With the NFL Draft now a wrap, it’s time to start thinking about the next fleet of stars who will enter the NBA. Though what will come of this regular season is still uncertain—LeBron James, for one, wants to see it through—the Association’s selection show is scheduled for June 25, but will likely be pushed back. Last week, the league postponed both the lottery and combine.
Some of the incoming prospects—like LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman—are names that have been on the radar for years. Others—like Devin Vassell and Tyrese Haliburton—are more recent bloomers who have rocketed up mock drafts after a strong college season. Each projected lottery pick, however, has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone if he ends up in the right setting.
When this fleet of newcomers gets on the court, you might think, That looks familiar. You might see shades of current and former NBA players in their game. These youngsters have taken bits and pieces to create their own unique recipe—they’re the remix, baby.
Here are 10 of the top 2020 NBA Draft prospects and analogues who have graced the NBA.
LaMelo Ball, G
Best case scenario comparison: Penny Hardaway
We had to go into the vault for this one. You’ve surely heard all about Ball by this point of his life—on the off chance you’re unfamiliar, read this primer.
It’s tough to nail down a perfect comparison for Ball because he’s so skilled and so tall. He plays like Jason Williams, but White Chocolate was listed at 6’1” and Ball is 6’8”.
LaVar’s youngest son has ideal size for a floor general, though he’s a wispy 180 pounds. He’ll need time and a good strength and conditioning program to grow into his frame. His skills shine on the offensive end, where he’s an absolute maestro passing the rock and can also shoot the lights out. He’s come a long way since he was chucking up shots en masse at Chino Hills (he once scored 92 points as a sophomore) and has developed so much as an all-around playmaker and shot-creator that he reminds us of the former Magic sensation and current Memphis coach.
Anthony Edwards, G
Best case scenario comparison: Victor Oladipo
At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Edwards was dominant during his lone college campaign. The SEC Freshman of the Year at Georgia, he averaged 19.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG. At one point this season, he dropped 36 against South Carolina, 32 against Florida, and 29 against the Texas A&M Aggies. The kid can hoop.
Tom Crean coached both Edwards and Oladipo, and the similarities between their games are striking. Edwards doesn’t quite have the defensive aptitude of Oladipo, but he’s more advanced on the offensive end at this point of his career, and he’s bigger. Edwards is a powerful athlete with insane ups (much like the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest runner-up) and prolific scoring ability.
Edwards is a near-impossible matchup in iso situations. Though he wasn’t super consistent for a bad, 16-16 Georgia team, his promise is undeniable.
James Wiseman, F
Best case scenario comparison: DeAndre Jordan
Wiseman unfortunately didn’t get to play out his freshman season because of an impermissible benefits saga at Memphis, but we saw enough to know he’s potentially the real deal. During his three games with Penny’s Tigers, Wiseman put up 19.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, and 3.0 BPG.
His stock has dropped somewhat in the past year, but he’s still widely viewed as a top-three selection. With tremendous leaping ability, defense, and rebounding, the 7’1” from Nashville takes us right back to Jordan. The gargantuan 19-year-old still needs to develop his post skills and leadership, but those issues have plagued Jordan throughout his career, too.
One important difference: Wiseman can hit free throws (70.4 percent this year, compared to Jordan’s career 47.4 percent mark). There won’t be any hack-a-Wiseman going on.
Isaac Okoro, F
Best case scenario comparison: Justise Winslow
A 6’6” small forward, Okoro was a five-star recruit, but he wasn’t included in the ‘cream of the crop’ discussion. He wasn’t one of those names every top program is salivating over. Nonetheless, he was the second-highest ranked commit in Auburn program history. Okoro showed why they felt they got a steal during his lone NCAA season.
He averaged 12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG, but most importantly flashed potential well beyond those numbers. Okoro is a dynamic athlete with strength and quickness, and he really knows how to use his body. He finishes well at the rim, could be a lockdown defender at the next level, and has a selfless spirit.
His versatility, high basketball IQ, and defensive potential remind us of a certain former Duke wing who was drafted No. 10 overall in 2015.
Cole Anthony, G
Best case scenario comparison: Kemba Walker
Anthony was one of the lone bright spots during a depressing year for Tar Heels fans who are probably happy the season ended when it did. The 19-year-old from Portland, who came from famed Oak Hill Academy, was the No. 2 overall recruit in his class and more than lived up to the hype, averaging 18.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.3 SPG for Roy Williams’ 14-19 squad.
