NBA Draft prospects the Wizards should consider, avoid

The Wizards landed the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery tonight for the second year in a row. The team had a 4.5 percent chance of landing the first overall pick and a 20.3 percent chance of falling in the top four, but instead they stayed put, as they had the ninth-best odds to begin the night. The Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery for the second time in six years, as they won back in 2015 when they drafted Karl-Anthony Towns.

There is little consensus among the top prospects in 2020, so the Wizards could see a future superstar fall right into their lap. Here are some of the prospects I’d be happy with the Wizards selecting, and the prospects I hope they avoid.

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily think the “players to avoid” will become busts, I just don’t think they’d be the best fit with the team.

Prospects to watch (in no particular order):

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – C

At 6’9″, Okongwu makes for an undersized center, but would still be a great addition to this team. He averaged 16.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 28 games with the Trojans while shooting 61.1 percent from the floor.

Okongwu brings high upside as a defender, and would pair nicely with incumbent starter Thomas Bryant down low, and Bryant would take some pressure off of Okongwu being a top producer right away.

A concern that I’ve seen about Okongwu is inconsistent shooting mechanics, but with a team that’s already so efficient on offense, the Wizards can probably afford to have Okongwu take time to develop in that area. Otherwise, a top-tier defender who plays hard and brings a lot of upside on offense is just what the doctor ordered for this Washington team.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn – SF

Okoro is one of the strongest defensive prospects in this draft, as the SEC All-Defense selection excels in taking on driving opponents while also locking players down off the ball. He could also develop into a strong contributor on offense, especially when it comes to ball movement and decision-making. The freshman averaged just two turnovers per game last season.

The biggest knock against him is shooting, as he converted just 67 percent of his free throws and shot a measly 28.6 percent from three-point land, which limits his potential as a reliable 3-and-D wing. He compensates for the weak shooting by using his handles to get to the rim and finish strong.

He isn’t my favorite prospect on the board, but if he falls to the Wizards and no one else really pops out, I think the Wizards could do much worse than going with Okoro. He’s been projected all over the draft board, so he may not even be an option by the time the ninth pick rolls around.

Killian Hayes, ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) – PG

Hayes was born in Florida but raised in France, as that was where his father, DeRon, was playing basketball professionally. Since he just turned 19 less than a month ago, Hayes is one of the younger prospects in the lottery, but has great promise as a lead guard down the road.

His numbers don’t exactly pop off the page — 11.6 points, 5.4 assists, 29.4 3P% — but allowing time to develop, Hayes has the potential to develop into an All-World playmaker. He doesn’t have the greatest handles, but he has enough control and great accuracy on passes. His shooting needs work, but given his 87 percent rate from the free throw line, it seems like he has the mechanics down and just needs to work that efficiency into real game action.

Standing 6’5″ and 215 pounds, Hayes has the size to defend and overpower opposing guards. His off-ball defense is already viewed as a positive, giving him incredible two-way star potential. With Bradley Beal and hopefully John Wall already holding down the lead guard spots, Hayes would hopefully have time to adjust to the NBA and become a franchise cornerstone within a few years.

It’s unclear where he will go in the draft, as some project him in the top five while others don’t have him even cracking the top 10. Personally, I would be thrilled if the Wizards landed him at nine. As far as guards from France go, he could either be the next Tony Parker or the next Frank Ntilikina. If he lands in Washington, I’m hoping for the former.

Saddiq Bey, Villanova – PF

Bey might be a bit of a reach at nine, but if the team decides to trade further back, he’s an intriguing option. He likely won’t develop into a franchise cornerstone, but his two-way ability profiles as great potential for a strong 3-and-D contributor.

He’s versatile on defense, something the Wizards could use greatly, and can make a strong impact on the offensive end even without being the primary scoring option. He seems like a player who could contribute — especially on the Wizards — from the jump.

