NBA Draft 2020: Latest Expert Mock Predictions for LaMelo Ball and Top Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 14, 2020

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks carries the ball up during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney.  LaMelo Ball's bone bruise on his left foot is expected to keep him out of the Illawarra Hawks lineup for the remainder of the National Basketball League season in Australia. The 18-year-old American, who joined Illawarra as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, is expected to be a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Expert opinions are flooding in on the 2020 NBA draft class, and even if it's not loaded with budding stars, it could be deep with solid (or better) starters and reliable role players.

Maybe that's not the most exciting description, but hey, championships are won with more than stars.

Since this class is tricky to separate even at the top, we're zooming in on expert mock drafts to find opinions on some of the top prospects in this class.


LaMelo Ball Going No. 1?

While Anthony Edwards has found his way to the top of many mock draft boards, he isn't quite a consensus selection. Some see a center-starved team taking a shot at James Wiseman, while others, like Marc Berman of the New York Post, place LaMelo Ball at No. 1.

"Ball probably has the draft's most upside as a 6'7" point guard who can create, drive, pass and fits Steve Kerr's move-the-ball principles," Berman wrote. "His perimeter shot is shaky, but the Warriors already have the league's most electric outside threats in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. A poor defender, Ball could be boom or bust."

It says a lot about this class that someone would mock a player at No. 1 that they go on to describe as a possible "boom or bust." Still, this prediction also speaks volumes about Ball's potential. Many evaluators see him as the best passer in this draft, and that gift would be greatest used in an offense that puts the Splash Brothers on the receiving end of those dimes.

But this probably hinges on how organizations feel about the coachability of Ball's weaknesses. His shot selection and defensive effort often leave much to be desired, but if teams think they can coach that out of him, his star could shine the brightest of anyone in this talent grab.

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Obi Toppin at No. 2?

While the coronavirus became college basketball's biggest story this season, Obi Toppin held that title for most of the year.

The Naismith Player of the Year supplied lottery-level production to the Dayton Flyers, whom he elevated as high as No. 3 in the rankings. A bouncy 6'9", 220-pound combo big, Toppin slammed, slashed and shot his way to 20 points in 31.6 minutes per game, while converting 63.3 percent of his field goals and 39 percent of his long-range looks.

That's enough for CBS Sports' Matt Norlander to slot Toppin as the second overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"His all-around repertoire, and stellar reputation, has turned him into the kind of prospect that general managers will find hard to pass on," Norlander wrote. "Toppin was outstanding in Dayton's system. ... Good wingspan, broad shoulders, can handle the ball well and understands how to play in space. Should be a wonderful NBA player for about a decade."

This is earlier than you'll find Toppin on most mocks—even Norlander only ranks Toppin as the sixth-best prospect—as some will question his defensive fit and upside as a 22-year-old. But teams might give him the benefit of the doubt as a late-bloomer, and he has the length and athleticism to play at least passable defense.


Tyrese Haliburton Enters Top 5?

It feels funny to label Tyrese Haliburton as being under the radar when several of the top prospects played little to no college basketball. The 6'5" point guard suited up 57 times in his college career, so it's not like scouts are hurting for game film on him.

That said, he was a 3-star recruit who filled a complementary role for a 2018-19 Iowa State team that lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. While the spotlight was on the Cyclones in 2019-20, the club didn't have a winning record beyond mid-January, and his campaign was cut short by a fractured wrist in early February.

For those who prioritize points per game, Haliburton's stats aren't sexy (15.2 this past season, 10.1 for his career). But B/R's Jonathan Wasserman sees enough in Haliburton's game to put him fourth overall to the Atlanta Hawks.

"Once the higher-upside names start flying off the board, teams will put more stock in fit," Wasserman wrote. "And Tyrese Haliburton's fit with the Atlanta Hawks appears ideal. ... While there are questions about his upside given his limited blow-by burst and pull-up game, Haliburton's tools, versatility and basketball IQ suggest he's a safe play anywhere outside the top three."

It's never easy to tell when teams will veer away from chasing star power and value floor over ceiling. Some might say it's debatable whether that's even taking place here, as Haliburton's two-way versatility might give him a path to pseudo-stardom in the modern game. But his best bet for a top-five draft slot is probably, as Wasserman described, a club seeking fit and reliability.