Scouting Reports for the Notable NBA Draft Prospects

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Austin Barach

The 2020 NBA Draft will finally occur tomorrow, Wednesday night, virtually. As the NBA community is aware, there is no consensus at the top this year. There’s no Zion. No Luka. No Anthony Davis. Sure, we can probably say that the Timberwolves will draft LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick, that is, if they don’t trade the pick away to say, the Hornets. But we don’t know for sure. There might not be a “slam dunk” pick in this year’s draft, a guy that everyone knows is going to be really good, but this class does offer plenty of depth. As for some of the likely lottery picks, here are my scouting reports on eight of them.

LaMelo Ball, Personal Big Board rank: 2nd

  1. Strengths
    1. Basketball IQ/feel for the game/instincts
    2. Elite passing in pick and the roll with great pace and poise, cross-court to shooters, no-lookers in transition, downhill, and when doubled teamed in half-court to constantly have the defense guessing/on their heals, one-handers up the court, either zip passes to wings or to bigs lofted over defenders
    3. Rebounds very well for a PG, including elite instincts with tap out rebounds/passes to teammates
    4. Shifty and creative ball handler
    5. Good FT%/good touch on floaters
    6. Anticipates passes in backcourt and frontcourt for steals
  2. Weaknesses
    1. An inconsistent effort on defense, doesn’t always put hands up, doesn’t always fight around screens, sometimes stands completely straight up and loses track of his man, is fine with letting a layup occur instead of contesting it
    2. Uses two hands on his shot and has a tendency to take bad shots → poor 3PT% and midrange shooter
    3. Falls away from contact: settles for floaters and tends to jelly instead of going strong
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. He won’t have trouble putting up stats right away. I can easily see him being a taller version of Trae Young. However, he has more upside than Young due to his 6’7” height and superior instincts. I can’t see him being the best player on a championship team as long as he takes too many bad shots and takes possessions off on defense. A good organization with good veterans could help him with these habits. I can see a world where he’s the second-best player on a championship team if that team has an elite small forward with a good big man and a fellow guard who can shoot and play consistent defense on the opposition’s best offensive guard. However, a backcourt of him and say a Devin Booker type won’t yield winning success. He’s a super risky pick if he goes to a bad situation. It’s weird to have him as the second best prospect in the draft given that he has major bust potential, especially if his teammates can’t stand his poor shot selection and lack of defense/effort.   

Anthony Edwards, Personal Big Board rank: 5th

  1. Strengths
    1. Strong, explosive athlete
    2. Intimidating downhill driver
    3. Good balance and footwork both around the rim and into shots; finishes with both hands around rim
    4. Has a good shooting form, elbow in; great dribble up rhythm into the three… the Michigan State game 
      • Great pullup shot/midrange game
    5. Quite frequently jab steps before a pull-up three, advanced technique
    6. Plays lockdown defense when he cares to
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Loves to go into pull-up three from the left pocket… NBA defenders could force him to pull-up from right pocket more often
    2. Not a great off-ball defender. Stands straight up, slow at getting around off-ball screens and contesting shots
    3. LOVED to take bad, contested, hero-ball shots… perhaps this is because he didn’t have much of a supporting cast at Georgia so hopefully he’ll take better shots in the NBA
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. Best suited to be in a backcourt where he’s not the primary play-maker, otherwise, a Collin Sexton like (at least so far) career path is in store. He has the heart to push his teammates and has the size and agility to take on the best offensive player on the other team, positions 1-4. The best-case scenario is that he can be the third-best player on a championship team; however, his lack of playmaking, at least right now, could make the offense somewhat stagnant if he’s thrust into a large role. 

