SALT LAKE CITY — When combing through this year’s NBA draft prospects, it’s not very easy to figure out where they’ll fall in the selection process. The uncertainty makes the 2020 NBA draft unique.
There seems to be a small amount of consensus around a handful of top picks, but outside of that many players fall into a category of “could go anywhere in the mid-to-late first round,” or even later.
The hard to pin down nature of this year’s draft class was on full display Tuesday when four more players spoke with reporters as part of the NBA’s virtual draft combine. The upsides and concerns for each player are pretty obvious, but where that will put them when draft day comes on Nov. 18 is not so easy to discern.
R.J. Hampton, a guard from Texas who chose to forego college offers to play in New Zealand for one year, is projected to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round and pretty regularly listed between 15 and 25 on mock drafts. That puts him in the range of the 23rd pick, the Utah Jazz’s first-round selection.
But Hampton seems to be quite a bit of a gamble. The 6-foot-5 guard is clearly athletic and has a ton of potential, but taking him would be a bet on the potential. Inconsistencies in his game have put into question whether or not he’ll be able to develop into an NBA-level player.
“I definitely think I bring a fast-paced, energizer guard,” Hampton said. “I can attack downhill, get my teammates involved and be a pest on defense. I can do the little things.”
In order to raise his draft stock, Hampton has been working with former NBA player Mike Miller on his 3-point shooting, which has been one of his weaker skills.
Though Hampton could end up getting picked anywhere through the first round, his margin was probably the most clear of the players that spoke with the media on Tuesday.
Precious Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9 switchy forward with a really solid defensive foundation, is likely to be off the board midway through the first round, but there are some who think he could end up falling as far as the early second round.
Though confident on the defensive end with a penchant for rebounding, the concerns for Achiuwa are on the offensive end.
“I need to improve my shooting, my passing and my dribbling,” he said. “Making decisions a lot quicker, working on my jump shot. Those are things I’ve really focused on.”
He averaged 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game at Memphis last season but his offensive numbers often came inefficiently, especially from the free-throw line where he shot just 59.9%.
His offensive limitations could end up leading to a fall in the draft.
Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, a 6-foot-2 point guard, is part of a draft class in which there are myriad guards to choose from, and he is hoping that his sharpshooting skills will put him ahead of the rest.
Shooting 40.8% from 3-point range has garnered Terry comparisons to other undersized players like Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, and those are players that he’s been studying. But he’s still a raw player who makes a lot of mistakes and at just 160 pounds, it’s possible that he’ll need time to develop into an NBA body in order to hang on the defensive end.
“I think there’s a lot of things that I need to work on to overcome my size,” Terry said. “The biggest thing is using my IQ in the right way and studying the game.”
All things considered, it’s possible his shooting prowess gets him picked as high as the lottery, but fears about his size and ceiling could drop him down to the bottom of the first round.
Duke sophomore Tre Jones is one of the prospects whose stock could end up rising significantly on draft night. Currently projected as an early second-round pick, Jones took on the role of a defensive specialist while at Duke.
After Duke’s biggest names and scorers (Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett) left for the draft last season, it gave Jones more of an opportunity to show what he had on that side of the floor. He increased his 3-point shooting from 26% to 36% and finished his sophomore season averaging 16.2 points per game.
Though he showed improvement on the offensive end, it’ll be his impressive on-ball defensive skills that gets Jones drafted, which could end up being anywhere from the middle of the first round through the second round.
On Wednesday, six more players are scheduled to speak with reporters as part of the combine process — top-10 prospects Isaac Okoro (Auburn), Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State) and Deni Avdija (Israel), as well as Theo Maledon (France), Isaiah Joe (Arkansas), and Desmond Bane (TCU).