2020 NBA Draft and the hidden numbers

The 2020 NBA Draft lists 205 early entries from all over the place. Some of them didn’t play college basketball, or played overseas and are unknown to American fans. Due to Covid-19, March Madness was canceled, and college basketball never took center stage. Furthermore, the NBA Draft lottery and NBA Draft combine have been postponed until further notice.

Contrary to the 2019 NBA Draft, there are no potential superstars like Zion Williams and Ja Morant among the prospects this year. The lack of household names does not automatically mean that the 2020 NBA Draft is weak. To the contrary. It has depth and is rich with long-time starters and impact reserves.

The 2020 NBA draft evaluation process

In this article, we will focus on some noticeably advanced stats. Keep in mind that this is only one of the many factors that come into play when ranking players and making NBA draft projections. Don’t forget other things like teams’ needs, draft order, trades, physical measurements, mental evaluation, personality, potential, e.t.c.

This year the COVID-19 virus has complicated things. As a result of the worldwide lockdown, basketball leagues were canceled or postponed. Also, travel bans complicate things even further, especially regarding the international NBA draft prospects.

The NBA has prohibited teams from conducting in-person workouts or interviews with draft prospects until further notice. Only virtual interviews will be allowed but are limited to four hours total for any single player.

As a result, NBA teams now must rely disproportionally on previous scouting and intelligence gathering. Moreover, teams are not allowed to request a video of recent workouts that players might conduct outside of a team environment. Teams can only study footage from before the NBA’s suspension of play on March 11.

League and conference strength

Can you compare the stats of Cole Anthony and Tre Jones? Yes, because they both played in the same conference. Comparing their stats to other potential 2020 NBA draft picks from other top-level conferences should not be too problematic either. All those conferences are the creme of the crop and, therefore, comparable.

But how do you evaluate the stats of players on the international NBA draft list? What is the strength of those overseas leagues when you compare them to the NCAA conferences? Our Game Center has a system in place that ranks and compares all basketball leagues in the world. For example, the Euroleague is the highest level outside the NBA. Higher than any college conference. Other international leagues rank higher than mid-level college conferences, and then there are also significant differences among leagues globally. In other words, stats from the Euroleague carry more weight than stats from the Japanese B2. The same goes for stats from the ACC vs. stats from the MEAC.

Are you able to rank the level of the following leagues/conferences in the right order; Ohio Valley Conference, VTB league, Italian Serie A2, Adriatic League, and the Dutch Basketball League? If so, are you also able to tell how much these leagues differ in strength? We are.

Advanced stats; the hidden numbers

Basketball statistics have evolved. The first statistics were based on averages per game. Then came statistics based on average per minute. Now, the newest trend is statistics based on possessions

Advanced basketball stats (and analytics) focus on that third stage of the evolution; statistics based on possessions.

This methodology offers a more objective analysis of teams and players because some teams play up-tempo and run at every opportunity while others like to “milk the clock” or “walk it up.” This influences the numbers of possessions and the opportunities to score, rebound, and compile other statistics. Assessing teams on a per-possession basis provides leveled criteria to compare teams and players.

Our basketball database is the only source that has advanced statistics on every league, team, and player around the world. This allows us to compare any player from any league or conference, both from the past and the present. This way, you can create your own 2020 NBA mock draft.

Point guards

PG draft prospects in random order: LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Theo Maledon, Tre Jones, Kira Lewis, Nico Mannion.

LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Theo Maledon have in common that they are all projected to go early in the first round, and none of them played any college basketball. How do they compare to each other and college players like Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Tre Jones, Kira Lewis, and Nico Mannion?

2020 NBA draft prospects

The level of the Australian NBL and the German Bundesliga is comparable to conferences like the Big 12, ACC, SEC, and PAC 12, so the stats of the players from those leagues and conferences can be compared. Theo Maledon is the exception. Last season he played in the Euroleague, as well as in the French Pro A. Both those leagues outrank any college conference. That must be taken into consideration when comparing his stats to other players.

In the overview, we see that Tyrese Haliburton has a high player efficiency ranking (PER), followed by Tre Jones and Kira Lewis. The other players were only marginally above the average in their leagues and conferences. That is a bit surprising. To understand the terminology used in this article, we refer you to our advanced stats glossary.

Another point of notice regarding Tyrese Haliburton is that he has the second-highest 3PtAr (50.9) and, consequently, the lowest FTr (18.2).  Theo Maledon, on the other hand, has the highest 3PtAr (51.4) and also the highest FTr (40.2), a very unusual combination. Furthermore, he achieved this in the French Pro A, which is a higher-level league than any of the conferences his American competitors played in. However, in the French Pro A, Maledon received moderate playing time (16.6 mpg). Even less than he got in the much stronger Euroleague (17.7 mpg).   

