Now that James Wiseman will no longer play college basketball, four of the Top 10 prospects in the 2020 NBA draft are currently not active.
Wiseman, who was the top overall recruit in the nation heading into the year, was suspended by the NCAA due to recruiting violations. Rather than return to the Memphis Tigers once the discipline was served, however, the big man has decided to hire an agent and prepare for the draft.
He joins LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton as top prospects in the upcoming class who have taken a path outside of the traditional route. But both Ball and Hampton, as well as top recruit Cole Anthony, are out for prolonged periods due to injury.
Kyle Boone recently wrote this about Wiseman, though it applies to Ball as well as Hampton and Anthony (via CBS Sports):
“In the end, this could all just open the door not for him to drop, but for others to surpass him. As he’s sat the last month, Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards has separated himself as a clear-cut top-two prospect in this 2020 NBA Draft class.”
Keeping all of this in mind, here are the rankings from our latest aggregate mock draft on what the limited visibility means for these projected lottery picks.
LaMelo Ball, No. 2 Overall
Even before he was injured, there was fear that Ball was playing so well that he would end his season early while his draft value peaked.
Back in September, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that teams around the league were scrambling to get to Australia so they could scout Ball as soon as possible (via The Hoop Collective):
“NBA executives are now rearranging their schedules to get Australia to see him because they’re afraid he might shut it down. A lot of excitement around him.”
After suffering a foot injury that will keep him out at least a month, the early timetable for his return would be sometime in mid-January. Considering the Illawarra Hawks are not expected to make the NBL postseason, their season will end in mid-February.
Ball, however, told Yahoo’s Krysten Peek that he “committed to the whole season” and does not plan to leave early. His head coach, Matt Flynn, also said that rumors of the guard potentially backing out of his contract with the Hawks are “false” and that Ball will remain with the team.
While he will have a smaller sample size in the NBL than scouts originally expected, there will at least be more opportunity to watch the 18-year-old before the 2020 NBA sraft.
James Wiseman, No. 3 Overall
Regardless of any opinions related to the suspension that led to the top prospect eventually leaving the NCAA, more time in college could have helped answer questions scouts and front offices potentially had about the center.
Kevin O’Connor wrote about some of these things many hoped that Wiseman would do to improve his draft stock during his time in Memphis (via The Ringer):
“He was plagued by an inconsistent motor and shaky production throughout high school, and the hope was that he would use a strong year in Memphis to hush those concerns … Prospects can get nitpicked to no end in the run-up to the draft, but you don’t need to zoom in to find Wiseman’s flaws. That’s why scouts wonder whether he could slip in the draft … But he had the upside of becoming the unanimous top prospect if he had an impressive freshman season.”
Due to the circumstances that surrounded his recruitment, Wiseman will not have the chance to prove his doubters wrong.
It also eliminates the possibility of him standing out in March Madness alongside former fellow freshmen teammates Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis and DJ Jefferies – who were all Top 100 recruits in the Class of 2019.
His absence can also allow teams to fall in love with other bigs like Isaiah Stewart or Onyeka Okongwu if they continue to impress this season.
Cole Anthony, No. 4 Overall
Seth Greenberg recently said that his gut feeling is that Anthony will not play another game for the North Carolina Tar Heels (via ESPN):
“I would be disappointed but I would not be shocked if Cole Anthony shuts it down. Right now, if you look at it, they say it’s long-term … North Carolina has struggled. Cole Anthony has struggled. He’s beat up. [His father] Greg Anthony was obviously a terrific player, won a national championship at UNLV. He was a longtime NBA player. He understands the business of basketball. We’ve seen Darius Garland last year get injured and still not impact his draft position. We saw it with Kyrie Irving.”
Much like Garland last year, it would be strange to imagine a star point guard rushing back to play for a team that may not even be able to make the NCAA Tournament.
Especially when noting that North Carolina already has five losses to start their season, it’s no surprise that Adam Zagoria reported that it’s what some league executives expect Anthony to do for the rest of the season.
Arguably the biggest reason why he could come back is that there is likely more room for him to showcase his talent. Before he went down with his injury, the guard was shooting just 15-of-34 (44.1 percent) at the rim. That was third-worst among all freshmen with as many attempts.
Anthony also took 6.2 long two-pointers per game, arguably depending too much on his game. But he was just 19-for-56 (33.9 percent) on these looks, third-worst among all NCAA players with as many opportunities.
Plus, when including passes, the 19-year-old prospect averaged 0.69 points per possession as the primary ballhandler in pick-and-roll sets. That ranks below average and in just the 28th percentile so far this season, per Synergy.
It is unlikely, though, that he will be able to improve on these numbers while also recovering back from
Deni Avdija, No. 5 Overall
Israeli-born prospect Deni Avdija averaged 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game at the U20 Euro Championship A earlier this year. He won MVP of the tournament, leading Israel to win the tournament.
However, he is not getting much playing time for Maccabi Tel Aviv so far this season. Avdija has started just 8 of his 22 games and is averaging just 11.2 minutes per game during Euroleague competition. He has scored just 2.2 points per game and is just 2-for-8 (25.0 percent) from beyond the arc.
Jonathan Wasserman recently wrote about why scouts will have to rely on his performances at junior tournaments and camps to become most familiar with what he offers (via Bleacher Report):
“He still gives scouts a play or two per game that highlights either his offensive versatility or defensive range. He’s at least playing 22.7 minutes per game in the Israeli BSL. Though the competition isn’t as strong, it’s still encouraging to see him average 8.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 51.4 percent shooting (35.7 percent from three).”
Avdija, who averaged just 6.4 minutes per game in the Euroleague last year as well, has a ton of upside.
But his situation is very different from what Luka Doncic was doing as a prospect. The Dallas Mavericks superstar won MVP of the Euroleague at the same age.
With more exposure from other prospects, perhaps Theo Maledon or Killian Hayes end up as the first international player selected in 2020 rather than the more uncertain Avdija.
RJ Hampton, No. 10 Overall
New Zealand Breakers star RJ Hampton would have otherwise been a senior in high school this year had he not reclassified before going overseas. As such, the prospect is significantly younger than the rest of his competition in the National Basketball League.
Ignacio Rissotto wrote about what the 18-year-old has been able to do in the sample size we have seen (via The Stepien):
“[He] has adapted almost immediately from high school to the professional level. Despite his limited role as an offensive creator for himself and for others, Hampton has established a really projectable floor for himself as an NBA secondary initiator and stationary shooter who meets the thresholds in terms of size, quickness and run/jump athleticism for an NBA two-guard.”
Hampton, however, will now miss somewhere around four-to-six weeks. He suffered a hip flexor, which will keep him sidelined until mid-January.