After a long period of uncertainty, we now know that the NBA will return this season. And along with the July 30th return date for league play, a date for the NBA Draft was also set. The event will take place on October 15th, following the draft lottery on August 25th.
With concrete dates now in place, now is as good a time as ever to begin a more in depth analysis of the 2020 class. Mock drafts are a vital tool in this process, but with each team having a different set of needs, they aren’t always the best way to determine the value of a prospect. Instead, let’s look at the top 15 prospects from every position, starting with point guard.
- Lamelo Ball- USA (NBL)
No two scouts will give you the same answer when it comes to Lamelo Ball. He may have the highest upside of anyone in the draft, but it comes with more bust potential than you typically see from a probable top five pick. Teams love the combination of his 6-foot-8 frame paired with elite playmaking ability and feel for the game, especially considering he’s still only 18.
However, beyond that he doesn’t have many skills that are guaranteed to translate to the next level. His jump shot looks very awkward, and has proven to be streaky at best. Although he clearly has the physical tools to be an above average defender, he has not shown that ability in his brief stint with the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League.
And he is a crafty ball handler, but is not incredibly quick, and could have a hard time scoring on NBA guards. Despite these shortcomings, many teams near the top of the draft are still very high on him given his immense potential.
Draft Projection: top five
2. Cole Anthony- North Carolina
Next up is another polarizing prospect in the eyes of many teams drafting in the lottery. Coming out of high school, Cole Anthony was the second ranked player in his class according to ESPN. He is an athletic, score first guard who can pull up from anywhere on the court. He looked like a prototypical starting point guard in the modern NBA.
His freshman season at UNC was far from perfect though. He missed much of the season due to a partially torn meniscus, and when he was on the court, he struggled mightily. In 22 games he shot 38% from the field and 35% from three, as the team failed to string together wins.
However, he did show flashes of superstar potential, especially on the offensive end of the floor. So although he may not be considered the sure thing he was a year ago, he shouldn’t have a long wait to hear his name called on draft night.
Draft Projection: top 10
3. Tyrese Haliburton- Iowa State
While Anthony and Ball were grabbing headlines for their hot and cold performances, Tyrese Haliburton was quietly putting together one of the best seasons in college basketball. The sophomore averaged 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.5 assists last year while shooting 50% from the field and 42% from three.
He displayed a very high IQ on both ends of the floor, and an ability to make those around him better. However, he is not a dynamic off the dribble scorer, and has a very slender frame. This will limit his offensive production early on, but these are fixable shortcomings, and if he can sure up those holes he will be a star on both ends of the floor.
Draft Projection: mid to late lottery
4. Killian Hayes- France
The first international PG to show up, Killian Hayes has quite a bit of experience for an 18-year-old prospect. He has played top level professional basketball in France, and is already showing NBA ready skills. The 6’5 lead guard can score on all three levels, has great defensive upside, and has great court vision. His shot selection must improve if he wants to stay in the league, but the potential is undoubtedly there.
Draft Projection: late lottery
5. Nico Mannion- Arizona
Many think that Nico Mannion should have stayed in school another year to develop his body, and he still has until August 3 to make that decision, but the freshman out of Arizona is more NBA ready than his small, slender frame suggests. He does everything that NBA teams look for in a lead guard nowadays.
He can shoot, put the ball on the deck, and knows when his shot is there and when to set up his teammates. He ran an Arizona offense that had two other projected first round picks, which is a task that not many freshman can handle. His size and lack of elite athleticism may limit his upside, but plenty of point guards have flourished in the league without either.
Draft Projection: mid first
6. Tre Jones- Duke
If potential wasn’t a factor in the creation of this ranking, Tre Jones might be number one. No guard in this draft class has shown an ability to command an offense quite like him. He has played alongside countless other NBA caliber players in his two years at Duke.
Yet he always seems to know when to look for his own shot and when to facilitate. He has risen to the occasion in countless big games for the Blue Devils. And as much as he is a steady hand on offense, he is equal amounts pest on the other end of the floor. He guarded the opposing team’s best offensive backcourt player every game, and forced countless star players, from Cole Anthony to Cassius Winston, into bad nights with his high level quickness and great hands.
However, scouts don’t see a whole lot of room for Jones to grow. He spent two years in college giving him a leg up on some of the less experienced players. And although you can’t leave him alone on the offensive end, his ability to beat a defender one on one is pretty limited. If you are drafting him, you are doing so expecting to get a solid starting guard who will run your offense well, not a game-changing star.
Draft Projection: mid to late first round
7. R.J. Hampton- USA (NBL)
One of the first highly recruited American prospects to forgo college to play professionally overseas, R.J. Hampton is a versatile combo guard with few holes in his game. He is an athletic scorer who uses this scoring ability to set up opportunities for his teammates. He has good size and is a solid defender.
The 19 year is a jack of all trades, but that may not work in his favor. With no clear elite skill, he isn’t likely to be picked in the lottery. But the team that decides to pick him up may end up with a steal if Hampton continues to develop all parts of his game. And the experience of already being a professional player might make him more NBA ready than a lot of his peers.
