NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for James Wiseman, Kira Lewis Jr., Top Value Picks

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 27, 2020

NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for James Wiseman, Kira Lewis Jr., Top Value Picks

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    Every NBA team is chasing the same thing on draft night: value.

    Now, that can come packaged in a wide variety of ways. For some, value might be found in the all-potential, no-polish high-upside prospect. For others, it's the plug-and-play role player with a quick path to the hardwood but no real opportunity for upward mobility.

    Much of this value won't be clear until the talent grab, since it's often dependent on selection order and where a prospect lands. But a handful of prospects already seem likely to be drafted later than they should.

Desmond Bane, SG, TCU

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    Rod Aydelotte/Associated Press

    Draft value: Anywhere outside of the top 20

    Bane is the kind of player who too often is forgotten at the draft. While evaluators fawn over teenagers with otherworldly athleticism, they can fail to get excited about a 22-year-old college senior who lacks the burst and bounce to build a jaw-dropping highlight reel.

    But none of that matters unless a club is solely searching for star power, and Bane's likely draft range should keep him away from the star-grazers. Instead, someone—or a lot of someones, actually—should be attracted to his low-maintenance, well-versed game that already looks capable of accentuating a winner.

    "Every team should see a fit in Bane: a consistent shooter, improved playmaker and smart defender," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "Even if he struggles to create or finish without much quickness or burst, a lack of athleticism shouldn't prevent him from adding value with his three-ball, passing and IQ at both ends."

    There are better physical specimens in the draft, but few check as many basketball boxes as Bane. He can shoot on the catch or off the dribble, run pick-and-rolls, finish at the basket, move the basketball and defend multiple positions.

Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Draft value: Anywhere outside of the top 10

    In an era dominated by one-and-done leapers, any experience label other than "freshman" can feel like a scarlet letter. Maybe that's why the draft community seems a touch less excited about Lewis than his numbers and film say they should.

    But here's the thing: Sophomores are usually dinged for their age. That can't happen with Lewis, since he's 19 years old and younger than some of the freshmen in this draft (like Cole Anthony, who's almost a full year older than Lewis).

    "It's instructive to compare Lewis against this year's highly touted freshmen guards, because he's the same age and had a better season than (checks notes) ... all of them," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote.

    Lewis is a speed merchant, and he'll instantly make the short list of the league's fastest end-to-end players. He could be more consistent with his execution and decision-making, but every player his age has areas to improve. What most don't have, though, is his combination of size, speed, shooting and athleticism.

James Wiseman, C, Memphis

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    Draft value: Anywhere after No. 1

    A simple thought exercise seems to have most everyone second-guessing the idea of making Wiseman the No. 1 pick. The basic premise is that in a perimeter-driven league, it makes little to no sense to spend the top selection on a center.

    Seems straightforward, right? Well, it could go awry for a few different reasons.

    For starters, it assumes that Wiseman can't make perimeter contributions of his own. That might be true for now, since his shooting range doesn't quite reach the three-point arc and he's too heavy on his feet to handle defensive switches away from the basket. But he already shows flashes of mid-range shot-making, and his defensive footwork could be corrected by coaches. At 19 years old, he has time to attack his flaws.

    That also assumes there are better prospects available. There are alternatives, certainly, with LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards being the most popular players mocked at No. 1, but it's not like those players are without serious question marks. Ball has wonky shooting mechanics and a defensive motor that either sputters or never starts. Edwards' athleticism and shot-making has so far delivered nothing beyond inefficient scoring.

    Some could debate whose ceiling stretches the highest, but it seems obvious who enjoys the highest floor.

    "A lot of executives I've spoken with actually consider Wiseman to be among the safer players in the draft," The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wrote. "Simply put, few executives doubt that his size, length and athleticism will translate into being a starting quality NBA center."

    If Wiseman reaches his potential, he'll be an annual Defensive Player of the Year contender who rocks rims and splashes triples at the other end. In a draft like this, that seems entirely too intriguing to pass up.