Welcome to the Weekend Read. Below you'll find a selection of our best stories of the week, an all-time Kentucky Derby photo and an extremely early look at the hot commodities of the 2020 NBA draft. Enjoy.
While the 2020 NBA draft admittedly feels an eternity away, it won’t be long before Zion Williamson is off to the pros and the scouting community will shift its focus to the next batch of prospects. As the NBA playoffs roll on and the combine approaches, we’ve put together a cursory look at the top prospects to know for next year.
There are still key players who have yet to commit to colleges, and the summer always brings more change. So in lieu of a proper Big Board, we’ll label this exercise a watch list for next year's draft (which just happens to have a ranking format). — By Jeremy Woo
1. James Wiseman, C, Memphis | Freshman
Height: 7’1” | Weight: 245 | Age: 18
Wiseman has a tenuous hold as the very-early favorite for the top spot. He’s still somewhat divisive among scouts, but possesses a great deal of ability and has legitimate plus size at center, with a 7’6” wingspan and 9’3” standing reach. He’s a capable jump shooter who should be able to help space the floor in addition to protecting the rim, with above-average mobility for the position.
The biggest questions scouts have asked over the past couple years stem from his inconsistent levels of effort, which is a story we’ve heard before with gifted bigs. Wiseman helped himself a bit on the spring All-Star circuit by showing up in shape, running the floor and playing with energy, assuaging some of those concerns with flashes of what he could become.
2) Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia | Freshman
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 215 | Age: 17
Edwards is also in the mix to be No. 1 right now. He’s a powerfully-built guard who’s still tapping into his ability and will be a high-volume ball-handler at Georgia. He has the strength to overpower defenders off the dribble and the explosiveness to elevate in the paint or shoot over people, although his jumper is far from consistent.
Concerns stem from his decision-making, feel and consistency, as he picked basketball up relatively late and appears a step or two behind his peers at times. Teams will be a bit skeptical until Edwards proves himself at the college level, but he’s walking into what should be a good situation at Gerogia to showcase himself.
3) R.J. Hampton, PG, Uncommitted | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Age: 18
The big news this week was that Hampton will reclassify to 2019, making himself eligible for next year’s draft. We recently evaluated him with USA Basketball at the Final Four, and it’s evident that based on upside, Hampton may well warrant a place in the conversation at No. 1 overall. He boasts ideal positional size, a nice mix of scoring ability and playmaking vision, and has shown jump-shooting improvement must continue. We’ll need to see which school he picks (Kansas, Memphis, Kentucky and Texas Tech are involved), but Hampton is a prospect teams will prioritize early in the fall. He has high-level upside and checks a lot of boxes for a lead guard.
4) Deni Avdija, G, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 215 | Age: 18
Avdija isn’t anywhere near the historic productivity Luka Doncic displayed as a teenager in Europe, but the Israeli standout has garnered some loose comparisons from scouts with his size and style of play. He was extremely impressive in winning MVP at Basketball Without Borders camp in February.
As an oversized point guard with extremely advanced passing ability and feel for the court, Avdija should be a lock for the lottery. However he’s not an elite athlete and will have to answer questions both defensively and as an outside shooter. NBA teams are hoping he’ll see more legitimate minutes with Maccabi’s senior team next season.
5) Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL Basket
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 175 | Age: 17
Already a starter at 17 for Tony Parker-owned club ASVEL (which will debut in the Euroleague next season), Maledon is something of a prodigy in France and will be a coveted prospect in the 2020 lottery. He’s a big, unselfish pass-first player wielding a projectable jump shot and a good level of maturity. It’ll be curious to see what type of uptick he takes in terms of minutes and production come fall, but teams are excited about his long-term potential as a starting-caliber guard.
6) Jaden McDaniels, PF, Uncommitted | Freshman
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 185 | Age: 18
McDaniels is a uniquely gifted player for his size, moving more like a wing than a post and boasting some legitimate perimeter skill. He had an up-and-down senior year season and is still uncommitted, although Washington is thought to be the logical destination for the Seattle native. His biggest impediment is his slender body type, making it difficult to project him adding significant physical strength. McDaniels has a good deal of upside, but also a bit left to prove going into college.
7) Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 175 | Age: 18
The son of former NBA guard Greg Anthony was regarded as the most polished high school point guard available and will step in to run the Tar Heels immediately.
There’s split opinion on where his actual ceiling lies. Anthony is a streaky shooter, not physically imposing and still more shoot-first than setup man. Plus he’ll be 20 years old by the time he debuts in the NBA. But he’s tough, competitive and can really score the ball. A successful, winning season at North Carolina would help solidify him as an early selection.
8) Scottie Lewis, G/F, Florida | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 180 | Age: 19
An intelligent, competitive, defensive-minded wing, Lewis is far from a finished product but has the base talent to play in the NBA for a long time. He’s not a great jump shooter, which will cap his ceiling if he can’t improve further, but there’s a place in the league for guys who produce and defend as hard as he does.
9) Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington | Freshman
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 250 | Age: 17
Teams have raved about Stewart’s energy level and attitude, and he’s one of the most productive high school players you’ll find. An outstanding rebounder whose length (7’4” wingspan) helps make up for a relative lack of height, Stewart’s heavy body type may cap his upside but he seems destined to be a useful NBA role player at worst. Expect a big year from him at Washington, where scouts will try to gauge his true value defensively hidden within the Huskies’ zone.
10) Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 180 | Age: 18
A terrific week at the Hoop Summit helped scouts envision Mannion as a possible lottery selection. He’s a smooth, dynamic ball handler and passer with a strong feel for running a team. There will be debate over whether he’s a starter at the NBA level or better suited as a strong backup. But Mannion has shown the chops to be successful long-term and will have a good platform at Arizona in the fall.
• “I’m fine. It’s not like I’m some child soldier in Darfur. I’ve had it pretty good.” Josh Rosen puts his roller-coaster last four months into perspective. (By Robert Klemko)
• Inside the curious rise and spectacular collapse of the Alliance of American Football. (By Conor Orr)
• Baseball is weird in 2019. Using 30 bite-sized factoids, here's a portrait of where the game stands today. (By Tom Verducci)
• "You become like a sociopath in a way…” There's nothing quite like the intensity of a Game 7 in the NHL. (By Alex Prewitt)
• Whether or not to call a timeout is a split-second decision, but—especially in the playoffs—it's one of the most significant ones an NBA coach can make. (By Michael Pina)
Story Behind the Photo: Secretariat's Historic Ride
You don’t forget the champions," says Neil Leifer, who shot 17 Kentucky Derbys—as well as scores of other marquee events—over his long tenure with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. "This was the greatest horse of all time." To get this iconic photo of Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte winning the first leg of the Triple Crown, Leifer mounted a remote camera on the inside rail, about 125 feet from the finish line. "The shot that was in focus just happened to be when all four of his hooves were off the ground," says Leifer. "It was honestly luck."
Best of the Rest
Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Jeremy Woo.
• This study on white Americans moving into urban, black neighborhoods—white return, if you will—is enlightening and tackles the question of how to make diversity a stable, feasible concept for everyone. (By Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times)
• Read this retrospective on the late John Singleton, who died Monday, and the birth of ‘Boyz n the Hood.’ (By Thomas Golianopoulos, The Ringer)
• I stopped through the Guggenheim last month to check out an extremely successful show featuring the work of Swedish painter Hilma af Klint. Slate broke down why the exhibition was so important, and what it might mean for the oft-staunchy, male-driven museum world. (By Shirine Saad, Slate)
• The lighting director of 'Game of Thrones’' gigantic battle didn’t really need to explain why that episode was so dark (I, for one, was unbothered), but he did so here. (By Anna Tingley, Variety)
Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.