For the first time this century, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is holding its draft in November, a few months removed from the usual June date. Besides its unusual timing and the fact that it will take place over video conference, this year’s draft seems to be a question mark for many teams.
There seems to be a paradox in that teams have had over a year to scout talent, while at the same time teams have not been able to see prospects play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament, the stage where players can make their case for being a first-round pick.
I speculate that the lack of star power in this draft compared to the past four years is why many teams feel like it is time to pull off the figurative band-aid and get this draft over with. That is not to say that every lottery pick will turn out to be a bust. More so that this draft could be like the 2013 NBA draft where the best player in five years could be a mid-first rounder.
So as difficult as this draft is to evaluate, I will pick four players who I think will be able to make the most impact in their respective first season, whether that means being in the rotation for a playoff team or perhaps Rookie of the Year (ROY). To make these predictions harder on myself, I will limit myself to choosing only two players who are projected to be chosen within the top 14.
Obi Toppin, University of Dayton
Projected to go in the lottery, this past year’s Consensus Player of the Year is the safest pick in the draft. In Toppin’s senior year at Dayton, he averaged 20 points and snagged 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting a ridiculous 63.3% from the field.
Toppin has been in the spotlight before, as he showed he could keep up with pros in pickup games since he was a redshirt freshman. Although pickup basketball isn’t necessarily the strongest indicator of NBA success, Toppin’s ability to play above the rim and knock down an open perimeter shot makes him a safe pick at the very least.
In fact, I would not be surprised if Toppin wins ROY.
Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State University
Yes, you read right. I am not using my second lottery pick on LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards and not for bad reason.
As a sophomore, Haliburton averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 assists per game on 50.4% from the field, 41.9% from downtown and 82.2% from the charity stripe. What stands out to me is how Haliburton nearly doubled his points, rebounds and assists from his freshman year yet retained his efficiency.
While it would be folly to expect the same exact production in the NBA, Haliburton has a high basketball I.Q. and an unorthodox but accurate shot that should make him a starter for whichever team picks him.
Desmond Bane, Texas Christian University
Likely to be drafted from the number 15-25 range, Bane’s primary asset is that he can shoot the leather off the ball. He shot 44.2% on 6.5 attempts per game last year, good enough for top seven in three-point field goal percentage in the nation.
Being a floor spacer is incredibly valuable in today’s NBA. If Bane can translate his shooting ability into the next level, he would find himself on the court for any team despite his limitations defensively and around the rim.
My Philadelphia 76ers have the 21st pick this year, and I know I’d be ecstatic to have Bane.
Tyler Bey, University of Colorado Boulder
Reigning Pacific-12 Defensive Player of the Year Bey is an intriguing prospect. He stands at 6 foot 7 and has an impressive wingspan of 7 foot 1. At the draft combine, Bey broke the vertical jump record by jumping 43.5 inches.
Bey’s offensive numbers may not be of anything to note, but his efficiency is undeniable. He shot 53% from the field and a respectable 74.3% from the free-throw line in his last season as a Buffalo.
Already equipped with the physical tools, Bey could be a defensive stopper as soon as he comes into the league.