After a long wait, the pre-draft hype has reached full force. This season of sports has been perhaps the most turbulent in any league’s history — yet the NBA found a surprisingly successful way to continue their season safely, and the Lakers were crowned world champions. And now, the eyes and attention which, for months, were so intensely trained on Walt Disney World, will turn to a few dozen teenagers.
Even though we are a month out from the 2020 NBA Draft, this is shaping up to be the most unpredictable draft in recent memory. The coverage and inside reports from different franchises and scouts are all over the place. Yet at the center, a few prospects stand-out clearly as the generational talents that can change the course of a franchise.
Lamelo Ball, of course, headlines these players. His path to the NBA has been extremely unconventional — and somewhat concerning — for many analysts and general managers. Ball has played against varying scales of competition, ranging from high-school basketball at Chino Hills and the SPIRE Institute, to Lithuanian professional basketball, and even a stint in the Australian National Basketball League with the Illawarra Hawks. Across all of these different experiences — aside from his freshman days which consisted primarily of chucking up half-court bombs every possession — Ball has demonstrated a natural ability to be a playmaker in the NBA.
Look for Ball to be taken by either the Charlotte Hornets or the Minnesota Timberwolves, with the Bulls and Warriors being dark-horse candidates. The Hornets and Timberwolves are both in dire need of a ball-dominant guard to lift their talent-filled offenses up the league rankings and generate chemistry between shooters. Chicago would need to look to trade up for Ball, and the Warriors seem to be focused on other players.
Anthony Edwards, a prolific shooting guard from Georgia, is also at the top of the boards for most scouts. Several even have Edwards ranked over Ball. While Edwards possesses big play ability and the explosive athleticism needed to be a talent in the NBA, his 3-point-jumper needs significant work, and he has yet to demonstrate the potential to be even an average defender. Still, most of the top five lottery teams believe he has the ability to improve upon these weaker elements of his game — look for Edwards to go number one to the Timberwolves.
Other CBB stars like James Wiseman and Obi Toppin appear to be locks for top five picks as well. Wiseman — the last of this year’s big three prospects — is just the type of dominant big man that the Hornets need to complete their young core, which has shown some promise in the past year. If Ball or Edwards is off the board by the time the Hornets pick, Wiseman is as good as gone.
The Warriors will be the most difficult lottery team to call this year. While the majority of NBA executives believe that San Francisco’s front office will pull off a trade this year and look for Wiseman, I’m not so confident. From the very beginning of my speculation around this year’s draft, Obi Toppin has looked like the perfect addition to the Warrior’s lineup. The Dayton product shot nearly 40% from three last year and over 60% from the field (not to mention, he has the ideal size and length to be a legitimate rebounding force within the NBA). If the Warriors don’t shock the world by selecting Toppin in the top five, I’d imagine they would trade down and select him at a later pick, assuming he falls.
It’s incredible to think about all the different possibilities of this year’s lottery, and then consider how in the dark the rest of the draft is. Players who were favored among scouts not so long ago, like Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton and Precious Achiuwa are now trending downwards and will likely be pickups for this year’s playoff losers.
The capacity of all of the prospects in this year’s NBA Draft is veritably high, and I strongly believe it’s getting higher every year. Although teams like the Celtics and the Nuggets have a late draft position — they have the chance to build upon their young cores with players who may have even more potential than their cornerstones.