Welcome to the September update of the Kings Herald 2020 NBA Draft Big Board! Yep - it’s September, and we’re still almost two months away from one of the most confusing Drafts in recent memory. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported this week, the draft has been moved and locked to November 18th as the NBA and the Players Association juggle with when to start the 2020-21 season. But the NBA Playoffs have been so damn entertaining that it’s almost hard to stay focused on this draft-that-never-comes. The extension does give me more time for detailed prospect breakdowns, so my Big Board will likely have another big shake up between now and November.
As I highlighted in my recent article on Saddiq Bey, this draft offers the Kings a range of talent and upside combinations that Monte McNair will have to seriously debate as he decides how best to reset Sacramento’s rebuild. Are the Kings just a few competent pieces away from success? Take Bey. Do the Kings need to swing for the fences to even have a chance at salvaging this rebuild? Take Aleksej Pokusevski or Patrick Williams. Are you Richard Ivanowski? Take Cole Anthony and pray. Do the Kings just need a culture reset? Take Tyrese Maxey. Don’t think this draft is anything special? Trade out! This draft will provide us a fascinating first look at our new General Manager.
Below are my updated rankings, set with two numbers. The first is my Kings-Centric ranking, which is almost entirely set by “take the best player available,” with the singular caveat of “please don’t slow down De’Aaron Fox.” (Side note - beware anyone who speaks of trading Fox this early into McNair's tenure. They are crazy folks and should be ignored.)
The second score in parentheses is a player’s KANGZ score, which indicates how volatile that player is if he gets drafted into basketball hell. Can a player reach anywhere close to his standard outcome if he’d been drafted by a smart basketball team? Think of a guy like Fox, or to a much-lower-talent degree, Jason Thompson - you are you who are, and that guy gets a high number. Are you Ben McLemore? You’re probably a 4 or lower. This ranking isn’t really indicative of a player’s talent - Saddiq Bey would get a 9 here, while Deni Avdija gets a 5 - but it should give a basic indication on how safe I think a player is for our insane, never stable franchise.
1. Anthony Edwards (KANGZ Score: 6)
The Good: Still the highest ceiling in the draft class for me; he proved he could hit absurdly difficult three-level shots against double and triple teams while also flashing passing skills.
The Bad: His defensive motor was incredibly inconsistent all season, as was his decision making on offense. His shot selection absolutely tanked his shooting efficiency, which hides just how good a shooter he really is. Given that his Georgia team was so bad, this can be excused… to some degree.
2. Onyeka Okongwu (KANGZ Score: 7)
The Good: A new-age big with great touch around the basket, potential as a face-up scorer, and - most importantly - an extremely high ceiling defensively. He’s a defensive anchor in waiting, thanks to both his rim protection skills and his ability to switch and handle speedier players in space.
The Bad: He was slightly undersized in college, and his explosiveness, speed, and flexibility will only compensate so much for his 6’9” size - although as we've seen in these Playoffs, a 6'9 center can be plenty big. He can also become a capable shooter - I’m banking on it to have him this high - but it’s no guarantee.
3. Isaac Okoro (KANGZ Score: 8)
The Good: In a class on volatility and uncertainty, Okoro offers a high-floor in many ways; he’s a dominant on-ball defender, thanks to his exceptional combo of strength, explosiveness, and intensity. His handle needs work, but he showed a strong ability to get to the basket in the half court and finish with power and finesse (89th percentile for shots around the rim in the halfcourt), and earned more trips to the line (6.1 per 40) than Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams combined. He’s a complementary offensive player whose versatility won’t let him get played off the court.
The Bad: 28.6% from deep, 67.2% from the free throw line. Let's hope he ends up somewhere with a truly excellent shot doctor.
4. Devin Vassell (9)
The Good: This draft’s ultimate combination of shooting and defensive upside. Vassell proved himself as a top-tier shooter both off the catch and off the bounce, while also being a massive disruptor on and off the ball on defense.He’s one of the better team
The Bad: Unlike Okoro, Vassell’s best defensive skills show up off-ball, and I doubt that he’ll ever be a “stick him on the best guy” type of defender. This isn’t really a critique, as help defense is just as important in the NBA today as anything else, but it makes Vassell more of a role player than Okoro in my mind.
5. Killian Hayes (6)
The Good: An 18-year old genius with the basketball, possessing great passing and craftiness with great size (6’4) and strength. Also a damn promising pull-up shooter, the best skill for any initiator. His handling needs some work, but his upside is clear.