James Wiseman, Personal Big Board rank: 1st

  1. Strengths
    1. Tall, lengthy, strong, athletic, agile
      • Length, agility, and athleticism allows him to catch alley-oop dunks and layups and make more acrobatic layups 
      • Massive standing reach helps with the alley-oops as well as snatching rebounds on both ends and blocking shots
    2. Runs hard down the floor
    3. Soft-touch on free throws and turnaround jumpers  → potential to be a good big man 3-point shooter
    4. Was able to work out and train for the majority of the college season, although some might say this was a weakness b/c didn’t play against as much competition
    5. Can dribble down the court if need to
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Will easily jump and foul on layup shot fakes
    2. A bit slow laterally allowing guards to get the edge to the hoop
    3. The term “heavy-footed” can be applied, just seems stuck to the floor on defense at times, generally bad defending guards coming off the screen
      • Will also purely use his height and reach to get offensive rebounds over smaller defenders, something he won’t be able to do as much of in the NBA
    4. Will take bad, contested shots over defenders purely with height and reach
    5. Can certainly focus on just him and his defender, a bit of “tunnel vision”
    6. Often looks dejected when blocked or misses a layup and therefore is late getting back on defense
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. He’s got tremendous upside due to his size and athleticism, and with a good touch on his shot has the potential to also stretch defenses. He needs to be quicker and show more consistent energy and discipline. I can definitely see him being the starting big man on a championship team surrounded by other really good players, especially with a fellow frontcourt player who does more of the “dirty work.” He has the best chance of anyone in his NBA Draft class to be the best player from his class. If he goes to the Warriors, I would expect him to do big things. Also, he could be a guy who looks like a completely different beast with all the time off. 
James Wiseman

Obi Toppin: Personal Big Board rank: 10th

  1. Strengths
    1. Explosive, powerful athlete
      • Gets out on the fast break and yams
    2. Times his baseline alley oops well, throws down with force
      • Also a very good roller off the pick, utilizes great balance and his elite athleticism to dunk
    3. Proved to be a good corner three-point shooter
    4. Uses his wide frame and bounciness to score down low
    5. Has demonstrated the ability to make reads and make good passes
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Heavy-footed, “cement feet” defensively, will get picked apart in the pick-and-roll
      • Definitely has bad hips/center of gravity in regards to lateral defense
    2. Not tall enough to effectively defend larger players, such as Azibuke and the kid from UMass
    3. “Old”: already 22
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. Toppin was a joy to see this past season at Dayton. It seemed like every time the Flyers would play he’d have a Sportscenter Top 10 dunk. You couldn’t help but root for him and the Flyers. Now, at the NBA level, it stands to reason that he’s going to be a terrible defender, at least early on. He definitely has the raw athleticism to make highlight plays defensively, but his feet and hips are not ideal to defend in the modern NBA. He will, however, be good offensively. I’m going to be rooting for him to succeed; he’s a fun guy.

Deni Avdija: Personal Big Board Rank: 6th

  1. Strengths 
    1. Sneaky athleticism 
      • Will throw some down and shows decent shot-blocking skills for his position 
    2. Very good at quickly bouncing off/around a defender in the low post for a quick little hook shot
    3. Keeps the ball high on his shot, good follow-through
    4. Obviously a smart player with good playmaking ideas
    5. Good passing instincts, draws multiple defenders and can get it to his man
      • Pretty good at the one-handed bounce pass
    6. Somewhat of a creative finisher for right-handed layups
    7. Smart cutter; knows when to make his cut
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Shot 56% on FTs and appears to be wobbly/off balance at times when he shots
    2. Doesn’t have tremendous dribbling discipline, likes to keep the ball high when working in traffic which leads to turnovers
    3. Can get tunnel vision with his role man, delivering a weak bounce pass when it’s not open and not seeing the swing pass opportunity
    4. Rather inconsistent with decision making in the pick-and-roll; is not polished 
    5. Not that strong; can get pushed back a little bit in the low post and allows offensive rebounds to his man
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. Avdija is not a finished product by any stretch, so whatever team selects him should limit their early expectations for him. His weaknesses are pretty concerning, but the signs of his playmaking and the upside of developing a consistent shot and more physical strength give me the confidence to have him as a top 6 prospect in this NBA Draft. With that said, there are plenty of “safer” prospects who I also like but have ranked slightly behind him, so I wouldn’t be surprised if those guys perform better in their rookie season compared to Avdija. I do not think that this kid has Luka potential, and he probably doesn’t even have superstar potential, but his best-case scenario could be the third-best player on a championship team. With that said, I think he could be a guy who used all this time off to really improve his game. There’s also a chance he’s out of the league in like four years.
Deni Avdija

