2020 NBA Big Board: Top 50 Players as 2020 Finals Begin
The NBA Finals tipped off Wednesday, and the virtual combine has begun, as teams continue to gather information for their draft boards.
Ours remains fluid, with measurements, testing and shooting-drill footage yet to come. And while normally those things wouldn't hold much weight, nobody has seen any prospect in over six months, a period of time in which players' bodies or shots could improve.
While my No. 1 prospect hasn't changed, after watching more film and talking to NBA evaluators from around the league, I've shifted others.
50. Sam Merrill (Utah State, SG, Senior)
In the right role, elite shooting and IQ could hold significant value, and Merrill has the ability to offer both. He’s 24 years old without much burst, but for a 6’5” guard, a team could see an immediate contributor with his precision shooting and passing.
49. Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Stewart can carve out an energizer role with his power and motor around the basket. A poor defensive outlook, limited passing vision and no ball-handling skills are problematic, but he does have some mid-range touch that could eventually lead to a workable jump shot.
48. Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
Carey could struggle earning a full-time role based on his questionable defensive fit. In certain matchups, his physicality and skill around the basket could still be valuable against certain opponents.
47. Jordan Nwora (Louisville, SF/PF, Junior)
Limited athleticism, passing and defensive potential leaves Nwora with little margin for error. He might need much, however, as a 6’8” shot-making specialist who hit over 75 threes in consecutive seasons.
46. Nate Hinton (Houston, SG, Sophomore)
Hinton stands out from the pack with 8.7 rebounds per game, a number that reflects both instincts and motor which also show up on defense. Becoming a consistent three-point shooter with his smooth-looking jumper could be enough to earn him a role and contract.
45. Naji Marshall (Xavier, SG/SF, Junior)
Shooting will be a swing skill for Marshall, who’s 6’7”, passes out of pick-and-rolls and defends multiple positions with encouraging effectiveness. He hasn’t shot well from three since arriving at Xavier, but he has been capable with 92 makes over the past two seasons.
44. Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)
Nnaji lacks versatility, but his few core strengths could translate, including post scoring and finishing, offensive rebounding and mid-range touch. Extending his shooting range out to the arc may be the key for Naji to hold more value than a replaceable reserve.
43. Devon Dotson (Kansas, PG, Sophomore)
Dotson returned to lead the Big 12 in scoring, mostly by using his speed in transition and quickness to get downhill in ball-screen situations. Limited shooting and playmaking improvement make it tough to buy a starting-caliber point guard, but Dotson could be one who can change the pace off the bench.
42. Elijah Hughes (Syracuse, SF, Junior)
Hughes capitalized on No. 1 option touches, finishing fourth in the nation in isolation points per game. While he won’t receive the same type of freedom in the NBA, at 6’6” with his shot-making and athleticism, it’s worth using a second-round pick to try and add an instant-offense streak scorer.
41. Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)
Despite improving as a scorer, Jones’ didn’t shake the backup point guard ceiling projection. He’s still worth an early second round pick for a team that values high-IQ play and competitiveness.
40. Ty-Shon Alexander (Creighton, SG, Junior)
Shooting and defensive quickness are the draws to Alexander, though he also totaled 92 points on a combined 99 pick-and-roll and isolation possessions. There are too many strengths to bet on with Alexander, even if they all don’t carry over.
39. Mason Jones (Arkansas, SG, Junior)
Jones used mostly transition, but also advanced shot-making with pull-ups and off-screen shooting to lead the SEC in scoring. He’ll need to adjust to more of a spot-up role in the NBA, but for a 6’5” guard, his open-floor finishing and ability hit contested jumpers could work offensively.
38. Yam Madar (Israel, PG, 2000)
Madar put together a persuasive run in the Israel’s Winner League after returning from the pandemic’s shutdown. His shooting remains a work in progress, but Madar consistently puts pressure on opponents with his quickness off the dribble and defensive peskiness, and he’s flashed crafty mid-range scoring and playmaking skills to generate more offense.
37. Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
Inconsistent execution and motor knock McDaniels into the 30s, where it feels less risky drafting a 6’9” forward who shot 40.5 percent and averaged 3.2 turnovers. In that range, he can be viewed as more of a value pick for his positional size, shooting stroke and scoring potential fueled by ball-handling skills to create and dribble-jumper game.
36. Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
Teams are asking if Mannion’s lack of length and burst will affect his ability to execute against NBA defenders. But he’s still 6’3” with strong passing skills and shot-making versatility to hit pull-ups, floater and threes off screens.
