It was already pretty clear, by around this time last year, that Duke star Zion Williamson would be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was a super-productive physical specimen unlike anything basketball had ever seen. Passing on him would've been foolish for a lot of reasons — although his weight, and knee issues that forced him to miss part of his freshman season at Duke, almost all of the NBA Summer League and the start of his rookie season has undeniably created some long-term concerns.
Has a prospect similarly emerged this season?
And that's why it's reasonable to suggest at least four different players — Cole Anthony, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman — remain legitimate candidates to be the first player selected in the 2020 NBA Draft. Anthony and Edwards are the leading scorers at North Carolina and Georgia, which suggests they're going to be both great college players and incredible pro prospects at the same time. Wiseman is currently sidelined with eligibility concerns but had the nation's highest Player Efficiency Rating through three games and is expected to return to the court for Memphis at some point in December. And though Ball is only 18 years old and competing against former college stars and NBA players in the National Basketball League in Oceania, he is more than holding his own while averaging 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Illawarra Hawks.
Unsurprisingly, those four players -- Anthony, Ball, Edwards and Wiseman, listed alphabetically here — are the projected top four picks in my updated 2020 NBA Mock Draft that projects the first 30 picks based on personal evaluations plus conversations with college coaches and NBA scouts/executives. The draft order is set by SportsLine's projected win totals. But, considering it's still November, team-needs were not taken into consideration at all because I'm more interested in having a proper order than I am in making sure somebody is a good fit for the franchise making the selection. That'll come later but not until the NBA season is completed.
| James Wiseman | Memphis | Fr | C | 7-1, 240|
Wiseman is an incredible physical specimen and athlete who runs the floor beautifully, can be explosive around the rim and serve as an overwhelming presence. Make no mistake, his lingering eligibility issues should have no impact on where he's selected in the 2020 NBA Draft because nobody in the NBA will, or should, care that his mother accepted money from Penny Hardaway two years ago in violation of the NCAA rulebook.
| LaMelo Ball | Illawarra Hawks | PG | 6-7, 165|
Ball has developed into something far more than LaVar's youngest son and Lonzo's little brother. He's now a tall point guard who has shown the ability to be creative and crafty at different speeds while flourishing professionally in Australia and solidifying himself as a legitimate candidate to be the first player selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.
| Cole Anthony | North Carolina | Fr | PG | 6-3, 185|
Anthony was the MVP of every high school all-star game in which he competed — and he scored more points in his college debut than any North Carolina player in history. He projects as a high-end point guard in this league where lead guards who can really get buckets are obviously incredibly valuable.
| Anthony Edwards | Georgia | Fr | SG | 6-5, 215|
Edwards was a late-bloomer, relatively speaking, but emerged as a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft in high school while showing a unique ability to score in different ways and from different spots on the floor. His 6-10 wingspan, combined with his athleticism, suggests he could be a plus-defender if he commits to it.
| Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | SF | 6-9, 215|
Avdija, a big wing who excels in pick-and-roll situations, should be the first non-American international player selected in the 2020 NBA Draft. He led Israel to back-to-back titles in the FIBA U20 European Championship and earned Most Valuable Player honors in the event earlier this year after finishing with 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the title game against Spain.
| Nico Mannion | Arizona | Fr | PG | 6-3, 180|
Mannion was born in Italy but raised in the United States — where he starred as a prep player before reclassifying and enrolling at Arizona after three years of high school. He's a gifted point guard who can facilitate and score via a reliable jumper that produces high percentages.
| Tyrese Maxey | Kentucky | Fr | CG | 6-3, 185|
Maxey is a natural scorer who was the star of Kentucky's season-opening victory over Michigan State in the Champions Classic at New York's Madison Square Garden. He previously helped USA Basketball win a gold medal in the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Americas Championship.
| Theo Maledon | Villeurbanne | PG | 6-5, 174|
Maledon has great size for a point guard and has established himself as a reliable shooter while playing professionally in France. Even though he's only 18 years old, he's already competed for his country's senior national team in World Cup qualifiers.
| Matthew Hurt | Duke | Fr | PF | 6-9, 215 (Pick acquired via trade from Memphis) |
Hurt is a natural shooter with size whose mechanics are ideal for him to become a floor-spacing forward in the modern-NBA. His ceiling might not be as high as some other prospects' ceilings — but his floor is high because, at worst, Hurt projects as a rock-solid role player in a league where shot-makers are more valued than ever.
| Jaden McDaniels | Washington | Fr | PF | 6-9, 185|
McDaniels is a gifted forward with all of the tools to be a steal in the back half of the lottery of the 2020 NBA Draft. The biggest questions about him tend to center on his body and whether he consistently competes at the level it takes to become what the talent suggests is possible.
| Isaiah Stewart | Washington | Fr | C | 6-9, 245|
Stewart had an NBA body before he even stepped foot on campus at Washington. He's been impactful from the jump and is among the reasons the Huskies have a chance to win back-to-back Pac-12 titles under Mike Hopkins.
| RJ Hampton | New Zealand Breakers | CG | 6-5, 185|
Hampton passed on offers from Kansas, Memphis and Texas to spend this season playing professionally for the New Zealand Breakers. The combo guard wasn't great in preseason exhibitions against NBA teams but has settled in nicely and been a solid contributor in the NBL.
