Like the first six weeks of the college basketball season, which has seen the No. 1 ranking serve as a revolving door, this year’s NBA Draft crop has developed virtually no separation at the top of the class. There is 7-foot-1 unicorn James Wiseman, who is serving a 12-game suspension and thus has not played in a month. There is top guards Cole Anthony and Anthony Edwards from North Carolina and Georgia, respectively, both putting up gaudy numbers. Then there’s a crop of stars playing overseas led by teenage phenoms LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, who are rising stars in the Australian NBL although Ball is expected to miss about a month with a foot injury.
The race for the No. 1 pick remains as wide-open as ever, though through the first leg of the college basketball season, Bulldogs freshman Anthony Edwards has jumped past Tar Heels guard Cole Anthony as our No. 1 prospect in our second iteration of the 2020 Big Board. The 6-foot-5 combo guard is the only freshman in college basketball averaging more than 20 points per game on the season, and while he’s had a few duds — two six point outings against Dayton and Delaware State — he’s also flashed upside. His 33-point second-half eruption in the Maui Invitational nearly bowling over No. 3 Michigan State last month was the most impressive display of shot-making you’ll probably see from any freshman in the sport … ever.
And so taking all this into account, Edwards is the No. 1 prospect in our updated 2020 Big Board, followed by Ball, Anthony, Wiseman and another beneficiary from a tremendous showing in Maui: Dayton forward Obi Toppin.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
Measurables: 6-9, 220
Current rank: No. 5 | Previous rank: No. 23
Killer versatility and athleticism was Obi Toppin’s game as a freshman, and now as a sophomore it’s all of those ingredients thrown into a blender with some extra zest. He’s taking more 3-pointers this season, making 41.7% of them, and doing so all while improving as a rim protector and rebounder for a top-15 college basketball team. Toppin’s detractors may argue his lackluster measurables or his lack of skill as a ball-handler, but he’s dynamic in transition with a huge ceiling as a floor-spacer and shot-maker. You can’t leave him open without paying for it. When you add his burgeoning potential as an offensive player with his athletic prowess and switchability on defense, you have a guy who could easily work his way into the lottery if he keeps it up.
Measurables: 6-5, 175
Current rank: No. 8 | Previous rank: No. 25
Why, you might wonder, would a sophomore who averaged 6.8 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman last season earn draft buzz? Fair question. Here’s why: since Tyrese Haliburton arrived at Iowa State a year ago, he’s been one of the most efficient players in college basketball as a ball-handler and 3-point shooter. As Jonathan Tjarks put it in this smartly-written piece about Haliburton for The Ringer: “Haliburton is the poster child for the type of player who might have slipped through the cracks a generation ago. The advanced numbers tell a very different story about him than his relatively pedestrian traditional stats.” Haliburton remains pencil-thin, probably the biggest knock with validity, but he brings efficiency, smarts and an unteachable feel for the game — all essentials for an NBA-level point guard.
Measurables: 6-9, 245
Current rank: No 10 | Previous rank: NR
Less than a dozen college basketball players this season have recorded seven or more blocks in a single game. USC freshman Onyeka Okongwu is the only one to have achieved that mark twice — once with an eight-block outing against Florida A&M, and then again with a seven-block swat-show last week against TCU. His timing as a shot-blocker is brilliant for any player, but especially a true freshman. He’s been a huge factor on offense as well, with a great feel as a transition player and offense-generator out of the post. By next summer, we will be talking about Okongwu as one of the top two big prospects in this class.
Measurables: 5-11, 195
Current rank: No 20 | Previous rank: NR
After measuring at 5-11 at the G League Elite Camp last spring, concerns were inevitably raised about Powell’s viability as an NBA Draft prospect. Still, it’s impossible to simply dismiss his production — particularly as a scorer — at the college level. He rates in the 98th percentile as an off-screen shooter, according to Synergy, and this season he’s shooting a career-best 39.8% from the 3-point line. It’s unlikely he’ll be drafted as a long-term No. 1 option as lead guard, but his bankable skill as a deadeye shooter is enough to earn him first-round looks.
Measurables: 6-5, 185
Current rank: No 27 | Previous rank: No. 9
As I’ve said since before the season started, ScottieLewis is more of a prospect than a player ready-made for elite college production. And even taking that into account, he’s been dreadful this season for the Gators, averaging only 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 23.5% shooting from the 3-point line. Important to note: Florida offensively overall has been less-than-inspiring, considering the talent level. Not all of it falls on Lewis’ shoulders. Where Lewis can shine — and still has this season — is on defense. His potential to be a perimeter stopper and switcher remains his best selling point as a pro prospect, and that’s a huge reason why he won’t fall out of the first round in 2020.
Measurables: 6-5, 185
Current rank: No 38 | Previous rank: No. 10
My preseason ranking of No. 10 for Ayo Dosunmu was based on a projected boost in production and development of skill that he hasn’t quite showed this season. In fact, his 3-point shooting continues to regress as a sophomore after a promising freshman season start, and he’s now shooting 28.6% from deep through nine games. His 3-point shot was a perk for him as a prospect, but with that gone, he’s been a jack of all trades but a master of none. He’s best running up-tempo and getting out in transition, but the Illini rank 193rd nationally this season in adjusted tempo, according to KenPom.com. That’s a substantial dip from a season ago in which it finished 52nd nationally in that category.
Measurables: 6-6, 210
Current rank: No 35 | Previous rank: No. 17
Relying upon talent and athleticism to dominate the high school level worked for Kahlil Whitney, but it hasn’t panned out in college with Kentucky. He’s been playing a part-time role this season because as a full-time contributor, his skill — ball-handling, shooting, polish — clearly just isn’t quite there. He’s averaging more turnovers and fouls per game this season than assists and steals. If he’s not getting served an alley-oop in transition, where theoretically his game would best translate, he just can’t be relied upon for UK right now. In time his clanks and turnovers will be reduced, but he’s projecting to be a bigger project than I initially anticipated.
NBA prospect rankings
|1. Anthony Edwards||Georgia||Fr||SG||6-5||225|
|2. LaMelo Ball||Australia||–||PG||6-6||180|
|3. Cole Anthony||N. Carolina||Fr||SG||6-3||190|
|4. James Wiseman||Memphis||Fr||C||7-1||240|
|5. Obi Toppin||Dayton||Soph||PF||6-9||220|
|6. R.J. Hampton||New Zealand||–||SG||6-5||185|
|7. Tyrese Maxey||Kentucky||Fr||SG||6-3||198|
|8. Tyrese Haliburton||Iowa St.||Soph||PG||6-5||175|
|9. Precious Achiuwa||Memphis||Fr||SF||6-9||225|
|10. Onyeka Okongwu||USC||Fr||PF||6-9||245|
For Kyle Boone’s complete top 50 NBA Draft prospect rankings, click here