Who are the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2020 NBA draft?

Who are the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2020 NBA draft?

DunkWire

Who are the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2020 NBA draft?

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Finding the next generation of basketball stars requires quite a bit of guesswork, a lot of luck, and is generally a massive gamble as well.

We looked at players who have the biggest difference between what their ceilings and floors can look like in the NBA. These are the prospects who have the potential to be borderline stars or not even end up in a rotation by the time their second contract comes up.

Teams with a surplus of picks over the next few years (e.g. Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans) or bottom-dwellers who need a home run swing to help change their fate (e.g. Charlotte Hornets) are more likely targeting such prospects.

Someone like Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie, due to his size and shooting ability, has top-tier potential but has a career marred by injury. Others that may be drafted in the second-round or who become undrafted free agents (e.g. CSUN’s Lamine Diane) fit this bill. So, too, do prospects with unusual paths to the NBA (e.g. Jay Scrubb and Kenyon Martin Jr.) because their atypical routes make scouting a bit more complicated.

Rather than expanding this list to include a wide range of prospects with high ceilings and low floors, we focused on the top names in this class. Everyone including has a first-round grade by most teams and expert analysts.

Of course, all of these outcomes are conditional on the teams that draft them and the circumstances that surround them as they continue to develop. Still, this gives us a sense of who the boom-or-bust prospects might be.

Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israeli BSL)

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-8, 19 years old

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A STAR? 

Israel’s Deni Avdija is a confident player with good positional size. He has been productive as a scorer, rebounder and distributor and he can be a stat-sheet shutter if he continues to develop. Avdija was named MVP during the FIBA U20 Euro Championship, averaging 18.4 points with 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists as well as 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game en route to their gold medal in 2019. He won MVP of the Israeli BSL in 2020 and had a very impressive performance during the Eurobasket qualifiers earlier this year. ESPN’s Paul Sabin has a model that projects Avdija has a 25.8 percent chance of becoming an All-Star, the fifth-best odds of any prospect in this class.

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A BUST?

The biggest problem with Avdija has been his lack of shooting touch. Scouts love to look at free throw percentages to analyze the overall feel that a prospect has on his shot. Unfortunately, Avdija’s free-throw percentages have consistently fallen below 60 percent while the NBA league average is around 77 percent. His jumper has been suspect, too, which he will need in order to play the wing. He was 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) off the dribble in the Israeli League last season and 1-for-11 (9.1%) on his shots after the bounce in the U20 tournament, per Synergy. He is probably not big enough to play the five, so finding a position where he can find long-term success may be a problem.

Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-foot-3, 20 years old

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A STAR? 

UNC’s Cole Anthony may have become a bit underrated after a disappointing freshman campaign. We are talking about the same prospect who won MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic, McDonald’s All-American Game and the Nike Hoop Summitt. He was the overall leading scorer (26.8 ppg) on the Nike EYBL circuit for his AAU team in 2018. He also helped lead USA to a gold medal during the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, scoring 18 points in the title game. Perhaps he just had an off-year and he can return to form in a professional environment.

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A BUST?

Some of the poor results from his time in the NCAA can be excused because of his partially torn meniscus, which made it hard for him to find a groove. But there were still plenty of troubling details about his stats when he was on the court. Nearly 40 percent of his field-goal attempts were from the midrange, which is not going to fly playing in a league increasingly moving away from that shot. He was just 37-for-69 (53.6 percent) from within five feet of the rim, undeniably ineffective. Despite recording a 43-inch max vertical at the Team USA U19 tryouts, he recorded just three dunk attempts (0.14 per game) at North Carolina. Concerns about his shot selection and his effectiveness as a finisher are both valid and could be speed bumps inhibiting a path to a role in the NBA.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos B.C. (Greek HEBA A2)

fiba.basketball

Big, 7-foot, 18 years old

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A STAR? 

Serbia’s Aleksej Pokusevski is the closest thing to a unicorn of any player in the 2020 NBA draft. He averaged 18.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.1 blocks and 2.2 steals per 40 minutes playing in the Greek HEBA A2 league last season. He was 17-for-53 (32.1 percent) from 3-point range, hardly a poor shooter. During the U18 Euro Championships, Pokusevski recorded 16.0 points with 11.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists with 6.4 blocks (!) and 4.0 steals per game. The big man was also the overall leader in blocks during the tournament. As one of the youngest prospects in this class, he has plenty of time to put it all together.

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A BUST?

Pokusevski played in the second division of professional basketball in Greece, which is such a low level of opposition that some may be included to discount his productivity. There is simply less film on him than there is on other prospects, meaning executives will have more reason to credit a small sample size for his success. Meanwhile, his profile on NBA.com lists him at just 195 pounds. That frame is slight enough where it is hard to imagine how he could be able to match up with a prototypical big man at the next level. At the end of the day, his development is the biggest question. In that case, one scout reportedly told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman that they have questions about “how seriously” Pokusevski takes things. If there is any truth to that, everything with this prospect is simply hypothetical.

Jaden McDaniels, Washington

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Forward, 6-foot-9, 20 years old

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A STAR? 

Washington’s Jaden McDaniels was a McDonald’s All-American, listed as the No. 7 overall recruit in the nation coming out of high school. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds for his AAU team on the Nike EYBL circuit. In an open gym, during a 1-on-0 workout, he is the type of player that will make a scout think he is the next Kevin Durant. He looks comfortable utilizing his on-ball skills and he has the body and frame of a longtime NBA player. Front offices that trust their development program will see someone like McDaniels and feel like there is something there that they can work with because he has such an ideal size.

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK HE COULD BE A BUST?

The Huskies finished last in the Pac-12 and McDaniels was moved out of the starting lineup after nineteen games. There is a legitimate reason to be worried about his decision-making and his instincts. He committed 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranked in the Bottom 20 among all high-major freshmen. His turnover rate (23.4 percent) was fifth-worst among high-major players at least 6-foot-9 or taller. He was not a particularly impressive shooter as four players on his own team had a better mark from downtown. His assist-to-turnover ratio (0.79) and success from the 3-point range (28.2 percent) were both poor as an AAU player as well. Scouts that have spoken to HoopsHype have expressed concerns about his maturity, which is another worrisome trait as he makes his transition to the pros.

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