2020 NBA Draft: 1st-Round Selection Order, Analyzing Top Upperclassmen ProspectsMay 25, 2020
The NBA draft is no longer filled with players who had long, successful college careers. Many of the top prospects from the collegiate ranks spent only one season, maybe two, at school before deciding to turn pro.
However, that doesn't mean there aren't some talented upperclassmen who will be available at the draft. Some players still opt to play three or four collegiate seasons before entering the NBA, and while they are not typically among the first to come off the board, they can still make impacts at the next level.
This year, these players have had to wait even longer to get drafted. With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, it's unclear whether the draft will still take place in June.
Here's a look at how the teams would draft were it ordered from worst record to best, although this could greatly change via the lottery and if the season is resumed. Then we'll break down several of the top upperclassmen in this year's draft class.
Projected NBA Draft Order
1. Golden State Warriors (15-50)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-46)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-45)
4. Atlanta Hawks (20-47)
5. Detroit Pistons (20-46)
6. New York Knicks (21-45)
7. Chicago Bulls (22-43)
8. Charlotte Hornets (23-42)
9. Washington Wizards (24-40)
10. Phoenix Suns (26-39)
11. San Antonio Spurs (27-36)
12. Sacramento Kings (28-36)
13. New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
14. Portland Trail Blazers (29-37)
15. Orlando Magic (30-35)
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via 30-34 Brooklyn Nets)
17. Boston Celtics (via 32-33 Memphis Grizzlies)
18. Dallas Mavericks (40-27)
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via 39-26 Indiana Pacers)
20. Brooklyn Nets (via 39-26 Philadelphia 76ers)
21. Denver Nuggets (via 40-24 Houston Rockets)
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via 40-24 Oklahoma City Thunder)
23. Miami Heat (41-24)
24. Utah Jazz (41-23)
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via 43-22 Denver Nuggets)
26. Boston Celtics (43-21)
27. New York Knicks (via 44-20 Los Angeles Clippers)
28. Toronto Raptors (46-18)
29. Los Angeles Lakers (49-14)
30. Boston Celtics (via 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks)
Top Upperclassmen Prospects
Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State
Although Xavier Tillman could be the first upperclassman selected in this year's draft, don't expect him to be taken until late in the first round.
That's not to say he doesn't have potential.
Tillman played three seasons at Michigan State and got better each year. This year, he averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, all career highs, over 31 games while shooting 55 percent from the field. And despite not projecting the former Spartan to get drafted until the second round, The Athletic's Sam Vecenie praised the 6'8" forward's game and placed him at No. 22 on his big board.
"He's extremely polished and fits the modern game on both ends of the floor," Vecenie wrote. "... He was one of the five best defenders in all of college hoops this year, capable of holding his own on the perimeter while also locking down the interior."
Tillman could prove to be a steal late in the first round, and he might quickly become a valuable role player for a contender considering the end of the round features many of the league's best teams.
Cassius Winston, PG, Michigan State
It's not a surprise that another Michigan State player is among the best upperclassmen in this draft class. The Spartans have been a top-tier program under longtime head coach Tom Izzo and consistently benefit from having experienced players lead their team.
Cassius Winston spent four seasons at Michigan State and was a starter for three of them, consistently helping lead it to success. His best seasons came in his junior year (18.8 points and 7.5 assists per game, 46-percent shooting) and his senior year this past season (18.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, 44.8-percent shooting).
ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have Winston getting drafted at No. 29 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, but don't be surprised if the 6'1" guard doesn't get selected until the second round. However, as Schmitz pointed out, Winston is "one of the most polished pick-and-roll point guards in the draft."
Like his former teammate Tillman, Winston could end up being a sleeper pick. He has a lot of college experience under his belt and possesses a skill set that could help him become a solid NBA player.
Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
Another talented point guard in this year's draft class is San Diego State's Malachi Flynn, although the former Aztec may not get selected until the second round. Still, Vecenie wrote that "a lot of NBA evaluators" feel Flynn could become a solid backup point guard.
"He has great creativity with ball in hand, he's a three-level scorer and his distribution skills got much better [this past season]," Vecenie wrote.
Flynn averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 assists in 32 games, shooting 44.1 percent from the field. Those stats were all career highs, as he was much improved from his first two college seasons, which he played at Washington State.
If Flynn hadn't greatly improved after transferring schools, it's possible he would have returned to the Aztecs for his senior season. Instead, he likely put himself on some NBA teams' radars, and one of them should select him before draft night is over.