Getty Images

Big East assistants form Coaches For Action, fighting for social change

Leave a comment

It started the way everything in the COVID-19 era starts: With a group chat and a zoom call.

Before long, all 21 of the minority assistant coaches in the Big East were involved and Coaches For Action formed. This comes of the heels of the formation of the Coaches Coalition For Progress, a similar organization that was launched last month by Oklahoma assistant coach Carlin Hartman and San Francisco head coach Todd Golden, among others.

Inspired by the protests following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Taylor, Marquette’s Dwayne Killings, UConn’s Kimani Young and Villanova’s Kyle Neptune got to work trying to find a way to do more than release a statement or post a black square on Instagram.

“We all shared emotions of disappointment, frustration, confusion,” Young said. “We said we have to lean on each other, figure out a way to get our voices heard.”

The consensus among the coaches was immediate: “We gotta do something.” As Killings put it, “sustainable, substantive change. … Something for our players, to represent them and give them something to stand on.”

Coaches For Action is the by-product, and in the weeks since Killings, Young and Neptune first started hatching the plan, head coaches, athletic directors and the Big East Conference as a whole have given CFA their blessings.

As of today, there are three clearly-defined initiatives that CFA has outlined:

1. Get a Black Lives Matter patch put on the jerseys for all 11 programs and allow the coaches to wear Black Lives Matter pins. Not only will this be a show of unity among the teams in the conference, it will help maintain awareness for the movement. BLM is at the forefront of the news every day today. But there are no sports on right now. The most important and covered election of a generation will occur in November. Big East play will start, at the earliest, in January. The BLM movement may need publicity at that point.

2. “The voting initiative,” as Young put it. Educate their players on the importance of voting, not just in the major elections but on a local level, because “that is how you affect change and impact legislation at local levels,” Young said.

But more broadly, Coaches For Action is pushing for each basketball program — and their university — to host a voter registration drive in October. The goal would be to expand this beyond the confines of their respective campuses. DePaul is in Chicago. Marquette is in Milwaukee. Villanova is one of Philadelphia’s Big 5 programs. Xavier is in Ohio. These are places where communities of color can have a tangible impact on the outcome of elections.

“We can do all that ourselves,” Young said. “You don’t need a ton of money or resources to get with city councilmen and pull that together.”

3. A minority scholarship that will be given annually to a first-generation college student at the Big East schools. The CFA members have already contributed their own money to the fund, and you better believe they will be pushing their head coaches, ADs and athletic departments to donate as well.

The Big East has yet to formally put out a statement regarding CFA, but according to a source, the conference fully supports every initiative. Official confirmation is expected soon, and it’s worth noting here that in an era where just eight of the 65 head coaches at Power Five schools are black, the Big East has five black head coaches.

The impact of CFA will likely be felt around the nation. While they may be the first conference to confirm that every team in their league will be wearing a Black Lives Matter patch this season, they likely will not be the last. Members of CFA have reached out to coaches in different leagues, on the women’s side and in different sports about joining.

“Timing is the most important part,” Young said, “and we just felt like our voices needed to be heard.”

2020 NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Where will Obi Toppin get picked?

2020 nba mock draft
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
2 Comments

Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft. Who are the best 2020 NBA Draft prospects?

One thing that needs to be mentioned before we get into the meat of this 2020 NBA mock draft is that the only thing certain about the draft is that, eventually, it is going to happen.

When will the 2020 NBA Draft happen? Right now it is scheduled for June 25th, but that seems likely to change at some point. We can’t hold the draft until we have a draft order, and we won’t have a draft order until the NBA season finishes. If you haven’t noticed, it seems pretty unlikely that the NBA will start again until at least May.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

There are also questions about the way the pre-draft process will play out. Prospects will not be flying around the country to participate in workouts. They will not be going from team-to-team to conduct interviews. It seems unlikely that there is going to be a combine in mid-May, if at all. There is a real feeling amongst NBA teams that they have scouted these prospects in person for the last time.

What does that mean for the players that have declared, or will declare in the coming days and weeks?

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | Early Entry Tracker

Well, they won’t be able to convince teams that they were capable of doing things that they weren’t allowed to do within the confines of their college team. They won’t be able to spend eight weeks doing nothing but perfecting a three-point shot to look good at the combine or during workouts. They won’t be able to show out during the NCAA tournament and turn themselves into a first round pick.

This is all new and unprecedented.

So with that in mind, a couple programming notes:

First and foremost, I am not projecting which teams will be picking in specific slots. There are just far too many question marks about right now, particularly when you consider that the NBA changed the way their lottery works this season. So for now, this is just a ranking of who I believe are the best available players.

Secondly, I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a 2020 NBA Mock Draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.

Hey, at least I’m being honest about it.

So without further ado, here is the NBC Sports 2020 NBA Mock Draft.



2020 NBA MOCK DRAFT

1. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia, SG

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 40% FG, 29% 3PT

Edwards is the best scorer in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level bucket-getter that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. Ask Michigan State. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.

But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settled for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hit a couple in a row, but he shot 29 percent from three as a freshman. That speaks for itself, although part of that inefficiency absolutely stems from the load he was asked to carry. Edwards was not getting too many easy looks created for him.

There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.

2. LAMELO BALL, Australia

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-7, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 17 ppg, 7 apg, 7.5 rpg

I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be you thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.

But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-7 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star feature guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every read you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.

Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality. There are risks here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class.

The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence. He may have a high ceiling, but there’s also some bust potential at play. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

3. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Details: 19 years old, 7-foot-1, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg

Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.

The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to quit on his Memphis team in December, halfway through a suspension for break (admittedly silly) NCAA rules.

My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.

4. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 bpg, 63% FG, 39% 3PT

Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that, if I were an NBA GM, I would want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.

The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that is versatile offensively — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game, he’s a capable and willing passer. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter. And while there is some value in being capable of guarding fours or fives, there are some valid questions about whether or not he’ll be above average guarding either.

I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.

I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:

5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 1.2 spg, 72% FT

For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produced at the college level, both as a scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 15-for-35 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-19 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line on 143 free throws.

Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.

6. ISAAC OKORO, Auburn

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 29% 3PT

Okoro is another guy that I would want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that better fits that role than Okoro.

