2020 NBA Draft: The Big Board

Three notes:

  • I only scouted and projected players who played NCAA D1 Basketball in the 2019-2020 season. The top of this draft has many players who did not play NCAA Basketball. They are omitted only because I did not scout them, and I have no opinion on them.
  • Major conference prospects in bold, mid-major prospects in italics, low major prospects in plain text. Mid-major and low major prospects have a wider range of outcomes and less certainty regarding those outcomes.  
  • The sections are not ordered within tiers and the players are not ordered within sections.

For more information on the theory behind my big board, I covered it in my 2019 NBA Draft Series:

The Past, The Present, The Future
On Age, Development, and Value
On Patience and Probability
There Are Levels To This Game
Leftover Food for Thought

And my 2020 Supplement: The Samepocalypse Has Arrived

Tier 1: The Elite Prospects – High chance of being a star, chance of being a superstar


Tier 2: The High Quality Prospects – High chance of being a starter, chance of being a star


Tier 3: The Potential Stars – Chance of being a star, but high risk on multiple levels

Anthony EdwardsOnyeka Okongwu

Yes, not a single college player in this draft received a top 2 tier grade from me. Typically Tier 3 prospects get drafted in the mid-lottery.

Anthony Edwards is an incredibly difficult prospect to project. He shot 29.4% from 3 and had more turnovers than assists in conference play. Typically a profile like that wouldn’t even make it on to my board. Put on the tape, and you may not even be able to figure out who or where he is on court 80% of the time. But that other 20%? That other 20% is “top 10 player in the NBA” level. He has elite NBA physical tools. He flashes all the skills. Will he put it all together? Who knows. If he doesn’t, he’s probably still a fine backup, but it’s hard to see him landing anywhere between “star” and “backup”.

Onyeka Okongwu is raw. Very, very raw. He should probably spend the next two years (at least) in the G-League. However, his upside is that of a perfect modern center. He has the footspeed to stick with smaller players on the perimeter, he shows a nice shooting stroke, he makes some fantastic passes. He’s just not consistent with anything, which is to be expected of most young bigs. If he never puts it all together, he’s not much of a player, but the upside is quite high. The other risk is that the NBA starts to go even smaller at center and he is too big for whatever it ends up settling at, though I think he has the physical tools to make it work.

Tier 3: The Glue Guys – No real star upside, likely to be rotation players or quality starters within three years, fail chance is lack of single elite quality

Cole Anthony

Some teams don’t need to swing for a star, they need to get somebody who will be able to supplement the stars they already have. These are those guys. There is a bust chance, but not nearly as high as The Potential Stars.

Cole Anthony’s draft stock fell down the board throughout the year, but it’s not clear why. UNC suffered from an extreme lack of spacing and just overall talent, which led Anthony to try to play heroball in extremely unfavorable circumstances. As a player, he is good both on the ball and off the ball, both on offense and defense. He lacks a single standout anything, which makes it difficult . What is his role at the next level? Ultimately, he will likely be at his best as a Robin to an elite Batman.

Tier 4: The Roleplayers – Starters or backups, these players can overcome minor flaws as long as their 3 point shot translates to the next level.

Tyrese HaliburtonTyler BeySaddiq BeyDevin VassellKira Lewis
Desmond BaneTre JonesAaron NesmithJordan NworaTy-Shon Alexander
Mason JonesRobert Woodard IIImmanuel Quickley

None of these players project to be stars at the next level, but all of them could become useful roleplayers as long as their 3 point shot falls.

Tyrese Haliburton is painfully unathletic. He is a very good basketball player, but he is going to be bottom 10% athletically among NBA wings. He will be best utilized as an off-ball mover and facilitator, as he simply doesn’t have any off-the-bounce game that will work at the next level.

Tyler Bey played center for Colorado this season and that might be his best position at the next level should he go to a team that realizes it. His 8’9.5″ standing reach + 43.5″ max leap gives him more than enough size and height, and watching him sky for rebounds is really incredible. If forced to be a more traditional wing, he can probably still succeed, but it would be a waste of a special talent, and it wouldn’t be ideal for his skillset.

Saddiq Bey is an aggressive and accurate shooter who fails to get the most out of his physical tools due to some weird issues with physical movements that are more commonly seen in football RBs. A good team will get a coach specifically to iron those out and could end up with a steal. Otherwise, he is too stiff in his movements to be a quality defender.

