Five Highest Risk Prospects for the 2020 NBA Draft
1. LaMelo Ball Illawarra Hawks (NBL)
2019-20 Stats with the Illawarra Hawks: 17.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.8 APG
LaMelo might be the highest risk/highest reward prospect there’s been in a really long time. One of the bigger concerns with him will be injuries, he is 6’7″ and 181 pounds as of this season, that’s incredibly skinny and in the NBA being that skinny for a point guard will always work. He had a foot injury during the NBL season, which sidelined him for the remaining few months of the season. I think he really needs to bulk up. I know this will be controversial and I hope LaMelo is a great NBA player, but also him being world-famous since he was about 14 could be an issue too. If he gets drafted by the Knicks let’s say and he struggles the first few months, the criticism will be there. How will he handle criticism? That’s something he hasn’t faced a ton of since he’s been a fan favorite of so many for a very long time. His brother Lonzo is a solid NBA player, he hasn’t been an All-Star but he’s been pretty good overall, as he is an elite defender and passer and improved shooting this season, but let’s be honest, everyone seemed to think Lonzo would be a 3-time All-Star by now and an MVP candidate and leading the Lakers. None of that’s happened and it was unfair expectations, to begin with. His biggest on-court issue is his shooting, it is really bad currently he shot 25% from three this season, that is really bad. In 12 games he shot 80 threes he really struggled from deep currently. He shoots them a lot and from really deep but he’s not that kind of guy that should be doing that currently. He’s a great passer, really athletic, and should just use those things to his advantage right now and work more on shooting. He’s still only 18 he has plenty of room to grow. For me though with where he’ll be picked he has the highest risk/ reward of anyone in the class.
2. Jaden McDaniels Washington
2019-20 Stats with Washington: 13.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG
McDaniels has the ideal size for a modern-day NBA Wing/Stretch-4 but man last season he just wasn’t impressive at all and often times seemed disengaged. He’s another guy that’s really skinny, I think he’s a big wing in the NBA with his current weight, down-low fighting for rebounds he’ll get bullied by bigger guys like Pascal Siakam and even guys from this class like Jalen Smith and Patrick Williams. He was just super inconsistent this season and took some really bad shots at times. When Washington started losing a lot in PAC-12 play, he struggled and didn’t look like he wanted to be there at times. His numbers weren’t bad, he shot 40% from the field and 33% from deep, but for me, there’s a lot of questions about a guy who’s seen as a project and can go anywhere from like 12-25, he could take a huge fall on draft day, similar to Bol Bol last season. I personally wouldn’t take McDaniels until end round-1 to round 2 in order to feel comfortable. Can he be a good defender at the next level? Can his shot develop enough to be a good enough shooter? There are too many questions for a guy who could be taken in the same range as Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, Jalen Smith, Josh Green, and Aaron Nesmith. I’m taking all of those guys before McDaniels and not looking back.
3. Nico Mannion Arizona
2019-20 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.3 APG
Mannion probably had the biggest fall of any Freshman who was seen as a One-And-Done and decided to declare anyways. He’s another guy who can go anywhere from 14-2nd-round. He has a tremendous feel for the game and is an elite-level passer, but his overall offensive game in conference play left so much to be desired, he was not good. He put up some solid lines still, but super inefficient and his season stats reflect that at 39% from the field and 32% from three. He’s not a great shooter, he isn’t overly athletic but has good athleticism overall. I just think with his downside, there are many other Point Guards I would take who are safer. Grant Riller, Malachi Flynn, Cassius Winston, Payton Pritchard, Kira Lewis Jr, Devon Dotson, Markus Howard, Cole Anthony, Theo Maledon, and Tre Jones. Honestly, I would take someone else on the first round than Mannion and take a Payton Pritchard in round 2, I’m just really concerned about Mannion being more than a sixth man who can run an offense pretty well but can’t be relied on to score. I just don’t think if I’m in the first round I would be willing to take that risk especially with the guys who’ve proven they can score in College. His passing ability is out of this world good though but I’m just not sure the rest of his offensive (and sometimes defensive) concerns make that a worthwhile thing to make him a first-rounder for me.
4. Patrick Williams Florida State
2019-20 Stats with Florida State: 9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG
I like Williams as a player a lot, he has all the tools to be a star, but I think LaMelo does and McDaniels does so it’s only fair to include Williams who also has a pretty low floor in my opinion. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Williams sneak into the top-10 just due to his physical traits, he’s a very good athlete and is super strong. It also depends on what role you see him playing, I think he’s a potential stretch 4 rather than a wing guy but you could see him playing the wing. He shot 32% from three, which isn’t great but has a smooth stroke and just couldn’t get it to fall consistently. I think part of what you’re banking on his being a consistent shooter if you’re taking him in the lottery. He’s a very good defender and rebounder. I just think with his size and strength he can be a very good player on the low post rather than on the wing, I would feel comfortable taking him in the lottery due to his upside, but if it’s between him and Jalen Smith at 14, I think it’s a real conversation to have. I don’t Williams is a guy who can step in right away and be super important, so that’s why I think he can not live up to his lottery pick potential, especially early on.
5. Onyeka Okongwu USC
2019-20 Stats with USC: 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG
Okongwu is a guy who can go as high as Top-2, depending on who picks and where, but at this point, it seems regardless of that, he’s a likely top-5 pick. My thing is where does he fit in today’s NBA. He’s not a shooter at all, he made one three this season and it was from about 60 feet as he threw it up while nearly getting fouled against Arizona at the end of the half, that was his only make. He’s much longer than his 6’9″ height and he plays way bigger. He is pretty strong and will be a Center. I want to see him develop a 3-point shot but with how little he shot it last season, I’m not sure how soon that’ll be a thing. He is a force inside. I want to see how will he play against a stronger guy like Zion and limited mobility guys but strong guys like Andre Drummond. I just want to see how he fits in the NBA before I fully buy-in on him as a prospect.