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball. He definitely is a capable and willing playmaker.

The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.

Here’s a breakdown from January:

7. TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 175 lbs
Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg, 41.9% 3PT

Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.

If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level?

I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.

8. COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 35% 3PT

I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for during the season.

I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.

The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He plays like Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?

What I will say is this: Anthony did become a better passer later in the season, as he gained more confidence in his teammates and after he went through a stretch where he was shooting the Tar Heels out of games. That’s a good sign, but I still have my doubts.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

9. TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 29% 3PT

Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.

And while he would show flashes of being the dominant scorer Kentucky needed him to be, the Wildcats late-season surge was a direct result of Immanuel Quickley’s improvement, not Maxey finding consistency. We spent the entire season saying “just wait until Maxey finds his stroke” and he never really did. He needs to be able to make that shot because the rest of his game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.

10. SADDIQ BEY, Villanova

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-8, 216 lbs
Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 45% 3PT
Full Scouting Report

Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I would want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.

Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He hit 45 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game, and he finished in the 98th percentile nationally in spot-up shooting, according to Synergy. He has shown some playmaking ability, and while he’s not much of an off-the-dribble shooter at this point in his development, he is capable of playing as the handler in ball-screen actions. Most importantly, as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.

But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they were the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who was a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.

So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all four of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.

11. R.J. HAMPTON, Australia

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 188 lbs
Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 31.7% 3PT

Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. Again, that will come with time.

The biggest concern I have with Hampton — who played this past season in Australia — is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet.

12. DEVIN VASSELL, Florida State

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 12.7 ppg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 42% 3PT

Vassell was one of the breakout stars of the ACC, leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooter. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and he’s proven to be a playmaker on that end of the floor — he averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s precisely what you look for as a 3-and-D wing. In a 2020 NBA Mock Draft where it’s hard to find sure things, Vassell, on paper, seems to be as close to a known quantity as you are going to get in this range.

13. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.1 spg, 33% 3PT

The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he did make some threes this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.

But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He was a freshman this season and he is just two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who was a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.

14. NICO MANNION, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 33% 3PT

I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes shots and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.

My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt, which is a problem for an NBA point guard. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what he does that truly sets him apart, and the fact that he was the leader of an Arizona team that kept losing games they shouldn’t lose is concerning.

15. AARON NESMITH, Vanderbilt

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 213 lbs
Key Stats: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 52.2% 3PT, 8.2 3PAs

Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this. That’s the kind of leap that Buddy Hield made heading into his senior season. Nesmith is just a sophomore.

That said, Hield won at a significantly higher clip than Nesmith did, and Hield did it against Big 12 competition. Nesmith’s season was cut short before he really got into the teeth of SEC play. But I’d be willing to roll the dice on his shooting carrying him to a role in the league.

16. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 77% FT

What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?

I also think Stewart is the kind of guy that will be hurt by the fact that there won’t be any workouts. He’s an impressive interview that could show off his shooting and, at least in theory, prove what he can do defensively.

17. PATRICK WILLIAMS, Florida State

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 32% 3PT

The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams was coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. No one ever puts up huge numbers in a Leonard Hamilton program. What they do is incubate players that project as role guys in the league. At 6-foot-8, Williams is a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and that can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed. And while the shooting stroke was somewhat inconsistent this past season, the potential is there — he did shoot 84 percent from three this year.

18. JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-10, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 bpg, 34% 3PT

On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page. His ‘wow’ moments pop.

On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet with slender shoulders and skinny legs. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And during Pac-12 play, all of the red flags came to the forefront. Emotional outbursts led to far too many technical fouls. He led the Pac-12 in fouls and turnovers. He averaged just 11 points during conference play. He was benched for the last ten games, and Washington wasn’t definitively better with him on the floor.

He’s a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.

19. JALEN SMITH, Maryland

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 37 3PT%

Stix Smith was one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that stsrted to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. Defensively, he can protect the rim, but will that translate to the NBA, where every five he goes up against will have 20 pounds on him? And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.

All that said, over the course of the last eight weeks of the season, Smith’s potential turned into production. It was the biggest reason Maryland looked like one of the best teams in the country down the stretch. I’m willing to bet on him at the back end of the first round.

View this post on Instagram

SOUND ON 🔊🔊🔊

A post shared by Rob Dauster (@rob.dauster) on

20. TRE JONES, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 36.1% 3PT

Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. He was the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. His box score numbers were impressive, and his impact on basketball games goes well beyond the box score.

But more importantly, his jump shot showed real, tangible improvement. Jones made 36 percent of his threes and shot four of them per night. In catch-and-shoot situations, he made 40 percent of his jumpers and hit them at a 1.18 points-per-possession clip (or a 59% eFG, which was in the 82nd percentile nationally). His pull-up game isn’t there yet, but if he went from being a guy that teams flat-out did not guard beyond 12 feet as a freshman to a 36 percent shooter as a sophomore, whose to say his pull-up game won’t be next?

If Jones never gets any better, if this is who he is for the rest of his basketball career, he’s a backup point guard in the league until he doesn’t want to play anymore. If he continues to develop his shot, however, he could end up being a starting point guard. I find it hard to believe this kid isn’t going to keep getting better. In a draft like this, that’s great value this late.

21. JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 43% 3PT

I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.

But he’s a bouncy athlete that can play in transition, shoots the cover off of the ball and should be able to attack closeouts. The two major question marks are on the defensive end of the floor and shooting off of the dribble, but those are things that can be improved with time. He’s not the player that I thought he would be, but he’s still good enough that using a top 25 pick on him makes sense.

22. KIRA LEWIS Jr., Alabama

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 165 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 spg, 37% 3PT

Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore — he enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old and won’t turn 19 until April — and he put up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. He also shot 37 percent from three for the second consecutive season. He’s slender, he’s turnover prone and part of the reason he produced as much as he did this season was because of the pace that Alabama played at. He’s worth a first round pick, especially considering his age.

23. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 43% 3PT

Winston did not have the season many of us expected him to have as a senior — understandably, given the death of his brother in November — but he still put up All-American numbers for a team that won a share of the Big Ten regular season title. He was playing his best basketball down the stretch, and he still have the highest basketball IQ of anyone in this 2020 NBA mock draft. He’s an elite passer and shooter that thrives in ball-screens. Yes, the defense and athleticism are concerns, but we said the same thing about numerous point guards that have made careers out of being backup point guards. Winston is the next in that pipeline.

