frame. He's flashed encouraging touch on 22 made runners as well.
The questions with Maxey concern his 6'3" size and limited athleticism for a guard who'll need to play the 2 alongside a more qualified distributor. Will he get shots off as cleanly against starting NBA shooting guards?
8. Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)
We've reached the point where Obi Toppin's offense looks too good for defensive limitations to offset his projected volume scoring and efficiency.
He may never add value on defense—Toppin is a step too slow to react in situations when he isn't guarding the ball one-on-one. But as long as he's not a revolving door on every possession, the Dayton star appears to have one of the draft's few paths toward stardom.
Toppin, No. 2 in the nation in dunks, buried three three-pointers against Duquesne last weekend. While he can make easy buckets around the basket thanks to his destructive power and bounce, he's also developed sharp, translatable skills, including a promising jump shot (28 threes), post game (80th percentile), driving ability from spot-ups and passing.
Toppin is averaging 19.7 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting, and given his physical tools, athleticism and rapidly improving scoring, those numbers should translate to the pros by his third season. He'll just need to play alongside a defensive-oriented big man and ideally behind quality perimeter defenders.
7. Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Onyeka Okongwu's athleticism and energy make me believe the easy baskets and rim protection will translate. The impressive scoring footwork, lefty touch and passes, however, are what propelled him ahead of Wiseman.
Grading in the 91st percentile as a finisher and 89th percentile in points per possessive given up around the hoop, Okongwu also ranks in the 96th percentile on post-ups, flashing up-and-under moves, off-hand hooks and baseline spins into dunks. He's 9-of-19 on short-range jumpers inside 17 feet, but he's struggled beyond that, which does raise questions about whether he can be a star in today's NBA.
However, between the USC big man's projected offensive efficiency and defensive upside, which is fueled by an exciting mix of strength, length, aggression and a quick jump, Okongwu looks like an NBA starter at least.
6. Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
High school standouts worried about what going to college could do to their draft stocks may point to Cole Anthony at North Carolina. He's shooting 37.3 percent and carrying a monster workload for a team that's tied for No. 339 out of 353 schools in three-point percentage.
Scouts have to decide how much stock to put into Anthony's inefficiency versus the difficult situation he's in—surrounded by weak offensive players. He's managing 19.4 points per game even though every opposing defense knows it only has to stop one player. Still, without the spacing, he's generating 1.09 PPP out of isolation, showing the ability to create and shake free for pull-ups and drives.
He's struggling badly with finishing around the basket (38.1 percent), and some of that's on him for mistiming his layups or using poor touch. But Anthony has also been forced to drive into heavy paint traffic that won't be there on a more open NBA floor.
The bigger question when evaluating him surrounds his 3.8 assists and 3.6 turnovers per game and asks whether he's more of just a scorer than a point guard and lead decision-maker.
5. Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
A hamstring injury cost Isaac Okoro three games this month, and Auburn lost two of them. It speaks to his impact, which should be his selling point in the draft.
Okoro may never be a high-volume scorer, as he lacks the flashy shot-creation and shooting skills typically needed to be a 20-point weapon. Instead, he makes timely plays throughout games and winning ones toward their end.
Offensively, he's still shooting 60.4 percent inside the arc by capitalizing as a post player, cutter and driver. He's also flashed secondary playmaking ability by attacking closeouts and delivering passes on the move. But along with Okoro's offensive efficiency, his defensive effectiveness could drive his NBA value.
His 6'6" frame, powerful legs and quick feet are suited for guarding opposing teams' top perimeter scorers. Those tools should also allow him to play as a P.J. Tucker-type small-ball 4 or 5.
How much his shooting develops will determine the height of Okoro's ceiling. He's shot 17-of-60 from deep and 65.5 percent at the free-throw line, though I'm optimistic about his chances of becoming an average three-point threat, based on the looks and fluidity of his set jumpers.
4. Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)
Killian Hayes hasn’t played in two weeks, but he made a big jump up my board from December 18 to February 14, a span in which he averaged 14.6 points and 4.9 assists through 10 games between Eurocup and German BBL.
Improved scoring skills continue to calm the worries tied to his lack of explosiveness. He’s shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, converting his drives and floaters while making enough jumpers. His footwork for creating separation off the dribble, whether it's into runners, pull-ups or step-backs, has quickly become advanced.
