With the extended deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA Draft coming soon, here’s the latest Big Board of those still in the process.
The college basketball season ended abruptly in the middle of March, ending the college careers of many top NBA Draft prospects. While I watched a handful of games in the season, I was able to spend more time going back and watching games on each of the prospects in this class. At this stage, I feel comfortable ranking my top-45 after watching each of the top 60ish guys play a few times.
To be clear, this is a big board, not a mock draft. I don’t have real intel on who the Cavs want to take with their pick and I’m not going to speculate as to who that may be. This is simply a list based on the evaluations I’ve made over the past calendar year. Even though the 2020 class is done playing, this list will remain fluid as I have more film to dive into. Nonetheless, here is a look at my first NBA Draft 2020 big board.
1. Anthony Edwards – Georgia – 6’5, 225 lbs – August 2001
Edwards had a solid, yet unspectacular, season at Georgia but flashed enough to be the top prospect in the 2020 draft class. He averaged 19 points per game, but shot an uninspiring 40 percent from the field and 29% from deep. A lot of those struggles can be attributed to Georgia’s team concept, or lack thereof, that required Edwards to hoist a lot of contested jumpers.
Offensively, Edwards has a lot of traits you would want in a modern wing. He’s a plus athlete, with a clean shooting stroke and a solid handle to beat players off the dribble. In his lone season in college, Edwards finished in the 72nd percentile in isolation plays. He excels in transition, finishing in the 81st percentile. Edwards showed he could play on the ball, but he’s also a dynamic cutter off the ball. Defensively, Edwards showed he can be a pest. He was a plus on-ball defender, using his size and length to disrupt ball-handlers. If he never reaches his offensive peak, there are enough pathways where Edwards’ defense can make him a valuable player on any team.
The concerns surrounding Edwards are valid. The shot selection at Georgia was iffy, his effort and focus came and went, and it’s unclear if he can be a true lead guard on a good NBA team. But given his age and the lack of safe bets in this draft, Edwards presents the highest upside and is the top guy in this class.
2. James Wiseman – Memphis – 7’1, 237 lbs, – March 2001
Wiseman’s freshman campaign was cut short to just three games after the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the remainder of the season, making him one of the harder players to evaluate. He entered college as the number one recruit across the board, sitting at the top for the final Rivals, 247, and ESPN player rankings. Wiseman’s measurables give him a very high floor as an NBA player.
At 7’1 with a 7’6 wingspan, he will naturally be a presence inside. He definitely lacks some defensive instincts, but still registered nine blocks in three collegiate games. He was also very impressive in the Nike Hoop Summit posting a 12 point, 10 rebounds, seven blocks outing. His pick-and-roll coverage leaves a lot to be desired and with slow foot speed, it remains to be seen if he’ll ever be adept at switching on the perimeter.
In high school, Wiseman also showed flashes of being a three-point shooter and his 19-27 free throw numbers in college are encouraging. If he becomes a true pick and pop threat, Wiseman could be someone scoring in the high teens. The modern NBA is shifting away from the traditional big man, and I am unsure Wiseman will ever be a starting center in a big playoff series. But teams picking in the top five need production, and Wiseman can be a double-double threat on any night.
3. LaMelo Ball – Illawarra Hawks – 6’7, 180 lbs – August 2001
In the past two years, Ball has blossomed from internet star to a legitimate top-five prospect. The tiny freshman that was making waves playing alongside his brother Lonzo at Chino Hills, has grown into a 6’7 passing savant. Ball is certainly one of the bigger gambles in the class. He uses his elite size and vision to dice opposing defenses. He’s a plus pick-and-roll player that knows exactly where his teammates should be. Despite playing on an atrocious NBL team, Ball was still able to put up high assist numbers. He’s got a great handle, constantly deceiving defenders with his dribble. With better shooting and spacing around him, he could be a dangerous NBA playmaker.
But the red flags with Ball are there too. He’s got suboptimal shooting mechanics, which led to a 25 percent number from three in his 12 games in Australia. His shot selection is also poor, taking bad jumpers early into the shot clock. Ball has a great floater, but struggles to finish at the rim consistently. Defensively, there’s potential to be a good defender with his length. But he was disinterested at times and lacks the defensive instincts of an elite defender. If Ball’s jumper becomes even league average, his offensive ceiling is very high. But given his mechanics that’s not a bet I am willing to make. Nonetheless, his perceived upside makes him very appealing to teams looking for a potential franchise cornerstone in the top five.
4. Tyrese Haliburton – Iowa State – 6’5, 175 lbs – February 2000
I have long been a fan of Haliburton’s unorthodox game, dating back to his AAU days with Wisconsin United. In his two seasons at Iowa State, Haliburton showed all the makings of an elite NBA role player. Ball is probably the best passer in the class, but Haliburton is not far behind. He’s a basketball genius that makes his teammates better in any setting. There are concerns about his jumper due to his mechanics, but Haliburton shot 42.6 percent on 4.2 attempts per game from three in his two-year career and is a guy you can’t leave open.
The lanky guard’s biggest weakness is his lack of burst. Haliburton struggled to blow past slower defenders and that likely inhibits him from being a primary creator at the next level. Taking only two free throws per game is not a stat that bodes well. But for Haliburton, team context is everything. When he was the third or fourth option as a freshman, he posted an absurd 4.5:1 assist to turnover ratio. He’s not a guy that should be handed the keys to an NBA offense right away but paired next to another quality guard and some shooting and Haliburton will make everyone on the court better. He’s a high-character dude who has the intangibles for a long NBA career.
5. Isaac Okoro – Auburn – 6’6, 225lbs, – January 2001
Okoro saw his stock rise demonstrably after a strong freshman campaign where he was named second-team All-SEC and SEC All-Defense. He’s a powerful wing, who uses his wide frame to attack the rim on one end and disrupt ball handlers on the other. At a minimum, Okoro should be a positive NBA defender who can guard multiple positions and play the role of a stopper. Offensively, Okoro excels at attacking downhill and finishing around the rim. He’s also an adequate passer, making good reads off of his drives.
Okoro’s biggest weakness is his jumpshot. He shot 26.6% from three and often looked hesitant to shoot. His 67.2 free throw percentage isn’t terrible, but it’s also not super encouraging. Okoro’s mechanics are ungraceful but workable. The team that picks him needs to have confidence in their shooting coach because Okoro’s shooting is the swing skill that could separate him from good to great. Even if Okoro never becomes a consistent shooter, there are avenues for him to be a valuable contributor with his ancillary skills. In a draft consisting of few guys with high-end outcomes, Okoro’s upside is very enticing in the early lottery.