Rick Rycroft/Associated Press
Groupthink can be a real phenomenon in NBA draft season, especially with a pre-draft process as long as this one has been. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having the same read on a box score or a piece of game film, but it’s also easy to be influenced by all the other mock drafts that exist in the digital universe.
Even then, though, a select number of prospects stand out for the polarity. Typically, they have such a wide range of potential outcomes that two analysts can have dramatically different views about the player and how they project in the Association.
LaMelo Ball wears that label as well as anyone in this draft, but he’s not alone. After running through a mock first round, we’ll spotlight him and the most polarizing prospects in this class.
2020 nba Mock Draft
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton
6. Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
7. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
8. New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
10. Phoenix Suns: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
11. San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
12. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos II
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
20. Miami Heat: Josh Green, SG, Arizona
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Grant Riller, PG/SG, Charleston
23. Utah Jazz: Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Theo Maledon, PG/SG, ASVEL
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona
26. Boston Celtics: Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
29. Toronto Raptors: Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Xavier Tillman, PF/C, Michigan State
Most Polarizing Prospects
LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks
Ball’s good is potentially great, and his bad is worrisome enough to threaten the size and scope of his nba role.
He’ll be an elite passer the second he gets his hands on an nba basketball. He sees the game from such an advanced angle, it’s easy to forget that he’s only 19 years old. Plus, he has such effective off-the-dribble shake that it’s easy to forget he stands 6’7″ tall. Tack on creativity and the strength and touch to throw every pass in the book with either hand, and you could be looking at a generational playmaker.
But as soon as the conversation shifts away from table-setting, that’s when his outlook goes from rosy to murky real quick. His defensive motor is inconsistent, and his shot selection is wildly ambitious, and both descriptions are even more generous than the film says they should be.
Ball’s biggest red flags are things a coaching staff could theoretically address. If he’s able to iron them out, he could be the kind of franchise focal point an organization builds its entire identity around. But something that’s theoretically coachable isn’t guaranteed to ever get fixed, and if he becomes a passing specialist, he could end up logging a problematically low number of minutes given how high he’ll be drafted.
Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos II
With length for the interior and skills and weight for the perimeter, Aleksej Pokusevski fits the same sort of polarizing mold Bol Bol occupied last year.
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, as Bol came with more polish but also established injury issues. But some of the same questions that applied to the Denver Nuggets man now echo around Pokusevski: How does a 7-footer have so much fluidity away from the basket? Also, can he ever add enough weight to be a functional rotation piece at this level?
It seems fitting to hold up Bol as an example, since he’s a full year into his nba career, and those questions still haven’t been answered. He had a few encouraging flashes, but he logged just 108 minutes between the playoffs and regular season combined.
Pokusevski, 18, could have a similarly slow rise to relevance, since his frame needs serious work in the bulk department. But teams will be interested in the promise of the finished product, since his highlight plays seem All-Star-quality.
Like Bol, Pokusevski might be a 7-footer who handles the basketball, hits threes and blocks shots, but he could also always be far more interesting in thought than in reality.
Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
Remember him? Of course you do.
Cole Anthony is the son of former nba player and current nba analyst Greg Anthony. He was also last summer’s second-ranked recruit at ESPN. And even if his one-and-done season of college ball didn’t go as planned, he was still the Tar Heels’ leader in points and assists, meaning he was rarely hurting for camera time.
Optimistic eyes still see the 20-year-old as a star-in-training. He has the handles to go where he wants, the touch to splash three-point bombs off the dribble and the athleticism to finish around the rim.
For the glass-bone-dry crowd, though, he’s an empty-stats supplier who can’t lead an offense and doesn’t have the efficiency to justify taking as many shots as he does. He didn’t have an ideal setup in UNC, but that only forgives so much of his 38.0 field-goal percentage and small separation between his assists (4.0) and turnovers (3.5).
It wouldn’t be shocking to see Anthony still crack the top 10. That’s how much potential he still offers. It also wouldn’t boggle the mind if he slipped into the 20s. That’s how disappointing his freshman season was.
Regardless of where he lands, though, he’s sure to spawn plenty of conversations—for better and worse.