The LaMelo Ball draft saga is a hot topic. For good reason. First, he averages most assists per game, but that doesn’t necessarily say much because he also got plenty of playing time. Therefore, it is more interesting to look at the ASTr (number of assists per 100 possessions) and AST% (percentage of teammate field goals he assisted while he was on the floor).

Looking at those numbers, LaMelo Ball only ranks fourth in ASTr with 25.2. But he is number one in AST% (38.5). This could indicate that he was a floor leader and that his team’s offense was built around him. Therefore, it is no surprise that he also has the second-highest USG% (the percentage of team plays used while he was on the floor)

Tyrese Haliburton has the highest ASTr (30.1), followed by Killian Hayes (28,6), and Tre Jones (26.0). Cole Antony’s ASTr is at the bottom with only 16.0.

Further credit goes to LaMelo Ball for how he takes care of the basketball. He has the best AST/TO ratio and the lowest TOr (turnovers per 100 possessions). Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon don’t do well in either of those categories. No wonder because they play with, and against, seasoned veterans: their inexperience is a significant factor.  

Takeaway: The 2020 NBA Draft prospects on the PG position are statistically not on par with the highest picked point guards in the past two years, but they are comparable to the second and third choices.

Shooting guards

SG draft prospects in random order: Anthony Edwards, R.J. Hampton, Tyrese Maxey, Jahmi’us Ramsey, Josh Green and Cassius Stanley.

To compare the shooting guards head to head, please sign up for a 1-Day Free trial on our basketball database.

R.J. Hampton is the only player on this list that didn’t play college basketball. Instead, he played for the Breakers from New Zealand. But the Breakers actually played in the Australian NBL (where LaMelo Ball also played), which is similar in level to the top college conferences. Hampton only averaged 20.6 mpg, so at first glance, his stats aren’t really jaw-dropping.

But those numbers look better when you analyze the advanced stats. There, Hampton ranks number one in both ASTr (18.9) and AST % (18.6). Cassius Stanley is the worst in both categories, with an ASTr of only 7.8 and an AST % of 6.9.

Anthony Edwards has the highest PER (20.0), followed by Jahmi’us Ramsey (19.4). Hampton was a below-average player in the Australian NBL with a PER of only 13.4, while Tyrese Maxey was only slightly above average in the SEC (average is 15 and Maxey had 16.5).

It hurts Ramsey that he shot less than 30% from beyond the three-point line. The same goes for Edwards and Hampton. It is of particular concern for Edwards since his 3PtAr is 47.8. In other words, he shoots a lot of three-pointers but hits relatively few of them (29.4%).

Takeaway: The 2020 NBA Draft prospects on the SG position are statistically weaker than the two highest picked shooting guards in the 2019 and 2018 draft.

Small forwards

SF draft prospects in random order: Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija, Aaron Nesmith, Devin Vassell, Saddiq Bey, Leonardo Bolmaro, and Patrick Williams.

Except for the international players Avdija and Bolmaro, all other players on this list played in one of the elite college conferences. Avdija and Bolmaro played in the Euroleague, which is a much higher level. Simultaneously, they also played in the domestic leagues of their teams. Avdija played in the Israeli Winner League, which is comparable to the elite college conferences. Bolmaro played in the Spanish ACB, which is stronger than the Israeli league but ranks lower than the Euroleague. In addition, he also played in the LEB Silver with Barcelona’s farm team. The LEB Silver is the third-tier league in Spain and comparable in level to a mid- to lower level college conference.

Deni Avdija 2020 NBA draft
Deni Avdija

In our overview of small forwards, Aaron Nesmith has a remarkably high PER (28.8), followed by an almost equally impressive Devin Vassell (24.1). Nesmith is also an incredible shooter. More than half of his field-goal attempts were from behind the 3Pt arch (3PrAr 56.1), and he connected on 52.2% of them!

The mirror image of Aaron Nesmith is Isaac Okoro. He doesn’t take a lot of 3pt shots (29.0 3PtAr) and is not very accurate (29%). But he compensates that with an impressive ability to go to the free-throw line (FTr of 55.9!)

Takeaway: Statistically speaking, some of the 2020 NBA Draft prospects on the SF position have better numbers than Cam Reddish and Kevin Knox who were the highest-drafted small forwards in 2019 and 2018.

