19. Darius Garland
Theoretically, I understand the appeal of Darius Garland: a high-level pull-up shooter with twitch, burst and a great east-west handle. When putting his skills in context, they aren’t as valuable as they may appear on the surface, leading to overvaluation by many. Small guards in the NBA have few avenues to value and the one people often project onto Garland is the pull-up shooter avenue, a la Trae Young or Damian Lillard. However, pull-up shooting is just a piece of the puzzle and Darius Garland lacks many of the other pieces.
He’s a weak decision maker and not a strong enough passer and he doesn’t seem to be elite at getting to the rim and finishing there (even if he is good finishing at the rim, his lack of functional strength will make it difficult for him to get there often). It is hard to see him working as an off-ball guard either, as, despite solid effort, he’s almost surely going to be a minus on defense. The hope is he develops enough shooting gravity to simplify his reads enough to where his passing can be enough. Though, I don’t believe in his decision making or overall feel for the game to be adequate enough as a true initiator. Garland’s best chance has him playing next to a big initiator (likely) or another guard with 30+ foot range (unlikely), where his dynamic shooting can shine working off of the gravity of another player and his decision making can be simplified.
Where the NBA values Garland, especially considering how great the 2020 lead guard class is and the sky-high threshold small players must meet to be valuable to winning, selecting him would be a poor decision.
18. Cam Reddish
Cam Reddish’s freshman season at Duke was awful. Looking at any measure we trust to evaluate basketball success, Reddish, who came in as a top-three recruit, disappointed. He is a fluid athlete with no burst or vertical explosion, and a volume shooter who couldn’t shoot. Historically, we’ve never really seen a prospect with percentages as bad as Reddish’s (51.2 at the rim, 28.2 on two-point jumpers, 39.4 percent on two-pointers) with his volume. Prospects in his level of accuracy did not shoot well at the NBA level. Reddish’s mechanics are smooth and compact, but they collapsed under pressure.
On the flip side, 6’8 basketball players have the shot versatility Reddish does, shooting off of movement and off-dribble in all directions. His handle is legitimately fluid and there are serious flashes of self-creation, even if his general awareness and decision making is poor. Reddish isn’t a special defensive prospect, though he is well above average, with height, length and a 2.9 steal percentage.
Gambling on Reddish’s size, shooting versatility/volume, creation flashes and defense makes sense, but at this point, he hasn’t shown he is capable of positively impacting winning amongst high-level competition. His lack of high-end athleticism or feel will keep him from ever reaching stardom, though his volume shooting, size and defense gives him reasonable upside as a valuable role player.
17. De’Andre Hunter
De’Andre Hunter is a fine prospect. At 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan and some of the best on-ball defensive technique I have ever seen, he should be a versatile defender at the NBA level (despite his struggles against bigger players). He shot 43.8 percent on threes (almost exclusively spot ups). He flashed some passing and mid-range creation. Hunter should be a solid NBA player for these reasons, but he isn’t talented enough on either side of the ball to be worth a top 10, let alone top 5 pick.
He is a low feel and IQ player, not only because he isn’t a playmaker (1.2 steal percentage), his rotations are slow and he struggles to defend the interior. Despite his high efficiency from deep, Hunter’s release is slow and he showed very little shot diversity. He’s a solid face-up scorer with some ball-handling and passing chops, but he’s not good enough at any of those things to be doing them often in the NBA.
Hunter’s lack of dynamic ability on either side of the ball and age–he turns 22 in his rookie season–make Hunter a good prospect who is likely to provide some positive value throughout his career with versatile man defense and stationary shooting, but not a special one.
16. Bol Bol
When Winston Churchill said “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” I am sure ‘Russia’ was top secret code for Bol Bol. There’s a serious case for Bol to slip out of the first round. He moves like someone who just learned to walk, his lateral and weight shifting problem making him a complete liability defending the perimeter. He is woefully oblivious, neutering his rim-protecting tools with a complete aversion to playing help defense. He has no functional strength, as he was sealed off and beat by Luka Garza in the same game. Bol’s offensive feel for the game is two steps behind; he posted a 0.5 assist to turnover ratio in 9 games, missing countless passes for contested shots.
