March 30, 2020, 8:39 pm
With things coming to a screeching halt in the NBA, all eyes in dynasty-land turn to next season. A big part of that will inevitably be a rookie draft, so what better way to spend my quarantine time than digging into the 2020 draft class and putting together some initial rankings. As you have likely heard at this point, this is going to be a very, very weird draft class, and a really tough one to pin down. With no clear-cut top of the class, and a large, yet very flat second tier, there will inevitably be some huge misses in the lottery and likely even more surprises coming out of the late-first and second round.
Rather than putting out a pure list, I’ve decided to break this class into tiers and organize players a bit within. Players near the top of tiers are ones that I generally prefer to others down lower, but if I put two guys in the same tier it means that I can see a compelling reason for drafting any one of them at the top of that tier. There is plenty of time for things to evolve, and I’m still working out the bottom of this class, so let’s get started by scraping the surface of the class in my first tier.
LaMelo Ball, PG, International, 18 years
Per 36 Stats: 19.6 PTS, 1.9 3P, 8.7 TRB, 7.9 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.1 BLK, 2.9 TOV
Percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%): (37.5%, 25%, 72.3%)
While Ball is still sitting atop this notably leaderless draft class for me, there is a case to be made for picking anyone in this tier over Ball depending on what you value in a fantasy prospect. His efficiency from the both the floor and the line will almost certainly hold him back in terms of overall 9-cat production, however, he is likely to be one of the more well-rounded and productive fantasy options in this class from a counting stat perspective.
Unfortunately, an injury cut his season abroad short, but what we saw in a 12-game sample size was NBA-ready size for a guard, elite court vision and passing skills, and disruptive defense. Despite the possibility of Ball being selected first overall, he feels like one of the bigger wildcards in this draft. His ceiling as a player and fantasy contributor is sky-high, but his floor could also end up being considerably lower than others near the top of this class.
As a starter with free reign to push the pace and run an offense, Ball could easily wind up as a top-50 fantasy player with modest improvements in efficiency stats, but an inability to earn those minutes and contribute to winning games could hold him back early on.
From a fantasy perspective, the amount of stat-set diversity that Ball brings to table gives him a slight edge over other players in this tier. He has a long way to go as a lead guard, and the efficiency struggles could follow him around for some time, but his feel for the game and fantasy upside are simply too high to discount.
Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC, 19 years
Per 40 Stats: 21.2 PTS, 0.0 3P, 11.3 TRB, 1.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 3.5 BLK, 2.6 TOV
Percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%): (61.6%, 0%, 72%)
If you followed my draft stuff last year, you will know that I was a big fan of Brandon Clarke from very early on. It should be no surprise then, that I’m also very high on Onyeka Okongwu. Take a look at the advanced stat comparison with Clarke below and you might see why I think he is being slept on as a top fantasy prospect in this class. Okongwu lags a bit behind across the board, but at 13.6 he is still in the top-3 of this class for BPM and is considerably younger than Clarke.
PER TS% ORB% TRB% STL% BLK% OBMP DBPM BPM Clarke 37.2 69.9 13.9 17.1 2.3 11.3 8.9 10.0 18.9 Okongwu 31.1 64.5 12.4 15.5 2.3 9.8 5.6 8.0 13.6
On paper, his offensive profile looks like that of a rim-runner, but he has flashed some skills in the post and appears capable of developing a wider offensive arsenal. He is not asked to provide much spacing, but I don’t think that means that he couldn’t develop a serviceable outside shot in time. Free throw percentage can be an indicator of NBA 3-point efficiency, and while 72 percent at the line is not stellar, that efficiency, combined with an equally decent 40 percent efficiency on two-point jumpers indicates that he could become a threat from deep.
That said, Where Okongwu really shines is on the defensive side of the ball. Okongwu’s defensive awareness and ability to translate raw athleticism into functional team defense is miles ahead of other bigs in this class. He is rarely freelancing for blocks, and achieves most of his statistical production as a cog in the larger defensive wheel.
