What has changed about our 2020 NBA draft outlook early in the college basketball and international seasons?
ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz update their top-100 draft rankings with the latest intel.
James Wiseman | C | Memphis | No. 1 overall prospect
I got an in-depth look at the projected No. 1 pick last week before he became ineligible for a second time, as I watched practice, a game-day shootaround and the Tigers' loss to Oregon.
In the buildup to the game, Wiseman looked as vocal as I've seen him in a practice setting. He was calling out ball-screen coverages with bravado. He seemed to be approaching what could have been his final game in a Memphis uniform with a sense of ferocity.
But the highly anticipated game lost steam early when Wiseman picked up his second foul, forcing him to the bench for the rest of the first half. Wiseman ultimately showed some signs of life late with a couple impressive offensive rebounds, a smooth midrange jumper, an agile rim run and a glimpse of rim-protection potential, though there was little room for him to operate against Oregon's zone. When Wiseman did find space around the rim, he sometimes opted to fall away rather than tear down the backboard. He looked a bit shaky securing rebounds in traffic and was a split second late in reacting defensively.
With several NBA executives in the building, Wiseman's performance varied depending on whom you asked. For those who came in sky-high on the Memphis freshman, his rhythm was taken away by the refs, Memphis' lack of playmaking hurt him, and there was no space for him to function against the zone. Those who came in skeptical were turned off by his sometimes apathetic in-game demeanor and lacking basketball instincts. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
At this point, Wiseman has shown enough as a finisher and rim protector with skill upside to warrant consideration at the top of the draft, especially given the scarcity of bigs. He's one of the safest prospects in this crop, and it's hard to imagine him going outside the top three.
If there's one college prospect who could take over the top spot while Wiseman and Memphis push for his reinstatement, it's Georgia's Anthony Edwards, whom I would rank ahead of Wiseman (but behind LaMelo Ball). Should Edwards show out at the Maui Jim Invitational later this month, he could start to generate buzz as the top player overall. But Wiseman's freakish tools, agility and shooting potential should keep him high in the draft, regardless of how long he's out. -- Schmitz
Zeke Nnaji | PF | Arizona | No. 25
Few players have boosted their stocks as rapidly as the Arizona freshman has boosted his, as he looks like a potential one-and-done first-round pick through four games. So far for Arizona, he's averaging over 20 PPG while shooting a ridiculous 84% from the field.
Although not freakishly long with a 6-foot-11 ½ wingspan, Nnaji is a physical specimen at just a hair under 7 feet, with outstanding agility and a shredded frame. He puts his tools to good use on the defensive end, where he has looked outstanding guarding away from the rim either in hedge-and-recover situations or in ball-screen switches. Although not a prolific shot-blocker, he does alter quite a few shots around the rim and covers up any length limitations with his nonstop energy. In practices, he raises the level of competition in every drill with his intensity and physicality.
Offensively, Nnaji doesn't have a clear skill set, as he isn't exactly a ball handler, playmaker or stretch threat. He's also more agile and fluid than freakishly explosive at the rim, but he's always around the ball on the offensive glass and has great touch from the elbows -- with potential to space the floor as he continues to improve. At 237 pounds, he's simply too physical for most collegiate bigs, doing some damage with rip-throughs and attacks from short range. His efficiency is bound to come back down to earth once conference play hits, but Nnaji's energy level gives him a chance to impact the game offensively.
In a draft that's light on big men, Nnaji figures to continue winning over NBA scouts. -- Schmitz
Killian Hayes | G | Ulm | No. 14
With Hayes coming off a rocky season with Cholet in France Pro A, there were real questions about his effectiveness against athletes and his approach to the game, leading some to wonder if he might end up as another early bloomer who never panned out.
But since moving to Ulm in Germany during the offseason, the 6-foot-5 Hayes has earned back some fans in front offices with his play through 14 games in the EuroCup and Germany BBL. Parsing through the film, you still see Hayes' weaknesses, but he has made some eye-opening deliveries with the ball, shown potential on the defensive end of the floor and flashed just enough shooting upside to instill hope that he can be a reliable spacer long-term.
He's a nifty ball handler who is learning how to facilitate off the dribble, a perfect combination with his improved pull-up shooting. At just 18 years old, the French guard is averaging 12.6 points, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 27 MPG while shooting 50% from 2 and 32.1% from 3 in seven EuroCup games.
You have to take some of Hayes' production with a grain of salt, though. He dominates the ball on a team that is a combined 3-11 in both leagues. He still struggles to get by more explosive athletes. He's an inconsistent shooter and is currently turning the ball over on more than 30% of Ulm's offensive possessions. But even in a draft full of point guards, Hayes has certainly reminded scouts that he's a lottery talent who appears to be living up to the hype he generated as a youth player. -- Schmitz
Carlos Alocen | PG | Zaragoza | NR
What Spanish point guard Carlos Alocen has done for Zaragoza at age 18 has really started to open some eyes. Alocen is quarterbacking a 6-2 Zaragoza team through the ABC, one of the toughest domestic leagues in the world.
