There's no secret that when it comes to the NBA Draft, there's always going to be some sort of risk. Teams are gambling on some of the top prospects in the basketball world. Luck is a crucial component to have a successful draft. Sure, some GM's have more promising draft resumes than others, but there are no guarantees in this process. You can do as much homework as possible to lower the risk in selecting a player, but no one has a crystal ball here. For every Luka Doncic, there's a Darko Milicic (sorry Darko). For every Kwame Brown, there's a Karl-Anthony Towns.
When you take a close look at the 2020 NBA Draft class, a couple of terms come to mind more than usual. Gamble, risk, and uncertainty can all be used to describe this class because there simply are too many questions to be answered across the board. This class could prove to be one of the biggest "swing for the fences" assortment of prospects. As of right now, it wouldn't surprise me to see some GM's take players a bit earlier than expected. With the Coronavirus pandemic impacting the Draft Process, there's going to be a couple of notable changes in Front Offices.
First, scouts and NBA personnel are going to have more time than ever to focus on watching tape. We could see teams going after production more than potential this year because of it. For players that struggled throughout the year, they won't have the opportunity to answer some doubts in private workouts and such. Remember, the NBA has cautioned against the idea of having prospects travel throughout the draft process.
Second, don't be surprised if teams lean towards fit this year more than ever. With so much uncertainty with how the basketball world is going to look moving forward, teams might want to look to add specific pieces to the puzzle. Because of that realization, you could see a couple of big named prospects slide a bit on draft day.
There's a number of serious prospects in this class that could provide fool's gold. Some offer limitless potential with a minimal amount of production on their resumes. Some are going to be considered as blindly throwing darts. Let's take a look at a couple of names that could have GM's and NBA organizations a little nervous on Draft Night.
It was a strange year for James Wiseman. After a much-hyped preseason, in which most in the basketball world considered Wiseman a favorite for the number one overall selection, Wiseman decided to leave the University of Memphis after just three games. This, of course, is because of the FBI investigation in which the NCAA declared that Wiseman received illegal funds from current head coach Penny Hardaway previously. Wiseman's decision was a bit odd and now has some around NBA circles scratching their heads. Sure, some might defend James Wiseman when it comes to his battle against the NCAA, but we're trying to focus on his draft stock here.
Although his season was cut short, James Wiseman still offers an elite combination of athleticism and two-way potential as an #NBA prospect.— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) April 22, 2020
Previously, we took a closer look at Wiseman’s skill set. #NBATwitter | #NBADraft https://t.co/T7rEv4nbgY pic.twitter.com/mQoda4rij0
While Wiseman LEAPS off of the page when you see his combination of size and athleticism, he's still an unfinished product. Wiseman has the measurables to dominate the boards and runs the floor like a deer...but there's still plenty of questions about his game. Is he trying to become a floor-spacing big? Do NBA teams want him to do that in today's style of play? Or will someone prefer that he lives in the paint during the early part of his career? There are still so many questions unanswered about the projection of Wiseman's potential. All Wiseman needs is one team to believe in him early, and there's plenty to get excited about when you turn on the film.
Hampton was one of the top high school prospects in the United States before shocking the world and deciding to take his talents overseas for a year. RJ would agree to go play for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL, where he had plenty of eyes on him throughout the year tracking his game. There's plenty to get giddy about when you watch Hampton on tape. He's a lightning-quick ball-handler with plus size who plays like it's his last game. Standing at 6'5", Hampton has fantastic measurables when it comes to the prototypical floor general. But there's still a hefty amount of questions about him. Is he ready yet for the jump to the NBA game?
An athletic combo guard with Ferrari like speed in the open court, RJ Hampton shows an intriguing offensive upside that should have NBA organizations eager to invest in his long term potential at the next level.https://t.co/Z1Kz6esrMy…#NBATwitter x #NBADraft pic.twitter.com/58xxvWRBFS— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) May 18, 2020
If an NBA team drafts Hampton, they are looking at the bigger picture instead of the immediate one. He needs time. He's a blur in transition and changes gears like a Ferrari out for a Sunday stroll. Still, Hampton's shot needs some consistency and his frame needs to add some weight. Some might see RJ as a potential off guard in the league, and he's capable of doing that. But, Hampton would most likely thrive from a limited role in his rookie year and becoming best friends with a strength and development coach. If Hampton falls into the laps of the right organization, they could find a winning lottery ticket with some patience.
Before I get the Kentucky faithful searching for my home address, allow me to explain why Maxey is on this list. Now personally, I'm a big fan of Maxey and his game. The question that needs to be answered...what are you drafting him for? Are you drafting him to become a Lou Williams type of bucket getter off of the bench? Do you believe in his ability and potential as a dominant ball-handler?
