Risers in the 2020 NBA Draft
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
Earlier this month, I published my mock draft that predicted how the lottery would shake out in November. It's crazy how opinions on certain players can completely change in just a few weeks. All it takes is one report of an impressive interaction (e.g. the Warriors being "blown away" by Deni Avdija during his workout with the team). Let's take a look at a few prospects in this year's draft pool that have raised their stock.
Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
The idea of Williams going top-10 is becoming more and more plausible as November 18th approaches. Coming off his freshman season with the Seminoles, he is an agile wing whose scoring ability is still a work in progress. He only shot 45.9% from the field and 32% from 3-point range, but his free-throw percentage of 83.9 gives reason to believe his efficiency can improve in the pros.
Williams is an excellent perimeter defender, due in no small part to his 7-foot wingspan and chiseled frame. He should be able to make plays on D as soon as he arrives. The Knicks (picking at number 8) have been keeping an eye on Williams, and he should go to a team willing to realize his potential.
Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Olympiakos B
The youngest player in this year's draft class, Pokusevski won't turn 19 until December. The 7-foot center has a unique touch for his size and 3-point ability off the dribble and off screens. His passing and ball-handling skills are also elite for somebody his size, similar to his Serbian counterpart Nikola Jokić. It's a scary thought that you see a player that could have a Jokić-like game, just ask any center in the league.
However, Pokusevski is extremely skinny for his size at just 205 pounds, and his offensive skills are far from refined. If he wants to avoid becoming a minus on defense, he needs to fill out his frame to box out opponents and fight for rebounds. In his most recent season for Olympiakos B, he shot just 40.4% from the field, a measly percentage for somebody his height. Which brings up another point: what position will he play in the NBA? More and more teams are adopting a "positionless approach" (e.g. the Warriors' "Hampton Five"), but he might be an extreme case. Despite his physical and skill-based weaknesses, Pokusevski has tantalizing talent that could land him with a team as soon as the mid-to-late first round.
Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
Formerly a top prospect in high school, the 20-year-old McDaniels struggled to consistently make an impact in his one year at Washington. He utilizes his ball-handling and Durant-like side-to-side dribbles to make space for pull-up jumpers. Because he is comfortable taking midrange shots, he often shies away from driving to the rim and drawing contact. He's raw in terms of playmaking, totaling 35 more turnovers than assists.
Given his quickness and a 6-foot-10 frame, McDaniels should be an impactful defender at the professional level. A few mock drafts have predicted McDaniels going to the Thunder at pick number 25, which makes perfect sense given their affinity for long, athletic wings with raw talent and upside.
Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford
Terry is a fluid point guard who can change speeds quickly and get to the rim with a mixed bag of dribble moves. He averaged almost 15 points per game for Stanford in his freshman season and shot 40.8% from behind the arc. His free-throw percentage of 89.1 bodes well for the future, as he is already one of the draft class's purest shooters.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging pieces of recent news regarding Terry was a growth spurt. At the beginning of Stanford's season last year, Terry stood 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds. Now, he supposedly is 6-foot-3 in shoes and has put on 20 pounds of muscle. This should help his finishing through contact, a skill that many undersized guards tend to struggle with. Terry has boosted his stock from projected late-first to early-second round a few months ago to a potential late-lottery pick.
Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the 2019-20 NCAA basketball season, the redshirt junior Flynn led the Aztecs to a 30-2 record. Flynn demonstrated his ability on both ends of the floor, scoring 17.6 points per game along with 5.1 assists and averaging 1.8 steals. At 6-foot-1, he's a gritty floor general who will take any steps necessary to lead his team to a win. Flynn is shifty with the ball whose shooting strength mainly comes off the dribble. Similar to Kyle Lowry, he can change paces quickly on offense and overcome his average wingspan to disrupt passing lanes on defense.
When Flynn first declared for the draft in April, he was projected to go in the mid-to-late second round. Now, contenders like the Heat, Raptors, and Lakers could be looking for high-IQ guards to mentor. His knowledge of the game and indefatigable drive is simply too strong to pass up. Expect for someone to swoop on Flynn in the late-first to early-second round.