“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
The 2020 NBA Draft was supposed to happen months ago. Then, it wasn’t supposed to happen at all. Then … it was scheduled, rescheduled, re-rescheduled … and now, it’s here. Kind of. Through the magic of modern technology, sixty names will be called and sixty young men will have their lives forever changed. Let’s tweak our Situational Analysis formula to break down a draft unlike any other.
Immediate NBA Impact
All of the chatter leading up to this draft has focused primarily on the underwhelming star power at the top and how it pales in comparison to the last couple of drafts – as well as how it falls short of the expectations set by the next couple of drafts on the horizon, including the potential 2022 “superdraft.”
But if you take a careful look beneath the surface, you will see dozens of prospects who appear ready to make immediate contributions to NBA teams.
What this draft lacks in star power, it more than makes up for in useful skillsets for the modern NBA. What’s interesting about this draft is the resourcefulness and adaptability of many of this year’s first-round talents.
The pace-and-space analytics-fueled revolution started gaining steam when most of these prospects emerged as the best players on their grade-school teams. Instead of growing up trying to “Be Like Mike,” these players spent their formative years trying to “Grow Like Sloan (Sports Analytics Conference).” Most of them shoot 3s. Most of them switch on defense. Most of the big men who aren’t blessed with inherent perimeter skills dive hard to the rim and work hard to protect the paint on the other end.
It’s quite possible that the players with the longest, most lucrative careers in this class are selected toward the end of the lottery. This is typically where you find the talented, hard-working prospects who might have one or two areas for improvement, but spend countless hours in the gym trying to improve. The likelihood of a Donovan Mitchell or a Bam Adebayo emerging from this year’s 10-20 range seems high.
On a scale from 1-10, this year’s crop of NBA-ready role players rates at an 8.5.
Is there a single prospect in this draft you’d bet your life on?
This is the rare kind of draft where Atlanta’s No. 6 pick might be more coveted than Minnesota’s No. 1. There are more red flags at the top of this draft than you would see during a rainstorm at Daytona.
Casual observers judge drafts much in the same way casual film fans view Hollywood – how many blockbusters came out? It’s fitting that in 2020 – the year with essentially zero blockbuster films released due to this never-ending pandemic – that the NBA draft wouldn’t have any surefire franchise-altering super-talents.
That’s not to take anything away from Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, or LaMelo Ball (pictured). They just have far more question marks heading into their professional careers than we typically see from top-of-the-draft prospects such as Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis, LeBron James – or even DeAndre Ayton, Ja Morant, or Ben Simmons.
Even the most optimistic Edwards/Wiseman/Ball fans acknowledge that there is a significant possibility that none of these players reach their full potential – or even close to it.
As such, it’s more difficult than ever to try to separate this draft into typical tiers. Some NBA front offices might think Onyeka Okongwu is the second coming of Adebayo. Others might have him ranked outside the lottery. Some draft guides rate Killian Hayes as the top prospect available. Others think he is a mid-round talent at best.
With no clear separation between the first 15-20 players, we could see absolute chaos this year, where some teams suffer a five-year setback because they blew it on their lottery pick.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious worry), this draft’s lack of sure things rates at a 9.5.
No draft has ever been picked over, analyzed, overanalyzed, forgotten about, and eventually re-overanalyzed quite like this one.
For those of us who care deeply about this stuff, it feels like we have been talking about these players for our entire lives. The amount of time we’ve spent watching LaMelo Ball dribble the air out of the ball in these terrible Australian basketball games is just too much.
The pandemic-induced delay has created a world in which prospects rise and fall on draft boards simply because scouts and execs have had way too much time to talk themselves into and out of them. Ball, for example, is essentially the same prospect he was 10 months ago. His stock cratered after some lousy Zoom calls (really?) but it seems to be bouncing back for no other reason than these same people remembering that his court vision might be the single-best skill in this entire draft.
This delay has also created a scenario in which many of these prospects have found ways to acquire more feedback than ever about their skillsets. Tyrell Terry, for example, spent countless hours on Zoom learning what scouts needed to see from him.
It’s likely that no draft class will ever have to endure this much scrutiny. At least, until the next Earth-shattering global pandemic comes along.
On a scale from 1-10, the amount of analysis this draft has received rates at a 12.
This draft often gets compared to the apocalypse that occurred in 2000. While I don’t think this year’s draft is nearly that bad, it’s possible – perhaps even probable – that we view this draft as the clear low point during the six-year draft run between 2017-2022.
My belief? We might not look back on this draft and see a bevy of All-NBA selections, but it’s likely we see dozens of players make significant Day 1 impacts and build decade-long, productive careers in the process.
On a scale from 1-10, the top-end star power in this draft rates at a 3 when compared to other recent drafts, but the mid-lottery toward the top of round two rates at an 8.5.