2020 Draft Prospects Who Are the Most NBA-Ready
Being NBA-ready isn't just about who can produce. These prospects should be capable of helping teams right away in their respective roles, regardless of what their stats look like.
They have the right skill sets, mentalities and particular attributes that are capable of translating early.
Athleticism around the basket, passing IQ, shooting touch and versatility were common themes with our predictions and strengths we expect to carry over.
Deni Avdija (Israel, SF/PF, 2001)
While there is debate over Deni Avdija's NBA ceiling, teams should see a plug-and-play forward for the 2020-21 season.
MVP of the Israeli Basketball Super League, he also earned a regular role in the EuroLeague, considered to feature the second-toughest competition in the world.
There isn't a new height or weight listing for Avdija, but he is a strong 6'8" with a reputation for working hard and a body that's clearly improved over the years. And he has the mentality to fit in right away, having demonstrated maturity and a willingness to play a supporting role as a spot-up shooter and cutter.
Avdija's well-rounded skill set creates versatility that should help him adapt quicker, regardless of where he ends up.
He works opportunistically, capitalizing on space to attack in transition and off ball screens. He isn't a knockdown shooter, but he hit 61 threes in 59 games in 2019-20, highlighting enough shot-making ability to threaten defenses.
And he's spent time playing point guard over the years, playmaking as a pick-and-roll passer.
Scouts have admired his competitiveness on defense as well. Even if he doesn't have the quickest feet, Avdija makes an effort to get in a stance around the perimeter and body up with bigs inside.
He might not put up exciting numbers as a rookie, but Avdija figures to be useful as a jack of all trades, interchangeable between the 3 and 4.
Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)
There are a few things Jalen Smith does well that could quickly translate to the NBA.
He'll earn minutes for his athleticism, motor and improved physicality around the basket while rebounding and playing defense. We're still waiting on Smith's updated height and weight measurements, but he clearly put on muscle over the past year, leading to 13.4 boards and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes.
But his new three-ball is the kicker. Smith hit 32 threes in 31 games at a respectable 36.8 percent clip, even knocking some down off movement as a trailer and off-screen shooter.
Offense isn't likely to run through Smith in his rookie season, as he's limited with his creation and passing. He'll be asked to sprint the floor, finish, clean up inside, protect the rim and stretch the defense, tasks he should be capable of completing right away.
Along with those translatable strengths, he has developed a strong reputation for his work ethic and coachability—more reasons to buy Smith's earning an early role.
Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
Josh Green is NBA-ready—maybe not to average 15 points or take over games—but to carve out a valuable role as a wing stopper and complementary offensive weapon.
He'll earn minutes for his perimeter defense and quickness to guard positions 1-3. Along with his foot speed, Green also demonstrated impressive technique for a freshman in ball-screen coverage and closeouts.
NBA teams are always looking for wing defenders, and at 6'6", 210 pounds, Green can give them one right away.
Offensively, Green does struggle to create, but he won't be asked to in the NBA. At Arizona, he mostly used fast breaks and spot-ups for scoring chances, and that will continue to be the case.
An explosive athlete, Green ranked in the 78th percentile in transition, shooting 43.9 percent on non-dribble jumpers (from spot-up positions). And despite lacking an advanced handle, he excelled at the drive-and-floater game (39.1 percent on runners) and regularly flashed passing skills while on the move.
Playing to his strengths on a winning team would be a desirable outcome for Green, one of my favorite value picks in the draft if he falls outside the lottery.
LaMelo Ball (Hawks, PG, 2001)
Passing instincts translate quickly, as we've recently seen with Ja Morant, Trae Young and Luka Doncic. Despite struggling in other areas, Lonzo Ball still averaged 7.2 assists per game as a rookie. Even in a worst-case scenario, LaMelo Ball could be one of the league's most skilled playmakers.
At 18 years old, he was second in assists per game in Australia's National Basketball League. And because of his 6'7" size, ball-handling, creativity and vision, it's easy to buy Ball's ability to create easy shots for teammates in transition and off ball screens.
His field-goal percentage won't look as impressive as his assist percentage, however. Ball will struggle with shooting and to convert one-on-one. But he figures to have hot streaks that highlight his shot-making and confidence. And though he buckles in traffic, Ball should still pull off his coordinated finishes when he has space to adjust. He could see more of that space in the NBA.