24. JOSH GREEN, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 210 lbs
Key Stats: 12.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 36% 3PT

Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he was limited as a scorer in the half court — 1.19 PPP in transition vs. 0.825 in the half court — and part of that is due to the fact that he shot just 33.3 percent on jumpers in half court offense.

25. VERNON CAREY, Duke

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-10, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 38% 3PT

Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. To be frank, I’m not really all that concerned about the offensive side of the ball with Carey. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?

26. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-8, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.2 spg

I may be out on a limb here, but I truly believe that Tillman is worth a first round pick, especially in this year’s draft class. There’s really two reasons for this: For starters, he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman. But he is also an excellent defender that can really read the game. Talk to people around the Michigan State program and they’ll tell you he ran everything defensively. It was his voice that teammates heard. Now, the major question mark is his size. At just 6-foot-8, can he defend fives? Is he quick enough to play the four? If we knew for a fact that the answer to both of those questions would be ‘yes, and he can do it very well,’ I would have him slotted as a top 20 pick.

27. DANIEL OTURU, Minnesota

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 20.1 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 37% 3PT

In a league where seemingly every team had a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center in the Big Ten. The numbers that he put up speak for themselves. He was one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better than some of the bigs slotted in front of him.

28. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-11, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg

Nnaji is the most explosive big in this 2020 NBA mock draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?

29. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.1 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 spg, 31% 3PT

At some point it just becomes impossible to ignore the production. Dotson averaged 18-4-4 for the best team in college basketball, showcasing the ability to get to the rim almost at will while playing tough, aggressive on-ball defense for the best defensive team in the sport. There are some concerns — he’s very right hand-dominant, he shot 31 percent from three, he’s not physically imposing — but he’s worth a flier in this draft class.

30. UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 7-foot, 250 lbs
Key Stats:13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 75% FG, 44% FT

I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that Doke helped his professional outlook more than any player in college basketball this season. He was the most dominant defensive force in the sport. His ability to control the paint was unmatched, but he shed enough weight and improved his footspeed enough that he was able to shutdown pick-and-roll actions playing drop coverage, something we are seeing more of in the NBA.

The big question is if he is quick enough to be able to do that at the professional level as well, because he is never going to be a threat to do anything offensively more than four feet away from the rim and he’ll always be a Hack-a-Doke risk given his free throw shooting.

But a year ago, I would have said there was no chance that Azubuike could play in the NBA. None. And now I think that he’ll be an effective piece for a team that is creative in the way they use him in certain matchups.

31. CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 193 lbs
Key Stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 36% 3PT

Stanley is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class. He’s a guy that projects as a plus-defender as a result. If you assume that his 36 percent three-point shooting is for real, he’s a solid 3-and-D wing prospect that could find a way onto a roster. His shooting mechanics are a little funky, and he was flat-out bad shooting off the dribble, but he was in the 87th percentile nationally on all jump shots at 1.099 PPP and the 93rd percentile nationally on catch-and-shoot jumpers at 1.312 PPP, according to Synergy.

32. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-6, 215 lbs
Key Stats: 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 35% 3PT

Pons is the best athlete and the best defender in this entire 2020 NBA mock draft class. You often hear things like “he can guard all five positions” which tends to be an exaggeration. Not for Pons. He can, quite literally, guard any point guard, any center and anyone in between. He can play the four, and at times even the five, in small-ball lineups in the NBA to great effect. What makes him even more intriguing is that he shot 42 percent on unguarded catch-and-shoot threes. I think this is the most important number when it comes to his three-point shooting, because these are the face-up, step-in threes that he’ll be shooting at the next level.

The thing about Pons is that he played the three as a sophomore. As a junior, he was Tennessee’s four, which meant that instead of coming off of screens to get a shot, he was stepping into them as a trailing big or catching and shooting as a floor-spacer. This is the role he would play in the league.

Put it all together, and I’ll buy on a player that has an elite NBA skill with the potential to fill out his game to be effective in a role.

33. PAUL REED, DePaul

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 1.9 spg

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been two high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle and Nerlens Noel. Noel is the only other high-major player to average 1.9 steals and 2,5 blocks. While Reed is shooting just 16-for-52 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 75 percent free throw shooter the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in, even with DePaul’s late-season swoon.

34. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 30% 3PT

Dosunmu is a tough player to project. On the one hand, he has all the physical tools to be a capable combo-guard in the NBA, and he proved himself as a slasher and clutch-shot maker as a sophomore. On the other hand, in a year where he was trying to prove to NBA scouts that he can be a consistent three-point shooter, his numbers dipped from 35 percent to under 30 percent. He has a reputation for being a worker and a good locker room guy, and given his ability to defend both backcourt positions, I certainly think it’s reasonable to bet on him getting better as a shooter in the second round.

35. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.5 rpg, 37% 3PT

Flynn is in a tough spot. On the one hand, he just finished his fourth season in college by having an All-American campaign while leading the Aztecs to a 30-2 record and the brink of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. He turns 22 in May. It makes sense for him to leave now, striking while the iron is hot.

But just how hot is that iron, so to speak? Flynn is a plus-shooter that shines in ball-screens and thrived in an offense that was built entirely around his ability to do those two things. But he’s 6-foot-1, somewhat limited physically and looking at being a preseason first-team All-American if he returns to school.

At this point, I think that he is what he is as a player — a career NBA backup with a chance to get a couple of contracts in the NBA doing just that.

36. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-7, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 40.2% 3PT

Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.

37. GRANT RILLER, Charleston

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 21.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 36% 3PT

Riller is just a bucket-getter. He’s crafty off the bounce, he can finish around the basket and he is a capable three-point shooter. He also has positional size to play lead guard in the NBA. What’s the downside of drafting him in the second round and seeing what he develops into?

38. MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-9, 224 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 36.4% 3PT

Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that was used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.

39. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 14.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 42.5% 3PT

Wesson is the guy that was helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.

40. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 21.0 ppg, 2.9 apg, 30.6% 3PT

Powell’s efficiency numbers were way down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.

The 12 most important NBA draft stay-or-go decisions

2020 nba draft decisions
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two months ago, back before the 2020 NBA Draft deadline had passed, the NBA Draft Combine had been postponed and the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft was still June 3rd, we put together a list of the 12 most influent NBA Draft stay-or-go decisions.

Since then, much has changed.

Malachi Flynn made it official that he will be leaving San Diego State, which is probably the correct decision. Immanuel Quickley, Jay Scrubb and, it appears, Ayo Dosunmu will be following him to the NBA. On the other hand, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Wendell Moore are both heading back to school while Jalen Suggs has, for now, passed on the professional opportunities that were afforded him.

But there are still plenty of impact players that have a decision left to make.

Here are the 12 most important decisions.

2020 NBA Mock Draft: (link)

1. LUKA GARZA, Iowa

This one should be obvious. Garza is coming off of a season where he averaged 23.8 points and 9.8 boards for a top 25 team, was named a first-team All-American and put himself alongside Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the race for National Player of the Year.

But he’s also in a unique spot where he doesn’t really project as a great pro because of his lack of athleticism and mobility. How often does a player that is that unquestionably great return for another year in the collegiate ranks? Cassius Winston did it. Doug McDermott did it. They were both preseason National Player of the Year candidates. It’s a big deal having him on the floor, to say nothing of the impact that he has on everyone else on that Iowa roster.

Depending on how the chips fall, I think that Iowa can still be in the mix as a top 25 team without Garza, and I don’t think that it would be crazy if Garza opted to take a deal overseas. He can make a lot of money in Europe.

But with him back?

I think this team is capable of getting to a Final Four and winning a national title.

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | Early Entry Tracker

2. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Michigan State is going to take a hit next season because they are losing Cassius Winston, but the Spartans will still have a chance to win the Big Ten title if they bring back Xavier Tillman.

For my money, Tillman had an All-American junior season. He’s the anchor of Michigan State’s defense, a leader in the program on and off the floor and an underrated weapon offensively because of his ability to pass the ball. He’s the piece that brings everything else together for this roster.

And there are going to be some weapons there. Rocket Watts will be a year older, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham. Joey Hauser will be eligible to play, and there’s a chance that Josh Langford will be back for his final season. Aaron Henry declared for the draft, but it seems fairly likely he’ll be back for his junior season.

But without Tillman, that is all just window dressing.

I would draft Tillman in the late first round if I was an NBA team. He’s already married. He had his second child in February. The smart financial decision here would probably be to enter the draft. That said, he may be a guy that can improve his draft spot by being the focal point offensively. Will

WHAT ABOUT AARON HENRY?

Henry is clearly a valuable piece to the puzzle for the Spartans, as is Josh Langford, who may or may not be returning after a foot injury cost him the 2019-20 season. Losing Henry would be a blow, but the sense I get is that he will be back in school.

3. TYRELL TERRY, Stanford

Tyrell Terry was one of the more underrated freshmen in college basketball last season. He averaged 14.6 points, 4.5 boards and 3.2 assists while shooting just under 41 percent from three. He’s listed at just 160 pounds, but he’s certainly on the radar of NBA teams and might even be able to sneak his way into the end of the first round.

So he has a very real decision to make.

Because, as a potential breakout star as a sophomore, Terry will be playing on a team with the potential to win the Pac-12. The Cardinal bring back everyone off of last year’s team while adding Ziaire Williams, a five-star, one-and-done freshman that will slide right in at the four. With Terry, arguably the best point guard on the west coast if he returns, Stanford could have two lottery picks on their roster and we could legitimately be looking at a team that can get to the Final Four.

Without him, do they even have a point guard on the roster?

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

4. JARED BUTLER, Baylor

I currently have the Bears sitting as the No. 3 team in my preseason top 25, and that’s assuming that Butler is coming back to school. That, however, is not a guarantee. Butler showed enough as a scorer this past season that he could end up getting picked early in the second round of the draft, and that has been enough to make worse players opt to leave school.

The big issue with Baylor this past season is that they went through stretches where they just couldn’t score. Butler is, by far, their best scorer, the one guy that can go create a bucket out of nothing. Without him, how long will those scoring droughts last?

WHAT ABOUT MACIO TEAGUE?

Teague was Baylor’s second-leading scorer last season. I don’t think that he’s nearly the NBA prospect that Butler is, but having the two of them together are awfully important for Baylor to live up to their hype. The key for Teague: He just finished his fourth year in college. Does he want to return for his redshirt senior season?

(Getty Images)

5. COREY KISPERT, Gonzaga

For my money, of the three Gonzaga players who still have their names in the 2020 NBA Draft, Corey Kispert is the most influential. He’s a good defender and a great shooter as a 6-foot-6 wing, a role that gives him value as an NBA prospect.

It also slots him in a position where the Zags really don’t have any depth to speak of. Mark Few’s teams pound the ball into the paint, and next season is not going to be any different given the amount of talented big men on the roster. But without Kispert’s floor-spacing, the lane can get clogged up awful quick. For a team that projects in the preseason top five, that matters.

WHAT ABOUT FILIP PETRUSEV AND JOEL AYAYI?

Losing Ayayi would certainly hurt, because his value as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker that can also space the floor is immense. The best teams in college basketball this decade all played with two point guards. Ayayi would qualify as point guard No. 2 on a team with Jalen Suggs. I think, however, he needs another season of seasoning in college.

Petrusev, however, is a totally different conversation. I’m not sure how he fits in the modern NBA. But I’m also not sure if he’s going to be able to improve all that much on the year he just had, not with Drew Timme on the verge of being Gonzaga’s next great center and Oumar Ballo ready to have a huge redshirt freshman season. Petrusev projects as a pro in Europe, and he can probably get paid pretty well next season somewhere other than the NBA.

6. CHRIS SMITH, UCLA

Smith is a really interesting prospect in this year’s draft class. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing that averaged 13.1 points and shot 34 percent from three and 84 percent from the line for the Bruins, who turned into one of the 25 best teams in college basketball by the end of the season.