Physically, he has an NBA-ready frame, and is a naturally gifted athlete for his size. Despite measuring in at around 6’9”, his wingspan and bounce gives him a ton of defensive versatility, and should be able to account for Okongwu giving up a few inches to larger centers in the NBA. I’m pretty optimistic that he will fit just about anywhere he lands, so if you value a high-floor in dynasty prospects, Okongwu is your man.
Killian Hayes, G, International, 18 years
Per 36 Stats: 17.2 PTS, 2.1 3P, 3.1 TRB, 8.3 AST, 2.0 STL, 0.3 BLK, 4.4 TOV
Percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%): (45.5%, 39%, 90.9%)
Hayes has been a polarizing prospect as his play has ebbed and flowed over the past two seasons despite the evident potential. At the start of this NBA season Hayes wasn’t widely discussed as a potential lottery talent, but after a strong showing with a new club this season in Germany, his stock has been on the rise.
More and more, Hayes looks capable of holding down a lead guard role in the NBA. On offense, he is right up there with Ball in terms of court vision, creativity and passing ability in both half court and transition. Unlike Ball, he is a highly efficient shooter from deep and uses a range of pull-up and step-back moves to create space. He doesn’t have a lightning-quick first step or elite athleticism, but has enough creativity and good enough handle to make the most of what he has physically. The turnovers are a concern, but it is to be expected from an 18-year-old playing his first season as a lead guard professionally.
On defense, Hayes has great length for an NBA lead guard with a 6’8” wingspan. His lack of lateral quickness and athleticism may hold him back from becoming an elite defender at the NBA level, but he plays smart and in control on the defensive side of the ball. From a fantasy translation perspective, his steal rate is encouraging in that he knows when to pick his spots defensively. Most of Hayes’ steals aren’t a result of gambling, and come within the flow of a team defense.
Regardless of his clear potential, high-level basketball IQ (particularly given his age) and promise as an offensive initiator and shooter, you will continue to hear knocks on Hayes over his average athleticism. Many big boards I see reference a concern among scouts and GMs that Hayes will not be able to keep up with the pace at the NBA level. He won’t be able to get around defenders, and will be too easily beaten by opposing guards.
That may be true, but keep in mind there was a similar situation a few years back with Luka Doncic. A young overseas professional with clear potential, but lingering concerns over athleticism. To be very very very clear, Doncic was miles ahead of Hayes as a prospect, playing against better competition, but my larger point is that I’m willing to give prospects that are clearly ahead of their age in terms of IQ and skill the benefit of the doubt if athleticism is the only real smudge on their resume.
James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 18 years
Per 40 Stats (based on three games played): 34.2 PTS, 0.0 3P, 18.6 TRB, 0.6 AST, 0.6 STL, 5.2 BLK, 1.7 TOV
Percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%): (76.9%, 0%, 70.4%)
Wiseman entered the NCAA season a legit contender to go number one overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. However, after his tenure at Memphis was cut to only three games before leaving school due to eligibility issues, his status at the top of the lottery is in question with the emergence of players like Okongwu and Hayes.
This is based on a small sample size, but on offense, Wiseman often looked more like a rim-runner than a true offensive focal point. In a vacuum, Wiseman has a smooth jumper and appears capable of developing into a perimeter threat, but there wasn’t much evidence of that on display in his three games with Memphis. His extremely low assist rate (including a look at high school numbers) is also a concern for his eventual NBA ceiling. No one is expecting Wiseman to become the next Nikola Jokic, but a player with his size and ability to draw in the defense should be able to average at least one assist per game.
Defensively, Wiseman makes his money as a shot-blocker and rebounder (posting a ridiculous 13.5 block percentage over his three games of college play), two skills that we should be reasonably comfortable translating to the NBA level. However, if he is going to stay on the floor at the next level he needs to show serious progress in terms of defensive awareness.