Hayes' decision-making with the ball still needs work, but his passing and vision are really strong, particularly when he’s operating out of pick-and-rolls. His coach next year will wind up valuing his facilitating over his scoring early in his career. He whips crosscourt one-handers to shooters and touch entries and lobs to bigs in the paint.
The athletic limitations and low-volume three-pointers (30 makes, 31 games) are the drawbacks that make scouts question his NBA upside. But for a 6'5", 18-year-old point guard, there is a lot to bet on with Hayes, between his playmaking, efficient finishing, budding perimeter game, 88.6 free-throw percentage and solid production in Eurocup and German BBL.
3. Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)
Deni Avdija's latest stretch should solidify him into my top five until June. The sure-thing meter has risen high enough to the point where even a cold finish wouldn't sound alarms.
He's 16-of-33 from three over his last eight games, which include a pair of 20-plus-point outbursts in the Israel BSL, where he's showing flashes of the shot-creation and scoring that led to MVP honors in the 2019 U20 European Championships. With fewer opportunities in Euroleague, he's been efficient, shooting 47.4 percent and scoring within the offense on spot-ups, transition, cuts and putbacks.
On Monday, he made another strong statement, managing 21 points for Israel's senior team against Romania in the EuroBasket Qualifiers. Along with the budding offensive versatility, Avdija continues to impress defensively with his rotations, anticipation, effort and ability to make plays on the ball.
He's the draft's most complete player. Skeptics will point to his 52.2 free-throw percentage as a scary indicator for his shooting development. And it's understandable, since an inconsistent jumper has been on the scouting report for years, and erratic shooting would make it tough for Avdija to match top-three value.
But I'm seeing the poor free throws as more of a correctable weakness than a sign, just based on his stroke. The 6'8" forward with ball-handling skills, passing instincts, speciality shot-making ability and defensive range should also see his jumper become a strength.
2. Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Anthony Edwards may have the edge to go No. 1 in the draft, given the amount of rosters that could use wings and his bigger sample (compared to my No. 1) of scoring production (19.5 points, 28 games).
The Georgia star does go through stretches that raise concerns over how much his style will impact winning. In the five games before Wednesday's 36-point eruption against South Carolina, Edwards shot 36.2 percent with 16 turnovers and 13 assists.
Despite his explosive, 6'5", 225-pound frame, he's taken 79 shots at the rim and a combined 207 jumpers beyond 17 feet. Three-pointers make up 47.9 percent of his field-goal attempts, which he only makes at a 30.8 percent clip. Edwards can't resist the urge to pull up for hero shots, despite shooting 28.3 percent on dribble jumpers.
However, his physical tools and athleticism won't be outmatched by any NBA 2-guard. He's generating 1.22 points per possession in transition (82nd percentile). And though his inefficiency in the half court is a turnoff, Edwards is a highly advanced shot-creator and shot-maker (0.97 PPP isolation, 82nd percentile), capable of creating his own opportunity and converting from every spot on the floor.
As a driver, he shows impressive footwork when slicing through gaps, and as a perimeter scorer, he can rise above his man and fire from all directions. This is a future 20- to 25-point NBA scorer. For Edwards, it's just a matter of picking his spots better to avoid the empty-stat whispers. Since he won't turn 19 until August, it's reasonable to expect he can tighten up his game by the time he hits his mid-20s.
1. LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)
Moved to No. 1 in November before he shut it down in the NBL, LaMelo Ball remains atop the board entering March.
It says something about a class that lacks obvious stars. And there may be some hiding in plain sight, but with Ball, there is a greater sense of certainty—plus a path to stardom—tied to his 6'7" size and undeniable ball-handling and passing skills.
His playmaking overseas seems like a lock to carry over. The point guard averaged 6.8 assists per game on a weak roster in Australia, consistently proving to be the Illawarra Hawks' best option for creating offense. His sure-thing setup ability props up his NBA floor.
Even if his shot never develops the way most are hoping, Ball can still make the game easier for teammates. But taking him No. 1 means buying that his scoring package will improve. I've seen enough perimeter shot-making (1.7 3PTM), special floater touch and coordinated finishing at the rim for the 18-year-old to go No. 1.