Maxey came into the season with a solid amount of hype before absolutely exploding right out of the gate for Kentucky. It wasn't long before Maxey had the full attention of NBA personnel across the league after he opened the year with a 26 point performance against Michigan State. Maxey was sensational in that performance and flat out took over for Kentucky when they needed him to. Still, the talented Kentucky freshman will have some doubts as he finds himself listed at 6'3". So positional transition might be the biggest debate when looking at his future outlook. Still, there's PLENTY to love about his game. So while Maxey might find himself on this list, he might have the lowest risk out of the bunch.
One of the most hyped prospects coming into the College Basketball season was the Tar Heels freshman floor general. There were some whispers in the pre-season that Anthony could even give James Wiseman a run as a darkhorse contender to be the number one overall selection. Unfortunately, the hype didn't deliver. A tradition unlike any other.
Anthony had a perfect recipe for disaster in his one year at Chapel Hill. With a Tar Heels team that was struggling with offensive firepower, Anthony was simply asked to do too much of the heavy lifting for this team. That, as well as an in-season injury that required Cole to miss some time, cemented the season as a bit of a let down when it came to NBA circles. BUT, there's still plenty to get excited about when you watch Anthony. He's a microwave capable scorer who can get hot in a hurry. Anthony finds himself at 6'3" but he plays with a chip on his shoulder and his athleticism sneaks up on you.
This prospect is basically like having your biggest bet of the night at the casino. If it hits, it sets the mood for the rest of the evening. If it doesn't hit, you find yourself looking for the waitress with your latest cocktail. Much like North Carolina's Cole Anthony, Jaden McDaniels came into the College Basketball world with a large amount of hype built up. "The next KD" was a common phrase you heard when people described McDaniels. Note to everyone out there, can we stop just comparing every tall, skinny shooter to Kevin Durant. I know, but let's stop.
Good Jaden McDaniels pic.twitter.com/AF3ERRTWv3— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) June 1, 2020
Back to McDaniels now...it was a bit of a rollercoaster season for McDaniels at Washington. The team had plenty of talent, featuring potential fellow first-round selection Isaiah Stewart. McDaniels just seemed to have one of the classic "underwhelming" freshman seasons and it will be interesting to see what NBA Front Offices have in mind for the lengthy, athletic wing throughout the draft process. The more you watch Jaden on film the more you get the excitement. He's fluid and moves like a guard at 6'9" with a 6'11.5" wingspan. But the film feels like a gigantic tease. There wasn't enough consistency this year at UW to make you feel comfortable. If someone can unlock the treasure chest of tools that McDaniels has in his arsenal...woo boy he could be a fun one. But the tape is simply all over the place.
You will consistently hear that Aleksej Pokusevski is going to be considered the ultimate "wild-card" of the 2020 NBA Draft class. Pokusevski wow's you at first with his measurables. He's 7'0" with a 7'3" wingspan and he runs the floor with such fluidity. Now if that wasn't enough, Aleksej also shows a beautiful outside shooting stroke and advanced playmaking ability. Those tools are enough to get an NBA organization to push the poker chips all-in on a talented raw talent from overseas.
18-year-old 7-1 Serbian big man Aleksej Pokusevski showed off his talent during a 30-point win over Apollon in the Greek 2nd Division: 15 PTS, 11 REBS, 5 AST, 2 BLK in just 17 MIN. Unique prospect given his combination size, handle/vision and shooting potential. pic.twitter.com/07Etonzyh0— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 14, 2020
So what's the catch? Well although the combination of size and athleticism is elite, the frame is still a huge red flag. Pokusevski weighs in at around 200 pounds, but the frame is incredibly thin and some question whether or not there's room to add muscle. Another red flag for Aleksej is the level of competition. While some international prospects might be struggling to carve out a role in a prestigious league, Aleksej was playing in a second division Greek league for Olympiacos' second team. With all due respect, the league is not known to provide a particularly high level of competition. Still, there's no denying that the raw Serbian born Pokusevski produced this year. In just 23 minutes per game, Aleksej put up 10.8 PTS, 7.9 REB, 3.1 AST, 1.3 STL, and 1.8 BLK.
There's going to be plenty of intrigue with all of the prospects mentioned above. If you're a gambling man, this year's Draft class is your dream. No class in recent memory has offered up a slate of prospects with so many unanswered questions. Is this the year to target production? Or is this the year to go all-in and hope you find gold. With the pandemic impacting the basketball world, you can be sure that NBA Front Offices will have plenty of time to dissect the tape and try to answer as many questions as possible.