The Bad: While Killian’s pull-up shot is damn sweet, he’s not as proven off the catch, which may limit his immediate abilities to play with another initiator. His lack of explosiveness and elite quickness may be more limiting on the defensive end.
6. Deni Avdija (5)
The Good: Versatile combo forward who offers real secondary initiator upside thanks to his excellent passing and vision. Good instincts on both ends, and a motor that doesn’t stop. He shows the mentality to be a real alpha dog in the lockerroom.
The Bad: While Avdija’s shooting numbers have improved over the year, and smarter shot experts than I say his form has improved, his potential as a shooter is a real question (a FT% of just 58.8%). With his instincts and motor, I don’t think Avdija is truly big-time bustable, but he needs his shot to translate more than the other questionable shooters in the lottery do.
7. LaMelo Ball (4)
The Good: Ball’s passing is probably the best individual skill in this class; a true maestro with the basketball. He has no fear of the big passes or the big shots, and it’s better to have those onions and need to learn hesitation than the inverse.
The Bad: LaMelo is 2nd on my overall ranking, but I despise the fit with Fox. Could he share co-initiator duties? Is his shot good enough to pull defenders when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands? Can this team handle another negative/neutral-at-best defender? I struggle to expect the Kings situation and coaching staff could truly get him to buy in.
8. Tyrese Haliburton (8)
The Good: While he played point for Iowa State, Haliburton will be best at the NBA level as a secondary initiatory; lucky for him, his 6'5 size and 6'8 wingspan give him positional versatility. His strong (if funky) catch-and-shoot ability combined with preternatural passing instincts make him an excellent fix next to Fox, as long as the Kings get a damn defensive wing.
The Bad: Can’t be counted on to create his own shot. While he’s a great team defender and always ready to jump passing lanes, he’s a skinny dude who may never get the muscle needed to rightfully battle bigger guards.
9. James Wiseman (4)
The Good: A titanic combo of size, length, and explosiveness; has the potential to be a dynamic rim-runner/pick-and-roll big. Tough rebounder and promising rim protector, as long as his defensive instincts catch up with his physical dominance.
The Bad: I’ve watched his three games at Memphis too many times not to be terrified of his offensive instincts with the ball, and the Kings already have a big man who wants to pretend he’s Giannis. I’m also not as confident in his defensive upside as some of the professional scouts are.
10. Patrick Williams (7)
The Good: Instinctual, explosive defender who can pull off nonsense like this. He’s also a capable shooter, both off the catch and the dribble, while also flashing the passing and dribbling skills for something more than just 3-and-D. Also happens to play a position and role the Kings haven’t tried to find for more than a damn decade, and he’s the youngest American player in the draft.
The Bad: Played only 22.5 minutes per game, which is worrying until you consider the context of “no one ever gets big minutes under Leonard ‘I won’t even play Jonathan Isaac more than 25 MPG’ Hamilton.” In reality, Williams IS a project player who is unlikely to provide more than a high-motor defender and alright shooter in his first year or so. He’s also not an all-world defensive prospect unless he gets some real help unlocking some flexibility in his hips and legs so he doesn’t get hunted by guards.
11. Tyrese Maxey (8)
The Good: Bulldog point-of-attack beast on defense whose intensity and motor could be a culture-maker. Already has a relationship with Fox, and with their transition talents combined, the two of them could be one of the more fun warp-speed tandems in the league. He’s also a capable secondary playmaker and a strong rebounder for his position.
The Bad: While smarter armchair scouts than I trust that Maxey’s shooting ability is real/was cramped by Kentucky’s shitty spacing and Calipari’s Calipariness, the value of having two speedsters who can rim-run goes down when they aren’t locks to provide each other spacing (Maxey shot 29% from deep at Kentucky). At 6’3, he has to become outlier tough and strong to become the elite point-of-attack defender he wants to be.
12. Kira Lewis (7)
The Good: Kira has Fox-level speed and body control. Already showed he could run an insane-tempo offense, and improved as a catch-and-shoot threat to the point where he could really be dangerous off the ball. Fearless at attacking with the basketball.
The Bad: While I buy a Fox/Kira combination on offense, defensively the two lack size or strength to be a dangerous two-way combination.
13. Obi Toppin (7)
The Good: Best offensive big in the class; above-average shooter, dunker, and scorer in the paint, while also possessing alright passing and decision making instincts. High-floor player on the offensive end, and one who wouldn’t need to crowd the paint to provide value.
The Bad: I lied when I said fit doesn’t play a factor here - I don’t want the Kings to draft another zero on defense, especially if that dude is a big man.