Positioning may be a question mark, as the presence of Rui Hachimura and possibly Dāvis Bertāns would make power forward a crowded position. The game is becoming more position-less, so that may not matter so much. Every team could use a strong 3-and-D player, and Bey could develop into one of the more premier options if things break right for him.

Prospects to avoid (in no particular order):

Anthony Edwards, Georgia – SG

Edwards is insanely athletic and viewed by many as the top prospect in the draft (or at least no worse than top three), so unless the Wizards trade up, I don’t believe they will have any chance of selecting him. To that I say: good.

Edwards was a one-man show in Athens this season for an otherwise lackluster Georgia team that went 5-13 in conference play. His elite scoring ability should translate well in the NBA, but I think his overall success will be very situation-dependent. His effort and focus have been question marks at times, especially on defense, so if he winds up on a less functional team, such as the New York Knicks, the Charlotte Hornets or the Wizards, he may not develop as well as predicted.

He seems most efficient when he’s the ball-dominant guard, but I don’t see any team going far if he’s trying to do everything himself. Maybe with a better supporting cast than the one he had at Georgia, the ball will be spread, but I don’t think he would fit well in Washington, and thus the Wizards should pass if he is somehow available or they decide to trade up.

Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) – SF

Avdija did not get much playing time in the EuroLeague, which could raise some eyebrows about how he’ll perform in the NBA, and it’s clear he will be more ‘project’ than ‘polished’ no matter where he ends up. He’ll be among the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the lottery.

He’s a strong playmaker from the wing that can defend fairly well, but his shooting is atrocious, especially from the free throw line. Avdija shot 52 percent from the charity stripe (in 75 attempts) with Maccabi Tel Aviv last season, and he averaged just 7.7 points and 4.1 rebounds across all competitions.

In the Israeli League, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game to become the youngest Israeli League MVP ever. The upside is there, but Avdija would definitely be better suited on a contending team rather than being relied on as a key building block. Maybe he can be the guy, but the Wizards need to use their pick on someone less risky if they want to climb out of their purgatory of mediocrity.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – PF

Toppin starred at Dayton, and he was arguably the best player in college basketball this year. He won the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award and was named AP Player of the Year. At 22, he’s naturally more physically and mentally mature than most of the other prospects in the lottery and could slide in immediately as a major offensive contributor on almost any team.

Then again, at 22, his upside isn’t the same as the younger prospects. Many teams like to take the 19-year-olds and mold them into productive players on their own rather than taking on a 22-year-old with a higher floor but lower ceiling. However, the Wizards took then-21-year-old Hachimura in last year’s draft over several younger prospects, so age may not be a big factor for GM Tommy Sheppard.

While he brings excitement on the offensive end, his relative lack of rebounding for a player his size is concerning, and I don’t see him as a real threat to take minutes away from Hachimura at the four. I think Toppin will be a fine NBA player, and if he’s the best available at nine, then I’d be satisfied, but I don’t love his fit compared to others.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – SF

Nesmith is an unreal shooter; he shot 52.2 percent(!) from three-point land, and 50 percent on two-point shots. As a result, he averaged 23.0 points per game last season, although he was held to just 14 games after suffering a stress fracture in his foot.

Outside of shooting, the rest of his offensive ability is a question mark. He isn’t a strong presence at the rim, and his passing isn’t as precise as some of the other wings on the board. His defense is solid, but could get better. Much like Toppin, I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Wizards take him if he’s the best player available, but otherwise I think they could do better.

Other prospects I like for the Wizards:

  • Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State – PG
  • Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky – SG
  • Devin Vassell, Florida State – SG

Other prospects I don’t like for the Wizards:

  • RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers (NBL) – PG
  • Cole Anthony, North Carolina – PG

We’ll see how things shake out when the 2020 Draft comes around on Oct. 16, and see if the Wizards even take any of the players mentioned, but no matter whose name is called when the Wizards are on the clock, we hope he’ll be the next piece to help bring Washington back to playoff contention.

Cover Photo Credit: L- David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports; R- FanSided

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