Before we know it, the 2021 NBA Draft will be upon us, and it’ll be even more of a crapshoot than the last one because NBA scouts have been unable to attend most college games or travel overseas to look at international prospects.
Veteran scouts used to working in packed gyms and arenas are instead poring over grainy game film from overseas and DVR’d recordings of college games in order to get the best info they can on the players who will be available on July 29 – exactly three months from today.
With the 2020-21 NBA season winding down, this is a good time to look back at the 2020 draft and see how each of the first-round picks have panned out.
- Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves:
Either Edwards or LaMelo Ball will win Rookie of the Year, and
Edwards probably wouldn’t even be in the conversation if Ball had
not gone down with an injury. The 19-year-old has increased his
field goal percentage and three-point percentages over the course
of the month of April, but his scoring has dipped from 24.2 points
per game in March to 21.3 in April. His team has won five of seven,
including two against the league-leading Jazz. He leads all rookies
with 142 threes. (Our Spencer Davies believes Edwards
- James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors: He is
out for the season after he had surgery to fix a meniscus injury in
his right knee. The recovery time will be months rather than weeks.
Wiseman averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds and showed flashes
during his first season. The Dubs will be able to pair him with
another top young prospect if Minnesota’s pick falls outside of the
top three. Golden State acquired it in the D’Angelo Russell-Andrew
Wiggins trade. It is unprotected the following season.
- LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets: He has not
played in five weeks, but he is expected back any day after
recovering from a broken wrist. He will have only a few days to
re-acclimate himself with his teammates, including Malik Monk,
whose return from a sprained ankle will coincide with Ball’s. The
rookie is averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds in
just 28.6 minutes per game.
- Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls: He has
started all 61 games he has appeared in, but he’s averaging only
9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds and has eclipsed the 20-point mark only
twice all season. He has reached double figures in points in only
one of the Bulls’ last 11 games, but let’s not forget he is only 19
years old – same as Edwards and Ball. Some 19-year-olds adapt
quicker than others.
- Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers: He has
started all 57 games he has played in, but the 20-year-old’s
numbers are quite pedestrian: 8.5 points, 42.2% from the field,
28.9% from three-point range, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He had
a season-high 20 points against Toronto on Monday, but went 1-for-8
on threes. He leads all rookies in minutes (31.8).
- Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks: He was never
going to get a ton of run on a roster that already included Clint
Capela and John Collins, and he is logging only 11.3 minutes per
game. He has reached double figures in points three times and in
rebounds once in 41 games.
- Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons: The
French-American teenager has been getting consistent minutes this
month after recovering from a hip injury (torn labrum) that
sidelined him for three months. He has shown a knack for getting
steals, but needs to learn how to draw fouls and get to the free
throw line. He is 7-for-7 from the line in 10 games this month.
- Obi Toppin, New York Knicks: He has appeared
in 53 games without a single start and has scored in double figures
only three times. But he plays for a coach, Tom Thibodeau, who
brings rookies along slowly, and he has shot below 50% in only four
of 15 games this month.
- Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards: The rookie
from Israel is out for the season with a hairline fracture in his
ankle after starting 32 of his 54 games. He had been unspectacular,
averaging only 6.3 points and making 53 three-pointers.
- Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns: He was sent down to
the G-League in February, and he has seen mostly garbage time
minutes in his 22 appearances. He’s averaging 1.1 points, and he
has attempted only three free throws all season (making one).
- Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs: He has made
two starts in 51 appearances and has shown some flashes, but he
needs to become more consistent. He has seven double-figure scoring
nights, two of which have come in the Spurs’ past six games.
- Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings: Right
now, he has to go down as the steal of the lottery and he’s almost
certain to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Ball
and Edwards. He’s averaging 12.8 points and 5.3 assists with an
assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.44, ninth-best in the NBA. In 18
games as a starter, he's averaging 14.6 points, 5.8 assists and 1.1
- Kira Lewis, Jr., New Orleans Pelicans: The
20-year-old backs up Lonzo Ball and plays 16.5 minutes per night.
