Under normal circumstances, spring is the time of year when teams' big boards begin to take shape. Between conference tournaments, March Madness and the Portsmouth Invitational, it's an inviting time for scouts, agents and front offices to evaluate and really drill down on prospects ahead of the NBA Draft.
But these are not normal circumstances. The coronavirus pandemic has all but halted the draft process. Scouts right now can only talk to seniors until the deadline for underclassmen to declare passes -- and that's only via Zoom or texts or calls as a mandate from the NBA in accordance with social distancing guidelines (and even then there are time restrictions). Even so much as requesting workout videos are off limits for now, leaving tape from prior competition the only film to review.
It leaves all parties involved in a precarious position. Some agents I've spoken with, typically in pursuit of players this time of year, have strategically shifted their focus to next year's class. Scouts I've talked with are adjusting to home life despite typically living on the road in the spring. And players, meanwhile, are left in the unenviable position of trying to improve their draft stock in a normally-robust process that is all but nonexistent for the time being.
Taking that into account, the CBS Sports Top 75 Big Board is largely unchanged at the top, with LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Killian Hayes holding steady at the Nos. 1-3 spots. But there are plenty of moving pieces with underclassmen projected to stay in college instead turning pro, and underclassmen projected to turn pro instead staying in college. There's also some movement in our top 10 as we gather more intel and evaluate the class more thoroughly. Here is where we stand with an update on some of those decisions, their respective draft stock, and other updates.
Kentucky's roster depletion
with Immanuel Quickley, the SEC Player of the Year, joining Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans in this year's draft class. A source told CBS Sports' Gary Parrish that the Wildcats were hopeful they might keep Quickley another season based on the idea that he could play more with the ball in his hands, but the high of a career year makes sense that it would culminate with the leap.
Quickley ranks No. 44 on our updated Big Board, behind Maxey (No. 12) and Hagans (No. 39). Last season as a breakout sophomore he shot 42.8% from the 3-point line on 145 attempts while improving as a perimeter defender and scorer. Improving with the ball in his hands at Kentucky could perhaps have upped his stock a smidge, but the physical tools and improvement could intrigue a team looking for a two-way guard in the second round.
The departures don't end with Maxey, Hagans and Quickley, either. In addition to the backcourt bouncing, Kentucky big men Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery are also declaring and turning pro, guaranteeing UK's entire roster -- save for Keion Brooks Jr. -- will be returning next season. Richards ranks 60th on our updated Big Board, and Montgomery, a potential two-way candidate, is unranked.
The race for the best wing
While this draft class is loaded with high-end guards -- particularly at point guard -- it's unusually thin in wing talent at the top. And every NBA team is always on the hunt for depth at wing.
Yet despite the need, the supply remains curiously uncertain. Unlike point guard, where LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes are clear-cut top prospects, or center, where Onyeka Okongwu and James Wiseman occupy the platform, there are a host of wings with no clear separation on who stands out as the top prospects.
Auburn's Isaac Okoro holds steady in my rankings as the top wing, but it's close. He is No. 9 overall on the board, ahead of Devin Vassell at No. 11, Aaron Nesmith at No. 13, and Saddiq Bey at No. 18.
Okoro's edge for me is his defensive versatility and long-term projection. He's 6-foot-6, 225 and can defend 1-4, with the nimble feet needed to make a defensive impact early. Shooting 29% from 3-point range last season makes me believe the team taking him will be considering a longer view of his prospects, though, despite major defensive potential right away. One scout told me they believe he will be the best wing to come out of this class, but it may not be evident for five years. Remember: he's just 19 years old.
Vassell and Nesmith are on his heels with legitimate top-10 cases. Vassell's defensive playmaking pops, as does his 41.7% 3-point shooting in two years at FSU -- including 41.5% last season. He's the archetype of a 3-and-D wing. Nesmith's selling point is based on his scoring and shooting upside: he made 52.2% of his 3-point attempts last season at Vanderbilt, and has a wide array of shot-making versatility beyond a simple spot-up game.
Bey is trending down for me a bit, falling to No. 18, but I'm a believer in the two-way talent. Last season he shot 45.1% from 3-point range while consistently guarding the opponent's best offensive weapon. He doesn't have the upside of Okoro, Vassell or Nesmith, but the plug and play potential for him as a high-level 3-and-D wing is going to give a team immediate value.
Notable movers in top five
Welcome to the elite, Onyeka Okongwu and Tyrese Haliburton.
Okongwu has been the top-rated big man on our board for awhile, and he moves up one spot to No. 4 in my top five here. I'm just a huge believer in the tools and what it will look like in a few years. He'll be able to step out onto the perimeter and switch on defense early, and he's already one of the most natural shot-blockers in this draft class. There is always a spot for a big with those specific skills in the NBA.
Offensively, while he rarely took 3-pointers at USC (a whopping four), his long-term outlook makes me believe there's no reason to think he can't extend his range. And that may be where value differs from team to team. Do you take a big man in the top five who is a great defender but can't space the floor consistently yet? Probably not unless you know he's got real potential. Shooting 72% from the free throw line and 61.6% from the floor last season is enough to buy enough believers to convince someone he's worthy of top five inclusion.
Haliburton makes the most substantial leap to get to No. 5 on the board, up from his previous ranking of No. 11. He's a high-efficiency guard who in college knocked down 3-pointers at a 42.6% clip, averaged 2.5 steals per game last season, and has the smarts to rival just about every guard in this class. The level of comfort and confidence with which he plays with really elevates him from mid-lottery to early-lottery for me. The skinny frame and wonky release are certainly concerns, but there's no denying his production, which pops even among the best guards in this class. If I'm a franchise in need of a lead guard in the top 10 he's getting serious consideration as early as No. 3.
Big Board top 10
|5||Tyrese Haliburton||Iowa St.||Soph||PG||3||6-5||175|
|10||Cole Anthony||N. Carolina||Fr||PG||4||6-3||190|