NBA draft: Player comparisons for projected first-rounders

NBA draft: Player comparisons for projected first-rounders


NBA draft: Player comparisons for projected first-rounders

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One of the most compelling ways to quickly study any draft class is to look at the NBA comparisons for all of the prospects available.

Now that the 2020 NBA draft is less than two weeks ago, all of the folks looking for a crash course in learning more about the players that will be available for selection can use this as a guide for the potential outlook of each projected first-round draft pick.

This exercise is far from foolproof, of course, considering that outcomes for each prospect will depend heavily on the teams that draft them as well as the roles they are given and the development process that surrounds them.

But this does give a sense of the archetype that each top prospect fits in so casual fans can get a more succinct view of the next generation entering the league.

While our own opinion was also included, we also studied comparison models and surveyed other experts, including conversations with NBA scouts around the league, to give the best context available. The results included were the most common responses.

NOTE: All comparisons pulled from are based on statistics per 40 minutes. 

Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-5, 19 years old 

NBA comparisons: Donovan Mitchell, Eric Gordon, Dion Waiters

Projected top pick Anthony Edwards has a wide range of outcomes that are possible. But at the end of the day, his athleticism and explosiveness give him a chance to separate himself as one of the players with the most star power in this class. He will have the ability to score in bunches, especially if his shooting is able to improve in the pros. While he has received some very favorable comparisons, some scouts have told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman that Edwards reminds them of Dion Waiters.

LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-foot-7, 19 years old 

NBA comparisons: Jason Williams, Rajon Rondo, Shaun Livingston

There are few players in the world with the unique blend of the size and skill set that LaMelo Ball offers. This is a bit of a compilation as Ball provides the flashiness of Jason Williams with the court vision of Rajon Rondo and the size of Shaun Livingston. Ultimately, however, Ball is one of the hardest players to make comparisons for in this class.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-foot-9, 19 years old 

NBA COMPARISON(S): Bam Adebayo, Tristan Thompson, Montrezl Harrell

The most popular comparison for USC’s Onyeka Okongwu is Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo. While that may still be a bit premature as Okongwu does not brag the same playmaking skills that Adebayo has developed, his future in the pros could resemble that of a longtime pro and rotational staple in the frontcourt.

James Wiseman, Memphis

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 7-foot-1, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Chris Bosh, Myles Turner, Hassan Whiteside

James Wiseman has a massive frame and good defensive instincts, which could give him an immediate role in the league. His size alone could make him a feared presence as a rim protector like Hassan Whiteside. He relies a bit too often on his jump shot, but if those start to connect in the NBA, he’ll draw some comparisons to Myles Turner. Wiseman and his college coach Penny Hardaway have used a comparison to Chris Bosh, which also makes sense for the southpaw.

Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)


Guard, 6-foot-5, 19 years old 

NBA comparison: D’Angelo Russell, Goran Dragic

France’s Killian Hayes is a 6-foot-5, left-handed combo guard capable of playing on or off the ball as either a playmaker or as a shooter. This profile will immediately remind fans of D’Angelo Russell, which is very intriguing for teams selecting in the lottery that need help in the backcourt.

Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Forward, 6-foot-8, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Hedo Turkoglu, Nicolas Batum, Mario Hezonja

Israel’s Deni Avdija has a point forward mentality. He can push the break in transition and the open court. He will need to make his jump shot more often as an NBA player. If he can do that, a fair comparison is Hedo Turkoglu, who is 6-foot-10 and averaged 5.0 assists per game while shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc in 2007-08.

Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-5, 20 years old

NBA comparisons: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lonzo Ball, Monte Morris

Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton has a similar physical profile to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He has a lot of the same elite court vision that Lonzo Ball had when he was a top projected and he has shown he can be a high-impact player with a low usage rate like Monte Morris.