Killian Hayes: Personal Big Board rank: 3rd

  1. Strengths
    1. Elite passing, great feel for the game and where teammates are going to be, delivers it nicely to them 
      • This includes cross-court passes and lead passes with touch in transition 
    2. Deliberate/methodical pace to break down defenders to get into a soft floater or a stepback
    3. Good shooter who has the ability to be really good in the NBA… already has a nice hesitation face-up three
    4. Not a great athlete but will throw it down off of a split or in transition
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Tends to get cute with dump down passes to the big in the pick-and-roll
    2. Doesn’t have a developed right hand yet
    3. Lacks positional discipline on defense
  3. NBA fit/overall shots
    1. Hayes can immediately run an NBA offense. He has that skillset. The concern, however, is that he isn’t dynamic enough quite yet to lead a good team. The people who have him as their top prospect probably think that he can be like Harden offensively, which, although it isn’t a stretch, is also easier said than done. The D’Angelo Russell comp is very accurate. With that said, his defensive ceiling is probably higher than Russell’s, and so, his best case scenario is being the 2b option on a championship team.

Tyrese Haliburton: Personal Big Board rank: 4th

  1. Strengths
    1. The combination of being tall and being able to make really good passes is great stuff
      • Good feel and good touch in both the pick-and-roll and transition; knows where his guy is and knows when and how to deliver it
    2. His fluidity/smoothness and lengthiness make him a decent driver
      • Is a gamer; gets to his spots and finishes off the glass even against larger defenders; has poise and patience
    3. Has a very weird looking shot, but hey, it goes in
    4. Length and instincts make him a solid defender
  2. Weaknesses
    1. With the thin frame, he tends to avoid contact on drives and can also be moved when trying to box out
    2. Can be passive at times, especially when he finds himself at a tough angle to attack off a screen
      • Can be stiff man-to-man, but that might also be due to his frame
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. Haliburton is an Iowa State guy so I have a soft spot for him and may have some bias towards him; evidently, having him above Edwards. But the thing is, he will automatically be a valuable rotation piece because of his feel for the game and playmaking instincts. And he’s tall with a tremendous wingspan for his position. His floor is so high. The SGA comp is accurate. He can be the 3rd or 4th best player on a championship team.

Onyeka Okongwu: Personal Big Board rank: 7th

  1. Strengths
    1. Very versatile defender who moves his feet quickly and well to cover lots of space and stay in front of smaller offensive players on switches, anticipates passes and gets in the lanes, great shot-blocking instincts, doesn’t try to do too much
      • Patrols the paint and times his help and his blocks nicely
    2. Active on the offensive glass, gets position as the shot goes up and utilizes length to snatch or tip the ball to himself and his footwork and patience to dunk or lay it in
    3. Great hands and touch around the rim, a very good finisher who has a large catch radius 
    4. Strong frame and balance diving to the basket in the pick and roll, no wasted movements and frequently takes flight for two-handed stuffs
    5. Smooth turnaround baby hook, again, no wasted movements, knows what he needs to do to score, protects the basketball off the catch 
  2. Weaknesses
    1. Hardly ever took threes or midrange shots, has an uncomfortable-looking shot and footwork on the catch-and-shoot
    2. Sometimes gets tunnel vision on the catch and post up and does occasionally lose balance when making a move 
    3. Will bite on shot fakes and tends to stand straight up defending the post, needs to add strength 
  3. NBA fit/overall thoughts
    1. The no-nonsense versatile big man defender who will automatically help the team defense of a bad team or reinforce/enhance the team defense of a good team. Will be a passing point guards’ best friend as he can engulf many passes his direction and finish around the rim. He can certainly be the complementary piece/glue guy on a championship team, putting back missed shots and fixing the defensive mistakes of his teammates.
Onyeka Okongwu

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