The deadline for early entrants to declare for the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft passed last week, with 205 prospects making themselves available. The figure itself reveals just how much the process this year has been affected by the pandemic.
The number of early entrants is down substantially from 233 last year and 236 the year before, as it seems uncertainty surrounding this year's process has pushed international players and underclassmen back to the safety of certainty in their respective locales.
That could be in part because testing the draft waters in typical years consists of in-person interviews, individual workouts with teams, and traveling to compete in front of executives. This year there has thus far been none of that, with the NBA suspending normal draft activities indefinitely and making it more difficult to get real feedback from teams and talent evaluators. What is normally a robust draft process has been all but halted, with players limited to distancing contact -- via Zoom or phone calls or text messages. And even those interactions have time restrictions.
Nonetheless, the process -- what's left of it this year -- marches forward. Despite no clear schedule on a potential NBA return, which in turn leaves us with no clear timeline on a draft lottery or even a combine, we're still tracking this year's class. And with the early entry deadline in our rearview, we've expanded the CBS Sports Big Board with a look at our top 100 prospects. Let's dive in first with our notable risers and fallers now that the dust has settled.
Top 10 prospect rankings
|9||Tyrese Haliburton||Iowa St.||Soph||PG||6-5||175|
Click here for the rest of the Top 100 prospect rankings
Deni Avdija. Israel
Current rank: No. 4
Previous rank: No. 8
Israeli combo forward Deni Avdija fits perfectly into what the modern NBA is and where it is headed. The 6-foot-9 Avdija is a gifted playmaker with a polished handle for his position who plays with great feel and awareness on the court, reading the game much the same way a point guard can.
I've waffled on whether that combination of skills is worthy of a top-five pick or whether he's more fringe top-10, but in this draft class, Avdija's a safe bet I'm comfortable labeling in the former category for now. His 3-point shooting will need to rebound significantly to warrant such a high selection -- his efficiency dipped last season, shooting just 33.6% from distance -- but it's an area I've been told he's determined to improve in this offseason. If it does, that lethality from distance combined with the point-forward potential and physical makeup should give him a short wait to hear his name called on draft night.
Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt
Current rank: No. 10
Previous rank: No. 13
Cameron Johnson's stunning lottery selection last summer highlighted just how important shooting is to NBA teams in this era. That's why Aaron Nesmith's stock should be soaring right now.
Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 swingman from Vanderbilt who played just 14 games last season, but in those 14, he shot 52.2% (!) from 3-point range (better than his 51.2% shooting from the field). He's more than just an outside shooter, too. He rated out in the 90th percentile or better in offensive production in the following situations, per Synergy: off-screens, spot-up, hand-offs and isolation. The myriad ways in which he can generate offense -- sprinting off picks at the top of the key, firing 3-pointers in transition, pulling up off his own dribble -- is a set of skills that won't go unnoticed by teams in a league where shooting and wing depth is particularly at a premium.
Jahmi'us Ramsey, Texas Tech
Current rank: No. 18
Previous rank: No. 28
Ramsey's rise on my board is a continuation of my point on the importance of shooting in the NBA. Ramsey, at minimum, can do that at a high level. He's got a lightning quick shooting release that netted him great results in his one-and-done season at Texas Tech, as he shot 42.6% from 3-point range and rated in the 91st percentile as a catch-and-shoot scorer.
But Ramsey's strengths are as obvious as his limitations. How much more can he add as an offensive player right now beyond his 3-point shooting? He's not an explosive athlete who can blow by defenders and get to the rim. His shot-making versatility isn't near as dynamic as other sharpshooters in this class, like Nesmith. And overall he's boxed in because of that as a potential catch-and-shoot guard with limited upside, unless the handle becomes significantly more advanced and he becomes more of a one-dimensional threat.
To me, though, Ramsey is the ideal fit for NBA teams with established cores who may only be in need of additional shooting, like the Trail Blazers or the Sixers or the Thunder or the Bucks. For the right team he's worth the price of a first-rounder right now -- and especially if he's able to diversify his offensive game in time.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Previous rank: No. 26
Current rank: No. 42
This is the year of the point guard. If you want a potential franchise-caliber starter, LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes are top of the list. But if you want a reliable backup with experience, players like Cassius Winston and Payton Pritchard pop.
The in-between of the point guard class is why Winston is dropping a bit for me. Players like Kira Lewis Jr., Devon Dotson and Tre Jones are in a tier ahead of Winston who I'd prefer to gamble on.
Winston still has plenty of appeal -- and should get early second-round consideration for teams looking to bolster their backcourt with shooting and ball-handling -- but the upside athletically is capped compared to some of his contemporaries.
Nico Mannion, Arizona
Current rank: No. 32
Previous rank: No. 27
Mannion has slowly slid down my board the last few months and is officially in early-second round territory.
I still would bet on him going in the first round because of what he brings to the table, but there are other prospects I personally rank ahead of him.
The limitations on Mannion's game at this point are just too glaring to ignore. He lacks athleticism, doesn't have the burst you necessarily want from a lead guard, and shot just 32.7% from 3-point distance at Arizona. He makes up for a lot of his deficiencies by smart passing, high IQ and a pristine feel. But I'm no longer sure he's worthy of a first-round pick if his best situation in the NBA may only translate to a backup role.