Devin Vassell, Florida State

Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat

Wing, 6-foot-7, 20 years old 

NBA comparisons: Robert Covington, Danny Green, Mikal Bridges

Since 2008, per Bart Torvik, there are only three collegiate players who have recorded a block percentage 4.1% or better, steal percentage 2.8% or better and a three-point percentage 41.0% or better (minimum: 80 attempts). Those players are Robert Covington, Danny Green and Devin Vassell.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-6, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, Justise Winslow 

Auburn’s Isaac Okoro is a defensive-oriented wing physically built like Jimmy Butler. He is an uber-athlete, known for his intensiveness and his tenacity and his speed. His college coach Bruce Pearl has compared Okoro to Iguodala due to his ability to impact the game. He still needs to round out his game to score beyond five feet of the basket, though, which will be an essential element for him to have success in the league.

Patrick Williams, Florida State

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-8, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Jayson Tatum, Rudy Gay, OG Anunoby

While he did not make an appearance in the starting lineup for Florida State, Patrick Williams has the makings of something special. He is an above-average shooter and defender for someone his size and he projects to have a solid career if he puts it all together in the pros. Of course, he is far now from where Jayson Tatum is in the NBA. But considering he is the youngest college player in this class, there is still room for him to grow and develop.

Obi Toppin, Dayton

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-9, 22 years old

NBA comparisons: John Collins, Marvin Bagley, Kyle Kuzma

There is no doubt that Dayton’s Obi Toppin can make some impact on the offensive side of the glass. Much like Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, he has impressive vertical pop for his height. He is also a willing shooter, like Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. But there are still concerns about his defensive skills.

Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-3, 20 years old

NBA comparisons: Lou Williams, Eric Bledsoe, Jarrett Jack

Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey is a solid scorer, albeit a bit undersized for the two in the NBA. He is not likely to be a floor general, at least at this point in his career, but has enough power and athleticism to carve out a niché at the next level.

Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-3, 20 years old

NBA comparisons: Collin Sexton, Austin Rivers

UNC’s Cole Anthony had a freshman campaign marred by injuries and a losing record. But his performances during high school on the AAU circuit showed incredible productivity, and there is reason to believe he could be a stat-sheet stuffer in the NBA.

RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers (New Zealand)

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-foot-5, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Zach LaVine, Jordan Clarkson, Dante Exum

RJ Hampton recently told our own Michael Scotto that he models his game after Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine. This is a fair comparison considering the athleticism that Hampton brags will remind many of the high-flying, two-time winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Kira Lewis, Alabama

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-3, 19 years old 

NBA comparisons: De’Aaron Fox, Darren Collison, Ish Smith

On the high end, Alabama’s Kira Lewis possesses enough end-to-end speed that he can be a floor general capable of changing the look and feel of a team like De’Aaron Fox has done with the Sacramento Kings. But if he does not reach that level, he can still be a speedy option in the backcourt as a change of pace guard.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Wing, 6-foot-6, 21 years old

NBA comparison: Buddy Hield

Before his unfortunate injury last season, Vanderbilt sophomore wing Aaron Nesmith was hitting three-pointers at an unreal rate. One of the first names that comes to mind when thinking of elite college basketball shooters is Buddy Hield. Both rely on their jumper to make an impact, especially considering these two players are more than just shooters off the catch.

Saddiq Bey, Villanova

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-8, 21 years old

NBA comparisons: Khris Middleton, Cameron Johnson

Villanova’s Saddiq Bey has good positional size and exceptional shooting touch. If he is placed in the right system, he is someone who can continue to knock down tons of looks on the perimeter. He also has some experience as an on-ball presence as head coach Jay Wright treated his players like Swiss Army knives.

Jalen Smith, Maryland

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-foot-10, 20 years old

NBA comparisons: Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher

Maryland’s Jalen Smith has a 3-and-D skill set in the frontcourt, which will make him an intriguing prospect as a floor spacer. However, his skinny frame is a bit worrying considering he will have to face up against incredibly large NBA big men. For comparison, Smith currently has a lot of the same pluses and minuses that Toronto Raptors’ Chris Boucher (who won 2019 NBA G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year) had when he was coming out of college.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Big, 6-foot-9, 21 years old

