Draft season is in full swing. And while trade rumors have been flying around over the past couple days (I’m looking at you, Chris Paul and Victor Oladipo and Gordon Hayward and Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday…) what we really should be focusing on is Wednesday night’s draft. Almost a hundred young men are looking for the chance of a lifetime – the chance to be drafted into the National Basketball Association. While you may not be familiar with the whole lot of them, here’s a rundown of any name you might see within the first five picks of the draft.
Anthony Edwards – University of Georgia
Edwards is a lock for either of the first two picks of this year’s draft. His athleticism combined with offensive explosiveness makes him a very intriguing prospect, but his decision making and basketball iQ at 19 years old leaves something to be desired in terms of NBA readiness. With a good jumpshot and good speed, Edwards can be compared to Donovan Mitchell, or at an even higher ceiling, Dwayne Wade. Look for either Minnesota or Golden State, barring a trade, to pick him up on Wednesday night.
LaMelo Ball – Australia
LaMelo Ball is the best passer and playmaker in this draft class. In today’s fast paced game, a player like Ball is who you want running the court. He’s a dynamic, athletic player who is also sure to bring plenty of fan and jersey revenue to whichever city gets the honor of hosting him for the next couple of years. The major knock on Ball is his three-point shot, but if Ball is available at 2 that shouldn’t be a problem for Golden State because it’s not like they lack shooting form behind the arc throughout their current roster. He would also fit it at pick number 3, where the Hornets are looking at holes all over their roster.
James Wiseman – University of Memphis
Size, speed, strength, shooting. It seems like James Wiseman has it all. Averaging a double-double in the three games he played at Memphis before dropping out after investigations about his recruiting process started, Wiseman seems to be one of the more risky top-tier prospects in this year’s class. At the least he’ll be a solid run-runner and lob threat in the NBA, but we’ll have to wait and see if he lives up to the Anthony Davis comparisons. Wiseman has a clear path to Golden State if the Wolves take Anthony Edwards, but if Scott Layden decides to go with LaMelo Ball then the Warriors choice is a bit more unclear.
Issac Okoro – Auburn University
One of the best defenders in the class, Issac Okoro is a great transition player. His three-point shot isn’t fully developed, and some see him turning into an Thabo Sefolosha type player – not very impactful on defense, but stellar on the defensive end. While he is limited as a perimeter and midrange shooter, Okoro seems to be a glue guy that would fit well into any offensive scheme – you just need to get your shooting somewhere else. If he doesn’t go at 4 or 5, I’m sure the Hawks would love to pick him up barring a trade of their number 6 overall pick.
Deni Avdija – Israel
As a big playmaking point forward, Deni Avdija has drawn many Luka Doncic comparisons. A foreign-born player coveted by scouts from an early age. Avdija certainly has the upside and basketball iQ to make an impact on the NBA. His weaknesses lie in his jump shooting and overall speed on the court, but as international prospects in the class go he’s the cream of the crop. Avdija could definitely go at number four to the Bulls, but it all comes down to whether Arturas Karnisovas will prioritize defense (Okoro) or offense (Avdija).
Tyrese Haliburton – Iowa State University
Although he isn’t the fastest or the smartest or the most athletic, Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most well rounded guards in this draft class. He can, and has, played both guard positions and he is solid both offensively and defensively. Both scoring and facilitating are not a problem for Haliburton, who spent his college days at Iowa State. There’s a chance Chicago wants to bolster their guard depth and they could do that easily with Haliburton at 4. However, if the Bulls decide to go with a wing player, then look for him to fall somewhere between picks 5- 7.
Obi Toppin – Dayton
The Naismith Player of the Year Award Winner seems a little bit low on this list, don’t you think? Teams see Toppin for who he is, and scouts across the league don’t think there’s a lot of room for improvement in his game. As a 22-year old, Toppin may be the prospect who is the most physically ready for the NBA, but there’s a chance he’s already only two or three years away from his prime. He’s on this list because he can shoot from behind the arc and he’s very much a representation of the “modern big man”. Toppin may go to Cleveland at 5, but I don’t see any team above the Cavaliers willing to take his risk.
Onyeka Okongwu – USC
Onyeka Okongwu is one of the best defensive big men in this class. Again, I think his ceiling in terms of draft position is probably Cleveland at 5, for a lot of the same reasons that I mentioned with Obi Toppin. However, if the Cavs don’t want to take the risk with an older prospect in Toppin, they could go with the 19-year old Okongwu. With DPOY upside and Bam Adebayo comparisons all over the place, Okongwu definitely has a place in the league to be a defensively-present big man.