Onyeka Okongwu had an excellent season in his one year at USC, earning First Team All-Pac 12 honors while averaging a 16.2 PPG / 8.6 RPG / 2.7 BPG line and leading USC to a 22-9 record, good for third in the conference. He also had an especially decorated high school career at Chino Hills, partnering with the Ball boys for a state title as a freshman, and earning California's Mr. Basketball honor as both a junior and a senior on the way to two more state titles.
Okongwu has good but not great size for a big at 6'9" and 245 pounds, but his consistent production and strong intangibles have him positioned to be a top ten pick in this year's draft. Our model agrees:
Tyrese Haliburton often gets described as a coach's dream. It's a great compliment but it's always been a bit of a backhanded compliment if a player won a Coaches Award, the type of recognition reserved for a player who might have the mind, heart, and effort of a champion, but lacks the talent and athleticism needed for greatness. The good news is that a player with those types of intangibles has a very high floor. Haliburton fits the bill here. His intangibles are off the charts, and he'll be a useful player in the NBA for a long time.
The question with him is: what's his ceiling? Is he just a solid rotation player, or can he be great? Our model says... it depends on your definition of great:
Deni Avdija is a lottery prospect who was born in Israel and has been playing for the fabled Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise since 2017. He's a 6'9" forward who grew up around the game as the son of former player Zufer Avdija, and has a special level of feel for the game. Because of his high skill level and hoops IQ, many see similarities in his game to fellow European standouts Danilo Gallinari, Hedo Turkoglu, and Nic Batum (well... former standout?).
Unfortunately, our model vehemently disagrees:
James Wiseman was like a comet this year, bursting onto the scene as the #1 recruit from the 2019 class and posting huge numbers right out of the gate for Memphis. And then just as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone, suspended by the NCAA after only 3 games, never to play in the college ranks again.
In those 3 games he showed why he was the top recruit in the nation. He has a massive 7'1", 240 pound frame. He runs like a guard and has soft hands. He looked David Robinson-esque at times, towering over his poor, overmatched opponents as he flew by them on the way to another dunk. He put up numbers that would've placed him squarely in the National Player of the Year discussion if he'd been able to maintain them over the course of a full season: 20 PPG / 11 RPG / 3 BPG.
So does our model see these 3 games as a sign of things to come or as an aberration against weak competition?
Killian Hayes is a top prospect in the 2020 draft, born in Florida and raised in France as the son of former ABA player, DeRon Hayes. Initially he was a projected to land in the lottery in this year's draft, but he's continued to slowly creep up big boards across the league. Kudos to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer for being the first to publicly name Hayes his #1 overall prospect in the 2020 crop.
There's a lot to like upon first glance about Hayes: his rangy 6'5" frame, the silky finesse of his offensive game, and his touch on his jumper and passes. And our model agrees, Hayes looks like a future star:
Where do I even begin on LaMelo Ball, the young Big Baller, and a prospect who's been covered by the media since his adolescence. Likely the most polarizing player and personality in this year's draft, it could never have been any way for the youngest of the Ball family.
The highs are high. If you see him on the right night, with his long, athletic frame and unlimited confidence, it's easy to imagine him as the future face of the NBA. But a darker side of his game exists too. Is Ball the epitome of how AAU culture has hurt the game? Has LaVar's scheme and the media exposure warped his world past the point of no return? There's a large spectrum of opinions on Ball. Here's our model's:
Obi Toppin had an incredible sophomore season at Dayton, winning the Wooden and Naismith awards as the best player in the country during this highly unusual 2019-20 NCAA season. He put up great numbers: 20 / 8 / 2 with outrageous shooting splits of 63% / 39% / 70%. If that wasn't enough, he lead tiny Dayton to a 29-2 record and the #3 ranking in the country while posting highlight dunk after highlight dunk.
After such an amazing year, it's no surprise that Toppin began to climb draft boards and even enter the discussion for the #1 overall pick. Comps of Amar'e Stoudamire and Antonio McDyess became commonplace. Our model, unfortunately, is not quite as optimistic:
Long story short, our model projects Aleksej Pokusevski as having the highest ceiling in this year's draft. Yes, that's above the other Euro prospects universally ranked higher than him like Killian Hayes and Deni Avdija. And yes, also higher than James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball.
Pokusevski is painfully skinny, has a few statistical red flags, and played in what may or may not be middle school gyms this year. He's an imperfect prospect, but he balls. He's who we thought Thon Maker was. He's a 7-footer with range and the handle of a guard, and his passing may be his best skill. Is he Ben Simmons if he traded 40 pounds of muscle for a jump shot? Probably not, but don't say we didn't warn you.
Anthony Edwards has ridiculous Youtube highlight reels (exhibit A, exhibit B). It's easy to watch 30 seconds of him and fall in love, and why shouldn't you? Physically he's elite, with a chiseled 6'5" frame, a 7'0" wingspan, and the ability to seamlessly transition from smooth moves to explosive finishes. His hammers home dunks, he hits threes off the bounce, and he put up huge counting numbers as a freshman in a major conference.
A player that fits that description sounds like someone who's poised to be this generation's Vince Carter. Our model agrees about Edwards' tantalizing potential, but also surfaces some of the reasons as to why he's not considered the surefire #1 pick in this year's draft:
I understand the hype around Isaac Okoro as a top 10 pick. The demand for athletic, switchable wings continues to far exceed the supply, and Okoro fits the bill to a tee with his powerful 6'6" frame. He also brought home impressive accolades during his lone season at Auburn, including 2nd Team All-SEC and SEC All-Defense.
Despite those awards, our model grades him out as only the 23rd ranked wing in this year's draft, suggesting that he's only someone worth taking a flyer on in the Second Round and nothing more: