NBA Draft 2020 Prospects: Predictions for Obi Toppin, Deni Avdija, Top Forwards

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

DAYTON, OH - FEBRUARY 28: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers brings the ball up court during the game against the Davidson Wildcats at UD Arena on February 28, 2020 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

For as little as traditional positions seem to matter in the modern NBA, it's still tough to outshine a star forward.

That's where Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Jayson Tatum all line up. Before this season, that was the on-court home of LeBron James too.

The position's top tier is littered with two-way mismatches. No other spot offers a better combination of size, skill and athleticism, and the best of the best are do-everything standouts.

The 2020 draft may not put another full-fledged superstar into the forward ranks, but there are some exciting names in the mix. Let's check where the experts have those players slotted.


Obi Toppin Outside of Top 5?

Obi Toppin's name buzzed like no other in men's college basketball this season, as the springy 6'9" forward made himself the Naismith Player of the Year and his Dayton Flyers a 29-2, third-ranked powerhouse.

For some mock-drafters, that's reason enough to slot Toppin as high as No. 2. B/R's Jonathan Wasserman, though, mocked him as the sixth overall pick to the New York Knicks.

"Toppin's explosiveness and expanding skill set may be too tough to pass on in a draft filled with uncertainty," Wasserman wrote. "Aside from his elite finishing and solid post play, he's become a promising shooter (39.0 percent 3PT) and nifty passer."

Toppin's strengths are fascinating. Squint at his game film, and you might swear you're seeing an Amar'e Stoudemire reboot. But two question marks are hanging over his head. He's already 22, so clubs might question his upside. And he's neither a comfortable defender in space nor an intimidating rim protector, so it's hard to tell where he'll fit on the defensive end.


Isaac Okoro Going No. 3?

There is more to a draft prospect than scoring averages and shooting rates. That said, it can be alarming to see a modern wing mocked third overall when he averaged only 12.8 points and shot 28.6 percent from three.

But that's the case with Isaac Okoro, whom ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz mocked as both the likeliest pick and best fit for the Atlanta Hawks.

"The Hawks could use a prospect with upside who impacts winning and doesn't need much offensive volume to be effective," Schmitz wrote. "Okoro fits that description perfectly. ... While Okoro isn't viewed among teams as a consensus top-five prospect, he's the type to maximize his long-term potential and thrive as a high-level starter with potential to develop into more than that."

Okoro should be a plus wing defender from opening night. His offensive outlook is a lot murkier, though. He isn't a natural shooter, and he won't create many looks for himself off the dribble. Maybe a team like Atlanta thinks it has enough offensive threats to cover for him. But in an ideal world, the third overall pick can support himself on the offensive end.


Deni Avdija Not a Lottery Lock?

It's hard to find a mock draft that doesn't have Deni Avdija in the top 10, and some even put him in the top five. But not every evaluator is on board with that assessment.

The Athletic's John Hollinger, a former front-office member of the Memphis Grizzlies, ranked Avdija 16th on his big board.

"I saw Avdija in person at Basketball Without Borders a year ago, and it reminded me a lot of seeing a teenage Dario Saric play in Croatia," he wrote. "Like Saric, Avdija showed as a teen that he can handle the ball and pass but probably isn't good enough at it to be a primary initiator in the NBA."

All due respect to Saric, but that is not a compliment. He has (most of) four NBA seasons under his belt, and only one features an above-average player efficiency rating. Even more worrisome, he's working with a better shot than Avdija has at his disposal.

Avdija has clear skill, and teams will always take a second look at a 6'9" playmaker. But he has the same defensive questions that have plagued Saric, and Avdija's shooting is another red flag.

Again, most evaluators still see enough positives to put him in the top 10, but if NBA executives see his film the way Hollinger does, Avdija might be waiting longer than anticipated to hear his name called.