He is steady but has had limited opportunities, having gone for 20
points one time. He ranks 12th among rookies in assists with 2.3
- Aaron Nesmith, Boston Celtics: He had his best
game of the season on Wednesday in a victory over Charlotte with 15
points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks. It was only
his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season. He became
the first Celtics rookie to record a 15-3-3 game since Paul
Pierce did it in 1998-99.
- Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic: He’s experiencing
trial by fire after the early-season injury to Markelle Fultz, and
has improved every month. He is currently on a run of 10
consecutive double-figure scoring games and ranks fourth among
rookies in scoring (12.0), third in assists (4.4) and fourth in
free throw percentage (81.3%).
- Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons: He leads all
rookies in rebounds (6.6), field goal percentage (57.4) and blocks
(1.15) despite playing only 20.4 minutes per game. A very solid
building block for Troy Weaver.
- Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder: The
19-year-old is second among rookies in blocks per game (1.1) and is
getting a lot of run on Sam Presti’s rebuilding project, logging
25-plus minutes in 20 of the past 22 games. He’s sixth among
rookies in rebounding (4.6).
- Josh Green, Dallas Mavericks: The Aussie
shooting guard gets a little bit of run here and there, but his
season-high is 8 points. He’s only playing 10.3 minutes per game,
but he has started in five games.
- Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons: He’s second among
rookies in made three-pointers (139), seventh in scoring (11.3),
seventh in three-point percentage (37.7%), second in free throw
percentage (87.1%), 12th in rebounding (4.2) and ninth in minutes
played (25.8). He might be Detroit’s best rookie.
- Precious Achiuwa, Miami Heat: He has appeared
in 55 games and does not appear among the rookie league leaders in
any category except rebounding, where he is 16th with 3.6 boards
per game. He’s only playing 12.4 minutes per game.
- Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers: Maxey is a
very solid player who caught everyone’s attention on Jan. 9 when he
dropped 39 points on Denver, which got Rafael Stone of Houston
quite interested and may have kept James Harden from becoming a
member of the Sixers. He has made 10 of his last 11 shots in the
past two games. He’s eighth among rookies in field goal percentage
- Zeke Nnaji, Denver Nuggets: He cracked the
rotation in February and March, but he hasn’t played as much
recently on a veteran-laden Nuggets team. He has scored just five
points this month. In February, he averaged 5.9 points and 1.3
threes while shooting 46.7% from three.
- Leandro Bolmaro, Minnesota Timberwolves: He’s
having a strong season in the ACB for FC Barcelona, where he is
teammates with Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. His coach is Sarunas
Jasikevicius. Heck of a draft-and-stash.
- R.J. Hampton, Denver Nuggets: He was dealt to
Orlando as part of the Aaron Gordon trade, and let’s just say he
was winning a lot more in Denver. He is playing 23 minutes per
night with the Magic and has made one start. With the Magic, he's
averaging 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 23.0 minutes.
- Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks: He has
captured the imagination of Knicks fans, is fifth among rookies in
scoring (11.7) and leads all rookies in free throw percentage
(89.5%). He is also fifth among rookies in three-point percentage
- Payton Pritchard, Boston Celtics: He has been
much more productive than Nesmith. He has appeared in 57 of 63
games, is second among rookies in three-point percentage (41.6%,
trailing only Desmond Bane) and he has only missed four free throws
all season (in 41 attempts).
- Udoka Azubuike, Utah Jazz: He has appeared in
only 12 games and has a season-high of 4 points. Rudy Gobert is
sort of in his way.
- Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves: One
of the few people who can say “I beat the Jazz twice this season,”
McDaniels is 20th in scoring (6.8), 15th in rebounding (3.7), third
in blocks (0.96) and 10th in three-point percentage (36.6%) among
- Malachi Flynn, Toronto Raptors: One of the
league’s older rooks (22), he has been tutored by Kyle Lowry and
has seen his role increase significantly this month as the team
from Tampa plays out the string. He’s shooting over 40 percent on
threes in April, while taking a bunch of them.
- Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies: He leads all rookies in three-point percentage (45.5%), and he is 10th in scoring (9.1) and sixth in field goal percentage (47.1%). He averages 22 minutes for a team that has eight players averaging in double figures.
With the condensed schedule, limited practice time and COVID protocols, this season has not been easy for these rookies. Let’s hope their sophomore campaign isn’t as strange or difficult.