2020 NBA Draft: Who Has the Most Star Potential?

While NBA executives are proceeding with caution among the coronavirus pandemic, barring any setbacks, the NBA announced a tentative date for the season to resume on June 31. If everything goes accordingly, the NBA plans to hold the draft lottery on August 25 and the draft on October 15. With the current playoff seeding already announced, that means eight teams have already seen their seasons come to an end. As the other 22 prepare for the play-in tournament and playoffs, the other 8 have already set their sights on the 2020 draft, hoping to find the next big NBA star. In this article, I’m going to present a few players from the 2020 NBA Draft Class who I think have the best chance at becoming NBA stars in the future.

1. LaMelo Ball, PG, Australia

Lamelo Ball2Like many basketball fans around the world, we’ve known about LaMelo Ball for years. He first rose to stardom in high school, where he played for the Chino Hills varsity team as a middle schooler. Alongside his brothers, Pelican’s point guard Lonzo Ball and LiAngelo Ball, Melo made Chino Hills one of the best high school teams ever. This past season, LaMelo joined the NBL, where he played for the Illawarra Hawks. Many experts consider the NBL as one of the best professional leagues in the world behind the NBA. As for Ball’s potential, I believe he has the most upside in this draft class due to his positional size and modern-day NBA fit. Ball may not be as polished as some of the other players in his class, but he has all the tools to become a future All-Star and franchise-caliber player.

Ball is one of the youngest players in the class, as he’s still just 18 years old. Standing 6’7” and weighing 190 pounds, Ball possess tremendous size for his position and should continue to get stronger as he joins the NBA. In just 12 games in the NBL, Ball recorded averages of 17 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. His per-36-minute averages were even better, posting a 19.6/8.7/7.9 stat line. If there is any knock on Ball’s game, it’s his three-point percentage and commitment on the defensive end. LaMelo shot just 25% from three on about 7 three-point attempts per game. Although these are two glaring holes in his game, Ball has shown ability on defense, recording 1.6 steals per game and has shown the ability to hit shots from far beyond the three-point line.

What makes Ball a transcendent talent is his basketball IQ, vision, and ball-handling ability. Already one of the draft’s best passers, Ball has a similar skillset as his brother Lonzo. He’s not the best athlete but makes up for it with quickness and speed with the ball, as well as terrific size at the point guard position. I’d like to compare LaMelo to Lonzo in this situation, but I also see similarities to NBA great Penny Hardaway. With his vision and feel for the game, Ball should be close to averaging double-digit assists for years to come. His rebounding also makes him an immediate triple-double threat on a nightly basis. I believe Ball’s potential relies heavily on the system he’s thrust into, but he’s a terrific fit for almost any NBA team in the modern-day era.

2. Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

anthony edwards scouting reportDepending on how the draft lottery goes, Edwards is the most likely number one pick. With an NBA-ready frame (6’5”, 215), Edwards is one of the most physically gifted athletes in the class. What separates Edwards from other players in his class is his already polished offensive arsenal. As one of the best scorers in the NCAA as a freshman, Edwards averaged 19.2 points per game on 40.2% shooting from the field. He shot only 29.4% from three, but Edwards’ efficiency was likely down due to his usage and offensive load at Georgia. Despite being behind second on my list, Edwards is more of a sure thing right now than LaMelo Ball, who is more of a gamble at number one.

Edwards’ polished offensive arsenal includes an array of finishes around the basket, a terrific pull-up game, and range from deep. Although Edwards does take a questionable shot from time to time, his shot IQ should improve as he gains experience. Edwards is also a nightmare in the open floor and is an exceptional athlete who punishes the rim on a nightly occasion. As a player who can develop into an elite three-level scorer, Edwards’ best comparisons are Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell. Both have shown the ability to carry teams on the offensive end as young players in the NBA, and Edwards is no exception to that. Defensively, Edwards has some work to do, but his body and athletic tools suggest that he can turn into a solid NBA defender.

3. James Wiseman, C, Memphis

James Wiseman2Wiseman could very well be the best player in this class but has lost a lot of traction due to his withdrawal from the University of Memphis. Although his sample size is small, just 3 games in college, Wiseman showed scouts why he was the number one player in his class coming into college. In three games, Wiseman posted 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. He also has an intriguing physical profile (7’0” height and 7’6” wingspan) that could make him one of the best bigs in the NBA in the future. At his height, Wiseman is also an exceptional athlete as he has the agility and quickness to switch onto smaller players. Defense and rebounding will be Wiseman’s calling card in the NBA, but he’s also shown great ability in pick-and-roll situations as well as a knack to hit outside shots.

I’m going to project Wiseman as a hybrid between Portland Trailblazer’s center Hassan Whiteside and Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton. Both are terrific rebounders and have a great presence in the paint on defense. While Whiteside is a bit limited on offense, Wiseman’s post repertoire is more versatile and has a great shooting touch for his size. Wiseman’s offensive game is more comparable to Ayton’s, who is a more traditional post scorer than Whiteside. Wiseman should be an immediate starter and could be an All-Star for many years to come if he develops at the offensive end.

4. Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC

Onyeka Okongwu2Onyeka Okongwu, LaMelo Ball’s former high school teammate, had a terrific season in his one year at USC. He recorded averages of 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. Okongwu is a bit small for his position (6’9”) but makes up for it with great timing and leaping ability. Okongwu is one of the better all-around players in this draft and does not appear to have any glaring flaws in his game. If anything, his ceiling isn’t quite as high as the other player mentioned before him on this list, but Okongwu’s floor projects him as an above-average starter. Okongwu’s strengths are his athleticism and high motor, finishing ability, and his defense around the rim. The former Trojan is also an excellent option in the pick-and-roll game, as he can knock down the occasional mid-range jumper and is terrific finishing around the basket.

Although his offensive repertoire isn’t super versatile, Okongwu has the ability to expand his arsenal. He brings rim protection, hustle, and rebounding to any team that drafts him and will only get better on the offensive end. Okongwu’s best comparison is Miami heat center, Bam Adebayo. Like Okongwu, Adebayo is undersized at his position but makes up for it with terrific jumping ability. Adebayo is also extremely versatile on the defensive end and has developed his offensive game in his short time in the NBA. With experience, Okongwu could move up on this list if his game continues to grow on the offensive end.

5. Killian Hayes, PG, France

Killian Hayes2I think Hayes is one of the more slept-on players in the 2020 NBA Draft Class. He isn’t a terrific athlete and doesn’t have the same global stardom as LaMelo Ball, but he’s already one of the best passers and more polished players in the draft. In 10 games with Ratiopharm ULM of the BBL, Hayes averaged 12.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He also shot better than 90% from the free-throw line and 39% from three. He has excellent size (6’5”) for the point guard position and displays elite vision for a player of his age. Hayes’ flaws include a high turnover rate (3.3 TPG), and his lack of athleticism hurts him on defense.

Despite his high turnover numbers, Hayes has a terrific offensive game between his passing ability and shot-making. I’m projecting him as a hybrid between James Harden and D’Angelo Russell, as Hayes has similar footwork and vision to Harden on offense, and his playstyle is very similar to that of Russell’s. While I don’t expect him to reach the potential of Harden, Hayes has a better all-around game than Russell and is much better than him on the defensive end. With that being said, Hayes could become a multiple-time All-Star in the future if he joins a team that can cover his defensive and athletic liabilities.

  
Diehard Laker and Seahawk fan. I unfortunately witnessed the Seattle Seahawks passing the ball on the 1 yard line. I hope that sports can unite people and bring them closer together. Current student at Chapman University.

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