| Tyrese Haliburton | Iowa State | Soph | PG | 6-5, 172|
Haliburton's production is up across the board to the point where he's leading the nation in assists per game. Combine that with the fact that he has great size for his position, and with the fact that he shot 43.4% from 3-point range last season, and it's easy to understand why he's a possible lottery pick.
| Precious Achiuwa | Memphis | Fr | PF | 6-9, 225|
Achiuwa was the second-best prospect in Penny Hardaway's top-ranked recruiting class that had Memphis in the top 15 of the preseason Associated Press poll. His size, athleticism and high-energy approach — combined with an improving jumper — will give him a chance to stick in the NBA for a long time.
| Isaiah Joe | Arkansas | Soph | SG | 6-5, 167|
Joe is arguably the best shooter in college basketball — evidence being how he made 41.4% of the 273 3-pointers he attempted during his freshman season. Any guard with size who can take and make at that rate will have a job playing basketball for a long time.
| Scottie Lewis | Florida | Fr | SF | 6-5, 185 (Pick acquired via trade from Brooklyn) |
Lewis is a fantastic athlete who measures the way scouts want wings to measure and possesses the ability to guard multiple positions. He has a chance to be special but did not get off to a great start in his freshman season at Florida.
| Kahlil Whitney | Kentucky | Fr | SF | 6-6, 190|
Whitney was a consensus top-15 prospect in the Class of 2019 who registers as a top-shelf athlete with undeniable upside. If he can clear up some questions about his skillset, or lack thereof, cracking the lottery is a real possibility.
| Jalen Smith | Maryland | Soph | PF | 6-10, 215|
Smith's decision to return to Maryland for his sophomore season is the main reason the Terrapins were in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll. With Bruno Fernando off to the NBA, Smith is posting the type of numbers that'll allow him to compete for Big Ten Player of the Year honors.
| Trendon Watford | LSU | Fr | PF | 6-9, 230|
Watford is an interesting prospect who slid right into LSU's starting lineup in the season-opener. If his jumpshot continues to improve, he should be selected higher than any player Will Wade has ever coached.
| Josh Green | Arizona | Fr | SF | 6-6, 190 (Pick acquired via trade from Indiana) |
Green is one of many wings with good measurables and great athleticism who should be first-round picks in this draft. Assuming he develops properly, there's no reason he can't become an above-average 3-and-D perimeter player.
| Isaac Okoro | Auburn | Fr | SF | 6-6, 225|
Okoro's freshman season is off to a tremendous start and has him on pace to become one of the best first-year players Auburn has ever used. The impact he's already made suggests Bruce Pearl has a team capable of making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
| Killian Hayes | Atiopharm Ulm | CG | 6-5, 192 (Pick acquired via trade from Denver)|
Hayes is an American-born combo guard who was raised in France and is currently playing professionally in Germany. He shared Most Valuable Player honors in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic international game.
| Ayo Dosunmu | Illinois | Soph | CG | 6-5, 185|
Dosunmu excels in transition but is still trying to shed his label of a streaky and unreliable shooter. His ability to theoretically play either guard spot at the next level gives him a chance to make it.
| Obi Toppin | Dayton | RS. Soph | PF | 6-9, 220|
Toppin is a zero-star recruit from the Class of 2017, according to 247Sports, who has developed into one of the Atlantic 10's most productive players. In fact, right now, he's probably the leading candidate to be the A-10 Player of the Year.
| Wendell Moore | Duke | Fr | SF | 6-6, 213 (Pick acquired via trade from Philadelphia) |
Moore didn't get off to the best start at Duke but still projects as an interesting first-round prospect. If he isn't a one-and-done player, it'll likely be tied to what could be a smaller-than-expected role with the Blue Devils and an absence of elite athleticism.
| Jordan Nwora | Louisville | Jr | SF | 6-7, 225|
Nwora didn't announce his intention to return to Louisville for his junior year until about two hours before the deadline to withdraw from the 2019 NBA Draft. He's the main reason the Cardinals are considered a legitimate national title contender.
| Tre Jones | Duke | Soph | PG | 6-2, 183|
Jones' decision to return to Duke for his sophomore season was a bit surprising considering his status as a likely first-round pick. His inability to consistently make 3-pointers is the most obvious thing that could possibly push him into the second round.
| Cassius Winston | Michigan State | Sr | PG | 6-1, 185|
Winston was the CBS Sports Preseason National Player of the Year after leading Michigan State to the 2019 Final Four. He's a steady lead guard who makes up for a lack of size and athleticism by understanding how to create angles and change speeds while being a reliable shooter from both the arc and line.
| Ashton Hagans | Kentucky | Soph | PG | 6-3, 198 (Pick acquired via trade from Milwaukee)|
Hagans is arguably the best on-ball defender in college basketball and main reason Kentucky is one of the toughest teams to score on in the sport. If his offense progresses enough, it's not crazy to suggest he could crack the top 20.
| Josiah-Jordan James | Tennessee | Fr | SF | 6-6, 208|
James is the first 5-star prospect to enroll at Tennessee since Rick Barnes was hired in March 2015. He's a talented wing with a nice body who can guard multiple positions and create for himself and others.