Alocen's actual per-game stats aren't mind-blowing -- 7.1 points, 2.8 assists, 11.1 PER -- but when you put his winning impact into context, the fact that he's running a competitive team in the ACB at his age is impressive. The 6-foot-5 Alocen is averaging 22.5 MPG while starting his past four games, most recently going for 14 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals in 30 minutes in a narrow loss to Joventut. He also turned in a signature nine-point, nine-assist game in a win over Barcelona, threading the needle all over the floor to open teammates against several players with NBA experience. Only six other players younger than 19 have averaged more than 20 MPG in the ACB since 2000, including Luka Doncic, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez.
Alocen is a crafty ball handler and creative facilitator who mixes in a ton of flare with his basketball instincts. He likes to push the tempo and whips the ball all over the floor out of ball screens The fact that he's shooting 37% from 3 has also been a big reason for his breakout. He's still slight and gets taken advantage of defensively at times, despite his quick hands and feet, and he has trouble scoring efficiently against a set defense. But Alocen is emerging as a great draft-and-stash option, potentially even as high as the late first or early second round, depending on how he progresses. -- Schmitz
Yam Madar | PG | Hapoel Tel Aviv | NR
The shifty 6-2 point guard is taking full advantage of his increased playing time, averaging 10.2 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 20.2 minutes while shooting 52.4% from 2 and 5-of-9 from 3 through five contests..
On one hand, the 18-year-old Madar -- just 170 pounds -- is a long way from being able to step onto an NBA floor physically. His team is also 1-4. But Madar has a lot of the attributes you want in a draft-and-stash guard.
The success of guards such as Trae Young and Ja Morant should open doors for lean guards such as Madar. He's a relentless competitor who plays bigger than his body suggests. He also has one or two 'wow' moments per game, given his ability to put defenders on skates, pass off the dribble and make shots while pressuring the ball on defense, even if he struggles with more physical guards.
Given the depth of this international class along with the glut of point guards, it wouldn't be surprising to see Madar wait until 2021 to keep his name in the draft, but so far he has proven that he's a real NBA prospect. Madar will take on Deni Avdija and Maccabi Tel Aviv on Dec. 15, a game scouts will surely have their eyes on. -- Schmitz
Deni Avdija | SG/SF | Maccabi | No. 6
Maccabi Tel Aviv is off to a tremendous start, tied for first place in the Euroleague with a 6-2 record. They've done it mostly without help from projected top-10 pick Deni Avdija, though, as he hasn't seen any competitive playing time in the Euroleague in the month of November.
Injuries could certainly force Avdija into more Euroleague action as the season moves on, but with the likes of Omri Casspi, Yovel Zoosman and Elijah Bryant in front of him at the forward positions, Avdija might be waiting a while for extended playing time.
Instead, Avdija has been tasked with helping Maccabi hold down the fort in domestic competition in the Israeli league, where he plays a major role for the undefeated club. He had his best game of the season last weekend in the Israeli Cup, with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes.
Scouts have focused their attention on watching Avdija against Israeli league competition, as he has shown great versatility, averaging 14.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per 40 minutes. He has been efficient, shooting 61% from 2-point range and 36% from 3, though his continued struggles at the free throw line (54%) leave questions about his evolution as a shooter long-term.
Avdija is not playing the same point-forward role we saw in his MVP performance with the Israeli national team at the U20 European Championship this past summer, but it hasn't been difficult to see flashes of his body control, court vision, creativity and touch. Opportunities to play pick-and-roll or go one-on-one have been rare, as he's mostly asked to operate within the offense -- something that is likely good for his long-term development but perhaps not his short-term appeal. He has demonstrated a level of athleticism blocking shots and playing above the rim that he simply didn't have a year ago, and it's difficult to not be impressed by his all-around skill level, versatility and feel at 6-foot-9, especially with his added level of intensity on defense.
Continuing to shoot the ball well from the perimeter will be the most important thing he can do as the season moves on to ease concerns teams have about how his game translates to the NBA. Still, it's difficult not to see him as a top-10 pick. -- Givony
Theo Maledon | PG | ASVEL | No. 11
After nearly six weeks on the sideline due to injury, Maledon returned to action in a road Euroleague win over Red Star on Friday, contributing five points, four assists, four turnovers and four fouls in 17 minutes. On Sunday, he went scoreless in 11 minutes of action. Maledon returns to a much more crowded field of lottery-hopeful point guard prospects, with six players who are getting minutes at the position ranked ahead of him in the ESPN Top 100. Others, such as Killian Hayes, are nipping at his heels.
Maledon has plenty of opportunity for playing time at ASVEL but will need to play better, as he has been struggling to put the ball in the basket dating back to the preseason, scoring just 28 points in 100 minutes of action on middling shooting percentages.
Although Maledon wasn't incredibly productive last season, either, it was admirable to see a then-17-year-old starting games on a team that won the French championship and made a deep EuroCup run. In Maledon's draft-eligible year, NBA scouts want to see more from him in terms of aggressiveness attacking the rim, making open jump shots, getting to the foul line and creating for teammates. Instead, they've seen an even more risk-averse player who is getting beaten off the dribble.
