NBA draft lottery: LaMelo Ball leads the top 14 prospects

Krysten Peek
·9 min read

The NBA draft lottery is Thursday night, and it will be virtual with representatives from the 14 teams in the lottery. The Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves have the best shot for the No. 1 overall pick, each with a 14 percent chance. Will Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman hear his name first at the NBA draft on Oct. 16? That will come down to player personnel and roster needs because there isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 prospect like Zion Williamson in 2019.

Here are the top 14 prospects in the 2020 draft class:

1. LaMelo Ball

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 180

Illawarra (National Basketball League): 17 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7 apg

Ball is the most talented player in this draft class because of his strong pick-and-roll game and ability to create for others on offense. He has one of the tightest handles for his size and plays similarly to Trae Young and Steph Curry, with his long range and shifty shots in the lane. His defense has improved, but there are still teams that are hesitant in taking him at No. 1 because he continuously gets beat off the dribble in one-on-one situations. His shot selection might also give teams pause, considering he only shot 37.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range in 12 games in Australia’s NBL. Despite the red flags, he is one of the youngest players in the draft who turns 19 on Aug. 22.

“I don’t see any way where LaMelo doesn’t go No. 1,” an NBL team executive told Yahoo Sports. “He sees the floor better than anyone, and his passing and shooting is like nothing I’ve seen before.”

Love him or hate him, Ball has star power and the potential to be the best player in this draft.

2. Anthony Edwards

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 225

Class: Freshman

Georgia: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg

Edwards is the safest pick because teams have an idea of what kind of player he is. He’s a bully guard with a solid frame and has been compared to NBA players Dwyane Wade, Victor Oladipo and Donovan Mitchell.

“He’s a special player and can go both ways with the ball,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean told Yahoo Sports. “Very rarely can someone that age, 19 years old, go equally that well right or left with the ball. So a lot of times when you have that sort of weaponry inside your game, you have to take advantage of it.”

3. Obi Toppin

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220

Class: Sophomore

Dayton: 20 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg

Ja Morant proved that you don’t have to play in a Power 5 conference to have an immediate impact in the NBA. Toppin has great size and speed for a hybrid wing who can also knock it down from deep, shooting 40 percent from three this past year at Dayton. He hit an Anthony Davis-like growth spurt, growing four inches in three years, and has a solid handle. Toppin could be a great asset for the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves or the Chicago Bulls because of his size, the way he runs the floor and how he plays above the rim in transition.

4. Tyrese Haliburton

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 175

Class: Sophomore

Iowa State: 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.9 apg

Haliburton is the most intriguing prospect in this draft class because of his high basketball IQ and impressive passing in open-court and half-court sets. In 22 games this season, Haliburton ranked in the 99th percentile in both spot-up shooting and assists in transition, according to Synergy Sports. He averaged 1.4 points per possession and that number increased to 1.6 when left unguarded. He had nine or more assists in six games last season.

“He’s going to fit in really well wherever he goes because of his character, his humility, his skill level and basketball IQ,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm told Yahoo Sports. “He can play the point guard and he’s an excellent passer, but he’s also versatile enough to play other positions. He can impact that game with or without the ball, and then he’ll adjust well just coming in as a rookie and accepting his role.”

5. James Wiseman

Ht./Wt.: 7-1, 240

Class: Freshman

Memphis: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg (three games)

Wiseman was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school, but due to NCAA recruiting violations, the big man left Memphis early and we only caught a glimpse of what he could do at the next level. Wiseman is the best shot-blocker in this class and has worked on extending his game past the 3-point line in pick-and-pop situations. With teams now valuing play-making guards early in the draft, Wiseman could drop a little but won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called.