UCLA brings back the majority of last year’s roster, but they already suffered one major blow this offseason when five-star point guard Daishen Nix opted to accept a contract from the G League instead of heading to Westwood. Losing Smith would be another significant blow to a team that was once considered a borderline top ten team.

One thing that is worth noting here: Smith, a junior, is three months younger than Precious Achiuwa and Cassius Stanley, both one-and-done freshman that are expected to be drafted this year.

7. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Pons is definitely not a guy that is going to make any preseason All-American lists if he opts to return to school, but he may just be the best defensive player in all of college basketball. At 6-foot-6 and easily the best athlete in the sport, Pons can quite literally guard anyone from a point guard to a center, and he can make a step-in three. His presence will allow the Vols to play all kinds of small-ball lineups, which is exactly what they need to do with the number of talented guards on next year’s roster.

He is a borderline first round pick in my mind, although I would expect him to go in the second round if he decides to keep his name in the draft. With Pons back, Tennessee is my pick to win the SEC next season.

8. JAY HUFF, Virginia

I think that Jay Huff has quite a bit of potential as an NBA player. He’s 7-foot-1 with three-point range and the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and he’s also a rim protector that has spent four years playing for Tony Bennett. To me, he makes perfect sense as an off-the-bench big in the league.

That said, his production has not quite lived up to his potential. Even playing in a system that stifles scoring numbers, Huff’s 8.5 points and 6.2 boards as a junior was a disappointment. So I think he should come back to school, where he would anchor a lineup that should be much improved for the Wahoos.

(AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)

9. ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas

Arkansas is already expected to lose Mason Jones, who was last year’s leading scorer, to the draft. Joe entered the season with some NBA Draft hype due to the fact that he is a 6-foot-7 wing that shot a lot of threes as a freshman and made quite a few of them. His sophomore season was not quite as efficient, and also featured a knee injury in the middle of the year that slowed things down.

The Hogs have some talented transfers in the fold and four four-star prospects enrolling this summer. Keeping a veteran scorer around could be the difference between fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament and seeing themselves ranked in the top 25.

10. TRENDON WATFORD, LSU

The Tigers are already losing Skylar Mays to graduation, and it would not be surprising to see Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams at the very least test the waters, but with five-star Cam Thomas headlining a solid crop of newcomers, Will Wade should have a pretty solid team. Watford, a bucket-getting combo-forward, could end up being their best player if he comes back to school.

11. MCKINLEY WRIGHT, Colorado

Colorado is already losing Tyler Bey, so the Buffaloes are taking a hit with early entries in this year’s draft. Wright matters, however, because he could be a preseason All-American. He’s coming off of a season where he averaged 14.4 points, 5.7 boards and 5.0 assists. He’s the kind of player that can put together a senior season where he throws a team on his back and carries them to a postseason run. Colorado is relevant with Wright in the fold. They are not without him.

12. SADDIQ BEY, Villanova

My expectation is that Bey is gone. I think that he is the most underrated player in this year’s NBA Draft class, I would not think that it is out of the question for Bey to hear his name called in the lottery. Even without Bey, I have Villanova as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Even without Bey, they return Collin Gillispie, Jermaine Samuels and the underrated Justin Moore while replacing Bey with a healthy Bryan Antoine and Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels.

But if Bey, a potential National Player of the Year, does surprise everyone and opt to return to school, the Wildcats will be absolutely loaded, the consensus favorite to win the national title and thrust into the conversation for the best Villanova team of all-time.

Big East: If campuses are not open, we will not play sports

Getty Images
3 Comments

The presidents of the 11 members of the Big East Conference are leaning toward not allowing sports to be played at schools this season unless their campuses are open.

Commissioner Val Ackerman disclosed the thinking of the presidents on Friday in a wide-ranging virtual interview with members of the media about the fallout on the conference from the coronavirus pandemic.

While no deadlines have been set, Ackerman said the presidents indicated a late June/early July deadline for fall sports, and possibly a Sept. 1 deadline for winter sports, when basketball is played. The conference is considered a basketball power.

It is conceivable the league would play with some members not participating.

Ackerman said there are hybrid scenarios that could change things, such as a campus opening late.

On other topics, Ackerman said the league mitigated the financial loss from being forced to cancel its year-end men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden because it had insurance against the pandemic under a policy that also covered terrorism and other unexpected occurrences.

The Big East was forced to cancel its annual men’s conference tournament on March 12 at halftime of the first of four scheduled games that day because of the escalation in COVID-19 cases. Ackerman had no second thoughts about deciding to play the game that day, saying city health officials, the league’s board and senior medical personnel from the NCAA also backed the choice that morning. Ackerman said the league has had event cancellation insurance for years. Many other conferences have similar policies for their major events.

In the past two months, Ackerman said the league has talked to its presidents, coaches, doctors and the NCAA about the future and building a playbook for it.

“Really everyone in the college sports community is trying to pick up the pieces from March and trying to figure out all of this uncertainty, this unprecedented uncertainty, and what our options are going to be, particularly this fall,” she said, “and how they relate to practices, to competitions, to conference championships and, of course, NCAA championships.”

The league is building alternative scheduling models.

Cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament was a major financial hit to many conferences, particularly the Big East, which expected to have at least six teams make the event. Money dried up because without the tournament there were no ticket sales or television revenue.

Ackerman said the conference, which has universities and colleges in 10 states and the District of Columbia, will be governed down the road by the rulings of local governments.

The Big East consists of Villanova, Creighton, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Georgetown, DePaul, Providence, Marquette, Xavier, Butler and former charter member Connecticut, which is returning to the conference on July 1.

Ackerman added thatthe focus of the league is keeping all its members, coaches and student-athletes healthy.

“While the loss of sports competitions in the U.S. pales in comparison to the many, in some cases, uncountable effects of the pandemic, it seems to us that the absence of sports in many ways reaffirms how important they are to all of us,” Ackerman said. “So I feel confident when sports do come back, they are going to come back big.”

2020 NBA Mock Draft: Who is going No. 1?

Darryl Oumi/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft.

This year’s draft class is, in a word, not good.

And, to be frank, the top of this 2020 NBA mock draft doesn’t have all that much to do with the top of college basketball this season.

