The NBA Draft is only a couple weeks away, and the news surrounding this year’s expected top picks is full of oddities.
LaMelo Ball’s draft stock is slipping after some reportedly unimpressive pre-draft interviews. Anthony Edwards made some puzzling comments about the pandemic. And according to his combine measurements, Tyrell Terry grew an inch and put on about 15 pounds since his days at Stanford University.
With all that in mind, there are five prospects in this draft that have me wishing for a makeshift NBA Summer League sometime in the fall.
I believe Deni Avdija is the best player in the 2020 draft. There are a whole lot of candidates for that top spot. Some people think it’s Edwards. Some think it’s Ball. Even James Wiseman and Killian Hayes are somewhere in the conversation.
Avdija isn’t a generational prospect. He’s no Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis. But in a draft that’s murky at the top, his combination of size and playmaking are intriguing.
Avdija is an elite pick-and-roll ball handler, and he has the vision to initiate the offense on the break and in the half court. With his size and ability to finish around the rim, he could provide some interesting wrinkles for the right offense.
While I have some more concerns about Hayes as a top prospect, I think he could end up being the steal of the draft, even if he goes in the top-five.
Hayes is a raw 19-year-old. His lack of experience is often apparent. He relies far too much on his left hand. And his shooting off-the-catch is abysmal.
But there is so much to love with Hayes. He has dazzling James Harden-like isolation skills. His hesitation dribbles, his sidestep threes, his step-back threes, his pick-and-roll playmaking, his touch around the rim, his elbow pull-ups — they are all reminiscent of Harden.
No matter where he lands, Hayes will be one of the most exciting rookies to watch. And if he can refine his offensive skill set and shooting stroke, he will be one of the most devastating scorers in the league for a long time to come.
My love for elite playmakers continues with Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton. His game doesn’t exactly jump out at you. He’s not especially athletic or physically imposing.
But Haliburton seems to always be in control of the game. He’s a shifty dribbler with next-level vision. He is one of the most efficient shooters in the draft. And he has all the right intangible qualities to be a longtime NBA player.
Even if Haliburton never blossoms into a star, he seems like a safe pick to provide a team with an intelligent offensive general.
Terry is quite the opposite. Yes, he’s a guard who shines on the offensive side of the ball, but there seems to be little consensus about where he falls in this draft class.
I’ve seen Terry going in the second round in some mock drafts. I’ve seen him picked in the top-10 in others. There are good reasons to be puzzled by Terry.
At the combine, he measured in at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed in at around 170 pounds. He’ll be abused on defense because of that.
But his shooting is something special. He has beautiful form and can shoot from just about anywhere on the court. His off-ball movement and crafty finishing around the rim opens up his shooting game even more.
I hope some team in the lottery takes a shot at Terry because his shooting could be transformative.
As the Sin City basketball scene improves every year, I have greater opportunities to shed light on talented Las Vegas prospects. This year, I get to rave about Tyler Bey.
Bey is a long defender with the ability to guard multiple positions. He can contain wings and even smaller guards. And if he’s able to add some muscle, he could carve out a role as a small-ball center.
Even if he continues to struggle as a playmaker, he could be a valuable floor spacer if his shooting continues to develop. Bey could be a steal at the end of the first round as a high-impact role player.