NBA comparisons: Kenneth Faried, Nenê, Al-Farouq Aminu

If he is willing to accept his role as a frontcourt rotation piece, former Memphis star Precious Achiuwa can be a role player in the NBA like high-energy bigs Kenneth Faried and Nenê. Achiuwa is a tenacious defender and a gritty, versatile defender and those are traits that can translate to the next level even if he does not become a star.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos (Greece)

Forward, 7-foot, 18 years old

NBA comparisons: Toni Kukoc, Dragan Bender

Players with a 7-foot frame and a 7-foot-3 wingspan rarely, if ever, have a fraction of the shooting and passing ability that Serbia’s Aleksej Pokusevski possesses. He needs to bulk up to have any success in the NBA and the big man has not yet had measured success against elite talent. But it would be foolish to ignore the unique skill set he brings at his size.

Theo Maledon, ASVEL (France)

Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik via AP

Guard, 6-foot-4, 19 years old

NBA comparison: Delon Wright

France’s Theo Maledon is a long, skinny backcourt prospect who has a physical profile nearly identical to Dallas Mavericks guard Delon Wright. Both have good positional size, which allows them to consider themselves combo guards in the NBA.

Tyrell Terry, Stanford

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-2, 20 years old

NBA comparison: CJ McCollum, Steve Kerr

Stanford’s Tyrell Terry has exceptional basketball-IQ and shooting touch, which will help him carve out a nice role in the NBA like CJ McCollum. On a recent episode of his podcast, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie compared Terry to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr – who won five titles as a player.

Jaden McDaniels, Washington

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-9, 20 years old

NBA comparison: Cameron Reddish

There are makings of something with Jaden McDaniels, who is the kind of player that feels like a superstar when watching him workout in the gym. He has the right size for success in the league, built like a star, but still needs a lot of development before he will receive such accolades.

Desmond Bane, TCU

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-6, 22 years old

NBA comparison: Joe Harris, Gary Trent Jr.

TCU’s Desmond Bane is a do-it-all type prospect who was most impressive as a three-point marksman. Bane is somewhat who is likely ready to step in and play a legitimate role for a team as soon as next season. He does not have many physical limitations and considering his very sharp touch from beyond the arc, he is someone who could have incredibly high-scoring games.

Malachi Flynn, San Diego State

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-2, 22 years old

NBA comparison: Fred VanVleet, Jose Calderon

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who will be one of the most sought-after free-agent targets this offseason, is a one-of-a-kind type of player. He was a diamond-in-the-rough prospect who has exceeded expectations and teams around the league are looking for the next in his lineage. Those are hard shoes to fill but the player most likely to do that is Malachi Flynn, who won Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.

Leandro Bolmaro, FC Barcelona (Spain)

(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Forward, 6-foot-7, 20 years old

NBA COMPARISON(S): Joe Ingles, Evan Turner

Argentina’s Leandro Bolmaro has above-average court vision, passing and ballhandling for his position. He fit the point forward archetype and projects as a secondary playmaker in the NBA. Eventually, if he proves he is able to hit his jumper at a consistent clip, Bolmaro could be a steal in this draft.

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-8, 21 years old

NBA comparisons: Al Horford, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman is known for his intimidating physical presence, his incredible basketball-IQ and his advanced playmaking out of the high post. He has the passing and strength of James Johnson and could carve out a long career in the NBA like Udonis Haslem.

Isaiah Stewart, Washington

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-foot-9, 19 years old

NBA comparisons: Zach Randolph, Derrick Favors

His draft stock may have slipped after the Washington Huskies finished last in the Pac-12 last season. But there is still a lot to like about Isaiah Stewart, who can be a productive presence in the frontcourt for an NBA team. He is a player whose mentality will continue to drive him, which may remind some of Zach Randolph.

Josh Green, Arizona

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-6, 19 years old

NBA COMPARISON(S): Gary Harris, Hamidou Diallo

Arizona’s Josh Green is the kind of explosive athlete who will draw lots of interest from NBA teams based on his good positional size, carrying a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He is a good perimeter defender and while his shot selection is still a work in progress, he may receive a look in the first round from a team that is interested in his physical profile.

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