2020 NBA Draft: Ranking the Point Guards
The 2020 NBA Draft stands to be the most unorthodox in its history, and this has nothing to do with what occurred between the lines. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the NBA, and sports in general, are in a holding pattern, and there is no concrete date with regard to a return to action. As of right now the draft is still scheduled for June 25, but that could all change depending upon what happens with the remainder of the regular season and the postseason. In many instances scouting departments across the league won’t lack for game tape of draft prospects, but it’s likely that they won’t have many (or any) opportunities to run players through on-site pre-draft workouts. And with social distancing essentially being the law of the land, those agent-run workouts are going to be a difficult -- if not impossible -- task as well.
While the timing is never good when it comes to a worldwide health issue, this is especially problematic with regard to evaluating this year’s draft class. Unlike the 2019 crop, which boasted a clear top pick in Duke’s Zion Williamson, there are a host of players who can make that claim this spring/summer. And in the case of two of those players, point guard LaMelo Ball and center James Wiseman, they didn’t play much basketball before being shut down for either health (Ball) or NCAA (Wiseman) reasons.
In the coming weeks we’re going to take a look at some of the top prospects in this year’s draft class, first doing so by position. Down the line there will be more fantasy-specific breakdowns, identifying which players can potentially be of assistance in specific statistical categories. The first installment focuses on the point guards, beginning with the aforementioned Ball. Note: Not everyone listed has officially declared for the draft, as the deadline for NCAA players to do so isn’t until April 26.
1. LaMelo Ball (Illawara Hawks, Australia): The youngest of the three Ball brothers, it was say by some way back when LaMelo was just 13 years old and playing alongside Lonzo and LiAngelo at the grassroots level that he could potentially be the best one. Standing 6-foot-6, he has the size and vision to see over defenses and put his teammates in positions where they can be successful. While he isn’t an explosive athlete, Ball’s basketball IQ tends to make up for that, and he’s a credible perimeter shooter as well.
Georgia’s Anthony Edwards appears to be the choice of more than a few analysts when it comes to the top pick in this year’s draft, but Ball could enter the equation especially if the team that lands the top pick doesn’t see much difference between the two and is in need of a point guard. Ball has already played in Lithuania and Australia, and the pre-NBA travels (while also having Lonzo as a valuable resource) could serve him well when it comes to adjusting to life in the NBA.
2. Cole Anthony (North Carolina): Anthony missed 11 games due to a partially torn meniscus in his knee, which had a significant effect on the Tar Heels’ fortunes. While he was able to return late in the season, his presence wasn’t enough to keep North Carolina from posting its first losing record since 2002. In his 22 games the 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard posted averages of 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.2 3-pointers per game, with shooting splits of 38.0% from the field, 34.8% form three and 75.0% from the foul line. A plus athlete who’s especially good off the dribble, Anthony can be a handful in ball screen situations due to his ability to turn the corner to either make a play for himself or his teammates.
The shooting percentages are a bit of a concern, but they’re understandable given North Carolina’s lack of consistent scorers. In the NBA he be surrounded by more capable scoring options, which should make Anthony that much more effective when combined with the spacing of the pro game.
3. Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State): The 6-foot-5, 175-pound sophomore was one of the best point guards — and most improved players — in college basketball before going down with a season-ending wrist injury in early February. Haliburton posted averages of 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers per game, and he did so with percentages of 50.4% from the field, 41.9% from three and 82.2% from the foul line. The combination of height and wingspan benefits him on both ends of the floor, making up for the fact that while athletic Haliburton would not be described as an “explosive” athlete.
He’ll need to get a little stronger with an eye towards the NBA, and there are some who believe that his shooting form will need some work. Adding some muscle would better equip Haliburton to play either on or off the ball, pairing up with another lead guard in the latter scenario. He has the potential to be one of the steals of this year’s draft class due to the tools that he already brings to the table.
4. Killian Hayes (Ulm): While just 18 years of age, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Hayes has to be in the discussion when speaking of the best passers in this year’s class. He’s been praised for his production in the pick-and-roll game, a strength that you clearly want an NBA point guard to have. But there are also concerns about his athleticism, specifically in regard to Hayes’ ability to gain separation from opposing guards. In all competitions for Ulm this season, he averaged 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers per game, with shooting splits of 48.2% from the field, 29.4% from three and 87.6% from the foul line. The three-point percentage isn’t great, but the potential is there for him to improve based upon how accurate of a free throw shooter that Hayes has been.