With Bol’s foot injury, gangly frame and the nature of being a 7’3 human being, he is going to be susceptible to injuries for his entire career. However, Bol’s upside is undeniable and the draft is all about upside. His shooting touch might be the best in the draft and his handle is incredibly fluid for any player, not just a 7’3 unicorn. There’s a chance a healthy Bol is the best stretch five ever. Given his defense and lack of feel, Bol likely will struggle to bring immense value in the NBA, especially in the playoffs. Simply, Bol has a chance to develop into a player the likes we have never seen before and that is something most other prospects with a higher floor cannot say.
In this draft with so few can’t miss prospects, missing out on Bol in a world where he hit his high outcome would be devastating given the lack of high-end talent in this draft. For that reason, it is difficult to be too low on Bol and there is a legitimate argument for him much higher than this if one can overlook his damning flaws.
15. Coby White
If people created draft boards based on enjoyment factor, Coby White would sit squarely at number two. Few players in college basketball are as exhilarating as White, with his blistering speed in the open court, creative ball-handling and off-dribble shot making. His perimeter creation is real, as White harnesses momentum to get shots off with step backs and behind the backs, even if his pull-up accuracy isn’t there yet, though he is a catch and shoot sniper. White’s handle is flashy, but it lacks the function of elite handlers like Ja Morant. He has the opposite problem of Darius Garland, where his loose handle doesn’t allow him to work in the East-West direction.
White flashes the ability to pass in chaotic situations with creativity, but his decision making is still raw at this point on a play-by-play basis. As a point of attack defender, White’s 6’5 height makes him a genuinely good point guard defender, but due to his +0 wingspan, he won’t find consistent success guarding twos in the NBA.
White has the shooting, creation and occasional playmaking to be fine as an off-ball guard, but he is certainly not a primary due to his handling and playmaking issues. How valuable is a guard who can’t defend multiple positions and isn’t a primary? In the mid-teens, White is a fine selection for his shooting and self-creation, though his lack of primary or defensive upside makes him a no-go where he will likely go on draft night.
14. Romeo Langford
With the NBA’s love affair for pass/dribble/shoot wings, Romeo Langford is built for the modern league. Well, that is if you buy his shot, which there are legitimate reasons to. Romeo Langford cocks his wrist back to trebuchet-levels and shot 27.2 percent from deep this season. However, his touch around the rim is elite, he shot 65.9 percent at the rim, he played through a thumb injury and mechanics are malleable. Touch isn’t.
Langford isn’t a bursty athlete, though he is powerful, finding his way to the rim and relying on touch rather than explosion to finish consistently. While not a high-level passer, Langford can run a pick and roll and find weak side shooters with a decent level of consistency. His point of attack defense should be a major plus for Langford, with his strength, height and length, and he should have actual defensive versatility on the perimeter. As a team defender, Langford’s defensive awareness is lacking, as is for most freshmen.
Langford’s macro flaws–jump shooting, athleticism (as my good friend and the actually brilliant Max Carlin of CelticsBlog pointed out in his board, Langford’s denial to evince his weight and body fat could mean there is some athletic upside to be had if he sheds some baby fat), handle–may cripple him at the next level. There’s a legitimate reason to believe in his all-around offensive game having utility at the next level as an ancillary wing creator.
13. Kevin Porter Jr.
In this draft, there is nobody better at separating for pull-up jumpers than Kevin Porter. His hang dribbles electric and his first step lightning quick, defenders have real trouble containing Porter’s step back jumpers and off-dribble shots. That skill alone is one of the most valuable in basketball. Whether Porter will be able to hit those shots in the NBA is up in the air: he shot 41.2 percent from three in college, but his mechanics are poor and he shot 52.2 percent from the foul line.