35. Theo Maledon (ASVEL, PG/SG, 2001)
It’s tough to get too excited about any one of Maledon’s strengths, but the 19-year-old’s experience and comfort level in the Jeep Elite league and Euroleague deserves attention. Despite lacking any plus athletic traits, he’s well-rounded with ball skills, passing and versatile shot-making off spot-ups and pull-ups.
34. Tyler Bey (Colorado, PF, Junior)
Bey has a shot to earn the defensive specialist label with his size and quickness for guarding multiple positions, but also strong technique and instincts. And he could still add value off the ball with his cutting, finishing, post play and touch that’s improving around the perimeter.
33. Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF, Senior)
Unless red flags are thrown at Tillie’s medicals, I’m ignoring his injury history in the early second round, and instead, betting on his ridiculous shooting accuracy—at least 40 percent from three every season—along with his post and passing skills and IQ.
32. Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Woodard is limited offensively, but he checks a valued combination of boxes with his three-point shooting and defensive versatility. He's a high-floor, low-ceiling three-and-D forward.
31. Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona, SF, 2001)
Bolmaro is back on the floor with Barcelona’s senior team, but he was able to show more in the LEB Silver league, where his ball-handling and flashy passing created first-round buzz.
30. Skylar Mays (LSU, SG, Senior)
Improved shooting could give Mays enough versatility when paired with his crafty shot-creation, secondary playmaking and IQ. His ability to use footwork for separating, three-level shot-making and deceiving explosion on finishes has me buying in.
29. Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)
Nesmith has a case as the draft's top shooter after he hit 52.2 percent of his threes through 14 games (before suffering a foot injury). He'll want to land with a team that can mask his inability to create or pass, though.
28. Isaiah Joe (Arkansas, SG, Sophomore)
Instead of focusing on Joe's decline in three-point percentage (down to .342), I'm buying his 3.6 threes per game, and he passes the eye test on his smooth spot-ups and pull-up shooting. As long as coaches aren't expecting a creator or driver, his off-ball shot-making should translate.
27. Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Though I question how much of his creation, playmaking and defense will translate, Bey's shooting is easy to buy based on his 45.1 percent mark, form and 6'8" size. At the least, he's a shot-making, interchangeable forward who makes good decisions.
26. Desmond Bane (TCU, SG, Senior)
Consistent shooting, strong playmaking and a high defensive IQ point to Bane as an NBA fit, even if his lack of speed and explosion limit his creation and finishing. It's easy to picture a supporting rotation player based on his particular versatility and mature approach.
25. Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF, Freshman)
Defensive versatility is the selling point to Achiuwa, a limited scorer who averaged 15.8 points, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game and demonstrated the foot speed to guard around the perimeter. But flashes of face-up moves, off-the-dribble footwork and spot-up shooting hint at offensive upside.
24. Cassius Winston (Michigan State, PG, Senior)
Age (22) and athletic limitations will likely cause Winston to fall into value-pick territory around the back end of the first round. We've seen too many older point guards out of college succeed with skill and IQ, regardless of how much speed or bounce they lack, for him to fall further. Winston's pick-and-roll play, shooting versatility and intangibles are worth buying anywhere outside the lottery.
23. Xavier Tillman Sr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Junior)
Drafting Tillman in the teens or 20s means accepting a limited scorer. High IQ for defense and passing should make it worth playing a big who doesn't create or shoot. NBA coaches will love his ability to make reads as a short-roll passer and a pick-and-roll/off-ball defender. Any jumpers he can make are a bonus.
22. Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)
Lewis could draw looks from lottery teams after he showed improved scoring and playmaking production for a guard with such dangerous speed. I question how efficient he'll be based on his tools, shot and decision-making, but it's his ability to generate offense and opportunities that should be valued.
21. Jalen Smith (Maryland, C, Sophomore)
Physical tools for finishing and shot-blocking and an improved three-point shot create a high floor for Smith. Even if he never develops into a big who can put the ball down or pass, there is still top-20 draft value tied to centers who can stretch the floor and project the rim.
20. RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)
Hampton has been working with Mike Miller on his shooting, a key swing skill that would complement his athleticism for attacking and secondary playmaking. He didn't shoot well in the NBL, but the jumper can improve, while his explosiveness can't be taught.
19. Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG, Junior)
Flynn could make an NBA living with his pick-and-roll play alone, which ranked in the 96th percentile among NCAA players. His lack of size and athleticism are the question marks, but his shooting range, precision passing and floaters, plus some pesky defense, suggest Flynn can overcome physical limitations.
18. Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
At worst, Green should carve out a role with his explosiveness for transition offense, spot-up shooting and defensive quickness. Though not a creator, he can still be useful off the dribble with his passing IQ and floater game.
17. Jahmi’us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)
Questionable shot selection and defensive lapses were turnoffs, but Ramsey’s scoring instincts and confident shooting should still translate to NBA shot-making. He ranked in the 88th percentile out of isolation, and with a solid 6’4” frame, I’m buying Ramsey’s ability to create and hit tough jumpers.
16. Grant Riller (Charleston, PG/SG, Senior)
Though 23 years old with most of his production coming against mid-major opponents, Riller deserves first-round looks for his advanced shot-creation, excellent finishing and super efficiency throughout his four NCAA seasons. His quickness, decisive moves and shot-making turned me into a believer in his ability to continue executing against NBA defenses.
15. Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
Though Anthony lost support after an inefficient freshman season, he still delivered an impressive year of shot-making. We may learn he's better suited for a scoring role than a lead-guard decision-maker, and for the right team, that type of player may still be worth taking in the lottery for his ability to create shots and generate offense with dribble jumpers and spot-up shooting.
14. Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG/SG, Freshman)
Added strength and potentially a new height listing at 6'3" could be a needle-mover for Terry, whose questionable tools and athleticism cast a cloud over his production and skill level. Physical concerns aside, his shooting touch and range are both highly convincing, and he flashed enough playmaking IQ to convince people he can work as a primary ball-handler.
13. Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos II, PF, 2001)
I'm buying Pokusevski's flashes and capabilities for a 7-footer who will turn 19 in late December. He's too young to take the inefficiency that seriously when he's splashing threes with fluidity, making plays in the open floor and blocking shots at a high rate (1.7 per game).
12. Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Haliburton's outlook is team-dependent, given his struggles with blowing by opponents or shooting off the dribble. But if he lands on a roster with another breakdown point guard and scorers around him, a coach can optimize his elite passing IQ and spot-up shooting.
11. Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
As one scout put it, with Okoro, you're betting on big gains from intangibles. He makes good decisions and competes at both ends. Efficiency, defensive toughness and versatility, and timely, winning plays will drive his NBA value.
10. Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Scouts sound split on Tyrese Maxey, with skeptics questioning his size, athleticism and playmaking. But I'm buying his footwork and touch for scoring, even for a 6'3" 2-guard. And despite his uninspiring shooting numbers at Kentucky (.427/.292/.833), the eye test on Maxey's jumper and his general shot-making are more convincing than the percentages.
He opted out of the virtual NBA combine, likely with more to lose than gain from measurements and drilling.
I'm expecting he goes a tier lower than he should—somewhere in the late lottery to early 20s. But it will be interesting to see if Tyler Herro's surprising season and playoffs make any team more willing to look past Maxey's up-and-down year at Kentucky.
9. James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
An evolving NBA works against James Wiseman on my board, though many scouts still see one of the draft's top prospects for his immaculate physical profile and flashes of skill.
I'm still skeptical about what skills will improve and translate, but at 7'1", 240 pounds with a 7'6" wingspan, the former Memphis big man will still be a weapon, even without any development. Wiseman is an enormous finishing target and threatening shot-blocker—not just because of his size and length, but also because of his quick jump off the floor.
And before arriving at Memphis last season, he did showcase grab-and-go ball-handling, mid-range touch and post scoring in high school. I have faith in his ability to make elbow jumpers, as well as shoot around 60 percent and protect the rim. It's tough to picture teams featuring him in the post like Joel Embiid or letting him play behind the arc, though.
8. Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)
Consecutive years of consistent shooting and standout defense paint Florida State's Devin Vassell as a high-floor, easy-fit prospect.
A career 41.7 three-point percentage and high release for a 6'7" wing are enough to buy the jumper. And while his 4.1 block percentage and 2.8 steal percentage from last season are impressive, the eye test sees even more to like about his defensive awareness and reads from off the ball.
Flashes of specialty shot-making off the dribble hint at more potential scoring upside. Still, he still isn't a high-level creator or playmaker, so a role-playing three-and-D forward is the most realistic outcome for Vassell.
