This was supposed to be a 2020 NBA Draft big board about the NCAA Tournament. And now, it's not. The spread of the coronavirus has rightfully shut down the sports world, including March Madness, triggering an early end to the college basketball season and live game evaluations of NBA prospects.
This is now a 2020 NBA Draft big board about the end of the season. It feels weird. Of course, its evaluations and proclamations aren't final. There will still be some modified pre-draft process. There will also be plenty of time to draw final analytic conclusions and pore over prior game tape to find things that were missed.
In that spirit, it's worth looking at a few prospects who made progress up the board in the last few months and others who could climb higher with a deeper analysis of their games.
Killian Hayes, Ulm
The top of the 2020 draft class is rough. There are few, if any, prospects who project to be legitimate NBA stars. At some point, it becomes about finding guys who might just be good enough.
Hayes is a reasonable bet, especially at just 18 years old. He's got lead guard potential thanks to his ability to probe defenses with a change of pace and high level vision. The shooting potential is also intriguing despite a poor 3-point percentage. He's consistently been a very good free throw shooter, and his mechanics could improve with added strength.
Quality passers who are productive at Hayes' age against professionals are a worthy bet.
Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Haliburton is a prospect who benefits from a retroactive look at the numbers and suffers somewhat from a rewatch of the film. Nearly three steals per 40 minutes and a 2.33-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio stick out for a sophomore prospect younger than some of the freshmen in this class. The shooting numbers appear real, too.
However, the film on Haliburton tells a tougher story — he's not a noticeably great athlete, and the functionality of the jumper is questionable both from a speed of release perspective and in terms of its potential as a pull-up threat. Still, Haliburton seems likely to be a useful contributor to a good NBA team. If you could get some version of Lonzo Ball at the top of this draft, I think you'd be happy.
Onyeka Okongwu, USC
In some circles, Okongwu is viewed as a top-five prospect in this class. He was extremely productive as a freshman, averaging 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per 40 minutes. He's got a diverse offensive arsenal and some rim-protecting chops as well.
I just haven't come around yet. It's hard to imagine a 6-9 center who isn't a great passer being the focal point of an NBA offense. If he's not that, is there a realistic value proposition for him as a top-five pick? Perhaps some additional film review will lead to a re-evaluation.
Devin Vassell, Florida State
By the time the draft rolls around, there's a chance Vassell is viewed as the best 3-and-D prospect in this class. He's a career 41.7 percent 3-point shooter over 168 attempts and bumped his free throw percentage up to 73.8 this season, suggesting a bit more sustainability to his shooting numbers.
He also checks the boxes defensively. Over two seasons, Vassell averaged 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes. He excels as a team defender. Although not much a creator, the 19-year-old is an offensive piece who can slot into a role at the next level.
Devon Dotson, Kansas
Relative to consensus, this board may be higher on Dotson than any other prospect. There's a good chance the Kansas sophomore is being undervalued in large part because he shot just 30.9 percent from deep this season. However, dig into the numbers surrounding that percentage, and they reveal a different story.
Dotson is a career 80.8 percent foul shooter, and he hoisted 4.7 3-point attempts per 40 minutes this season. It's likely he's a solid 3-point shooter who hit a cold streak. If he can figure out the shot, he's a complete prospect. Dotson was one of the best point of attack defenders in college basketball this season, and he's lightning quick as a slasher.
Avoid the pitfalls of focusing on a small sample size when it comes to the soon-to-be 21-year-old.
Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
By most metrics, Kansas was the best team in college basketball this season, so the Jayhawks are getting two players on this list. Azubuike is a prospect I once viewed as unlikely to make the NBA. His senior season has caused me to do a full 180.
The 20-year-old is now an elite defensive anchor. He averaged 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes this season as the centerpiece of one of the nation's best defenses. He also flashed much better skill navigating ball screens, including switching onto guards. The rise of drop coverages in the NBA should help Azubuike's prospects as well.
Now, a look at the top 60 ...
2020 NBA Draft big board of top 60 prospects
|4.||Tyrese Haliburton||Iowa State||Wing||6-5||172||20.1|
|7.||Deni Avdija||Maccabi Tel Aviv||Forward||6-9||210||19.2|
|11.||Cole Anthony||North Carolina||Point||6-3||185||19.8|
|12.||RJ Hampton||New Zealand||Wing||6-5||185||19.1|
|15.||Devin Vassell||Florida State||Wing||6-7||194||19.6|
|18.||Patrick Williams||Florida State||Wing||6-6||215||18.6|
|24.||Jahmi'us Ramsey||Texas Tech||Point||6-3||190||18.8|
|28.||Xavier Tillman||Michigan State||Big||6-8||245||21.2|
|31.||Aleksej Pokusevski||Olympiacos B||Big||7-0||205||18.2|
|33.||Cassius Winston||Michigan State||Point||6-1||185||22.1|
|44.||Robert Woodard||Mississippi State||Wing||6-7||235||20.5|
|49.||Myles Powell||Seton Hall||Combo||6-2||195||22.7|
|52.||Malachi Flynn||San Diego State||Point||6-1||185||21.9|