When we’re trying to figure out how good NBA draft prospects will be, are the numbers more or less useful this year than usual?
On one hand, there were fewer games than usual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we lost March Madness, which is maybe the best time to evaluate NBA prospects against other elite college teams. Anyone familiar with numbers knows that the bigger the sample size, the more confident you can be in your projections.
On the other hand, teams have had less of an opportunity to see these players in person. They’re limited to 10 in-person workouts, and the players don’t play against each other. The Jazz have traditionally brought up to 100 prospects in to Zions Bank Basketball Campus to get a hands-on chance to evaluate players, and this year, that’s largely been replaced with Zoom calls. The numbers might make up more of the decision making process than usual.
Australian wing Josh Green played a similar role for Arizona that he figures to play in the NBA. A complementary wing piece, he averaged 12 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in a 3-and-D role. He shot 36% from deep though took only 2.8 per game — GMs will want to see him take more than that in the NBA. He did, though, contribute a steal and a half per game, which highlighted his defensive abilities.
Josh Green ranked No. 29 in ESPN’s projections among 2020 prospects, with Pelton noting that Green’s 45% 2-point shooting was the biggest factor against the player who turns 20 on Monday. The other models were somewhat more optimistic: Green ranked No. 20 in Model284′s outlook, and 17th in Goldstein’s model.
Jaden McDaniels is another name frequently mocked around the Jazz’s draft slot, but his statistical picture is less rosy. That’s because he turned the ball over three times per game, fouled out of eight games, shot just 40% from the field and 33% from 3-point range, and generally forced things on both ends of the floor for Washington last season. McDaniels has length — a 7-foot-1 wingspan, but it really only appeared in his block totals last year, getting 1.4 per game.
As a result, the projections are ugly. McDaniels ranked 59th in ESPN’s projections, 39th in Model284′s, and a whopping 89th in Goldstein’s look. McDaniels is one of the most highly regarded high school prospects who didn’t impress in his first collegiate season, and those disappointments haven’t had a terrific NBA track record.
Desmond Bane from TCU has won the appreciation of many around the league thanks to his 43% 3-point stroke, his toughness defensively, and his ability to make the right read on both ends of the floor. He averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game at 6-foot-6, though he also has just a 6-4 wingspan.
Pelton’s projections on ESPN ranked him 25th, as Pelton pointed out his relatively young age as a four-year prospect (Bane was 21 during his entire senior year at TCU). He’s also ranked No. 17 in Model284, but just his senior status docked him to 45th in Goldstein’s model.
Aleksej Pokusevski is one of the true oddballs in the 2020 NBA draft: a 7-footer playing in the Greek second division who moves, shoots, and passes like a guard. You might compare him to a hyper Kristaps Porzingis, but he’s so skinny and young that he could end up playing nearly any role in the NBA, depending on how his body and skillset fill out. He averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game, but in a small number of contests as Olympiakos tried to hide a project for the future.
ESPN didn’t create a projection for Pokusevski, but both Model284 and Goldstein see a player with size and pro production at his level. They have him ranked 21st and 16th, respectively.
Tyrell Terry was a waterbug shooter last year for the Stanford Cardinal, standing 6-1 but weighing just 160 pounds. But his 3-point shots went down to the tune of 41%, on five attempts per game. Overall, he scored 14.6 points and added 3.2 assists per contest, showing an ability to rebound despite his size with 4.5 rebounds as well. The 20-year-old Terry will try to show he can stick in the NBA and contribute as a guard, despite his small size.
The stat models are optimistic, though, given that shooting ability. ESPN’s model ranked him 20th, and Model284′s site ranks him 23rd, right where the Jazz select. Goldstein is more pessimistic, ranking him just 40th.
Theo Maledon, a 6-4 point guard mentored by Tony Parker who plays in the French first division, shows an ability to read the game well beyond his years. While he averaged just seven points and three assists per game in EuroLeague action, it’s important to remember how stingy European scorekeepers are with their assists, and that they came in just 17 minutes per game as an 18-year-old.
And the ability to contribute in the EuroLeague at that age makes draft models somewhat optimistic that Maledon can deliver first-round production, despite the limited numbers. Overall, ESPN has Maledon ranked 20th, Model284 30th, and Goldstein 22nd.