14. Aleksej Pokusevski (5)
The Good: A 7’1 dude who plays like a top-flight combo guard. Defies all positional logic with his mind-bending combination of passing, handling, driving, and shooting. I’ve grown to the idea that even Sacramento could stand to be patient enough in his physical development to work him into a real NBA threat - check out the Kings Pulse pod with draft guru PD Web for a ton of Poku insights and optimism.
The Bad: All his skills won’t mean much if the 7’1, 200 lbs Poku doesn’t end up with the right development staff and doesn’t have the toughness to handle the transition to the NBA game. Here’s hoping he ends up with a smart, patient team - the NBA will be a better league with a dominant Poku playing somewhere.
15. Cole Anthony (5)
The Good: Hyper confident scorer whose best traits were completely messed up by an absolutely dreadful UNC squad. Great shooter, crafty dribbler, and can finish at the rim with a dozen excellent moves. Makes up for less than idea size by actually giving a crud defensively. Considering his usage rate, surprisingly solid shot rate and efficiency off the catch. 6th on my overall big board.
The Bad: While I’ve been a long proponent of finding another initiator to play next to Fox, selecting an undersized guard (I don’t buy the 6’3 listing) who hasn’t spent time sharing playmaking duties and doesn’t have tremendous defensive upside (as Maxey does) would be weird roster construction. For all his craft as a scorer, his playmaking and passing instincts are a step behind other “true” initiators in the class.
16. Saddiq Bey (9) (Full breakdown here)
The Good: Fantastic shooter, capable playmaker, and all-around high-feel player who excelled at Villanova as a rangy defender. His high floor makes him one of the fan-base's favorites.
The Bad: While his defensive instincts are sharp, his under-discussed lack of athleticism will absolutely get him hunted down in switches and he could be a liability in space at the NBA level. While a capable catch-and-shoot player, he lacks any upside as an individual creator. His most likely outcome is as a solid rotation player (which may not be a issue in this draft class).
17. Aaron Nesmith (6)
The Good: An excellent shooter, both off the catch and off movement. His 6’6 size and 6’10 wingspan makes his quick release even harder to guard. His shooting splits are eyepopping, but he only played in 14 games this season; I still expect him to be a very capable shooter, but he certainly will average out below 52% from deep. A determined defender who can swallow up opponents with his length.
The Bad: Beyond above-average shooting, I’m not sure what else is a lock in his game. He’s an alright defender, but doesn't have the instincts of the other wings in the class. He struggles at the rim and a lack of handle and quickness limit him as a self creator. Finished his short season with just 13 assists in 500 minutes played. Lost most of his season due to foot surgery.
18. Jalen Smith (8)
The Good: He’s got the hybrid combo of skills that every team dreams of in a big; promising deep shot and rim protection. How dynamic these two skills will be at the next level is up for debate, but he’s got the defensive instincts and drive to be a very strong two-way player. Tough, physical rebounder who always runs the floor hard.
The Bad: While I trust his rim protection, he’ll need some real physical development help to unlock the flexibility needed to not be a liability in space. For all his versatility, he’s not a capable passer.
19. Josh Green (7) (Full breakdown here)
The Good: Extremely high-motor player with the athletic tools to be an excellent NBA defender. If his shooting is real, and his future team helps him tighten up his handle and come up with some more options with the ball in his hands, he could be a dynamic two-way player.
The Bad: He’s still a ways off from that two-way ceiling, unfortunately; he’s an inconsistent shooter who shied away from open shots too often, and yet he was dreadfully bad when he got to the rim in the half-court. Doesn’t have a go-to skill on offense, unlike some other defense-first prospects in this class.
20. Precious Achiuwa (6)
The Good: Very promising defensive big man with the potential range to protect the rim and guard on the perimeter. His ceiling could be what we’d always hoped from Willie Cauley-Stein - rim-runner who fights in the paint and on the glass.
The Bad: Aside from his success in transition and on the pick-and-dive, he lacks offensive versatility. I don’t buy him as a shooting threat, and don’t think he’d be the right selection with a lottery pick.
21. R.J. Hampton (4)
The Good: Electric athlete with the length, size, and the basics of off- and on-ball skills to be a versatile NBA guard if he adds strength.
The Bad: Hard to be overly excited if you watch his full NBL games - Hampton wasn’t efficient at the rim or from deep. Much more of a project player than I think many expect. Even in a class of questionable shooters, I worry about his jumper mechanics.
