The 2020 NBA draft process is starting to feel normal again, with prospects finally working out for teams and rumors emerging daily.
There still isn't any more clarity on how the first handful of picks will play out, particularly given all of the trade speculation. But teams are now traveling to meet and watch their target prospects with only three weeks remaining before the big night on November 18.
Bleacher Report has kept its ear on the NBA's door to remain plugged into this year's draft conversation.
Read into Workouts
In normal times, teams could work out as many prospects as they wanted. In 2020, they're limited to watching only 10 players up close, and executives must fly to designated cities for most of these workouts. Agents are suggesting that who teams choose to see before this draft may be more telling than in previous years, given how selective they have to be and the inconvenience that comes with traveling out of state and quarantining afterward.
Teams aren't going to waste one of their 10 workouts and spend time traveling for a player they aren't realistically considering. If a team takes a trip to visit a player, it likely indicates legitimate interest as opposed to nothing-to-lose due diligence.
Growing Interest in Alabama's Kira Lewis Jr.
LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, and Killian Hayes have generated the most buzz among point guards. But Kira Lewis Jr. has seemingly entered the conversation as a potential riser and option for lottery teams.
After a workout with the Orlando Magic last Thursday, sources tell Bleacher Report that Lewis worked out for the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls this week.
"Lewis has great speed, creates for himself and others and should thrive in today's game," one scout told B/R. "He's still young [he turned 19 in April] after two years in college. He has upside."
The pandemic interrupted Lewis' most impressive stretch at Alabama, where he averaged 23.2 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from three over his final nine games.
Compared to Haliburton, whose biggest flaw is limited burst and athleticism, Lewis' signature strength is quickness off the dribble for breaking down defenses and attacking. In the half court, Haliburton converted 23 shots at the rim in 21 games. Lewis made 70 in 31 games. And while Haliburton's awkward pull-up game (35th percentile) raises questions, Lewis ranked in the 79th percentile on off-the-dribble jumpers.
For Hayes, shooting range (29.4 percent 3PT) is his glaring weakness. Lewis made 1.8 threes per game on 36.6 percent shooting.
He could have a case for teams who value his ability to generate offense with speed, creativity and shot-making. They'd just have to be willing to look past his high turnover rate and trouble in traffic.
Teams Not Sleeping on Serbia's Aleksej Pokusevski
It's starting to seem silly to use the sleeper label for Aleksej Pokusevski. He has teams' attention ahead of the draft even though he played only 11 games in Greece's second division. According to league sources, Pokusevski could be gone before the 20s depending on who's on the board by the time the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) and Dallas Mavericks are picking.
Pokusevski averaged 1.6 threes, 3.1 assists and 1.8 blocks in HEBA A2, a league Giannis Antetokounmpo once played in. While there are skeptics around the NBA who deem the highlights fluky and question Pokusevski's flashy play/mentality, some are willing to gamble on a 7-footer with such unique shooting fluidity, advanced passing skills and shot-blocking ability.
He's considered one of the highest-risk, highest-reward options in this draft. Some teams seem to feel more comfortable with high-floor prospects. But outside of the lottery, it sounds as though there are also teams interested in rolling the dice on upside.
Oregon's Payton Pritchard Generating 1st-Round Buzz
Point guard Payton Pritchard has fans in NBA front offices, and some may be willing to use a first-round pick to get him. A league source told Bleacher Report there are whispers about a possible promise made to Pritchard after he averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.5 percent from three.
He comes off as a player teams could immediately plug in and play and get production from on a rookie contract.
Pritchard has been working out in Los Angeles, and while his camp hasn't confirmed any promises, it's confident in his feedback from teams and standing in this draft.
More Rumors and Buzz
- Stanford's Tyrell Terry got people talking by measuring around 6'3" and weighing in at 174 pounds, a notable difference from the 6'2", 160 pounds Stanford lists him as. I've heard Terry linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers as teams showing interest.
- A source suggests the Washington Wizards are hoping USC's Onyeka Okongwu falls to them at No. 9. If he isn't there, they'd be interested in trading the pick.
- Analytics departments like Killian Hayes, who's received interest from point guard-needy teams like the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks, but also the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings.
- According to multiple sources, Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith is generating interest from late-lottery teams, including the Phoenix Suns at No. 10. Some skeptics see him as a one-dimensional player, but as one scout put it: "The only thing going for Nesmith is he can truly shoot at an elite level right now in the league. That's his skill, and it's a major skill."
- I reported weeks ago that Florida State's Patrick Williams was gaining steam as a top-10 pick. We're now hearing he's in play at No. 7 to the Detroit Pistons, though they're also interested in Haliburton, Hayes and Lewis.