Devin Vassell is a traditional 3-and-D wing. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism necessary to be a true point-of-attack stopper, and he doesn’t have the handle to be much of a threat off the bounce, but he should be fine as a 4th or 5th guy on the floor.

Kira Lewis projects to be an average primary ballhandler. The bar to being a good starter at PG is really high, and he just lacks the creation or passing skills necessary to be at that level. He’s more of a backend starter or backup unless he significantly improves his passing.

Desmond Bane is just a guy. He’s ready to step in and play right away, but he will never provide more than 2nd or 3rd wing quality 3-and-D play.

Tre Jones can run an offense, but he can’t elevate one. He simply doesn’t have the physical tools to create offense or the passing to unlock a defense . If a team needs a backup PG who can initiate the offense and shoot the 3 if he’s left open, Jones can do it.

Aaron Nesmith made waves with his 52.2% 3P shooting, but he only played one game against major competition, and they relentlessly attacked him successfully on defense. But if he can shoot even 42% from 3 at the next level, teams will find a way to hide him on defense.

Jordan Nwora will probably be a better player in the NBA than he was in college. He can get his 3 point shot off quickly and accurately from many different balance points. He will greatly benefit from receiving less attention from defenses.

Ty-Shon Alexander is a little smaller than ideal, but other than that, he’s another traditional 3-and-D wing. His large wingspan makes up for his lack of height, and he does a good job keeping his hands active on defense.

Mason Jones led the entire NCAA in FTA (271, 9.1/game), and he made them at an 82% clip. He only shot the 3 at 35.3%, but if he can do that at the pro level, he is one of very few true secondary ballhandlers available in this draft.

Robert Woodard II has ideal physical tools for a wing, able to defend the entire spectrum of wings. He shot 42.9% on 70 attempts from 3, so if he can stick anywhere near that on more attempts, he could help a lot of teams as a 3-and-D guy with the size to guard big wings.

Immanuel Quickley has gotten much less attention than Tyrese Maxey, but he shot 42.8% from 3 and 92.3% from the FT line. He won SEC Player of the Year. He’s a little undersized but does a good job defending other players his size. Feels like a guy who will fall and people will try to figure out why in a few years.

Tier 5: The potentially passable bigs – Because sometimes you really just do need a guy who can rebound

Vernon CareyDaniel OturuUdoka AzubuikeJalen SmithObi Toppin

As I wrote here, traditional big men are getting completely played off the floor. None of these players have any chance of sticking to guards if switched on pick and roll. But if you’re going to force a center on to the floor anyway, these guys may be worth a look.

Vernon Carey is a very traditional big who showed a well rounded offensive game. If he can develop his game passing from the post, he’d make a very nice bench/change-of-pace option.

Daniel Oturu is quick and bouncy and has a chance to develop into a true 3-and-rim protection center. Would make sense for Western Conference teams who need players to stick with the better centers of that Conference.

Udoka Azubuike shot 74.8% from the field this year, including 50.7% on 2 point jumpers. He had a fantastic combine. His 44% FT is a problem and he’s not a good enough passer, but he’s still worth a look on a bench.

Jalen Smith showed a developing 3P game, but he showed little ability to defend when forced outside the paint in Maryland’s zone scheme. Might be worth trying to develop still.

Obi Toppin cannot defend anybody anywhere on the court. I also question how well his offense will translate to the next level. He might be interesting as a bench scorer for a team that thinks they can hide his defense, but he will have to be extremely efficient on offense to be worth playing even in that limited role.

Tier 5: Vaguely Interesting Young’uns – These guys might be decent NBA players…at some point.

Tyrell TerryIsaiah JoeJosh GreenNico MannionCassius Stanley
Isaac OkoroJahmi’us RamseyCJ EllebyTyrese Maxey

This is the group of players most subject to the issue of value. If this big board was just a matter of who will have the best career, some of these players would be ranked higher. But they are unlikely to generate value on their rookie contract and if they pan out, they are unlikely to re-sign on a good contract for the team that drafts them. This makes it difficult to justify drafting them as high as their potential would otherwise dictate.

Tyrell Terry is a great shooter, but he doesn’t have the ball-handling or passing skills to play lead guard. At 6’1.5 with a small wingspan, he got completely swallowed up by bigger defenders and struggled to defend anybody with NBA size. But shooting is shooting, so maybe the ballhandling and passing gets developed down the road.

Isaiah Joe knows his role. 76% of his shots this year were 3 pointers. The issue is that he only made 34.4% of them, and his defense is not good enough if he is merely a league average shooter. But if that shot gets more consistent, he can be a threat.

