2020 NBA Draft: Long Shots Who Could Sneak into the Lottery

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterAugust 22, 2020

2020 NBA Draft: Long Shots Who Could Sneak into the Lottery

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Most NBA draft lottery picks are obvious before they are made. But every so often, a team thinks out of the box and goes against the consensus.

    Last year, the Phoenix Suns made the first surprise selection by taking Cameron Johnson at No. 11. A year later, their decision seems like it will pay off.

    We named five long shots who may be able to similarly win over a lottery team despite their perceived stock or standing in the class.

Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos II, PF/C, 2001)

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    All it takes is one team to find the potential reward worth the risk with Aleksej Pokusevski. It's not hard to imagine a front office could think he possesses one of the draft's highest ceilings, even if the journey to reach it could be lengthy.

    The class' youngest prospect (he doesn't turn 19 until Dec. 26), Pokusevski stands 7'0" tall and wows with unique open-floor ball-handling, three-point-shooting fluidity, high-level passing skills and active shot-blocking ability.

    Some scouts see a second-rounder based on his skinny frame, inefficiency, limited reps against quality competition and approach. He tries some wacky things and doesn't always lock in.

    But there aren't many 18-year-old 7-footers around the globe—never mind in this draft—capable of initiating fast breaks, shooting off dribbles and screens, and flying around defensively like Pokusevski.

    A patient lottery team uninterested in settling for a non-star NCAA prospect may be willing to gamble this year. If Pokusevski improves his body and discipline, it could result in the ultimate payoff.

Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)

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    Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

    Though a long shot, it's possible a late-lottery team detects upside from Jahmi'us Ramsey's physical tools, scoring instincts, shooting and age (he turned 19 in June).

    Two details immediately pop under the NBA lens when watching Ramsey: his frame for a 2-guard and jump-shot mechanics. With a persuasive flick-of-the-wrist release, he shot 42.6 percent from three and 43.2 percent off the catch, including 12-of-23 off screens.

    At baseline, Ramsey has an attractive foundation to build on between his NBA body and convincing perimeter skills.

    He's fearless offensively with the ability to knock down contested shots. He graded in the 88th percentile out of isolation on 47 possessions, impressive for a freshman in the Big 12. While he'd likely struggle with efficiency early, Ramsey has the type of game and confidence that could quickly translate to effective shot-making.

    But from age 19 to his mid-20s, he also has plenty of room to grow as a creator, playmaker and defender.

Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Jalen Smith hasn't received national love in the draft discussion, but multiple NBA scouts and executives have him graded as a lottery pick.

    He's one of the few bigs in this draft who's both a physical paint presence and a threat from outside. Last year, Smith became one of six NCAA players since 1992-93 to average at least 10 rebounds, two blocks and a three-point make.

    The 6'10" power forward/center improved his body significantly, resulting in more offensive rebounds (94th percentile) and transition scoring (99th percentile). But it's still his shooting that could help lead to late-lottery interest after he made 32 of 87 threes, some off pick-and-pops and most by spotting up.

    Scouts have also noted they believe there is more to his game than he could show in Maryland's offense. There could be more to his flashes of pull-ups and jumpers off screens. Meanwhile, analytic departments will like the fact that he finished fourth in the nation in box plus-minus.

    The Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics could each use a stretch big in their rotation. Most would view Smith as a long shot to go in the No. 10-14 range, but NBA teams won't see him as that big of a reach.

Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes are the point guards who've kept their spot in lottery projections all season. Cole Anthony and Nico Mannion fell out. Kira Lewis Jr. now looks like a sleeper option to replace one of them and win over a team like the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns or another organization trying to trade up for a ball-handler.

    Lewis was cooking before the pandemic arrived, averaging 23.2 points (shooting 46.3 percent from deep) and 6.7 assists over his final nine SEC games. Scouts are quick to note he's younger than some freshmen, having just turned 19 in April.

    He's viewed as the draft's fastest point guard with the ball, capable of taking an outlet pass from baseline to baseline for a bucket in four seconds. Speed is his signature strength, an attractive feature for a team that wants to put more pressure on defenses.

    Lewis made encouraging progress with his playmaking and shooting, and despite weighing just 165 pounds and lacking explosion, he found creative ways to finish with impressive off-the-dribble footwork.

    Skeptics around the league question his tools and decision-making. But between Lewis' improvement, numbers, pace and age, it wouldn't be surprising if a team saw value in the No. 8-14 range.

Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Opinions vary on Tyrell Terry. Skeptics question his thin frame and lack of athleticism, leading to some late-first to second-round projections. However, his sharp skills, advanced shooting, IQ and flash could create the perception of upside. And it seems possible a late-lottery team shows interest in chasing it.

    One scout told Bleacher Report he compared Terry's smooth offensive delivery and touch (not his ceiling) to Stephen Curry and Trae Young. Nobody projects a star like either; rather, they've raised the possibility that Terry can compensate for his underwhelming physical traits with skill and intangibles.

    Terry averaged 14.6 points on 40.8 percent shooting from three, 89.1 percent from the free-throw line, 50.0 percent catch-and-shooting (99th percentile) and 11-of-19 off screens (95th percentile). He's a highly convincing shot-maker with NBA range, and though his 3.2 assists don't pop, he shared ball-handling duties with junior Daejon Davis. Teammates shot 44.6 off Terry's pick-and-roll passes, and the eye test sees a guard who can facilitate for teammates in ball-screen situations.

    He even shot 61.5 percent at the rim, a comforting number for those worried about his lack of strength and explosion.

    There is a sexiness to Terry's game that could be tempting for a team in the No. 10-14 range, particularly if it isn't blown away with the other options on the board.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.