22. Leandro Bolmaro (7)
The Good: Hyper-confident, electric wing who can jet around the court, attack the basket, and toss around every pass in the playbook. At 6’8, offers real versatility on both ends, and attacks his defensive assignments with vigor while always ready to jump in passing lanes. If his touch around the basket translates into an actual deep shooting touch, watch out.
The Bad: Shot just 29.3% from deep across all leagues this season, and his shooting is very much a question mark. Already decided he’ll stay in Barcelona next season, and has a contract that lasts until 2023.
23. Xavier Tillman (9)
The Good: For his size (6’8), the best defensive big man in the class thanks to insane strength and excellent instincts. Strong rebounder who will be undersized but not outfought at the next level. Legitimately played as a secondary initiator next to Cassius Winston.
The Bad: Aside from post-ups and assists, unclear how he’ll impact an offense at the next level. Perhaps his shooting touch could be unlocked by a smart team, but shot just 26% on 50 attempts from deep this year (and 66.7% from the line).
24. Isaiah Joe (7)
The Good: Sweet shooting off-ball guard who can hit off movement and off the dribble. Capable passer and smart offensive player, aside from a tendency to take bad shots. For his size, one of the more fun, energetic defenders in the class. My first answer to “if you don’t take Aaron Nesmith at 12, who can offer shooting help at pick 35?”
The Bad: His shooting numbers tanked in his sophomore season as his attempts spiked; went from 41.4% from deep his freshman year to 34.2% as a sophomore, so his actual average is probably in the middle. For all his effort and intensity on defense, his lack of strength (just 180 lbs at 6’5) was a real problem at Arkansas and will be doubly so in the NBA. Had knee surgery in February.
25. Desmond Bane (9)
The Good: The best shooter in the draft (hat tip to Markus Howard, who has a real argument for this crown). Give him any space, and he’ll knock down shots from way beyond NBA range. But he’s more than just a shooter - very capable ball mover, solid finisher, and strong, dedicated defender. My second answer to “if you don’t take Aaron Nesmith at 12, who can offer shooting help at pick 35?”
The Bad: While he gives a crud on defense, his negative wingspan and lack of great burst limits his versatility. Likely tops out as a solid rotation player (which isn’t really a negative at this stage in the draft).
26. Killian Tillie (9)
The Good: A top-tier big shooter who hit 44% from deep in his four years at Gonzaga while also consistently showing some of the best offensive awareness you could ask from a collegiate big. Great connecting piece on offense, even if he’s not the biggest scoring threat. Also a high-IQ defender, although he needs to get much stronger to handle NBA bigs. My favorite pick for any of the Kings 2nd round picks.
The Bad: Would have been a 1st round pick in any of the last three drafts if it wasn’t for an insanely unfortunate injury history, as he’s dealt with numerous ankle, knee, and foot injuries. Not an truly effective rebounder, although sticking close to the rim was never his role at Gonzaga.
27. Theo Maledon (5)
The Good: Promising initiator with combo-guard size and length. Not the fastest or most explosive player, but plays with good control and change-of-pace, and flashes some real craftiness around the rim. Efficient shooting numbers off a relatively consistant shot.
The Bad: Not sure how he creates his offense at the next level, unless his shooting off the dribble spikes. I’d admit that of the guards in this class, he’s the one I’m least sure on.
28. Jaden McDaniels (2) (Full breakdown here)
The Good: The basics of McDaniels are alluring - a 6’10 wing who can shoot off the bounce and handle in space will always get attention in the NBA. He’s also a surprisingly stout help-side rim protector.
The Bad: He’s not the shooter his draft stock might indicate, his love of driving leads him to be predictable on offense, and he’s very much a project player who needs a few patient years with a good organization before he’ll be a two-way impact.
29. Tyrelle Terry (7)
The Good: Flies around the court with and without the ball, looking for just a bit of daylight to launch a deep shot - sank 40.8% of 152 attempts on the season. More than just a shooter, as his passing skills and willingness surprised me since he only averaged 3.9 assists per 40. At worst, an absolute microwave off the bench.
The Bad: Undersized (6’1, 160 lbs), which makes him a one position defender even if he does play with solid intensity and quickness (1.7 steals per 40). Would be best on a team with a bigger initiator who could take advantage of his off-ball movement. In the right spot, he’ll make this ranking look foolish.
30. Malachi Flynn (8)
The Good: The backup point guard the Kings have been looking for; tough, high-instinct player on both ends who can shoot, pass with gusto, and dominate in the pick-and-roll. Extremely competitive player who won MWC Defensive Player of the Year.
The Bad: Like Terry, his 6’1 size will limit him defensively, although with weight training he might gain enough bulk to avoid getting pushed around.