This guy is a scorer through and through. He's only 6’2” and 185 pounds, but he can really shoot the rock and create open looks. He hit 35 percent of his threes in college. He's also a strong athlete who’s fearless at the rim so don’t let his size fool you. Get this guy in the open floor and it’s game over. Also: watch your ankles, son.
Just about every part of his game reminds us of Cardiac Kemba, who was having a strong first season with the Celtics before coronavirus got in the way.
Devin Vassell, F
Best case scenario comparison: Khris Middleton
Vassell picked FSU over Texas Tech, but he didn’t have many other major offers. He also wasn't much of a factor in his freshman campaign, averaging only 4.5 PPG. Draft analysts weren’t going into this year saying, “Devin Vassell is a must-watch lottery candidate.”
But as a freshman, he showed glimpses of a beautiful 3-point stroke and started getting crunch time minutes down the stretch. In 2019-20, he ascended to the next level. He increased his averages across the board—12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting an impressive 42 percent from downtown.
He’s a shooter, yes, but he can also do more than that. The 6’7” SG/SF from Georgia excels off the ball, grabs boards, and plays hard. He’s not a ball hog or prima donna—he simply makes winning plays, drains shots, and locks down on D. He does the thing that needs to be done and knows himself.
Sound familiar? Pair Vassell with a star like Giannis and watch him flourish.
Killian Hayes, G
Best case scenario comparison: Goran Dragic
Hayes is still only 18, yet he's been on scouts’ radar for a long time. He was MVP of the FIBA 2017 U16 European Championship with France and also took his national team to a silver medal in 2018 at the U17 World Cup. He’s been playing in the Bundesliga in Germany and has played well beyond his age in one of the top Euro leagues.
He excels at getting into the lane and has a lightning-quick first step as well as athleticism—expect Hayes to generate a few posters in his career. The kid has bounce.
At 6’5”, he’s a tall point guard, and he says he’s modeled his game after James Harden. However, he’s somewhat limited in terms of shooting, and obviously that isn’t the case for The Beard. This young lefty reminds us more of a different NBA southpaw: Goran Dragic.
Tyrese Maxey, F
Best case scenario comparison: Bradley Beal
We’re not saying Maxey is on Beal’s level yet by any means. Indeed, Maxey’s shot is still a work in progress; he hit only 29.2 percent of his threes at Kentucky. But Beal made massive strides as a shooter when he went from Florida to the pros, and expect the same for this SG from Texas. He’ll get there.
Maxey is an all-around ball player. He’s a strong ball handler and defender. Though his frame isn't very imposing (6’3”, 200), neither is Beal’s (6’5”, 205).
The five-star recruit (No. 13 in his class) lit up Louisville in a big rivalry game in December with 27 points. Maxey’s first NBA home may need to be patient, but the Second Team All-SEC player has too much potential not to succeed.
RJ Hampton, G
Best case scenario comparison: Jordan Clarkson
Hampton made waves when he decided to play for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League instead of accepting offers from top college programs like Memphis, Kansas, and Texas Tech. The No. 5 player in his class played 15 games in Australia and averaged 8.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.4 APG.
Like Maxey, he’s a bit of a project. He needs to add weight, to say the least (6’5”, 185), and get better on the defensive end—but he’s a smooth combo guard with strong court sense.
His handles are some of the best in this class and he has beautiful shooting mechanics. If he ends up in the right system, he’ll eclipse the career of Clarkson, who has always seemed just one step away from really becoming a factor in the league.
Tyrese Haliburton, G
Best case scenario comparison: Lonzo Ball
It feels fitting that our list begins and ends with Ball brothers, because how could an article about basketball come and go without an extensive Ball Family presence? Haliburton is a 6’5” point guard from Wisconsin who’s the definition of a late bloomer. He was only a three-star recruit out of his high school.
At Iowa State, however, he was a factor from Day 1—and he really blossomed this season as a sophomore. After flashing promise as a freshman, he increased his averages to 15.2 PPG, 6.5 APG, 5.9 RPG, and 2.5 SPG. Haliburton has tremendous court sense, can pass with the best of them, and is a better shooter than Lonzo, hitting 41.9 percent of his threes this season.
His size and long arms are advantageous, too, though he’s somewhat limited athletically. Haliburton needs to add weight (a consistent theme among top prospects this year), but so did Lonzo. The Cyclone guard’s passing is ultimately what makes him such a tantalizing option. He’s not a playmaker on LaMelo’s level, but he has fringe All-Star potential.