Power forwards

PF draft prospects in random order: Obi Toppin, Precious Achiuwa, Jaden McDaniels, Xavier Tillman, and Paul Reed.

Toppin has the best stats and an unbelievable PER of 31.9 in the Atlantic 10 conference! A PER above 30 is rare and is usually reserved for superstars like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, e.t.c. However, keep in mind that the Atlantic 10 is a notch weaker than the very best college conferences.

Paul Reed is the best rebounder with a REBr of 20.5, followed by Precious Achiuwa (20.4). Toppin, on the other hand, averaged only 15.6 % of the available rebounds while he was on the floor (REBr) and did so in a weaker conference. Maybe Paul Reed is a little underrated in the public eye, but his advanced stats are attention grabbers. As stated before, he is the best rebounder on the list, and by far the best shot-blocker with a Blk% of 9.4! Reed has a very high PER 27.8 and played in one of the strongest college conferences this past season. He also lead in steals with an ST% of 3.4.

Takeaway: You can’t compare the 2020 NBA Draft prospects on the PF position with Zion Williams (2019) or Marvin Bagley (2018). The stats of the 2020 prospects are more like the power forwards who were drafted behind Williams and Bagley.

Centers

C draft prospects in random order: James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaiah Stewart, Vernon Carey, Daniel Oturu and Aleksej Pokusevski.

Aleksej Pokusevski is the enigma here when it comes to comparing league/conference levels. He played for the Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in the Euroleague. That’s the highest level in the world outside of the NBA. Simultaneously Olympiacos played in the Greek second division; yes, that’s right. SECOND division, not first! It had to do with a feud with the Greek basketball federation in the previous season. Anyway, Pokusevski played only one game in the Euroleague and 11 more in the Greek second division, a level comparable to the bottom part of college conferences.

The other enigma is James Wiseman because he only played three college games this season. Three games is not really enough to draw data-based conclusions, even though Wiseman’s stats are very impressive (19.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg).

Statistically, Wiseman is in the category with Daniel Oturu (20.1 ppg and 11.3 rpg) and Onyeka Okongwu (16.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg). All three players, along with Vernon Carey, have an incredible PER of 30+!

If we leave the unbelievable three-game stats of Wiseman out of the equation, we see that every other player has certain strengths and weaknesses. Okongu has a solid eFG%, ST%, ASTr, AST%, and BLK%. But his REBr is mediocre.

Aleksej Pokusevski has a phenomenal ASTr, AST%, and AST/TO. He excels at a crazy 3PtAr of 51.0, combined with a 3Pt shooting percentage of 32. That will keep any defense honest and offers opportunities for mismatches. Pokusevski is a seven-footer who shoots and passes like a guard. But keep in mind that these stats are related to a lower level league (Greek 2nd division). Jalen Smith is also eye-catching with a 3PtAr of 28.4 combined with a 3Pt percentage of 36.8.

Takeaway: The 2018 number one pick, DeÁndre Ayton, is statistically out of reach for the 2020 NBA draft prospects on the center position. But they can compete with Jaxson Hayes, who was the highest-drafted center in 2019.

Off the beaten path of the 2020 NBA draft

All players mentioned in this article about the 2020 NBA draft are well known and have been scouted a zillion times. But that is a problem. Everybody scouts the same leagues and the same players. The college players all played for top-notch conferences, and the international players played in the strongest leagues outside of the US. Not many people bother to scout an exotic low-profile league, except those who think outside the box. That’s how you can find players like Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Two of the best European players of all time. Both were drafted out of obscure second divisions in Europe.

How about Dennis Rodman, who was drafted out of Southeastern Oklahoma State or Scottie Pippen, who played for Central Arkansas? Both schools played in the NAIA at the time.

True, there are millions of basketball players in the world, and you can’t possibly scout all of them. But that’s not necessary. You can use databases like ours to search, filter, rank, and compare players before you scout them. Just like you do when you look for hotels or plane tickets on Expedia.

That’s how you find that draft-eligible youngster who averages 20.8 ppg and 11.6 in the Turkish TBL (second tier), or the German power forward who turns 22 in June and has a PER of 33 in the Pro B. What about that 6’8 (203 cm) kid from Georgia (not the US state, but the country) who has an incredible ORr of 22.1! Then, there is that Australian seven-footer with a BLK% of 15.7 at the NCAA D3 level.

Do you wonder who these players are, or do you want to do your own data mining and research? Then sign up for a 1-Day free trial on our database and use our advanced features to create your very own 2020 NBA mock draft.

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