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A taxonomized 2020 Draft Big Board

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With the 2020 draft fast approaching, here are some groupings of prospects that I am certain will age well.

Ratiopharm Ulm v MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg - EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Blogging offers no shortage of ways to debase yourself, beginning with having to identify yourself as a blogger. But spend enough time on a platform offering up takes that wilt almost as quickly as they’re consumed, and you at least learn to hedge your positions, avoiding going on the record with rankings or long-term projections that even true subject matter experts whiff on regularly, and especially when your familiarity with the topic comes mostly through a secondary consumption of intel and opinions and sporadic YouTubing. Anyway, here’s my attempt at a 2020 NBA Draft Big Board, broken out into clusters as I see them.

I tried to look at this through a general lens but, if there is some Spurs-specific bias, it’s leaning away from players that profile more as high-end complementary pieces in favor of those with higher upside. A team like San Antonio, who has few paths to All-Star-caliber young talent, should also be operating with that bias.

1A) High-upside playmakers

1) LaMelo Ball

2) Killian Hayes

Weighing up the risks and upside of all Tier 1A and 1B players in a vacuum, I’m open to why anyone prefers one over another. However the ability for a primary ball-handler to raise the ceiling of a team’s offense gives these two players the edge. Ball can’t shoot or defend well, but he can read a defense better than anyone else in this draft and has the size and ability to make his teammates better. Hayes isn’t quite on his level as a passer but possesses a better rounded game on both ends, including the prized stepback jumper that can stretch defenses even further out.

1B) High-level non-primary ball-handlers, with multiple tools

3) James Wiseman

4) Anthony Edwards

5) Onyeka Okongwu

6) Isaac Okoro

7) Deni Avdija

8) Obi Toppin

These are all players I’ve seen thrown around in various mock top 5s, and I like the potential outcomes for each—including Toppin, who many are down on because of his defensive limitations but whose offense I think still makes him a special player to try and build around. The other inclusions are probably less controversial: Wiseman and Edwards have the tools to be elite at their positions; Okongwu is an ideal modern big, at least on defense; Okoro is maybe the best player in this draft if he improves his jumpshot, and Avdija figures to contribute positively in a number of ways, at minimum.

There’s a chance we see one or two of these names still on the board when the Spurs are up at 11, and I’m of the mind they should take him, whomever it is.

1C) Prospects that should be able to contribute in multiple ways, or The Desmond Bane Tier

9) Tyrese Haliburton

10) Patrick Williams

11) Devin Vassell

12) Tyrese Maxey

13) Desmond Bane

14) Kira Lewis

15) Jalen Smith

16) Saddiq Bey

Bane probably goes the lowest of this bunch, but he is ostensibly the spirit animal of a group of players that should all be solid at the next level. I feel better about their versatility, readiness to contribute, and/or high-end outcomes than the guys in 2A, but I’m also not worried about a team like, say, the Spurs missing out on them like those in 1B.

2A) Players with at least one reliable skill

17) Tyrell Terry

18) Aaron Nesmith

19) Malachi Flynn

20) Precious Achiuwa

21) Xavier Tillman

22) Grant Riller

23) Cole Anthony

I don’t personally love these guys in the lottery but I also don’t hate their outlook as pros, especially if I’m overstating their bigger concerns. Terry, Flynn and Anthony should be able to stretch the floor and make some plays, but they’re on the small side and not threats around the rim at the NBA level. Tillman and Achiuwa are different kinds of bigs that should both have high defensive value but may need to the right situations to make an impact offensively. Riller should be able to keep getting buckets as a pro.

2B) Lottery tickets

24) Jaden McDaniels

25) RJ Hampton

26) Aleksej Pokusevski

Every draft pick constitutes some level of gamble, but these three seem to have more boom and/or bust in them than most. The GM that takes Pokusevski or McDaniels much higher than here it’s likely one that feels pretty good about their job security.

2C) The floor is the ceiling, or These guys should be fine

27) Cassius Winston

28) Josh Green

29) Robert Woodard

30) Tre Jones

It’s not hard to see all of these players sticking around the league in backup or complementary roles, but I don’t see most of them overachieving either. Winston and Jones should be dependable running NBA offenses; Maledon’s tools and frame provide enough of a hedge to see him panning out as a combo guard; Woodard just missed the peak of the Morey-D’Antoni era, but still has the makings of what most teams look for in a reliable big wing.

2D) Scratch-off tickets

31) Leandro Bolmaro

32) Theo Maledon

Bolmaro and Maledon aren’t the same home-run swings as the guys in 3B, but there is still a good amount of variance, and upside, if theirs physical tools and intangibles hold up against NBA athletes. With additional seasoning here or overseas, either could pan out as reliable 3rd guys that provide change of pace and nice all-around games at their size.

2E) Guys we’ll wonder why they didn’t go higher

33) Skylar Mays

34) Tyler Bey

35) Isaiah Joe

36) Paul Reed

37) Killian Tillie

38) Isaiah Stewart

39) Zeke Nnaji

40) Lamar Stevens

41) Vernon Carey

42) Udoka Azubuike

43) Devon Dotson

44) Daniel Oturu

This group underscores the depth of the 2020 class and why there’s very good value through the middle of the 2nd round. Azabuike has a 7-7 wingspan and made 75% of every shot he took last season while Carey, Oturu and Stewart all put up big numbers as underclassmen. Most are casualties of a league that’s soured on big men of a more traditional mold. Tillie stands out here as a player who would be going higher if not for questions about his durability after suffering a handful of lower-body injuries at Gonzaga.

3) These are also names of basketball players, or the Actual 41st Pick in the NBA Draft

45) Cassius Stanley

46) Tyshon Alexander

47) Immanuel Quickley

48) Paul Eboua

49) Yam Madar

50) Jahmi’us Ramsey

51) Payton Pritchard

52) Kenyon Martin Jr.

53) Nico Mannion

54) Kaleb Wesson

55) Jordan Nwora

56) Elijah Hughes

57) Sam Merrill

58) Abdoulaye Ndoye

59) Terry Armstrong

60) Mason Jones