NBA Draft 2020: Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija, Sleeper Candidates for No. 1 Pick

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2020

ULM, GERMANY - MARCH 08: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm controls the Ball during the EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) match between Ratiopharm Ulm and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg at ratiopharm Arena on March 8, 2020 in Ulm, Germany. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The No. 1 spot in the 2020 NBA draft is up for grabs.

Scroll through enough mock drafts and you'll find a handful of different names at the top. Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman are the most common, but even then, there's no consensus.

It makes sense, then, to cobble together some names further down the mock draft boards who have a chance to rise to No. 1. They might be long shots, but they have the games to command consideration.


Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm

Watch Killian Hayes on film, and you'll be struck by the smoothness to his game. That's doubly true when considering he hasn't even celebrated his 19th birthday yet.

Without elite athleticism, the French floor general has been forced to lean on his skills to stay ahead of defenders. The result is an arsenal of dynamic shot-creation tools, from flawless footwork to fluid handles. Tack on his powerful passing punch, and he looks like the kind of player who could give an entire offense its identity.

"Hayes's combination of age, skill level, and free-throw accuracy offer an upside despite his meh athleticism," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote. "Additionally, an on-ball guard who defends two positions solidly is one of the most valuable player archetypes to have."

Hayes is often compared to D'Angelo Russell, 2015's second overall pick who's already been an All-Star. But Hayes might be a Russell clone on offense and a positive on defense. That's a prospect to get excited about, especially in a class lacking a surefire star.

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Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

Buying Deni Avdija as a sleeper at No. 1 means buying his long-term potential as a shooter. He has (a lot) of work to do in that department, but if he ever checks that box, he may not leave any unchecked.

As this scouting report from ESPN's Jonathan Givony shows, Avdija's skill set and approach are fascinating for a 6'9" swingman:

"Big enough to play PF but has the ballhandling, creativity and playmaking skill of a PG. At his best operating out of pick-and-roll, where he displays excellent timing and vision, allowing him to make every read and pass in the book. Aggressive offensive player who is in attack mode every time he steps onto the floor. Loves shooting pull-up 3-pointers in transition. Brings toughness, competitiveness and swagger."

Jumbo playmakers are always interesting, but they're decidedly less so without a reliable jumper or explosive athleticism. If Avdija can't get his shot right, he might be Dario Saric 2.0, which certainly isn't worth the top overall pick. But if Avdija finds that three-ball, his do-it-all game could work wonders on a team with potent scorers already on the roster.


Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State

Teams in need of a go-to scorer won't give Tyrese Haliburton a long look. He doesn't have great burst off the dribble, and his outside shot takes time to fire. Half-court, isolation hoops will probably never be a strength.

But he dazzles in the open floor, where his vision and selflessness take center stage. He sees the game at such a rapid rate he's able to pass his teammates open. He won't miss hit-ahead opportunities or corner kicks to unattended shooters. And when the ball comes back his way, he makes the most of his opportunity. He shot 50.9 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from range over two seasons with the Cyclones.

"[Haliburton is] a coach's dream," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote. "He does all the little things on the court, from smart, timely defensive rotations to making rapid decisions to keep the offense flowing."

If a win-now (or win-soon) lottery team snags the No. 1 spot, Haliburton's versatility will intrigue. Even if he's never anyone's primary puzzle piece, he's the kind of on-court leader who can fit all the puzzle pieces around him together.