We had Etan Thomas on the Bleav in Wizards podcast last week and I asked him about the Wizards young centers. As a defensive-minded center, I wanted to get his take on their development. Due to their age and a handful of other factors, he thought the jury was still out on both of their ceilings.
Overall, Thomas believed that this year was just too weird for the organization to draw any meaningful conclusions on players’ long-term fit with the franchise. Between the injuries, absence of John Wall, shifting roles for all of the young players, and shortening of the season, he didn’t believe the team could make major personnel decisions as easily as they do most years.
Without that context, it seemed even harder to make educated guesses about who would be on the Wizards’ NBA draft wish list. I thought rather than wildly speculate about where they might end up or who they might be keying in on, I would give you my take on who I like most at each position. Seems like many fans believe the Wizards desperately need a defensive-minded center. Others, like myself, would prioritize a wing. A lot of the mock drafts I’ve seen have them taking a point guard.
The positional rankings that I intend to roll out over the next few weeks are designed to give you some thoughts on who has stuck out after an initial round of film study. This list will probably grow and evolve as we get closer to the draft and I have more time to dive in on certain players. Partly, I just want to go on the record with who I like and don’t like so that a year or two from now I have receipts.
For instance, I see so many people who hated it when the Wizards took Rui Hachimura that now claim they loved the pick all along. Full disclosure, I wasn’t blown away by the pick at the time. Not because I disliked Hachimura but because I was higher on Brandon Clarke, his college teammate. That debate has mostly been a wash after their first year but I want to be on the record so that I can be held accountable in the future.
Full disclosure, this list is not based on statistics and models like the always-insightful Kevin Broom provided you with previously. To be quite honest, a lot of this is personal preference and eye test. The further down each positional list you get, the more I see those as players who could come in and fill a particular role.
I believe this is closer to how NBA teams traditionally rate talent, although, they may have some “big board” component to start out. As you get further along in the draft, teams become less likely to draft by who they believe is best remaining overall and start catering to their specific needs. Especially the better teams with playoff and championship aspirations.
With all of that out of the way, here are the top 10 point guards in the 2020 NBA Draft!
Potential stars/starters: Even these guys seem to have major question marks. Worst-case scenario they still probably all have the potential to be starters in the NBA. If a few things break right, a couple of these guys could end up being stars.
1. LaMelo Ball (6’7ish): Lonzo Ball is the first name that will inevitably come up. Lonzo was better defensively at this age and LaMelo has better vision. If he can re-tool his shot the way Lonzo seemingly has then I think he can be special.
2. Kira Lewis Jr. (6’3ish): I’ve become a big fan of Lewis Jr. I see De’Aaron Fox (lite) based on his speed with the ball. He looks like he will be able to shoot a high percentage from the NBA three-point line. The open question is whether or not he can bulk up enough to defend anyone.
3. Killian Hayes (6’4ish): I keep hearing D’Angelo Russell. That might be partly to do with their left-handedness but it’s not unreasonable either. Russell is probably the better ball-handler but Hayes seems like the better passer already.
4. Tyrese Haliburton (6’5ish): I see him as more of a point wing than a point guard. Similar to the role Nicolas Batum had on offense as a secondary creator. Improve his shooting mechanics and adding lower body and core strength will be the keys to him reaching his potential.
5. Cole Anthony (6’3ish): Early career O.J. Mayo might be a reasonable comparison. He tried to play a lot of hero ball at UNC based on the talent around him. That’s not going to work for him at the NBA level. However, there is something to be said for the pedigree here. He’s been playing alongside the best players in the world in the summers and doesn’t seem scared to play anyone. Confidence can go a long way if you have the tools to justify it.
The future role players: The rest of the names on here are mostly interchangeable in my mind. Their draft order will mostly come down to team needs and their success will be predicated on if they can fill a role or not.
6. Malachi Flynn (6’1ish): I see a little bit of Patty Mills when I watch him play. He finds a way to make tough shots and has a little edge and grit to him.
7. Cassius Winston (6’1ish): The back-up version of Kyle Lowry. He just makes winning plays and I’d be willing to bet that translates to the NBA on some level. I’m sure most Big 10 fans are happy to see this guy finally leave Michigan State.
8. Devon Dotson (6’2ish): There’s some Darren Collison to him. He’s a quick guy who can use speed to get to the basket. More of a scorer than a pure distributor, his ceiling is probably as a bench player who can come in and give you a little offensive spark.
9. Tre Jones (6’3ish): It might be a lazy comparison to mention another player’s brother but I think he’s at least going to be what Tyus is for an NBA team. Plenty of teams would be happy adding that, especially if he falls into the second round.
10. Theo Maledon (6’4ish): This is the guy I’ve had the hardest time getting a feel for. He didn’t play a lot of minutes this year and when he did he seemed to disappear for stretches. He has similar measurables to a Jordan Clarkson but is more of a floor general than Clarkson.
Nico Mannion (6’3ish): For Mannion, he’s supposed to be one of the better passers in the class but his highlight reel is pretty heavy on him shooting the ball. I just had a harder time seeing his role at the next level compared to some of these other guys. Although, I think the big thing for him will be consistency shooting for the perimeter as he was a bit streaky at Arizona.
Payton Pritchard (6’2ish): You can blame East Coast bias for him not making the list. Kidding. Sort of. Pritchard is another guy that just makes winning plays and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if other teams had him sixth or seventh on their lists.
I hope this will lead to a discussion so let me know if I’ve completely missed the mark on someone or there are glaring omissions!
For more of the conversation with Etan Thomas and Larry Hughes on the development of the Wizards’ young players, make sure to download the last episode of Bleav in Wizards on iTunes and Spotify.