Teams will be watching to see how Maledon performs over the next few months to get a better gauge of whether he emerges as the starting-caliber prospect they hoped to see or if he ends up projecting as more of a super solid backup destined to land in the teens or 20s. -- Givony
Abdoulaye N'Doye | G | Cholet | No. 51
After years on the draft radar, N'Doye has emerged as one of the most versatile players in France, averaging 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 30 MPG for 7-2 Cholet.
The intrigue around N'Doye starts with his measurements. He stands more than 6-foot-7, 206 pounds with a 72 ½-inch wingspan, which compares favorably to the likes of Robert Covington, Jerami Grant and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Although our database offers comparisons to NBA 4s, N'Doye sees a decent amount of minutes at the 1 for Cholet. As his frame continues to fill out, N'Doye should be able to defend guards, wings and forwards alike.
The issue for N'Doye has always been on the offensive end, where his lack of perimeter shooting and scoring prowess in the half court limits him. But this season, he has upped his per-40-minute scoring averages from a terrible 9.0 points to a much more acceptable 16, while his efficiency has skyrocketed from a middling 55% true shooting percentage to a scintillating 68%.
N'Doye has been a far more aggressive pick-and roll-player, doing a better job of using his size and length to get shots off against a litany of smaller guards. His long strides, fluid body control and ability to play at different speeds help compensate for his relatively average first step and explosiveness. He has been tossing in layups and floaters at an incredible rate thus far, helping him shoot better than 65% from inside the arc, a likely unsustainable mark.
N'Doye has even flashed some semblance of a perimeter jumper. That has come in a small sample with his feet set, but it's still encouraging. It will be interesting to see how much N'Doye is able to sustain his level of play as defenses give him more attention. If he continues to fare well, there will be quite a bit of interest in him from NBA teams. -- Givony
Myles Powell | PG | Seton Hall | No. 43
Alongside 24 NBA scouts, I caught Powell's 37-point outing in a great game against Michigan State (a 76-73 loss at a jam-packed Prudential Center). Powell showed his credentials as one of the nation's elite scorers. He made a series of impossible shots coming off screens or pulling up from well beyond NBA range and used that attention to attack defenders with subtle changes of speed. Powell needs only a hint of daylight to get his shot off, even from difficult vantage points, making him someone who can't be guarded by smaller players at this level. His ability to catch and shoot off a pindown at full speed makes him extremely difficult to defend.
NBA scouts brought up names of sharp-shooting combo guards such as Carsen Edwards or Isaiah Canaan in discussing the role they could see Powell playing in the NBA. He is averaging close to a 1-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for his college career, which isn't ideal considering that he measured just 5-foot-11 barefoot at the G League Elite Camp last May. He does have a 6-foot-7 wingspan, though, which gives him measurements that compare favorably to those of CJ McCollum, Eric Bledsoe and Collin Sexton. That might allow him to steal some minutes alongside another guard in backup units.
Scouts will be monitoring Powell closely to see how efficient he can remain over the course of the season. He came into the season as a career 36% 3-point shooter on a huge amount of attempts. Showing a little more potential as a playmaker and defender would help his draft stock. -- Givony
Anthony Lamb | PF | Vermont | No. 56
One of the most productive players in college basketball, Lamb paid a visit to New York City this weekend, providing a convenient setting to evaluate him against a high-major opponent in St. John's. Vermont secured the road win thanks to some late-game heroics from Lamb, as he scored on a contested pull-up jumper late with multiple defenders draped all over him, capping an impressive 23-point, 15-rebound, five-assist, two-block performance.
Lamb is severely undersized for a 4 at 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, without real length or explosiveness. But what he lacks in pure measurables he seems to make up in skill, as he has an outstanding feel for the game. He is a much-improved defender and shows the type of instincts and versatility that have allowed players such as Jared Dudley, Georges Niang and Kenrich Williams to carve out a niche at the NBA level.
After entering last year's draft and being invited to work out for three NBA teams, Lamb returned to college and shed 20 pounds, which seems to have helped him make significant strides on the defensive end. The fact that he has a 6-foot-11 big man in Daniel Giddens next to him in the starting lineup means he can play his more natural power forward position a lot more. He did an excellent job of mirroring St. John's Mustapha Heron and forcing him into an ugly performance.
One negative you can point to: Lamb has started the season cold from 3-point range at 3-for-25 through four games. Despite not possessing the most conventional shooting mechanics -- with a one-handed, hitchy release -- the fact that Lamb shot 37% from 3 last season and is a career 75% free throw shooter indicates that he should improve to a degree. Still, shooting is his clear swing-skill projecting to the NBA.
NBA scouts will watch Vermont's visit to Virginia on Tuesday closely. We've learned over the years not to rule out prospects in his mold who help teams win games. Making the NCAA tournament out of the America East conference for the third time in his college career would likely help his cause, but he'll have ample opportunity to impress teams during the pre-draft process as well. He'll be a lock for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and possibly the NBA combine. -- Givony