Despite Porter’s high-level ability to create separation, he didn’t go the rim nearly as much as he could have, settling for long jumpers. Even though he tested poorly, Porter is a high-level functional athlete, with elite quickness off of the ground and ability to leverage his athletic tools to get separation. Porter’s feel for the game and IQ is underrated; he is developing as a passer, but flashes some playmaking. On defense, he has his gaffes as a team defender, but made plays and solid rotations. His off-court issues are noteworthy, as Porter dealt with injury, suspension and a strange lack of playing time despite his undeniable talent. Porter will need a strong environment to groom his mentality. Self-creation is king in the NBA and Porter has the tools and skills to excel in that area.
12. Talen Horton-Tucker
In a draft chock full of strange prospects, Talen Horton-Tucker may have the crown as the oddest of them all. The second youngest player in the draft, Horton-Tucker’s measurements are unorthodox: 6’4 with shoes, 7’1 wingspan (+9!), 235 pounds. With average height for an NBA guard, Horton-Tucker plays above his height on both ends with his length and strength. He uses his strength, length and touch to excel around the rim, hitting 69.4 percent of his 121 shots at the rim. Horton-Tucker flashes real creation ability, whipping out advanced NBA moves like spins and step-backs to create shots, despite his average athleticism.
For a freshman, his passing is solid as well, even if his shot selection can be poor at times. Horton-Tucker’s rim efficiency and touch are positive shooting indicators, but his dreadful 21.6 percent on two-point jumpers is contradictory. With his size and length, Horton-Tucker’s on-ball defense is solid and he makes plays off of the ball (2.7 block rate, 2.8 steal rate) even if he still has lapses off of the ball.
Talen Horton-Tucker could be anything. If he hits his high outcome, his frame, touch, IQ and skill could lead him to initiator status. If not, he could fully flame out of the league. As young as he is, Horton-Tucker’s never before seen combination of measurements and skills is worth a flyer in the early first round.
11. Chuma Okeke
Chuma Okeke is a basketball savant, a trait evident in every fiber of his game on the basketball court. He may have the best feel for the game, absurdly precise in his positioning, anticipation and rotations. Always in the right place at the right time, Okeke is a playmaker on the defensive end (5.5 block percentage, 3.9 steal percentage); he takes advantage of his frame and apparent telekinetic gifts, reading opponent moves before they make them, to create defensive events.
Okeke is one of the better passers in this draft, hitting shooters all over the court and even passing on the move. His handle allows him to beat many big men off of the dribble and draw defenses so he can kick out to shooters or hit cutters. With Okeke’s form and indicators, it looks like he’ll be a positive spot up shooter at the NBA level as well.
His one major weakness is his lack of athleticism, which makes Okeke a liability against quicker players on ball and causes occasional struggles finishing at the rim. Given the value of feel and IQ as pertaining to upside and especially team defense, Okeke looks like a potential high-level role player on a championship team. He won’t ever be an all-star by traditional measures, but his elite feel and scalable skills give him a chance to impact the game at a high level on both ends as a versatile combo forward.
10. PJ Washington
PJ Washington’s offensive versatility, frame and high IQ should allow him to contribute from the moment he steps into the NBA. At 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan, Washington has the size to play the five in spurts and the perimeter game to potentially convert to the wing at times. He is elite on the block, with strength and touch to dominate with his jump hook. Washington’s elite touch means provides confidence in his shooting being above average for his position at the NBA level.
Washington is an excellent passer, finding shooters and cutters out of the post and passing off of the dribble. His lack of athleticism and quickness hurts him on the ball, where he struggles against some guards. Against many wings, his wingspan and size will help him cover ground. He has solid IQ as a team defender, but his motor is still inconsistent. Washington’s strength, size and perimeter skills give him a high floor as a modern four-man, with unlockable upside if his handle and self-creation improve.