5. Nico Mannion (Arizona): Considered to be one of the top incoming freshmen in college basketball entering the season, Mannion had a good year in Tucson. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard averaged 14.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 3-pointers per game, while shooting 39.2% from the field, 32.7% from three and 79.7% from the foul line. The potential is certainly there for Mannion to be a better shooter at the pro level, and he has good vision both in transition and in the half-court. While a solid defender Mannion will need to be better on that end of the floor, although it’s worth noting that he was effective when it came to reading passes and collecting steals. There are some who still consider the freshman to be a top-10 pick, but that may be a tad high for Mannion at this stage.
6. Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky): Maxey had a solid freshman season at Kentucky, as he tallied 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.1 3-pointers per game. But there are questions to be answered, most notably in the perimeter shooting department. Maxey made just 29.2% of his three-point attempts this season, but the free throw percentage (83.3%) could lead one to believe that he’s capable of making progress in this area. Overall he was a 42.7% shooter from the field, making just over 49% of his two-point field goal attempts. Maxey is a plus defender, even if the stats on that end of the floor weren’t exactly fantasy-friendly. The upside, and the fact that he was a very good shooter in high school, could vault him into the draft lottery. How good he can be will depend upon whether or not he can regain the shooting stroke that made him one of the top prospects in his high school class.
7. Theo Maledon (ASVEL): Maledon has plied his trade for the team owned by former Spurs great Tony Parker, and a young point guard can do far worse than that when it comes to learning how to play the position. Listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, the 18-year old Maledon averaged 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.9 3-pointers per game in all competitions for ASVEL this season. Like the aforementioned Hayes he wasn’t a great three-point shooter, making 33.3% of his attempts, so that is an area where Maledon will need to make strides if he’s to be an effective pro. Fast and athletic, he can be a handful off the dribble, but consistency will be the key for Maledon in all facets at the NBA level.
8. Tre Jones (Duke): After an inconsistent freshman season, one in which he at times had to play off the ball due to the presences of the aforementioned Williamson and RJ Barrett, Jones returned for his sophomore campaign and took a noticeable step forward. He averaged 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 3-pointers per game, shooting 42.3% from the field 36.1% from three and 77.1% from the foul line. What’s most encouraging about Jones’ shooting percentage is the three-point mark, which improved by nearly ten percentage points on one more attempt per game from his freshman season (26.2% of 2.9 3-point attempts per).
For his efforts on both ends of the floor Jones, the younger brother of Grizzlies PG Tyus Jones, was named the ACC’s Player and Defensive Player of the Year. He can run a team and defend his position, and while the athleticism may not “wow” folks he’s the kind of lead guard that can put his time in position to win a lot of games.
9. Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama): Lewis considered entering the draft last year but ultimately decided to return to Tuscaloosa for his sophomore season. And he put up solid numbers across the board as a sophomore, finishing the season with averages of 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.8 3-pointers per game, shooting 45.9% from the field, 36.6% from three and 80.2% from the foul line. Lewis played especially well down the stretch, as he 25 points or more in four of Alabama’s last seven games.
Also, the sophomore point guard had two double-digit assist games this season including a 13-dime effort (as part of a triple-double) in an overtime loss at Auburn in mid-February. That being said he’ll need to sharpen things up when it comes to the decision-making, and there also strides to be made with regard to his physical strength. Lewis is projected by some to go in the latter third of the first round of June’s draft.
10. Tyrell Terry (Stanford): Terry spent one season on The Farm before deciding to enter this year’s draft, and he’s got a shot at hearing his name called in the first round. A Pac-12 All-Freshman team selection, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound guard posted averages of 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in 32.6 minutes per game. Terry’s ability as a perimeter shooter will make him a valued prospect, as he shot 40.8% from beyond the arc and 89.1% from the foul line.
He’ll need to get stronger in preparation for the NBA, but the shooting and ability to make plays off the dribble won’t be ignored. Terry has good size (height-wise) for a point guard, and even with the limited postseason evaluation opportunities it would not be a surprise if he was a first-round pick.
More Names to Know: Malachi Flynn (San Diego State), Devon Dotson (Kansas), Grant Riller (College of Charleston), Payton Pritchard (Oregon), Cassius Winston (Michigan State), Ashton Hagans (Kentucky), Markus Howard (Marquette), Myles Powell (Seton Hall), Yam Madar (Hapoel Tel Aviv).
Other 2020 NBA Draft Lists