7. Patrick Williams (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
Taking Patrick Williams in the top 10 means placing a bet on significant improvement. I'm deeming it a bet worth making based on his age (19 in August, youngest NCAA prospect) and the potential reward that's tied to his skill set as a 6'8", 225-pound forward.
With a powerful frame and lots of athleticism, he also flashed three-point range, a pull-up game, live-dribble passing and defensive playmaking ability.
He won't be ready for a full-time role right away. The ideal landing spot would be with a competitive team that can afford to be patient.
6. Deni Avdija (Israel, SF/PF, 2001)
Versatility should create an easy fit for Deni Avdija, regardless of who drafts him. And he shows a willingness to play a supporting off-ball role that calls for spot-up shooting, timely cutting and ball-moving.
The big questions are whether he'll be able to create his own shot or hit threes with consistency. Avdija has a high dribble and center of gravity, and for years, his touch has been on and off.
But I'm buying his shot-making and ability to reach the 35 percent range from behind the arc, mostly using the eye test on his made jumpers and valuing his reputation for having a strong work ethic. And though I don't picture a No. 1 or No. 2 option, his ability to attack and pass in ball-screen situations for a 6'8" forward seems likely to translate to effective downhill scoring and secondary playmaking.
Meanwhile, Avdija's competitiveness and IQ should help on defense, even if his foot speed raises doubt.
5. Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)
Most scouts expect Obi Toppin to go in the top four, with a perception that he offers both limited risk and potentially star upside.
His vertical athleticism figures to continue translating to easy finishes off transition, dump downs, lobs and offensive rebounds. And his 39.0 percent three-point shooting is promising, although it was on low volume, and many of his misses were way off the mark.
Still, in his prime, Toppin should remain a threat to stretch the floor and score and pass from the post.
The bigger questions are how poor ball-handling wiggle will limit his face-up game, and how much his questionable defense will affect his overall value. One scout recently expressed concern to Bleacher Report about how Toppin's pick-and-roll coverage could get his team crushed in the playoffs.
4. Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Teams have expressed concerns about Anthony Edwards' style and drive for winning. I share them, and they affect his standing on my board. But he's still too special physically and advanced skillwise. And while I wouldn't want my offense running through him, Edwards does project as a volume-scoring 2-guard.
He'll continue to use his 6'5", 225-pound frame and explosiveness for transition, but it's his shot-creation moves and three-level shot-making that could propel him to over 20 points per game.
He's the type who can get a bucket in the closing seconds or catch fire to bring his team back from a deficit. Edwards would have an easier time settling into an NBA offense by improving his spot-up shooting and comfort level off the ball.
3. Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Onyeka Okongwu's floor drives his appeal in this draft. The high likelihood that his finishing will translate and his defense will become a plus should be attractive to the right teams in the Nos. 3-7 range.
But there is also a level of upside to his offensive game he wasn't fully able to showcase at USC, where he shared the floor with another center in Nick Rakocevic.
I'm buying Okongwu's shot creation and touch from the elbows and short corners, where he should be able to work as a go-to post scorer. And though he didn't make many outside shots or use the dribble often, his USC coaches have expressed confidence in Okongwu's jumper and ability to face up and put the ball down.
2. Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)
Scouts and executives will be anxious to see Killian Hayes measure, test athletically and shoot at the virtual NBA combine. It's unclear if he'll participate in every event, but he's interviewing with the majority of lottery teams, including the Golden State Warriors, who are slated to pick second.
Hayes has been in the top five on my board throughout the year based on his positional 6'5" size, high-level passing, improved shot-creation, soft touch and superior scoring efficiency compared to most NCAA point guards.
His jump shot remains the big question mark on the scouting report, but for a 19-year-old who made 30 three-pointers and shot a combined 87.6 percent from the free-throw line, his shooting development is worth betting on, particularly given his ball-screen playmaking, mid-range pull-up, floater and finishing effectiveness.
1. LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)
After initially appearing on the NBA combine list, LaMelo Ball won't be a participating in any measurements, testing, team interviews or drilling. It's unsurprising, but still disappointing, particularly to teams interested in seeing how his shooting development and form are coming along.
They won't need more footage on his ball-handling, creativity and playmaking. He's the draft's top passer, a skill that typically translates. And despite questions about his shooting, Ball demonstrates touch on his runners and floaters, plus impressive adjustment ability on his finishes around the basket.
I'm banking on his creation and setup passing fueling quality-starter value at the least, but I'm also betting on his shot-making and body to improve and help his scoring potential.