6. Onyeka Okongwu

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 245

Class: Freshman

USC: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg

Okongwu burst onto the scene and recorded eight blocks in his first collegiate game with USC. He was a consistent presence in the lane and can step out and guard the wing when switching on ball screens. Okongwu ranked in the 94th percentile in post-up moves, scoring 1.13 points per possession, and is also extremely strong on the offensive glass, scoring 100 points this past season off offensive rebounds. Okongwu played high school basketball at Chino Hills alongside LaMelo and Lonzo Ball. He runs the floor with ease and has great hands in transition, giving him value at the NBA level. Scouts see similarities between Okongwu and Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, and with the right team, Okongwu could sneak inside the top five.

7. Killian Hayes

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 176

Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany): 12 ppg, 5.6 apg

The American-born point guard has played professionally in Germany for the last few years and there’s a lot of upside to his game. His basketball IQ and the way he sees the floor as a point guard are off the charts, and he’s one of the youngest players in the draft, turning 19 on July 27. Hayes favors his left hand and even when driving right, he almost always finds a way to finish with his left. He’s not great off the ball and developing as a two-way guard at the NBA level could take some work.

8. Deni Avdija

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 215

Maccabi Tel Aviv (EuroLeague): 8.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg

Avdija continued to play professionally with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Basketball Champions League during the coronavirus pandemic. In the 11 games played, he averaged 14.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and three assists per game and was named MVP of the tournament. Avdija has a solid handle for his size and mainly played wing for Maccabi. His length gives him an edge defensively on the wing and although he doesn’t move as quick laterally, he’s proven he can stay in front of some of the best players in the EuroLeague, such as Shane Larkin, in the closing seconds of a game.

9. Isaac Okoro

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 225

Class: Freshman

Auburn: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2 apg

The Auburn wing shot up draft boards because of defensive presence and ability to guard almost every position on the court. Okoro has tremendous speed and can chase down players in transition. Offensively, he likes to play above the rim. His first step from the elbow or wing is deadly, and he is good at drawing contact. His outside shooting does need to improve. He wasn’t great in catch-and-shoot situations, ranking in the 56th percentile, according to Synergy Sport.

10. Patrick Williams

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 225

Class: Freshman

Florida State: 9.2 ppg, 4 rpg

Williams is one of the most athletic players in this class and has all the tools to flourish in the NBA. As a ball handler in a pick-and-roll situation, Williams is in the 90th percentile on points per possession. He excels in scoring off the dribble and is tough to guard in iso situations. He’s still raw as a player, and teams know they’re getting a little bit of a project with Williams, but he could pay off down the road.

11. Cole Anthony

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 190

Class: Freshman

North Carolina: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4 apg

Anthony is a ball-dominant guard who loves to go downhill and either finish at the rim or dish it. His 3-point shot has improved since high school and he is a competitor. Anthony is a high-volume shooter who needs to work on his shot selection, and he’s not the biggest guard in the draft. His game is very similar to Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. They are both explosive guards who love to get to the basket and can deliver flashy dunks in transition.

12. Aaron Nesmith

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 213

Class: Sophomore

Vanderbilt: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Nesmith was the best shooter in college basketball this past season, shooting 51 percent from the field and 52 percent from three until he suffered a season-ending foot injury in January. In four of the 14 games he played this season, Nesmith made seven or more 3-pointers. He’s a great catch-and-shoot player and can also knock it down from deep off a ball screen. He needs to work on his perimeter defense and guarding off the pick-and-roll.

13. Precious Achiuwa

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 225

Class: Freshman

Memphis: 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg

Achiuwa is the most athletic player in this class and led the American Athletic Conference in rebounds with 334. In Achiuwa’s one year under head coach Penny Hardaway, he became the No. 1 option in Memphis’ offense after James Wiseman left the team in December. Achiuwa’s shot selection has improved since high school, but he still needs some work.

14. R.J. Hampton

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185

NZ Breakers (National Basketball League): 8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Hampton has had one of the longest breaks from competitive basketball after leaving Australia’s NBL in February. He has recently been logging hours in the gym with former Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller, working on his outside shot and getting stronger. Hampton is a true two-way guard with great vision and a killer first step off the wing. He struggled from the 3-point line while playing professionally in Australia, but working with Miller, who is 27th all-time in 3-pointers made, is a positive sign.

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