The NBA Draft is always a mystery trying to detect the potential of an 18-year-old player based on a handful of Euroleague games or a year of college ball. But this season is especially strange.
When the draft will be held and how the scouting for it will be done is an unknown with the NBA season shut down for the coronavirus pandemic. And the usual time to see the best players in pressure situations - the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament - were canceled.
And for Leon Rose, it is at another level. Rose officially took over as Knicks team president on March 1 and just who will join him in the front office remains a mystery - a lame-duck crew still in place with expiring contracts. So he is preparing for a crucial draft with a lottery pick, a late first-round choice and a top 10 second-round pick and is unsure of who’s scouting advice he’s relying on, who will be making the pick and how they will judge those players.
With the lottery not yet held and the NBA still holding out hope of a return to finish out the season, just where teams will be picking is a mystery, too. But here’s a look at some of the best lottery talents.
1. LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks (Australia), 6-7, PG
You can point out all of the flaws and questions - shooting 25 percent from three-point range in his season as a professional overseas, the distractions that his father has created in the past and the showtime over fundamentals aspects of his game. But in a draft that is loaded with players who are ordinary for their position, Ball is the one with freakish potential -- a 6-foot-7 point guard with instincts, flash and skill -- the one who could either be a flop or make critics wonder for decades how he was passed over.
2. Anthony Edwards, Georgia, 6-5, SG
He’s the top pick in plenty of mock drafts and with good reason. Athletic, strong and with a game that reminds scouts of Dwyane Wade. But what he doesn’t have yet is a polished game or the three-point shot expected of today’s wings. He has showed the range from deep, just not the consistency.
3. James Wiseman, Memphis, 7-1, C
In another time, maybe even just a few years ago, Wiseman would be the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick. Even in an abbreviated season cut short after just three games with Memphis, he showed big man skills that are rare, combining athleticism and an NBA body with fundamentals as he posted up. But in an NBA where centers, particularly low-post centers, are being phased out, does he still merit a top-three pick?
4. Obi Toppin, Dayton, 6-9, PF
Lightly recruited out of high school, Toppin has emerged as this year’s daily highlight reel - dunking everything around the rim. Still raw in many ways but scouts believe he has the potential to be a solid defender and turn his limited outside shooting into a steady weapon.
5. Deni Avdija Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), 6-9, SF/PF
He’s been on the radar of NBA teams, winning MVP honors at the FIBA U20 European Championship and also at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders competition in 2019. Skilled ball handler and shooter (although oddly shot just 52 percent from the free-throw line this season).
6. Cole Anthony, North Carolina, 6-3, PG
He entered college regarded by some as the top player in his class and certainly the top point guard. But he endured injuries and a horrific season by the Tar Heels, losing some luster on his potential as he was a one-man show at times with little help. Still, he showed the defensive intensity his dad, former Knick Greg Anthony, displayed and much more potential offensively.
7. Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, 6-5, PG
Maybe the best passing point guard in the draft, Halliburton led the nation with 6.5 assists per game and did it with a flare that made many of them memorable. He shot 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and carried the team -- playing in every minute of the game 10 times, including a 45-minute appearance in an overtime win over TCU in which he posted a triple double -- before his season ended with a fractured left wrist.
8. Onyeka Okongwu, USC, 6-9 , PF
Want to find the next Mitchell Robinson? Try Okongwu, who shot 61.5 percent from the floor -- and 80 percent from the line -- showing an ability to dunk everything, run the floor well and defend capably. The downsides: He hasn’t showed an ability to move away from the basket offensively and he turns the ball over at an alarming rate.
9. Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany), 6-5, PG
The French-born 18-year-old doesn’t have crazy numbers but displayed instinctive passing skills and has the size and athleticism to get to the rim and merits a spot in the top 10.
10. Nico Mannion, Arizona, 6-3, PG
He didn’t grow up playing professionally overseas - his Italian roots coming only from being born there when his father, Pace Mannion, played their professionally after a six-year NBA career. But Mannion’s game looks like someone who has, displaying a skilled and stable game that doesn’t match his youthful looks. The 19-year-old has poise but needs that to make up for ordinary speed and athleticism.
11. Isaac Okoro, Auburn, 6-6, SF
Strong and athletic, Okoro showed the ability to get to the rim and to shoot from the perimeter. For his size and strength, he showed playmaking ability this season as a freshman.
12. RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers, 6-5, PG
Texas high schooler who opted to play pro this season and spent 15 games with the Breakers before heading home to prepare for the draft. The slender 19-year-old slashes well to the rim and shoots better than his numbers.
13. Jaden McDaniels, Washington, 6-9, SF
Slender scorer with the ability to get to the rim and shoot from outside the arc, McDaniels draws some optimistic comparisons to Kevin Durant. Still raw with a propensity for turnovers and struggling against physical defenders.
14. Vernon Carey, Duke, 6-10, C
The son of an NFL offensive lineman and it shows with a game that resembles football at times more than basketball, befitting his 260-pound frame. More old school than new NBA with a back to the basket game.