Josh Green did not shoot many 3s or make them at a high clip. But the rest of his game is decent, so he probably just needs some time to develop into the 3-and-D player he’s set to be.

Nico Mannion is not a finished product, and the finished product version of him may still not be good enough. His poor wingspan and lack of burst makes it difficult to project him as a true impact player on either end of the floor, but PGs are typically the slowest position to develop. Check back in on him in 6 years.

Cassius Stanley may have the highest upside of this group. He is the best player in this draft in transition offense with his combination of speed and hops. A team willing to develop his half-court game may find a player with all the tools to be a bonafide 2-way starter.

Isaac Okoro has generated a ton of buzz, but it’s difficult to figure out why. His offensive game could improve by leaps and bounds and still fall short of NBA-quality. His defense is good but not quite elite, and even if it was, his lack of offensive game is so glaring that you can’t put him on the floor. Give him a few years to see if that shot develops at all.

Jahmi’us Ramsey had a good 3P%, but he could not put the ball in the basket consistently from anywhere else. His small size meant he was easily pushed around. A few years of NBA body work should get him to where he needs to be as a backup scorer.

CJ Elleby was miscast as a primary ballhandler for a Wazzu team that was lacking in talent. Being moved off the ball should help, though he still needs to work on consistency on both ends of the floor. He may still be able to develop into a secondary initiator.

Tyrese Maxey wasn’t good at anything this year, but who am I to doubt young Kentucky guards?

Again, some of these players could be ranked higher, but their young age and unrefined games just make them questionable players to draft. I can’t say more about them because there’s not more to say yet – you’re drafting an incomplete bag of parts.

Tier 6: Worth a look in the second round, but don’t expect anything – A bunch of young bigs and a few iffy wings

Emmitt WilliamsReggie PerryZeke NnajiIsaiah StewartPrecious Achiuwa
Jaden McDanielsPatrick WilliamsJames WisemanMalik FittsSam Merrill

Not much to say about most of this group. Williams, Perry, Nnaji, Stewart, and Achiuwa are all bigs who don’t have the footspeed to stick on the perimeter or the shot to stick on the outside. Even if they develop, it’s hard to see what they bring to the table.

Jaden McDaniels is long and lanky but bad at basketball. He’s a better lottery ticket than some others, but stash him in the G-League for 3 years and check back in later.

Patrick Williams is a future center who doesn’t do anything well. On offense, he’s a poor shooter and created nothing. On defense, he doesn’t have the footspeed to stick on the perimeter, and most of his defensive stats came from a zone scheme where he could range far from his responsibility. He didn’t crack the starting lineup in college because he wasn’t good enough, and his potential is as an undersized bouncy center, but there are already too many of those for him to be particularly interesting.

James Wiseman is bad at basketball. While he only played two games, he showed terrible hands and no basketball skills. He’s a future rim runner/rim protector, and if and when he reaches a point where he belongs on an NBA floor, the NBA is likely to have already reached a point where that role doesn’t exist anymore. Draft him hoping that rule changes curtail 3P shooting?

Malik Fitts and Sam Merrill are mildly interesting shooters from mid-majors. It’s not clear either has the athleticism or strength necessary to stick at the next level, but they’re worth a look in the second round just in case.

Tier 7: So you still have draft picks leftover…

Cassius WinstonDevon DotsonGrant RillerMalachi Flynn
Payton PritchardSkylar MaysJordan FordPaul Reed
Xavier TillmanYoeli ChildsLamine DianeOsasumwen Osaghae

Everybody in this group is talented, but talent isn’t enough. The guards are all too small and/or lack the athleticism required to succeed in the NBA. They may be able to stick as 2nd or 3rd stringers, but the game is moving away from small PGs. The bigs were all super productive college players who haven’t shown a consistent 3 point shot and are likely limited to being small centers at the next level.

Tier 8: Unlisted Players

There are a lot of draft eligible players. By sheer quantity, a few players not listed here will get drafted and given enough opportunities to eventually earn a job, or will go undrafted and eventually work their way onto NBA rosters. One of them may even be really good. I could keep listing guys in Tier 8, Tier 9, Tier 10, but the difference between Tier 7 and Tier 8 is already tiny, and the distinctions just get tinier with each passing tier. Again, a few unlisted prospects will pan out by sheer quantity, so if a prospect you like did not make this board, they could still be good! I just don’t think they will be.