Ball's passing will carry over no matter what team he joins, but his workload, role and supporting cast will impact his scoring efficiency. His rookie year will go smoother if he goes to a squad such as the Chicago Bulls, who could let him play to his strengths as a facilitator while Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Coby White carry the scoring load. Ball would have a tough time shooting 40 percent with the Charlotte Hornets, as he'd have to create more opportunities for himself.
Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG, Junior)
My surprise pick to contribute early could be drafted in the late first or second round. Malachi Flynn will be a threat to steal a veteran backup's minutes because of his skill level, court savvy and toughness.
Physical limitations shouldn't hold back Flynn from making an early impact. One of the nation's premier pick-and-roll operators (96th percentile), he has a special feel for manipulating defenses and passing off ball screens, while his sharp floater and pull-up game should continue working with even more space inside the NBA's arc. He ranked in the 81st percentile on dribble jumpers, shot 43.5 percent on runners and finished with a 30.7 assist percentage to just a 10.5 turnover percentage.
Along with his shooting off the bounce, he shot 40 percent off the catch, flashing plenty of range on his shot while hitting 34 threes from beyond 25 feet and seven of his 16 attempts from beyond 28 feet.
Assuming Flynn continues to defend with energy and competitiveness, he should be able to win over his coach and earn minutes.
The size of his role may depend on what team he joins, but Flynn comes off as a sneaky bet to crack an All-Rookie team.
Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)
Obi Toppin figures to be one of the more productive, efficient rookies. Though he's bound to struggle defensively, so will LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and most others in the class.
Offensively, Toppin appears NBA-ready to continue finishing at a monster rate after leading the NCAA in dunks. His vertical explosiveness is tough to top, even by NBA standards.
But he can also generate offense with skill as a post player, shooter and passer. Scouts have confidence in his jump shot, and he regularly dished out beautiful assists at Dayton from the inside out to his guards and wings.
Toppin seems like a lock to average double figures in points with a field-goal percentage in the 50-60 range. For this class, that should be enough for him to make the All-Rookie first team regardless of how easily he's beaten in space or scored on near the block.
Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Onyeka Okongwu may be best suited for an energizer role as a rookie, but he's still a great bet to contribute early.
Even without featured touches, he figures to continue finishing and putting back misses, tapping in to his athleticism and motor around the basket. Right away, he'll have success as a rim runner, roller, dunker's-spot recipient and offensive rebounder. At 245 pounds, he's quick and explosive off the ground.
His defensive activity and upside should pop as well. That bounce and aggression will translate to more shot-blocking, while his foot speed will show on switches and pick-and-roll recoveries. He wasn't a foul machine (3.5 per 40 minutes) at USC either, a promising sign for his potential to stay in games.
While his scoring and passing ability figure to come alive later in his rookie contract, Okongwu should still put together an exciting 2020-21 highlight reel of impressive post footwork, touch with both hands and assists to corner shooters.
In the long term, he has a chance to be a center coaches can feature in the half court given what he showed at USC as a high-percentage-shot-creator and capable mid-range threat.
In the short term, he's going to give a team easy baskets and an impactful defensive presence.
Payton Pritchard (Oregon, PG/SG, Senior)
League sources have mentioned Payton Pritchard is gaining steam with a potential first-round promise. While he isn't likely to ever put up exciting numbers, it's easy to picture the 22-year-old guard earning minutes in a supporting role for his shooting, passing and intangibles.
Aside from the 20.5 points per game he posted, the more notable, translatable numbers for Pritchard include his 41.5 percent three-point shooting and 31.5 assist percentage. Playoff teams searching for cheap rookie contributors could call on him to hit open shots, move the ball and make good decisions.
A strong basketball IQ and toughness only enhance Pritchard's appeal as a role player.
Being picked by a team such as the Boston Celtics, who will select at Nos. 26 and 30, or Los Angeles Lakers (No. 28) could be a big boost for the combo guard who played four years at Oregon. Pritchard will be an under-the-radar All-Rookie candidate if he lands on a playoff roster and can play to his strengths the way Terence Davis and Landry Shamet did over the past two seasons.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports.