When we last visited this space, March Madness was still on the table. That, obviously, did not end up being the case, with most of the country spending the past two months primarily in quarantine. While there wasn’t an opportunity for players to improve their stock on the court, the additional, unexpected time away from the court has given teams time to review film, dive further into background, and conduct interviews with prospects. The draft combine and lottery have officially been postponed from their usual week in mid-May, which vibes with the common, league-wide thought that the draft itself will not take place in June. As long as the NBA wants to hold out hope of reviving the regular season and playoffs, the draft will have to wait, accordingly.
Normally, the past two months would have involved a lot of travel, between conference tournaments, the NCAA tournament, high school All-Star events and the Portsmouth Invitational. Instead, like the rest of the NBA, I’ve spent the time reviewing game film and stats, communicating with personnel around the league, and filling in the gaps as far as this draft class is concerned. Below is an updated set of rankings following the NBA’s release of its early-entry list. Between my own live evaluations and all the information available, this list is formed holistically, and serves as a representation of the current shape of the draft, not accounting for team fit. The Big Board is intended to offer a window into the league’s (admittedly fluid) consensus, and put the draft into context, while also objectively assessing the available talent.
1. Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 225 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 1
Edwards held steady in this spot all season, and remains the most palatable answer to a particularly convoluted question of who to take at No. 1 in a vacuum. He made some visible progress at Georgia, where he was afforded the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Despite being relatively raw and on the young end of the spectrum, Edwards owns the best combination of physical tools and shot-creation potential in the draft, and it’s less a matter of whether he eventually gets up to speed than how long it takes him to get there. His balance and strength bode well for his long-term capacity to defend. The big questions are primarily about how efficient he’ll be at his peak, and whether or not his style of play ever becomes conducive to winning games, given ball-dominant scorers tend to have thin margins for error in that regard. His development at Georgia from where he was a year ago offers room for optimism, and with the right level of nurture, Edwards has a pathway to being a long-term building block. But making this pick will come with a requisite degree of patience.
2. LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 3
Ball presents one of the biggest risk-reward propositions in the draft, with undeniable flair and playmaking ability and legit size, but also some key rough edges that could hamstring his ability to anchor a winning team. He’s terrific in transition and profiles as a starting-caliber lead guard, but the skeptical view is that Ball has little history of actually being winning-conducive, and that he racked up counting stats more as a byproduct of high usage on a bad team. His shooting struggles are glaring, and he will need to be consistently dangerous from three-point range for his passing ability to truly shine in halfcourt play. Defensively, he’s often disinterested, but his size and anticipation should help him be close to passable. Bottom line, Ball has to score efficiently to lead a winning offense, and the types of shots he favors aren’t statistically the most conducive in that regard—he favors deep threes and floaters, and isn’t wholly convincing finishing against bodies in the paint. He may have to become a true outlier to hit the high end of his potential. Still, the possibility of that happening will be enough to entice teams early in the draft, and any team in need of a playmaker will have to think long and hard.
3. James Wiseman, C, Memphis | Freshman
Height: 7’1” | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 2
Wiseman remains a likely top-five pick, despite a general lack of excitement surrounding him after playing just three games at Memphis. He was solid but not spectacular, and it’s hard to know how seriously to take small early-season samples, particularly with freshmen adjusting to new situations. The dwindling value of centers in today’s NBA also raises important questions about how high Wiseman should actually be drafted, relative to what contractual slot value will pay him. But 7-footers with his body type and measurables are few and far between, and his sheer size makes him a deterrent around the basket and should make him an impactful rebounder and finisher right away. He will have to continue making progress as an all-around offensive player, particularly the development of his jumper, to maximize his talent. The fact this draft is shallow at the top has helped Wiseman’s stock remain stable, but where he’s actually drafted will depend more on fit and philosophy than his sheer ability. He’s probably a productive, starting-caliber center, but he may not be a franchise-altering piece.
4. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State | Sophomore
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 175 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 4
Although nearly everything about Haliburton’s game is unorthodox, his advanced on-court intellect, winning-conducive skill set and rapid trajectory are noteworthy, and set him apart in some regard in a lottery where the talent gap between prospects is admittedly narrow. His actual draft range is fairly wide, given the fact his game is a bit of an acquired taste: what he lacks creating off the dribble or exploding past defenders, he’ll compensate for with a diagonal pass or narrowly-threaded drop-off that few of his peers would ever think about making. Haliburton’s real value lies in what it means for everyone else on his team, and how and when his game takes off may depend more on how long it takes for him to land in a great situation, where he’s able to accentuate, rather than anchor a team. Regardless, his floor is pretty substantive as a ball-moving facilitator who hits open shots and makes any five-man lineup more effective.
5. Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 9
Winning offenses stem from having great decision-makers, and Hayes appears to be on his way there after a breakout year for Ulm, where he took on full-time point guard responsibilities for the first time. He may profile best as a combo in the NBA long-term, and he needs to continue improving his perimeter shooting to get there. Hayes is not a high-end athlete and relies heavily on craft and timing to be effective. But his toughness and natural creativity with the ball are appealing, and he’s been consistent and productive as a true 18-year-old playing real minutes, which can’t be undersold. Given the prevalence of multiple-handler attacks and Hayes’ flashes of advanced shot-creation skills, he’s solidified himself as a lottery option with intriguing growth potential, even if he takes a year or two to adjust to the NBA. This is the high end of his range, but he won’t make it out of the lottery.
6. Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn | Freshman
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 5
This draft class isn’t rife with explosive wings, but Okoro has a strong case as the most intriguing one, with blossoming athleticism, great instincts on defense, and a knack for making things happen without dominating the ball. With his solid frame and natural anticipation, Okoro should be a tone-setting defender who can at least slow down bigger wings — which is valuable unto itself in a league driven by perimeter scorers. Granted, he doesn’t generate much offense on his own, and his jumper is a work in progress, but it’s not cripplingly bad. His feel for playing within an offense is encouraging, but he’s going to need shots created for him. If his ballhandling and shooting improve, he can be more than just a solid role player. He makes enough of an impact without having to score
7. Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 6
Avdija has intriguing traits for a modern combo forward, with some playmaking potential and a skill set well-rounded enough to fit with a variety of lineups. It’s worth wondering how translatable some of his offensive usage on the interior might be, but Avdija has size and plus vision as a passer, and should improve enough as a perimeter shooter to keep teams honest. He’s not an explosive athlete in tight spaces, nor is a he a creative ball-handler, which is going to limit his long-term ceiling. But the hope is that he’s a smart enough team defender to survive on that end, while growing into a plus offensive contributor as his frame fills out. His jumper and athleticism have to play up, bottom line. But his theoretical high-end outcomes make sense in the modern NBA.
8. Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC | Freshman
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 8
In a particularly down year for bigs, Okongwu separated himself from the pack, and will be off the board at some point in the lottery as an option for teams looking to shore up their interior defense. He projects safely as a useful rim protector, compensating for a lack of height with great instincts and length. He runs the floor well and should enable teams to play smaller and faster without sacrificing a ton defensively. Okongwu’s productivity and the fact he doesn’t need his number called to impact a game are appealing. He’s not exceptionally skilled as a scorer, which coupled with his size may limit some of the upside offensively—assigning star potential there requires a level of optimism. But Okongwu fits the mold for a modern center, and offers a degree of safety with those strengths, particularly relative to the field.
9. Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 7
Maxey’s stock cooled a bit after a statistically unimpressive year at Kentucky, and he was among the higher-profile players who really could have used a strong postseason run to help his stock. The back part of the lottery is the high end of his range, but he still has a good amount to offer, and provided his jumper improves—which, if you buy his free throw shooting and soft touch around the basket, is easy to buy—Maxey should still become a well-rounded contributor. He’s not a point guard, and becoming more of a threat without the ball in his hands is imperative to his success as a combo. But he has the tools to be a strong defender, and enough craft as a scorer to think he eventually pulls it all together. If he’s afforded more space to operate and asked to create a little bit less of his own offense, his efficiency should tick upward, and as long as he’s an average shooter, there should be a path to value here.
10. Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton | Sophomore
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 220 | Age: 22 | Last Rank: 10
Typically, 22-year-old prospects don’t get much benefit of the doubt in the lottery. But in a down draft, Toppin has positioned himself to buck the trend after a prolific season at Dayton. Keeping perspective here is important—he’s a gifted offensive player, and a lot of what he does should translate, but he also dominated in a league where few teams could effectively counter his athleticism or take advantage of his weaknesses defensively. Toppin needs to add lower body strength and doesn’t move all that well laterally right now, both of which will have to improve for him to keep doing what he’s doing against NBA bodies. He might be best off playing alongside another big, rather than at center, where teams will attack him in space. But it‘s hard to bash a guy who made 70% on two-point attempts, dunks everything, and has range out to the three-point line. Lottery teams with an immediate need up front will have to consider him early.
11. Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State | Sophomore
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 14
After displaying some real progress as a scorer over the course of the season, Vassell neatly fits a utilitarian archetype as a strong team defender who can knock down open shots and doesn’t need a ton of touches to be valuable. He has appealing size and length on the wing and a nose for blowing up plays and forcing turnovers. The chief knock here centers on upside, as Vassell isn’t an explosive leaper or prolific finisher at the rim, and is still learning how to play off the dribble. But as an above-average shooter and disruptive defensive presence, it’s easy to pencil him into lineups as a competent floor-spacer and ball-mover. The fact he’s still 19 leaves some extra room for long-term growth.
12. Patrick Williams, F, Florida State | Freshman
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 225 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 17
Williams brings a lot to the table for teams to work with, as a big, legitimately versatile forward who can guard three positions, and the youngest college player in the draft. A lot of what he might do in the NBA is still theoretical, but there’s some floor here given the way his tools should play up on defense, and he need only keep progressing as a shooter to have a long career. Williams grew into his role as the season went on at Florida State and shot the ball well from the foul line, leaving room for optimism. For a team that doesn’t need its first-round pick to play immediately, he looks like a worthy project who could eventually fill a valuable, versatile role. Given his youth, raw skill set, and limited sample of production, it will take a glass-half-full mindset for Williams to sneak into the lottery. But in an iffy draft, he’s one of the more appealing long-term prospects expected to be available outside the top ten.
13. Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 15
Anthony’s stock was volatile for much of the season, and while he played better down the back stretch of conference play after returning from injury, he didn’t do enough to fully revive his reputation as a prospect. He’s athletic, capable of making tough shots, and put up big counting stats at North Carolina. But those numbers scarcely accompanied team success—and while the Tar Heels’ spacing was suboptimal and some of the blame falls on the coaching staff, Anthony’s decision-making left a lot to be desired, particularly while closing games. He didn’t get to the rim enough, and sometimes struggled to finish against bodies. He’ll surely be more effective at full health and with additional room to operate, but the fact his smaller frame might be maxed out—and that he’s about to turn 20—gives a lot of scouts pause. But Anthony has the tools to be a useful microwave scorer, and if he lands in a good situation, he can still deliver value. An optimist might view this as a buy-low opportunity, while a skeptic might say this ranking is still too high.
14. Théo Maledon, G, ASVEL Basket
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 11
After entering the year as a projected top-ten selection, Maledon’s stock ran aground amid a rocky season that included injuries and an inconsistent role. His team played a little bit of a restrictive style, to be fair, but he profiles better as a well-rounded combo than a true lead guard at this point given his lack of dynamism creating off the dribble. Maledon is a good athlete with speed in the open court and has the size and smarts to fit into a complementary ball-handling role, and teams believe strongly in his work ethic, which has helped prevent him from dropping too far on draft boards. He’s not a sexy pick, but he’s young and comes with a good amount of high-level experience. At this point, he figures to land somewhere inside the first 20 picks.
15. Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama | Sophomore
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 170 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 24
Lewis began to trend upward among scouts during the back half of the season, with his individual growth accentuated as the other top guards began to struggle. The fact he just turned 19—placing him in the same age bracket as all of the freshmen in this draft—is significant, and his blazing speed, improving feel as a playmaker and capable outside shot put a lot of pressure on defenses this season. He’s extremely thin and is going to take time to fill out and develop, but compensates by being able to beat people to spots going downhill and being a competent finisher with both hands. While Lewis isn’t exactly a floor general in the sense of controlling pace and dictating play, he’s so fast and naturally effective in two-man situations that he may be able to succeed just off those strengths. How high he can rise without individual workouts is worth monitoring as the predraft process moves forward, but he makes sense in the 10-20 range as an upside play.
16. Aaron Nesmith, G/F, Vanderbilt | Sophomore
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 215 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 19
Unfortunately, Nesmith’s season was cut short by a foot fracture, but he did put together a pretty convincing 14 games, in which he hit a remarkable 52% of his threes on 115 attempts. He’s one of the better pure shot-makers in the draft, can attack a closeout fairly well, and is competent if not jaw-dropping from an athletic perspective. If Nesmith’s shooting plays up in an elite capacity, which it could, the rest of his game should accessorize that skill pretty well, and he has a chance to at least be an average defender. His ability to catch and shoot under duress and off movement is a pretty rare, and capable floor spacing tends to come at a premium. He’ll likely land somewhere in the middle of the first round as long as his medical checks out.
17. Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford | Freshman
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 160 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 23
Terry has a case as the best pure shooter in the draft, with an offensive skill set that points to real long-term upside as his body matures and he adds strength. His compact release and feel for moving the ball around the perimeter made him dangerous right away at Stanford, and he finished well around the rim, particularly for a guy his size. He stands to improve creating shots for himself and others off the dribble, but he’ll be able to play on and off the ball, and profiles as the type of talent worth investing in early and developing. Terry will get targeted defensively given his size, but if his shooting keeps progressing and he fills out, at least some of those concerns should be mitigated. He’s an obvious first-round talent who flew under the radar for much of the season, and a particularly intriguing fit for guard-needy teams that can pair him with a bigger playmaker.
18. Josh Green, G/F, Arizona | Freshman
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 21
While Green’s game is somewhat unspectacular, his athleticism and generally well-rounded game are still intriguing in a complementary sense. Talent isn’t the holdup here: he’s quick, fluid and active in the passing lanes and is a passable shooter. But he can be too passive, and needs to reshape his shot selection to rely less on midrange jumpers to maximize his opportunity. Green’s frame, explosive leaping ability and flashes of playmaking talent offer some intrigue, and while he may never be a very creative player, simply learning how to pick his spots better could go a long way. His athletic ability and base skill set make him a worthwhile option in the mid-to-late first round for a team that can develop him into a rotation piece.
19. R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 12
It’s not entirely his fault, but preseason expectations were overly bullish on Hampton, and his play in the NBL wound up creating more questions than answers. His range is rather wide as a result, but he still figures to land in the first round based on his size, tools and pedigree. Turning pro early was a challenging adjustment for a player who would have been a high school senior, experience-wise, had he not reclassified. There are real concerns about Hampton’s jumper, particularly given he profiles best as a combo guard and will need to contribute away from the ball. All that said, he was a highly regarded high school prospect, and should benefit if he lands in a situation more conducive to building his confidence. His end-to-end speed and big frame will play up. But he’s a ways off from contributing to an NBA rotation, and makes for a tricky projection.
20. Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona II
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 20
An intriguing talent who blends positional size with natural creativity and improvisational playmaking, Bolmaro continues to track as a late first/early second round option who can theoretically be stashed overseas. Although he plays primarily for Barcelona’s B team, it doesn’t take a whole lot to glance at him and see the upside, particularly given how difficult it is to find and cultivate legit wing-sized playmakers. If his jumper clicks, Bolmaro could offer some real backcourt versatility. Given the limited production sample here, it’s more about his flashes of brilliance than anything else. Bolmaro needs more seasoning, but he’s an intriguing project for a team that can afford to wait.
21. Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova | Sophomore
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 215 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 16
Bey profiles as a rock-solid role player, offering defensive versatility and perimeter shooting in a low-maintenance offensive package that should fit into most lineups. He’s skilled and big enough to play both forward spots, and took a big leap forward this season for a Villanova program that’s consistently churned out useful NBA players. His release is compact and quick, and up close, it’s evident his confidence level has really grown. Bey isn’t very dynamic off the dribble, but he’s far along conceptually and does so many things well that teams should feel fairly secure in what they’re getting. He doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but should be useful in most circumstances, and fits what a lot of teams are looking for at forward with his two-way impact.
22. Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Olympiacos
Height: 7’0” | Weight: 200 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 34
Pokusevski is one of the weirder draft-eligible prospects and should be an interesting case study moving forward. He’s the youngest player on this board and his ball skills, shooting and fluidity at his size are highly unusual, but he’s so physically frail and ill-suited to play on the interior that he may never have a real chance of contributing on a regular basis in the NBA. He has the size to play center, but may never fill out to the point where he can actually do the job. He’s become an intriguing proposition nonetheless, in a weaker draft where we might see teams place added priority on stashing prospects overseas. Pokusevski is still more of an idea than anything, but the thought of him as a versatile stretch big might be enough to roll the dice.
23. Precious Achiuwa, F/C, Memphis | Freshman
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 27
From a productivity perspective, Achiuwa has had a strong freshman season, putting his physical tools to use on the glass and around the rim, and proving a surprisingly solid defensive presence playing center in James Wiseman’s absence. The five is clearly his most natural NBA position, although he still seems more interested in floating to the perimeter and moonlighting as a skill player—which has always been a concern. Achiuwa’s actual skill level and feel are often called into question, as he’s not a convincing shooter and often relies on drawing fouls with his strength and quickness. He certainly fits the bill athletically, making him an interesting option for a team with multiple picks, or simply the patience to invest in his tools. But billing him as a lottery pick feels aggressive based on his limitations and questionable instincts.
24. Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 13
The needle continues to move in the other direction a bit for Mannion after what was on whole an uneven year at Arizona. In his defense, he was asked to do a lot as a true freshman, and he remains one of the better passers in the draft. But teams have started to view him as more of a long-term backup than a starter, which is a better value proposition later in the draft. Mannion’s youth and pedigree still hold weight, and he’s a natural floor leader with a lot of room to grow. There will always be concerns defensively, and the fact he didn’t finish well at the rim this season also raises some questions. But Mannion’s feel and skill level should enable him to succeed in the right system, and he’s a good decision-maker with strong intangibles. His ceiling will hinge on how well he adjusts playing against NBA length, and whether he can improve his finishing enough to be efficient.
25. Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington | Freshman
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 22
There’s nothing overly flashy about Stewart’s game, as a throwback, high-energy rebounder who’s lauded for his work ethic and leadership. Despite not being a mobile, modern center, he remains a likely first-round pick on the strength of that profile — as a grease man who understands exactly what he is. Stewart is long, hefty and competitive, but also struggles to finish plays and get off clean looks against guys who can counter his size. The upside here isn’t immense, but there’s still value in having a workmanlike guy like Stewart on the roster. Where he’s drafted will depend on positional need, but he might be able to give a team workable minutes right away. As his body type and skill set continues to develop, Stewart is a good bet to keep improving.
26. Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech | Freshman
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 26
Ramsey had a decent year at Texas Tech, but is more of an upside play in the back half of the first round for a team that buys his physical tools and scoring potential. Right now, he settles for too many jumpers and gets to the rim less often than you’d think for a guy with his type of strength. If he reverses that trend and embraces the defensive side of the ball, his ability to play on and off the ball could make him a nice backcourt piece. But other than scoring, he’s not particularly polished, and it takes a little extra projection to see him directly helping a team win anytime soon. Ramsey’s shooting and strong body type are certainly intriguing in tandem, and the fact he’s one of the younger players in the draft helps a bit.
27. Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington | Freshman
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 18
McDaniels was far more flash than substance this season, but those flashes, given his long frame and ball skills, have always been enough to intrigue scouts. But that window of curiosity may be closing a bit, as he struggled to string together consistent results in college and made an inconsistent impact on a surprisingly bad team. His slender frame and the fact he managed a negative assist to turnover ratio are pretty big detractors. McDaniels is a willing passer and rebounder, but has to be able to consistently shoot over opponents to tie the rest of his skill set together, and he just hasn’t been all that reliable or efficient. He’s a project in need of some G League time, ideally. But if McDaniels can add a significant amount of strength, rounds out his game and learns to fit into a smaller role, he could still find a way to make it work.
28. Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State | Junior
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 245 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 29
There may not a better big in the draft than Tillman when it comes down to the minutiae, and his hard-nosed, smart approach to interior play is tailor-made for an NBA role. He rebounds, sets great screens, can make plays for others in a pinch, knows exactly where to be on defense, and has flashed potential to shoot from outside. He‘s undersized for an NBA center, but Tillman should be able to help teams by simply continuing to be a better version of his current self. He would be a sensible addition to a playoff-caliber roster in the late first or early second round, and should be able to contribute early in the right situation.
29. Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State | Junior
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 40
San Diego State’s unexpected dominance was due in large part to Flynn, who appears well-suited for an NBA role with his rock-solid guard play. His skill, feel and toughness leave some room for optimism that he can be more than just a great college player, particularly given how good he’s been operating in ball screens, and the fact he can also operate effectively on the catch without the ball. Flynn’s shooting from distance can improve, but he’s dangerous enough to set up the drive and comfortable finishing with both hands. There are no huge holes in his game, and an appealing degree of floor as a backup guard who makes winning decisions. He would have been in position to break out during the NCAA tournament.
30. Grant Riller, G, Charleston | Senior
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 190 | Age: 23 | Last Rank: 30
It’s hard to ignore just how good a scorer Riller has been in college, and he’s arguably the best-finishing guard in this draft class, albeit playing mostly against lower-level college competition. His touch and vertical pop are high-end, and while he’ll be best off paired with a bigger playmaker, he shoots and moves the ball well enough to make it work—and he certainly won’t be asked to carry an offense in the same way. Because he’s not very big (6’3” is a bit generous), the primary holdup is how much of his efficiency translates around the rim against bigger bodies and better athletes. But Riller is athletic and tough enough to think he’ll figure it out in some capacity.