Although the NBA season is suspended until further notice, NBA executives are still working to figure out the next steps for this season and the upcoming NBA draft. The 2020 NBA draft is scheduled for June 25, 2020. The declaration deadline is Sunday, April 26, with a withdrawal date for underclassmen of Monday, June 15.
Across the league, the top five names to first come off the board are Georgia Bulldogs shooting guard Anthony Edwards and point guard Lamelo Ball, Memphis Tigers center James Wiseman, Dayton Flyers power forward Obi Toppin and Auburn Tigers small forward Isaac Okoro. Ball is the only one of the five not coming into the league directly from the collegiate level, having spent his most recent time on the hardwood in Australia’s National Basketball League, which resulted in him and his manager attempting to purchase the franchise.
Edwards’ jump from his third-year to his fourth-year saw him improve as a player while the majority of his Georgia team either regressed or were unable to be as effective as Edwards on the court. Edwards averaged 19.6 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 29% from the three, in addition to hitting 40% of his overall shots from the field. Edwards needs to continue working on his consistency, having shown streaks of panic three-point shots dating back to his first year with the team. From interviews with coaches, Edwards still has tremendous upside, including a desire to continuously pick up new aspects to add to his game. Though Edwards was passive throughout his younger years with the team, as he came into his own this season his confidence and his ability to command the court with the ball in hand grew. He had a tendency to be quiet early in collegiate games before getting into his rhythm and dominating after halftime, despite the opposing team’s advantage. Though Edwards wasn’t able to pull Georgia through in every contest, his effort regardless of the score in the second half is quite promising for his play at the next level.
Ball, the third son of the famous Ball family, looks to be on a similar path to his oldest brother Lonzo Ball, who was drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA draft. Their middle brother, Liangelo, has been playing in the NBA G League, but the media has been buzzing around Lamelo since Lonzo’s hype first began in 2016. Their father, Lavar Ball, though boastful about all of his sons, has stated several times that he believes Lamelo will be the best of the three. Ball initially had followed his brothers to UCLA to play for the Bruins, but a struggling roster led him to take his talents down under, ultimately playing basketball in Australia. Ball has risen to a fully grown, 6-foot-7-inch guard with eye-popping passing ability, similar to Lonzo. Despite averaging 17 points per game, seven assists and seven rebounds, he has struggled with his offensive repertoire outside of being a solid free-throw shooter. Like many other future NBA players, he has a desire to improve physically. With a family of players already ahead of him, the Ball family name could be a double-edged sword for him with teams. Though his work ethic and experience against tougher competition are unquestioned, similar to what Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic went through in the European league, teams have concerns with the baggage that could follow Ball, namely his father and a lack of defensive skill beyond the basic fundamentals.
Wiseman was supposed to elevate the league and be the main star of this NCAA season until he was suspended for violations against the association’s code of conduct. He was averaging 19.7 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game and three blocks per game. Wiseman towers over opponents at 7 feet, 1 inch tall, while having an impressive 7-foot-6-inch wingspan, which allows him to finish well at and protect the rim. He has room to grow with his consistency, but that should change as he faces bigger opponents and has to be completely engaged the entire contest at the next level.
Toppin has elevated his game into the Wooden Watch List and was recognized with the Associated Press (AP) Player of the Year award in addition to the Oscar Robertson Trophy for the best power forward in college basketball over a season. Toppin’s head coach, Anthony Grant, won the AP College Coach of the Year, marking the first time a coach and player from the same program swept the awards banquet. Toppin and shooting guard Jalen Cruthler led Dayton to become ranked second in the country, along with setting a school record with a nineteen-game winning streak. Toppin averaged 20 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and one block while shooting 39% from the three with a 63% overall field goal percentage. Toppin’s offensive versatility, featuring high-flying dunks, passing and scoring, translates well into the NBA. He needs work on the defensive schemes, as he will probably match up against bigger fours or fives in the league. Toppin is opting out of his final two years at Dayton, which should give him the longevity he needs to adjust to the speed of the competition at the next level.
Finally, Okoro of Auburn, a highly sought-after freshman, has worked into this ever-changing draft board. He was a lockdown collegiate defender, netting first-team all-conference acknowledgment on defense in his first season. Okoro averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and two assists per game. Scouts and other NBA personnel note that he has shown flashes of potential on the offensive side of the ball but is a weak side defender. Okoro is a decent passer and finishes well despite having the lowest average assists per game of the group. Okoro also needs to work on his shooting in order to find success in the NBA.
According to the league, the first overall lottery pick falls between the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks. Whomever Golden State drafts will be joining a championship-ready team, with returning top guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as well as center Draymond Green, and will likely have the earliest success out of this draft class. If Golden State has the pick, they’ll likely take Toppin to fill the most immediate vacancy one the team’s roster or they might pivot to Wiseman in hopes of replacing a declining Green.
Cleveland and Atlanta have more vague roster spots heading into next season, but Atlanta could do themselves some good by drafting another guard to play alongside point guard Trae Young, forming a similar tandem to the Warriors or the Portland Trail Blazers. Cleveland needs serious help across the board, fighting an aging roster and still being asleep at the wheel following the departure of LeBron James. For the sake of relevancy, the Cavaliers could take Ball off the board first to make a splash in the media for their fans.