This time last year everybody in the business of projecting such things had Duke's RJ Barrett going first in the 2019 NBA Draft. Then, in late November/early December, most switched to Zion Williamson — and it stayed that way through Thursday night, which means only two different players (Duke teammates Zion and RJ) were ever slotted at the top of any reputable 2019 mock draft.
That probably won't be the case next year, though.
The top of the 2020 NBA Draft, on the surface, seems much more wide open. Memphis incoming freshman James Wiseman, a self-described unicorn, belongs at the top right now, I think. But any number of players — basically everybody projected in the top five below — could theoretically supplant him between now and next June.
Is it too early to look at that now?
Of course not!
Truth is, in this sport, most future lottery picks can be identified at least a year in advance. So if you're wondering which players might be shaking NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's hand early next year, the following is a reasonable place to start.
1. James Wiseman (Memphis)
Wiseman is the prize of Penny Hardaway's top-ranked recruiting class. He blocks shots, runs well, dunks everything and has the ability to be a floor-spacing big at both the college and NBA levels.
2. Anthony Edwards (Georgia)
Edwards is a well-rounded guard with size who is gifted athletically and competent shooting or passing. His better-than-most first step allows him to get by defenders and has drawn comparisons to James Harden from respected recruiting analysts.
3. RJ Hampton. (New Zealand)
Hampton turned down offers from Kansas and Memphis to spend the next year playing professionally for a team based in New Zealand. The fact that playing overseas before entering the NBA Draft has never really hurt an American prospect should be reassuring for the dynamic point guard who has the look of a possible star.
4. Jaden McDaniels (Washington)
McDaniels was a late (and great) addition to Mike Hopkins' recruiting class at Washington. If he adds weight, and continues to develop, the long and gifted wing could easily go in the top half of the lottery because his upside is undeniable.
5. Theo Maledon (France)
Big guards who can serve as primary ballhandlers will never not be worth something in the NBA. Maledon, the reigning French Cup Final MVP who just turned 18 earlier this month, qualifies as such and projects as the next interesting European prospect to bounce to the NBA.
6. Cole Anthony (North Carolina)
Anthony will be the next son of a former NBA player to also play in the NBA — joining a growing list that includes Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Love, Al Horford and Domantas Sabonis. He's a smooth-operating point guard capable of filling the void left by Coby White's departure at North Carolina.
7. Nico Mannion (Arizona)
Arizona coach Sean Miller has called Mannion an "all-everything point guard." He's shown the ability to consistently make 3-pointers, get to the rim and generally run an offense, which is why he projects as a future Pac-12 star clearly capable of returning the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament.
8. Scottie Lewis (Florida)
Lewis' ability to punish opponents in transition is among the things that made him the the top prospect in Florida's heradled recruiting class. He should have the Gators in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in what will be five years under Michael White.
9. Deni Avdija (Israel)
Avdija earned MVP honors at a Basketball Without Borders camp in Serbia last year. He's an 18-year-old wing who has already won multiple Israeli League titles.
10. Precious Achiuwa (Memphis)
Achiuwa is a super-athletic combo forward who plays with energy and should be a nightmare for opposing American Athletic Conference schools. If he and Wiseman both live up to these projections, it'll be hard for Memphis not to be great.
11. Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky)
Maxey is a combo guard with a deadly floater who should lead Kentucky in scoring next season. He made more 3-pointers in the McDonald's All-American game than any other player.
12. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois)
Dosunmu would've maybe been a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had he elected to enter it. The hope from his perspective is that another year at Illinois propels him into the 2020 lottery.
13. Matthew Hurt (Duke)
Any franchise looking for a skilled forward with a reliable jumper should be interested in Hurt in the second half of the lottery. Barring a surprise, he'll be the first Duke player drafted next year.
14. Tre Jones (Duke)
It's doubtful Jones will be selected this high without significantly improving his 3-point shot, obviously. But all of the other stuff is already in place for him to become a competent NBA point guard.