Are These Prospects the Future?
The NBA Draft is coming up, and many fans await the outcomes of the Nov. 18 event, as the level of uncertainty surrounding this year’s talent board is palpable. Covid-19 has meant no NBA Draft Combine or NCAA tournament that are used to evaluate top talents. Lottery teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks are looking for that next great prospect that can deliver a championship to these franchises.
In any other year, The Draft conducts two in-person rounds during which each NBA team gets a chance to select the best available new player for their franchise to be successful. This year, the draft will be virtual and that will take away a lot of the in-person emotions of past years.
Even still, the game goes on, and great players need somewhere to land. Among them are these five prospects that are intriguing scouts the most:
6’3’’, 225 lbs
University of Georgia
Edwards is an explosive player that is very good going to the basket. Edwards can shoot threes as well as hit the midrange jumphot. During his season in Athens, Georgia, Edwards made 42 pull-up jump shots last year, and he has incredible scoring ability. Edwards averaged 19.1 points a game in his one year at the University of Georgia, including a 37-point outburst against Michigan State in the Maui Invitational Tournament.
However, Edwards does have some glaring weaknesses that he needs to improve to keep the team that selects him happy with him as their future star. He shot 40.7 percent overall during his one season ,and shot 29.1 percent from three. He heaved a lot of contested jump shots, relying on these types of shots instead of using his athleticism to get to the rim and put pressure on the defense. He gambles a lot defensively and his motor wavers on this side of the floor, making it risky to trust Edwards on the defensive end.
Projection: Edwards has a lot of Russell Westbrook-style skills, from his incredible athleticism to his high success attacking the basket. He could reach his potential if he improves his maturity and takes smarter shots.
6’7’’, 190 lbs
Australian National Basketball League
LaMelo Ball is another top prospect that is projected to go second or third in this upcoming draft. He has traveled all over the world playing basketball because of the marketing of his father’s Big Baller Brand and his desire to polish his skills overseas. Previously, Ball played in the NBL, the top league in Australia.
Ball possesses physical tools on the court that make him such an intriguing prospect. He is 19 years old and may still have a few more inches to grow, which could make him even more dangerous. He possesses great, unique passing ability, just like his older brother Lonzo. People also rave about the style in which he plays. Ball has a lot of flair and a great ability to control the pace of play, which makes him such an intriguing player.
However, he does hold a few weaknesses that are a bit more troubling than Edwards’. He is undersized in his frame at 6’7’’, 190 pounds, causing him to appear mediocre when finishing at the rim.
He also only shot 25 percent from three in the NBL, and he has a tendency in the past to shoot with two hands.
Projection: He is unique, so there is a chance he can be an All-Star talent if he can fix his jump shot and improve his strength.
7’1’’, 240 lbs
University of Memphis
Wiesman is one of the most athletically-gifted and intriguing prospects in the draft. He only played a few games at Memphis before NCAA violations caused him to not play for the rest of his season.
He has an incredibly physical frame at 7’1’’, 240 pounds, boosted by his athleticism that allows him to play above the rim, rebound and block shots.
He also can run the floor very well, play quickly off rolls in pick and roll options and has the length to impact the game on the offensive and defensive ends. He can shoot threes and has a handle that can make him a capable shot creator from the low post and elbow areas on the court.
On the other hand, his motor comes and goes during the stretch of a game. His inconsistent motor is a problem, with the possibility of him going to Golden State.
He struggles to know where he can dominate on the floor. Similar to Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Wesiman wanders out to the perimeter often, instead of using his size and athleticism to dominate inside. ESPN insiders think he needs to grasp a balance between both skill sets to maximize his potential.
Projection: He has the potential to be a franchise and championship building star for a team because of his abilities on both ends.
6’9’’, 220 lbs
University of Dayton
Obi Toppin is another top prospect that has a lot of potential to be a future cornerstone for the franchise that selects him. Obi had an incredible year at Dayton, leading them to a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before it got cancelled due to Covid-19.
Obi has great physical tools for a small ball five and stretch four in today’s NBA game. He has good athleticism to run the floor, play above the rim and play in space. He also has big hands, which allows him to play strong with the ball and catch the ball in traffic.
He is also very versatile offensively, spending lots of time on the perimeter but also playing in the post effectively. According to Synergy Sports, he scored 130 points on 128 possessions, ranking in the eighty-fifth percentile, and shooting just under 56 percent on those possessions.
He is also excellent in transition scoring, shooting about 76 percent, which was one of the best percentages of NCAA players this season according to Synergy. He also can shoot the three at a high clip, posting a 39 three-point percentage from three during his past season with the Flyers.
He does have some weaknesses that should be considered. He does not have the ability to show versatility on the defensive end. ESPN even said he had “choppy strides” and has bad defensive posture, which makes it hard to defend perimeter-orientated guards.
On the offensive side, he is not a dynamic shooter and relies on playmakers to get open shots for himself. He also has a light base on offense, and defenders can push him off his spots and induce tough shots.
Projection: A Blake Griffin-like player, due to his athleticism and lack of versatility on the defensive end. He can be better than that, depending on his shot creating and defensive abilities.
6’9’’, 215 lbs
Israeli Basketball Premier League, Euro League
Avdija is an intriguing prospect because he is relatively unknown in the U.S. and has a high ceiling. He has surprised a lot of teams in workouts and is climbing the ladder in terms of his draft stock.
Avdija has a very unique skillset. He has the size to be more of a traditional power forward in today’s NBA, but he also possesses the skills to play point guard at times as well. He has great instincts and vision in pick and roll situations, which is crucial in today’s NBA.
He’s tough, and carries a certain aggressiveness and “swagger” that will help him adapt to the NBA. Players need toughness to be successful, and he adopts this mindset well when he plays overseas. He has learned to play different roles off the ball too and has played professionally, which will help transition to the NBA game as well.
He has also seen major improvements on the defensive end, showing the ability to quickly cover ground when a player gets a step ahead or if he has to close out to shooters.
However, he does have some holes on the offensive end. He only shot 32 percent from three and 58 percent from the free throw line and those are glaring statistics for a perimeter player. He also is right-hand dominant and struggles to create his own shot.
Projection: A Ben Simmons-like player due to ball handling and size, but he could be much better depending on any improvements in shooting and isolation abilities.