Draft Projection: mid to late first round
8. Theo Maledon
If a team is looking to draft someone at the one who will be a facilitator and run your whole offense, Theo Maledon is not their guy. The young Frenchman is another combo guard, someone who can be a playmaker, but can’t be the focal point of the offense.
With the way the league is trending though, your point guard is not always your ball handler. Maledon is a 6-foot-5, long guard who can defend multiple positions and make sound decisions with the ball in his hands, and can score spotting up or off the dribble. He could be very productive for a team looking for more scoring out of their backcourt.
Draft Projection: late first round
9. Jahmi’us Ramsey- Texas Tech
One of the more under the radar players in this draft, Jahmi’us Ramsey brings a lot to the table. He can score from anywhere on the court with great athleticism and off the dribble shot creation. He also has great size and length to play the position.
He was the clear leader of a Texas Tech team that was very competitive last year. The big question mark with him is if he can play the point guard at the NBA level. His decision making has a long way to go, and he is definitely a project for any team that takes him, but his scoring ability alone can make him an effective player right away.
Draft Projection: late first to early second round
10. Kira Lewis Jr.- Alabama
If there was a 100 meter race of 2020 draft prospects, I’m putting my money on Kira Lewis. The lightning quick sophomore was sensational last year averaging 18.5 points and 5.2 assists a game for an Alabama team that desperately needed his production.
He has great touch around the rim and is a great pick and roll player, which are two things that compliment his blazing speed quite well. His jump shot is still a work in progress, and he’s very skinny, but he is a great value pick for a playoff team picking towards the end of the first round.
Draft Projection: late first to early second round
11. Devon Dotson- Kansas
There were very few guards in college basketball last year that had a better season than Devon Dotson. The second year Jayhawk averaged 18.1 points per game, led the Jayhawks to the number one ranking in the country, and earned himself a Consensus All-American bid. The pick and roll duo of him and Udoka Azuibuike was probably the best one-two punch in the country.
Dotson showed an elite ability to beat his defenders off the dribble in both isolation and pick and roll situations, and displayed strength and creativity finishing around the rim. He also improved greatly as a playmaker, seeing the floor much better than his freshman season.
He slips to this spot because of his inconsistent shot and his size. He is 6’0 without shoes, and there are very few little guards who survive in the league without a jump shot. But if he is able to become more of a perimeter threat, he could thrive in an NBA offense.
Draft Projection: late first to early second
12. Cassius Winston- Michigan State
As we begin to look at guards that will most likely be taken in the second round, players who have spent more time in college will begin to pop up. These are mostly players who had very successful college careers, but due to their age they are viewed by scouts as low-upside players. Cassius Winston fits this criteria perfectly.
He played four years at Michigan State, and walked away from his college career as a two time Consensus All-American, a two time All-Conference award winner, and a one time Big Ten Player of the Year. But given that he is now twenty two years old, he is unlikely to go in the first round.
Other than his age, his 6-foot-1 frame is his only weakness. He is a polished pick and roll guard who can hit outside shots, is crafty around the rim, and seems to always make the right read. Definitely someone that could make an impact right away on a team.
Draft Projection: early second round
13. Payton Pritchard- Oregon
The parallels in the situations of Winston and Payton Pritchard are easy to see. They were two of the best guards in the country last year with both leading their teams to top-25 rankings, and received Consensus All-American selections for their outstanding seasons. And yet both will most likely not hear their name called until the second round.
Pritchard is also 22 years old, and suffers from the same perception of players who stayed in college that Winston does. He excelled both scoring and distributing last year, averaging 20.5 points and 5.5 assists last year. His ability to score in bunches led to him providing us with some of the best individual performances in college basketball all year.
He may not have a high upside given his age, but he is very likely to be a good rotational piece in the league, which is something that can’t be said about many second round picks.
Draft Projection: mid to late second round
14. Ashton Hagans- Kentucky
15 years ago Ashton Hagans would be a sure fire first round pick. He has proven that he can command a high caliber offense as he did at Kentucky. Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey are two wing scorers whose play definitely benefited from Hagan’s high quality lead guard play, always making on time and on target passing.
Hagans also displayed for the last two years that he is a very able and willing defender, consistently taking on the challenge of picking up the other teams best guard full court. Unfortunately he is yet to develop much of an ability to create for himself. In the modern NBA it is very hard to succeed as a guard who can’t shoot.
Hagans has at least shown at times the ability to finish at the rim and hit mid range shots. If he can flesh out those skills a little more and be able to hit open threes, he could find himself as a starting point guard in the league. If not, his path to playing time will be much harder.
Draft Projection: mid to late second round
15. Markus Howard- Marquette
For a player who has had as long a career as Markus Howard, he is very hard to apply a draft value to. Last year he led the nation in scoring with 27.8 points per game. It was an definitely an impressive feat, but considering he did it on 42% shooting puts a little bit of a damper on it. This type of play was indicative of Howard’s whole college career.
He has always been a volume scorer, and has done so on a larger volume than anything you typically see in college basketball. So it is very hard to predict how his NBA career will pan out. Given his rather tiny 5-foot-11 stature though, it may be tough his scoring translates to the next level. But there is always the off chance that he could turn into an Isaiah Thomas type of player, in which case he would be an enormous steal.
Draft Projection: late second round
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