What to know about NBA Draft class before lottery


Usually by now, with the NBA Draft lottery set for next week, we would know who is going to be the No. 1 overall pick. Even in years where there are two clear-cut options for the top-2 picks, like in 2019 with Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, there's generally a consensus at this point.

That's not the case this year and it's not necessarily a bad thing. This year, there are four players who have a realistic chance of being selected first overall and all of them have major selling points as NBA draft prospects.

The top-4 prospects at this point are Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Paolo Banchero (Duke) and Jaden Ivey (Purdue). Smith Jr. is the current favorite to go first overall based on sportsbook odds and most mock drafts, including ours at NBC Sports Washington. But it's not a guarantee yet, as for instance ESPN's mock draft has Holmgren at the top.

Smith Jr. is a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 42% from three on 5.5 attempts per game. He's the most well-rounded player of the top-4 prospects and because of that may represent the highest floor.

Holmgren is a 7-foot unicorn in the mold of Kristaps Porzingis who averaged 14.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and a ridiculous 3.7 blocks while shooting 60.7% from the field and 39% from three (3.3 3PA/g). He may have the highest ceiling given his size and rare skillset.


Banchero is an elite offensive player and a tough physical matchup at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. He averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists while knocking down 47.8% of his shots overall and 33.8% from deep (3.3 3PA/g).

While those three are big men with the skills to play wing, Ivey is the best guard in the class. He's a 6-foot-4 combo guard with superstar athleticism who averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 46% from the field and 35.8% from three (5.0 3PA/g). Ivey is the only one of the top-4 prospects who wasn't a one-and-done college player, though he's only 20.

An Eastern Conference scout told NBC Sports Washington they see Smith Jr., Holmgren and Banchero as the top-3 prospects and in that order. Ivey, though, is the most explosive athlete of the four and could benefit if a team at the top needs a guard.

While there appears to be a solidified top-4 at the moment, it's highly possible things don't play out that way on draft night. Last year, many mock drafts projected a similar top-tier before Jalen Suggs fell to the fifth pick and Scottie Barnes went fourth. Barnes ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award.

So, who could play the Barnes role this year and shake up the top-4? The most likely candidates at this point would be Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky), Keegan Murray (Iowa) and A.J. Griffin (Duke).

Sharpe is the biggest wild card of the entire draft class given he was considered at one point the best high school recruit in his country, but didn't play a single game at Kentucky this past season after reclassifying. He's a 6-foot-6 wing who can play above the rim and create off the dribble.

The Wizards hold the 10th-best odds entering the lottery, yielding them a 3% shot at the No. 1 overall pick. They have 13.9% odds of picking top-4, a 65.9% chance of picking 10th and a 19% chance of picking 11th.

Washington's biggest positional need is at point guard, though this draft is much deeper at forward than any other position, especially in the lottery where they will be picking. The best point guards include Ivey (though he may be more of a shooting guard), TyTy Washington (Kentucky), Dyson Daniels (G-League Ignite, also a combo guard) and Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee).

NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out prospect profiles on all the potential lottery picks for the Wizards, starting Tuesday with Smith Jr. But this should set the stage on the draft class as a whole, as the Wizards aim to find another franchise building block to improve the roster.