The top pick plays for a Georgia team that is not going to get to the NCAA tournament. The No. 2 pick skipped college altogether. The No. 3 pick quit in the middle of the season. The No. 5 pick is done for the season and wasn’t on a tournament team either way. The No. 9 pick skipped college. The No. 10 pick was hurt and had his season derailed. Picks 13-17 are all going to miss the NCAA tournament.

It’s a very, very weird year for NBA fans that watch college basketball.

Last thing: I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a mock draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.

Hey, at least I’m being honest about it.



2020 NBA MOCK DRAFT

1. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia, SG

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 41% FG, 32% 3PT

Edwards is the best scorer in this draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level scorer that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.

But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settles for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hits a couple in a row, but he is shooting 32 percent from three this season. That speaks for itself. There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.

2. LAMELO BALL, Australia

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-6
Key Stats: 17 ppg, 7 apg, 7.5 rpg

I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.

But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-6 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star lead guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every pass you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.

Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger as he matures physically. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality.

The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence, but I think it’s fair to say Melo has the highest-upside of anyone in this draft class. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.

3. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Details: 18 years old, 7-foot-1, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg

Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.

The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to leave Memphis in December.

My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.

4. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 19.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.3 bpg, 35.5% 3PT

Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that I want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.

The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton is as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that has a versatile offensive skill-set — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter.

I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.

I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:

5. TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 175 lbs
Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg, 41.9% 3PT

Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.

If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level? I’m not that worried about the fractured wrist he suffered last week. He’ll be just fine.

I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top of this 2020 NBA mock draft is relatively low.

6. TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Key Stats: 13.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 29.3% 3PT

Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.

He needs to make those threes because the rest of Maxey’s game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.

7. ISAAC OKORO, Auburn

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 28.6% 3PT

Okoro is another guy that I want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this draft that better fits that role than Okoro.

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro is the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball.

The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.

Here’s a breakdown from January:

8. NICO MANNION, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 35% 3P4

I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes threes and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.

My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what the ceiling is.

9. R.J. HAMPTON, Australia

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 188 lbs
Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 31.7% 3PT

Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. That will come with time.

The biggest concern I have with Hampton is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet, but he’s still young; he just turned 19 last week.

10. COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 19.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 33.3% 3PT

I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for this season.

I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.

The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He’s basically Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?

11. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 1.1 spg, 74.2% FT

For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produces at the college level, both as a scorer and a rebounder, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five is in the range of outcomes. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 12-for-29 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-17 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 74 percent from the free throw line on 124 free throws. Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense, and if the jumper comes along, he can be more than that. How much is there to really think about?

12. SADDIQ BEY, Villanova

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-8, 216 lbs
Key Stats: 15.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 47.5% 3PT

Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.

Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He’s knocking down 47.5 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game. He has shown some playmaking ability, and as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.

But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they are the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who is a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.

So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all three of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.

13. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 75.3% FT

What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?

14. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.2 spg

The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he is 8-for-20 from three this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.

But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He’s two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who is a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.

15. JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-1-, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 12.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 31.5% 3PT

On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page.

On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And of late, his decision-making has come into question. He leads the Pac-12 in both fouls and turnovers. He’s second nationally with five technical fouls this season. He’s been benched in two of the last four Washington games, and the Huskies are sitting in dead last in the Pac-12.

He’s a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.

16. AARON NESMITH, Vanderbilt

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 213 lbs
Key Stats: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 52.2% 3PT, 8.2 3PAs

Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this.

17. PAUL REED, DePaul

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 15.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 2.0 spg

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been three high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle, Nerlens Noel and Paul Reed. While Reed is shooting just 13-for-46 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 77 percent free throw shooting the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in.

18. DANIEL OTURU, Minnesota

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 20.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 30.8% 3PT

In a league where seemingly every team has a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center to date. The numbers that he is putting up speak for themselves. He’s one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I like him slightly more than Jalen Smith simply because of the physicality. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better.

19. JALEN SMITH, Maryland

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-10, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 39.7 3PT%

Stix Smith has been one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that is starting to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.

View this post on Instagram

SOUND ON 🔊🔊🔊

A post shared by Rob Dauster (@rob.dauster) on

20. JOSH GREEN, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 210 lbs
Key Stats: 11.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 30.8% 3PT

Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he has been somewhat limited scoring in halfcourt settings this season — some of which, admittedly, can be attributed to the tempo Arizona is trying to play at — and much of that is due to a lacking jumper.

21. PATRICK WILLIAMS, Florida State

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 32.5% 3PT

The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams is coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. At 6-foot-8, he’s a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed.

22. VERNON CAREY, Duke

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-10, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 38.5% 3PT

Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?

23. JOEL AYAYI, Gonzaga

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 10.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 35.4% 3PT

I had no expectation for Ayayi coming into the season. He had been great in Europe over the summer, but Gonzaga went out and recruited a pair of grad transfers at his position during the offseason. That’s never a good sign. Yet here we are in February, and Ayayi has been arguably the most important player for the Zags. He’s their best handler in ball-screens, he’s a terrific rebounder for a guard and, at 6-foot-5, he has the size and length to be a multi-positional defender. He’s also young for a redshirt sophomore; he enrolled at Gonzaga when he was 17.

24. KIRA LEWIS Jr., Alabama

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 165 lbs
Key Stats: 17.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 spg, 32.4% 3PT

Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore, having enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old, and he’s putting up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. The problem is that he’s making just 32 percent of his threes, down from 36 percent a season ago.

25. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 38.4% 3PT

Winston has regressed from where he was last season. He has not lived up to the hype he had coming into the year — understandably — and that’s the biggest reason by Michigan State has fallen short of expectation. But he’s still the highest IQ player in college basketball. He’s still the best ball-screen point guard in college basketball. And I still think that he’ll spend the next decade being a positive presence in an NBA locker room and a rock solid backup point guard.

26. DEVIN VASSELL, Florida State

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 13.4 ppg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg, 42% 3PT

Vassell has been one of the breakout stars in the ACC, as he is leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooters. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he is getting plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s a really interesting prospect with a chance to be a first round pick this year, and is one in this NBA mock draft.

27. JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 15.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 45.2% 3PT

I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.

28. ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 16.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 spg, 34% 3PT

On the one hand, Joe is one of the most prolific shooters in this draft class and, at 6-foot-5, has the size to be able to guard NBA wings. On the other hand, his percentages have dipped to 34 percent this season, his slight frame is worrisome defensively and he is dealing with a knee injury that required surgery. There are certainly justifiable concerns.

29. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-8, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 13.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 1.2 spg

Some recent struggles with his ability to finish around the rim are somewhat concerning, but I am beginning to think that Tillman is worth a first round pick. There’s really two reasons for this: He’s a really good defender and he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman.

30. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-11, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg

Nnaji is the most explosive big in this draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?

31. TRE JONES, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 15.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 1.9 spg, 32.1% 3PT

Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. If he figures out the jumper to the point that he is a threat from distance, he could end up being an NBA starting point guard. What’s more likely is that he follows a similar career arc to his brother.

32. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-7, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 44.1% 3PT

Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.

33. LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.2 apg

Stevens that prototypical, combo-forward that is big and strong enough to guard up with having the physical tools to play out on the perimeter on both ends. The thing with him is going to be his jumper. He’s terrific in transition and he’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, and if he’s able to shoot — if he forces defenders to close out hard — he suddenly becomes that much more dangerous.

34. ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-3, 198 lbs
Key Stats: 12.3 ppg, 6.8 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 spg

Hagans is never going to be a great shooter, but the truth is that you’re not drafting him for his ability to shoot the ball. You’re drafting him because he’s a junkyard dog, a competitor that is a terror as a defender at the point of attack, a playmaker in the passing lanes and a much-improved passer. There’s a job for him in the NBA as a poor man’s Patrick Beverly, and if the shooting every does come around, maybe he works his way into a starting job.

35. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 21.9 ppg, 2.4 apg, 32.3% 3PT

Powell’s efficiency numbers are down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.

36. SCOTTIE LEWIS, Florida

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 8.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.3 spg, 30.2% 3PT

Scottie Lewis is a major question mark because of the complete lack of offensive threat that he brings to the table, but he is an elite athlete with a 7-foot wingspan and the desire to be a great defensive player. He’s also a worker that is, by all accounts, a great kid. He’s worth gambling a second round pick on.

37. AARON WIGGINS, Maryland

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-6, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 32% 3PT

I’m still in on Wiggins as a potential pro despite some of the struggles he’s had this season. He’s got the size and the athleticism to be a really good 3-and-D wing, but the fact that he has dipped down to being a 32 percent three-point shooter this year is cause for concern.

38. ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-7, 230 lbs
Key Stats: 13.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 49.2% 3PT

Livers is a lights out three-point shooter that can guard either forward spot and has been the difference between Michigan being a team that beat No. 2 Gonzaga by 18 points and a team that went 5-6 in his absence. How much more do you need to know?

39. MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-9, 224 lbs
Key Stats: 13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 37.8% 3PT

Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that is being used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.

40. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 39.7% 3PT

Wesson is the guy that has been helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.

The 12 most influential stay-or-go NBA draft decisions

Matthew Holst/Getty Images
1 Comment

The NBA’s predraft process is going to be very different this season.

There is no guarantee that there will be a combine. No one knows if teams are going to be able to fly prospects in for workouts or for interviews. Hell, we don’t even know when (or if) the NBA is going to finish the season.

As of today, the draft is scheduled for June 25th. It seems fairly likely that will end up getting pushed back for the simple fact that the draft order cannot be determined until the season itself is complete.

That puts prospects that are testing the waters into a difficult spot. They are not going to be able to earn themselves a bump in the eyes of NBA GMs with impressive showings at the combine or in workouts. They are going to have to rely on the tape that they put together during the season itself and quite a bit of misinformation that is going to be floating around throughout the process.

Will it be worth it to go pro without knowing exactly what the league is going to look like next season? Will there be players that decide to return to school and try to play their way into being a higher pick next year? How much will the 2020 recruiting class — which is much more talented than this year’s class — factor into these decisions?

There are a lot of players that have quite a bit of soul-searching to do over the course of the next three months.

These 12 will have the biggest impact on the 2020-21 college basketball season.

These are the most influential NBA draft early entry decisions.

(One programming note: We only considered players that we think have real decisions. Dayton would be awesome if Obi Toppin comes back to school. Obi Toppin isn’t coming back to school.)

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | Early Entry Tracker

1. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

The Aztecs went 30-2 last season, and while they lost Yanni Wetzel and K.J. Feagin, they are on track to return enough talent that they should be considered the favorite to win the Mountain West regardless of what happens with Flynn. Matt Mitchell is coming back. Jordan Schakel is coming back. Nathan Mensah, who started over Wetzel before getting hurt, is coming back.

Flynn is the guy that’s up in the air. A redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Washington State, Flynn — who is projected as a second round pick — was the engine of SDSU’s high-powered offense. Brian Dutcher schemed him into ball screen after ball screen after ball screen, and he was one of the best players in the country at executing those actions. His situation reminds me a little bit of the spot that Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss was in after the 2017 season. He, too, was a redshirt junior coming off of an All-American season that was not guaranteed to be drafted, let alone drafted in the first round. But he opted to leave school, was the 55th pick in the draft and spent a couple of years playing at a very high level overseas before getting his shot with the Jazz this season. Flynn could end up following a similar path.

If he returns, the Aztecs will be a top ten team. If he opts to go pro, San Diego State will plummet out of the top 25.

2. LUKA GARZA, Iowa

This one should be obvious. Garza is coming off of a season where he averaged 23.8 points and 9.8 boards for a top 25 team, was named a first-team All-American and put himself alongside Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the race for National Player of the Year.

But he’s also in a unique spot where he doesn’t really project as a great pro because of his lack of athleticism and mobility. How often is a player that is that unquestionably good returns for another year in the collegiate ranks? Cassius Winston did it. Doug McDermott did it. It’s a big deal having him on the floor, to say nothing of the impact that he has on everyone else on that Iowa roster. The only reason he’s not No. 1 on this list is that Iowa has enough of a supporting cast that, without Garza, I still think they’re a tournament team.

With him?

They can win the Big Ten and a national title.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

3. JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, Villanova

Robinson-Earl is not the biggest name on Villanova that has a decision to make — that would be Saddiq Bey, who would be a preseason first-team All-American if he opted to come back to school — but I think his decision is much more influential on Villanova’s season than that of Bey.

The Wildcats have so many good guards. They are going to be absolutely loaded on the perimeter next year. Collin Gillespie is perennially underrated. Justin Moore was the most underappreciated freshman in America. Bryan Antoine should finally be healthy and ready to contribute. Caleb Daniels is going to be very, very good for Villanova. Brandon Slater. Cole Swider. Jeramine Samuels can even play the three is need be.

What they don’t have is much up front behind Robinson-Earl, who averaged 10.5 points and 9.4 boards while shooting 32.5 percent from three last season. Projected as a second round pick, Robinson-Earl is the kind of player that might be hurt by not being able to have workouts and get in front of NBA execs thanks to the coronavirus shutdown around the country.

If he does opt to leave, the Wildcats will be forced to play with either Dhamir Cosby-Rountree or Eric Dixon at the five. With Robinson-Earl I think Villanova is the favorite to win the national title. Without him, I think they’re more of a top 6-8 team in the country.

4. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Michigan State is going to take a hit next season because they are losing Cassius Winston, but the Spartans will still have a chance to win the Big Ten title if they bring back Xavier Tillman. For my money, Tillman was an All-American this past season. He’s the anchor of Michigan State’s defense, a leader in the program and an underrated weapon offensively because of his ability to pass the ball. He’s the piece that brings everything else together for this roster.

And there are going to be some weapons there. Rocket Watts will be a year older, as will Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham. Joey Hauser will be eligible to play, and there’s a chance that Josh Langford will be back for his final season. But none of that really matters if Tillman isn’t there.

I think that he is a first round pick, especially in a year like this, and with a wife and two children already, I would not be surprised in the least to see him keep his name in the draft — he announced his intention to declare for the draft this week.

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

5. IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, Kentucky

The Wildcats are going to have an absolutely loaded freshman class in 2020-21. Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston are the biggest names, but Devin Askew should have an impact at the point and the likes of Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware will push whoever is left in the frontcourt by the time things are settled in Lexington.

But what the Wildcats seem likely to lack is going to be any kind of veteran presence in their backcourt. I’m expecting Tyrese Maxey to declare and sign with an agent right away. Things should be more up in the air for both Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans, but I do think both will be drafted high enough that staying in the draft is the right decision. Quickley is more of a question mark. I think he’s legitimately 50-50 right now. He was the SEC Player of the Year as a spot-up shooter this season, and if he returns I would not be surprised to see him take over the point guard role.

That said, there’s still a chance that he is drafted anyway this year. If he leaves, Kentucky is a back-end top ten team in my mind. If he’s back, however, they’re a top five team and a very real title contender.

6. JALEN SUGGS, Gonzaga

Suggs is in a different situation than everyone else on this list. He’s an incoming freshman, but there has been some scuttle that he could end up going to Australia for his one-and-done season instead of playing college basketball. As a dynamic lead guard that can create for himself, he is precisely the piece that the Zags are going to need next season.

Now, he’s not the only guy weighing professional options. Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev all will have a decision to make. Oddly enough, the guy most likely to leave — Petrusev — is probably the guy that Gonzaga can most afford to lose. With a backcourt of Suggs, Kispert and Ayayi, the Zags will be a top three team in the preseason regardless of who starts at the four and the five.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

7. JARED BUTLER, Baylor

I currently have the Bears sitting as the No. 3 team in my preseason top 25, and that’s assuming that Butler is coming back to school. That, however, is not a guarantee. Butler showed enough as a scorer this past season that he could end up getting picked in the second round of the draft, and that has been enough to make worse players opt to leave school.

The big issue with Baylor this past season is that they went through stretches where they just couldn’t score. Butler is, by far, their best scorer. Without him, how long will those scoring droughts last?

8. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

At this point, I don’t think that Ayo Dosunmu is coming back to school even after the season that he had. That doesn’t mean that he is a lock to be a top 45 pick. He’s a 6-foot-5 slasher that isn’t great creating for others and actually saw his three-point shooting dip as a sophomore. He is, however, a terrific talent for Illinois, and if he does end up coming back to school, the Illini will work their way back into my preseason top 25 somewhere.

9. WENDELL MOORE, Duke

This one is pretty simple. Assuming that Vernon Carey Jr. and Cassius Stanley follow Tre Jones to the NBA, Duke could end up starting four freshmen next season. Wendell Moore could end up being the veteran on this roster, if he opts to return to school. After a rough start to his freshman season, he came on strong towards the end of the years, and his slashing skill-set should fit really well next to Jalen Johnson and D.J. Steward. With him back, I think Duke is a borderline top ten team.

Without him, they are very, very young. Or playing Joey Baker.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

10. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Pons is definitely not a guy that is going to make any preseason All-American lists if he opts to return to school, but he may just be the best defensive player in all of college basketball. At 6-foot-6 and easily the best athlete in the sport, Pons can quite literally guard anyone from a point guard to a center. And he can make a step-in three. His presence will allow the Vols to play all kinds of small-ball lineups, which is exactly what they need to do with the number of talented guards on their roster.

He is a borderline first round pick in my mind, although I would expect him to go in the second round if he leave. With Pons back, I have Tennessee at No. 14, and that may be too low.

11. JAY SCRUBB, Louisville

Scrubb is a shooter than can handle the ball at 6-foot-6, and given that he performed well at the Nike Basketball Academy over the summer, there will be some legitimate interest in him as a prospect. How much interest is a question that might have been answered better if he had a chance to workout and interview with NBA teams. He is a JuCo transfer that is scheduled to enroll at Louisville this summer. As of now, if NBA teams are basing decisions off of a camp from last summer and tape of JuCo games, that may push him towards playing a season in the ACC, and with Scrubb on the roster, I think the Cards are a top 25 team once again.

12. TRENDON WATFORD, LSU

The Tigers are already losing Skylar Mays to graduation, and it would not be surprising to see Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams at the very least test the waters, but with five-star Cam Thomas headlining a solid crop of newcomers, Will Wade should have a pretty solid team. Watford, a bucket-getting combo-forward, could end up being their best player if he comes back to school.