2020 NBA Draft Big Board: LaMelo Ball takes top spot in prospect rankings from Georgia's Anthony Edwards
An updated look at the risers and fallers of the 2020 draft class, as well as a new No. 1 on our board
The more time that elapses during this college basketball season, the more tape we get on NBA Draft-eligible players for the 2020 class. That hasn't necessarily been a good thing for those vying for the No. 1 pick. Because unlike last year, where Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were able to establish themselves as the clear-cut top prospects in the class relatively early on, there's been no single-player separation in this class.
At least not yet.
Injuries and other extenuating circumstances have played a substantial role in this development (or lack thereof). Former No. 1 recruit James Wiseman, for instance, played just three games at Memphis before receiving a NCAA suspension, leading him to eventually leave college and sign with an agent. Talented UNC point guard Cole Anthony -- like fellow first-round guard prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton -- has dealt with an injury, thus not submitting a full body of work that scouts and executives would prefer to see before the draft. Elsewhere, Anthony Edwards is wasting away on a bad Georgia team, taking far more bad shots than good. All the while, international talents -- the likes of Deni Avdija, Killian Hayes, Ball, Hampton, Theo Maledon and others -- are rising up boards as first-round prospects, and doing so without the hype the NCAA machine produced for Williamson and Morant last year.
Pile it all together, and what you get is a generally perceived weak draft class with no clear franchise talent at the top. There's far less buzz being generated from this class than last year's. That's not to say there won't be productive players from this class -- or that there aren't future All-Stars, hidden gems or players capable of becoming franchise-changers. But the feeling among several scouts I've spoken with is there's no player that teams have become enamored with in the way that other top-end talents have in recent years.
Nonetheless, the draft process marches on. And as we near the end of the regular season, we've updated our top-50 Big Board with a reshuffling at the top and some changes throughout. Below, you'll find those updated rankings. But first, a look at notable risers and fallers on our board.
LaMelo Ball, Illawara Hawks
Current rank: No. 1
Previous rank: No. 2
Leaping Georgia's Anthony Edwards for the No. 1 spot on our Big Board is 18-year-old LaMelo Ball, who spent his season playing overseas for the Illawara Hawks in the NBL. Ball played just 12 games before a foot injury knocked him out for the season -- a limited sample size -- averaging 17.0 points and 7 assists.
What he did in that amount of time earned him the bump. The passing and playmaking he possesses is off the charts and seemingly comes naturally to him. Additionally, Ball can create separation to get his own shot, attack off the dribble, and generate his own offense when it all breaks down -- which he did time and again for Illawara. Projecting him ahead, he can be a starting caliber guard for a winning NBA team.
Ball is not a flawless prospect: he shot just 24% from 3-point range, still struggles with decision-making and trying to do too much, and is at times over reliant on trying to make highlight plays as opposed to winning plays. He also needs to add weight to his 6-foot-7 frame, and is a sieve defensively. But the upside you can get with Ball at the top of the draft as a primary scorer and facilitator is the reason he's No. 1 on our board. If the shot starts falling with more regularity -- which I believe it will -- he has the makings of the best prospect in the class.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
Current rank: No. 3
Previous rank: No. 5
An Eastern Conference scout told Cleveland.com this of Obi Toppin: "He's going either first, second or third in the draft. You can't name five players better than him." And that's where I'm at with Toppin right now. Not only is he one of the best -- if not the best player in college basketball -- he's also a tremendously gifted athlete who impacts the game at every level. It's not just his highlight-reel dunks. He leads the A-10 in field goal percentage and is top five in points and blocks per game -- all the while Dayton is 20-2 and featuring him on a legitimate title-contending team.
Toppin's perceived upside as a draft prospect may be lower than other top-5 challengers -- he's a redshirt sophomore who will turn 22 years old before the draft -- but look: I don't care. Sure, a team may talk themselves into betting on upside with James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu, teenage phenoms who are likely to challenge as the best center prospects in the class, but I'm taking Toppin right now with no hesitation.
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Current rank: No. 12
Previous rank: No. 24
Auburn has five seniors on its roster this season, officially. Unofficially, Tigers coach Bruce Pearl has come to recognize true freshman wing Isaac Okoro as a fresh-senior (a freshman who plays like a senior.) That's what makes Okoro profile as such an interesting prospect: he's almost always in the right spot, already a menace defensively, and still just scratching the surface for what he can become on offense, although his status is in question after he left Wednesday's victory vs. Alabama with an apparent hamstring injury.
Trendon Watford, LSU
Current rank: No. 36
Previous rank: No. 19
The length, size and skill of Trendon Watford will continue to intrigue scouts. He has superb body control and the flashes he's shown creating his own offense off the bounce is why, among other reasons, I'm a believer. But right now it's hard to ignore the inefficiencies and rationalize him as a first-rounder: he's shooting below 30% from 3-point range and has a negative assist/turnover ratio. If I'm picking at the top of the second round I'd take a long look. He's not quite lived up to the hype of his five-star status, but he's still comfortably inside my top-40.
Scottie Lewis, Florida
Current rank: No. 46
Previous rank: No. 27
Scottie Lewis is another former five-star, like Watford, who is trending downwards overall. The defense: A. The effort, length and competitiveness: A. But the lack of potency on offense combined with virtually no impact as a playmaker has dropped him on my board from a first-rounder to a mid-second-round prospect. Teams may buy into the pedigree and the immediate impact he can make on defense as reasons to buy low on Lewis, but the lack of polish in his game is keeping him just outside the first-round discussion for me right now.
Kyle Boone's Top 50 NBA Draft Big Board
|4||Cole Anthony||N. Carolina||Fr||SG||2||6-3||190|
|7||Tyrese Haliburton||Iowa St.||Soph||PG||2||6-5||175|
|11||R.J. Hampton||New Zealand||-||SG||4||6-5||185|
|20||Xavier Tillman||Michigan St.||Jr||PF||4||6-8||245|
|24||Kira Lewis Jr.||Alabama||Soph||PG||7||6-3||165|
|27||Cassius Winston||Michigan St.||Sr||PG||8||6-1||185|
|28||Vernon Carey Jr.||Duke||Fr||C||4||6-10||270|
|29||Jahmi'us Ramsey||Texas Tech||Fr||SG||7||6-4||195|
|30||Patrick Williams||Florida St.||Fr||SF||6||6-8||225|
|33||Devin Vassell||Florida St.||Soph||SF||8||6-7||194|
|40||Myles Powell||Seton Hall||Sr||PG||11||6-2||195|
|43||Robert Woodard II||Miss. State||Soph||SG||9||6-7||235|
|45||Aaron Henry||Michigan St.||Soph||SG||10||6-6||210|
|47||Reggie Perry||Mississippi State||Soph||PF||8||6-10||250|
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