The Riskiest Potential Lottery Picks in the 2020 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 28, 2020

The Riskiest Potential Lottery Picks in the 2020 NBA Draft

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    Although the 2020 NBA draft seems to lack a ton of franchise-changing talent, teams still can't afford to waste lottery picks. 

    Many of the prospects with perceived high ceilings also come with specific question marks that can lower their floors or raise questions about their fits.

    Risk is all relative to where each team is picking. But these five prospects are the biggest gambles based on where they're projected to earn consideration.

Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

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    There is still enough belief in Cole Anthony's athleticism and scoring ability. But for lottery teams, drafting him as a new lead guard suddenly sounds risky. 

    He deserves a semi-pass for his inefficiency given the poor spacing and knee injury he dealt with in college. But there are still legitimate questions about his decision-making and overall execution for such a ball-dominant player. 

    Anthony shot 38.0 percent from the floor with a 30.0 percent usage rate. He averaged 4.0 assists to 3.5 turnovers while jacking up 15.7 field-goal attempts, which is a reflection of his mentality and instincts to look for his shot first.

    Heavily dependent on his outside shooting and pull-up game, Anthony showed poor touch and tunnel vision when entering the lane. He converted only 10-of-40 runners and a brutal 39.2 percent of his attempts around the basket. 

    Given Anthony's preferred shot selection and questionable facilitating feel for a lead guard, it's worth asking whether he's suited to run an NBA franchise, and how a poor game from him can affect the team's offense. Plus, between his high school and college roles, he's had limited experience playing off the ball. 

    While Anthony will likely still find a way to be productive in the pros, the concern is that his numbers will come at a price. 

Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    The idea of Jaden McDaniels is enticing. A 6'9" wing/forward with a guard's skill set suggests mismatch potential and versatility.

    But despite his flashy highlights, he's far away from being able to efficiently execute his preferred style of offense at the NBA level. And he lacks a degree of functional athleticism for generating easy baskets when his shot isn't falling. 

    McDaniels shot only 40.5 percent from the floor and 44.5 percent inside the arc this season. He was 5-of-20 out of isolation. His 20.4 turnover percentage was sky high. He led Washington in usage and finished with the sixth-lowest box score plus-minus among seven Husky rotation players (minimum 20.0 minutes per game).

    His shooting will be critical early on as a pro, and NBA teams can have some level of confidence in his jumper. He did make 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts and 1.4 threes per game (33.9 percent). But McDaniels graded in the 46th percentile out of spot-ups and 35th percentile off screens, and coaches looking for off-ball shot-makers should have better three-and-D options to choose from in the draft or off their bench.

    McDaniels has upside thanks to his positional height, ability to create and hit tough shots from the mid-range and three. But he also has bust potential, as he lacks any translatable strength to bank on.

James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    Among prospects whom teams will consider with a top-three pick, James Wiseman is the riskiest.

    "Buyer beware," one NBA executive told Bleacher Report in February.

    While there is still a level of certainty tied to his 7'1" size, 7'6" wingspan and bounce around the basket, his weaknesses make it tough to picture him developing into a star in today's NBA. During an era when versatility is valued more than ever, Wiseman offers little.

    He's strictly a 5 who lacks both the offensive skill set and lateral quickness to play power forward. He's flashed mid-range touch, but he's far from a shooter. He totaled one assist in 69 minutes at Memphis and doesn't figure to add much as a passer. And opposing offenses are bound to target him with pick-and-rolls to bring him away from the basket, where he's vulnerable guarding in space. 

    Aside from having to pass on guards and wings to draft him, selecting Wiseman early will mean putting a lot of stock into his effectiveness as a rim protector. He isn't a stretch, playmaking or go-to big like Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns or Nikola Jokic, and he isn't that switchable on defense.

    Wiseman also played only three collegiate games, and only one against a noteworthy opponent in Oregon (who drew two quick fouls on him in the opening minutes), so NBA teams won't have much film to evaluate his defensive instincts. 

Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

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    It's easy to understand why a lottery team would consider drafting Precious Achiuwa. The 6'9", 225-pound freshman averaged a double-double to go with 1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks. 

    However, it's difficult to identify any translatable offensive skill in Achiuwa's toolbox. That's a big drawback for a high pick, even if his defensive versatility still adds value. 

    Achiuwa graded out in the 47th percentile as a cutter, the 46th percentile as a roll man, the 39th percentile out of isolation, 29th percentile on post-ups and the 23rd percentile on spot-ups. 

    His jumper is too far away to count on. Achiuwa shot 13-of-40 from three in 31 games. He shot only 59.9 percent on free throws. He was 1-of-18 on contested catch-and-shoot chances. And he totaled 87 turnovers to just 30 assists, a reflection on his decision-making and limited passing acumen. 

    He's also a year older than most in his class, as he'll turn 21 in September. 

    Achiuwa is still likely a rotational big who plays hard and can switch onto wings. And he has proved capable of making outside shots when left open. But taking him in the top 10 or late lottery seems risky given his scoring and playmaking concerns, not to mention the guards and wings a team would have to pass on to take him.

Honorable Mention: Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Vernon Carey Jr. seems like a long shot to get picked early, and the risk reduces for a team as the draft moves into the 20s. He's still a gamble anywhere in the first round despite having averaged 17.8 points on 57.7 percent shooting and 8.8 rebounds.

    He does have some support among scouts because of his inside skill level and presence under the boards, but bigs like Carey have declined in value and use. Post-ups comprised 45.4 percent of his possessions at Duke. 

    Carey's defensive outlook is still the biggest worry. The metrics backed up the eye test, which saw him show minimal reaction and effort guarding ball screens and inadequate foot speed around the perimeter. He graded in the 2nd percentile defending both spot-ups and pick-and-roll passes to bigs. He graded in the 3rd percentile guarding jump shots. 

    Since Carey is unable to switch and is limited in rim protection (5.8 block percentage), teams won't be able to play him for long stretches, particularly if his outside shot never takes off. 

    He can be useful against certain lineups with his ability to impose his physical strength on weaker frontcourts. He'll continue to shoot a high percentage and give a lineup easy buckets. But will they be enough to offset his potential negative impact on offensive spacing and team defense?


    Stats via Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.