Despite his limited resume of college play, Wiseman’s imposing physical profile and natural athleticism alone might still keep him near the top of most draft boards. Standing 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan, he could immediately serve as an imposing rim-protector in the NBA. The bigger questions around his relatively limited offensive skillset, basketball IQ, and motor could limit his upside, but any team drafting Wiseman knows that they are getting a project on that end. He is probably the highest pure upside player in the draft from a conventional perspective, even if there are doubts about whether he can reach is his theoretical ceiling.
In terms of fantasy production, we can guess that Wiseman’s prolific shot-blocking ability and rebounding should translate well to the next level, giving him a relatively safe fantasy floor as long as he can stay on the court. If Wiseman can become a legitimate threat from deep, and progress even marginally as a distributor, he has some serious “unicorn” potential. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see Wiseman play meaningful basketball before the draft, making him one of the riskier prospects in this class.
Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia, 18 years
Per 40 Stats: 23.1 PTS, 2.7 3P, 6.3 TRB, 3.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, 3.3 TOV
Percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%): (40.2%, 29.4%, 77.2%)
With serious questions about the top of this class, Anthony Edwards has a legitimate shot (in fact, he probably the presumptive favorite now) to be selected with the first overall pick. I like a lot of what I’ve seen in Edwards, but I can’t quite bring myself to anoint him in the top spot of these dynasty rankings even if he does go first overall. Allow me to explain.
On the plus side, Edwards is arguably the most talented scorer in this draft. When everything is clicking, Edwards can look like an unstoppable force of nature – exploding to the rim seemingly at will and making tough step-back 3-pointers look as easy as Luka Doncic or James Harden does.
It can be the same story on defense for Edwards. When locked in, he is tenacious, active and disruptive with the ability to go one-on-one and shut down larger opponents. Given his physical tools, it is probably safe to assume that his solid, yet not spectacular, steal rate should translate to the NBA with some added upside as an out-of-position shot blocker. At 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan and plenty of weight to throw around for his size, Edwards undoubtedly has NBA ready size to go along with the clear athleticism.
So, with all of that praise lavished on Edwards, why is he not the consensus number one overall, or even the consensus pick for best guard in this class? There are a range of opinions given how flat this class is up top, but for me it comes down to consistency, efficiency and advanced metric indicators. While he can at times look like the best player in this draft, far too often, he looks like a player fighting to even be considered in the lottery the very next game. He improved as the season went on as he began to expand as a facilitator, picked his shots more wisely, and looked consistently more engaged on both sides of the ball, but his motor is still a concern.
There is no getting around the fact that Edwards’ percentages are pretty rough. I would expect his 3-point percentage to increase with experience in the NBA, and an emphasis on finding smarter shots within the flow of the offense. One encouraging note is his efficiency at the rim. For someone who attacks the basket as much as Edwards, it is good to see that he is a 69 percent finisher at the rim. Less encouraging is that he shoots 30 percent from mid-range to go along with his 29 percent efficiency from beyond the arc.
Finally, in terms of advanced metrics, Edwards leaves a lot to be desired. These metrics are far from perfect, but have historically been decent indicators of translating college success to the NBA. These are not an indication that he will or won’t succeed, but I can’t ignore the fact that Edwards grades out pretty poorly across the board. Edwards posted a pretty meh 20.8 PER, sub-par 52 true shooting percentage, below average box score metrics of 4.2 OBPM and 0.8 BPM, all of which paint a concerning picture from a potential number one overall pick.
At his peak, Edwards should have no problem becoming a top-100 fantasy player with real top-30 upside if he can build out his skill-set as a facilitator, up his steal and block rates, and continues to improve his shooting efficiency. However, I’m not sold that his floor is quite as solid as many would lead you to believe. Given the huge upside, there is a perfectly good case to be made for picking Edwards number one in dynasty drafts, but I’m wary of the downside.
May 25, 2020, 3:16 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.
With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Source: Charlotte Hornets
May 25, 2020, 3:13 pmJon LeuerPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.
Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.
Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram
May 24, 2020, 9:20 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo's greenlight from earlier on Sunday, the Nets will reopen their practice facilities on Tuesday.
The team will open its doors to voluntary player workouts. The team's statement went on to elaborate that they would strictly follow NBA and infectious disease expert protocols as they resume activities. It's another small step in the right direction as the NBA continues its climb towards trying to play actual games.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter
May 24, 2020, 8:03 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker feels that his left knee hampered him earlier this year because of all of the basketball he's played over the course of his career.
The knee pain has been a constant this season, and Walker has missed eight games due to the injury overall. He should be fully recovered for when the season does resume at this point, and if he is able to get enough practice reps in he'll be able to avoid any restrictions whenever the league-wide shutdown is lifted.
Source: The Athletic
May 24, 2020, 7:56 pmAnte ZizicPF, Cleveland Cavaliers
If Ante Zizic chooses to leave the NBA when he hits free agency this offseason, he could draw interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Zizic had a lot of success in 2016-17 when he was last in the Euro League with Darussafaka, averaging 9 points and 6.7 rebounds in under 21 minutes per game. In comparison, he's been an afterthought for the Cavs this season, only averaging 10 minutes per game. Moreover, the Cavs declined to pick up his player option for next season, and they already have plenty of options for the frontcourt between Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and possibly DeAndre Drummond (player option). Maccabi will have to see how much salary flexibility they have this offseason as ticket sales are likely to take a hit in Israel next year.
Source: Euro Hoops
May 24, 2020, 7:33 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that professional sports teams based in New York may resume operations immediately.
With Governor Cuomo's green light in place the Knicks and Nets are now just waiting for Adam Silver's seal of approval on getting back into there facilities. The majority of the league now has state approval to access their practice facilities and the NBA is slowly ramping up activities in hopes of resuming games in July.
Source: Andrew Cuomo on Twitter
May 23, 2020, 9:43 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that the NBA has entered "exploratory conversations" with Disney on restarting the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the NBA and NBPA have discussed with Disney on restarting the season in late July. Marc Stein reported on Friday that it is looking increasingly likely that games will resume in July, and it appears that the stage for the rest of the 2019-20 season is likely to be Orlando.
May 23, 2020, 9:32 pmLaMelo BallPG, International
The Knicks have LaMelo Ball as their top-rated point guard for the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Knicks have a need at point guard and Ball is considered the point guard with the highest upside in this draft. He had poor shooting numbers in his 12 games in the NBL this past season, shooting .250 from deep and .375 from the field. He is a gifted passer though and averaged 6.8 assists per game in 31.3 minutes, adding 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. If Ball was drafted by the Knicks, he could help younger players RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson get easier looks. Ball will likely be given an opportunity to run the offense by the team that drafts him and he could put up big assists numbers. He also has an impressive steal rate in limited play in Australia, but his shooting percentages are a big concern.
May 23, 2020, 9:15 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said “There are no Beal Sweepstakes and that’s why he re-signed with the Wizards.”
Bartelstein continued to say “Brad re-signed with the Wizards because he wanted to stay in Washington and the Wizards wanted to keep him there.” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported earlier in the week that the Nets had internal discussions with the Wizards for Beal. A trade out of Washington would likely hurt Beal’s fantasy value, but it’s not worth putting too much stock into trade rumors for Beal in dynasty leagues.
May 22, 2020, 9:13 pmJonathan IsaacPF, Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac, who sustained a serious left knee injury in January, said his knee is "feeling strong" and that he has been squatting increasingly more weight recently.
Isaac also said recently that he's open to returning if and when the NBA season is resumed and as long as the Magic organization is on-board with it. He has been running on an anti-gravity treadmill and indicated that his knee feels "110 percent" after more than four months of rehab. Isaac is a huge part of the Magic's future and it remains to be seen whether or not they will take the risk.
Source: John Denton on Twitter