Pretty interesting content on ESPN+
2020 NBA draft: How the best prospects compare to playoff stars
With the playoffs in full swing in Orlando, Florida, scouts and executives have been preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft with a close eye on what has and hasn't been working in the bubble.
Sure, circumstances are far from normal -- there are plenty of players in playoff rotations who in a more traditional season wouldn't be stepping on the hardwood. But intentionally or not, the playoff success of some young players can have an impact on how front offices view certain prospects in the 2020 draft class.
With that in mind, here are 12 draft prospects who have NBA archetypes that have thrived in the Orlando bubble, and how they compare to those NBA stars.
MORE: 2020 NBA Draft big board
SG | Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Although the Utah Jazz couldn't squeeze past the Nuggets, Mitchell proved himself as one of the league's best young guards, averaging 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 54% shooting from 2 and 52% from 3 in seven games. Along with the struggles of the Milwaukee Bucks, Mitchell's success is a great reminder of just how important it is to have a dynamic shot-creator in the backcourt. When the game slows down in the playoffs, there's great value in handing the ball to a guard who can make pull-up 3s, punish teams in midrange spots, put pressure on the rim or beat a switch from the perimeter.
While they've had extremely different development paths, potential No. 1 pick Edwards could eventually step into a similar role. Like Mitchell, Edwards can stop on a dime and rise up from NBA range out of a variety of different dribble moves, even if he's still quite streaky from 3. He also has the strength, handle and shiftiness at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds to break down set defenses and either put bigs on posters or get to the free throw line. Edwards also holds some untapped playmaking potential, even if he's wired to score.
Mitchell was an ultra-competitive, energy defender early on in his high school years, though a bit wild at times offensively. He has always been praised for his approach to the game and professionalism. Edwards, on the other hand, faces question marks about his winning impact and defensive intensity. But as far as talent is concerned, Edwards should be studying Mitchell closely because he has the ingredients to shine in that type of role someday.
Tyler Herro, Jamal Murray
SG | Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Both Herro and Murray were labeled "shooters" or "shotmakers" coming out of Kentucky. Somewhat like Devin Booker before them, they found success sprinting off screens, spacing to the corners, playing out of handoffs and occasionally making something happen in pick-and-roll. It's not a fault of Coach Cal's, this is how Kentucky teams overloaded with talent win games -- keep it simple for each prospect.
To varying degrees, Herro and Murray are great examples of why it's important to see Kentucky prospects in a variety of settings to evaluate the full package. We saw Herro play more on-ball at the prep level and at USA Basketball camps, so it was realistic to project him as an eventual pick-and-roll player. Murray shouldered more on-ball duties with the Canadian National Team, and you could envision a trajectory where he evolved into a capable facilitator.
Maxey wasn't nearly as prolific or efficient a college player and stands only 6-foot-3. His critics have called him a "small two-guard" when in fact he has a fairly similar set of strengths and weaknesses as two Kentucky guards before him. Maxey also plays much bigger than his height with long arms, broad stride and a physical frame. He has range well-beyond the NBA 3-point line, is comfortable shooting off movement, can rise up in mid-range spots, has great touch and craft around the rim and is a comfortable quick-action passer. And like Herro, Maxey is a scrappy defender who plays with excellent energy. Being able to play off of a passing big like Nikola Jokic and Bam Adebayo will be important to Maxey's early success, but Herro and Murray have proven that scouts should be careful when setting limits for Kentucky guards.
Luguentz Dort, Jaylen Brown
SF | Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Watching Lu Dort make James Harden work for every shot over the course of a grueling seven-game series has to make NBA scouts feel very comfortable with Isaac Okoro's floor. Dort, who spent the majority of his freshman year in the first round of our 2019 mock draft, somehow went undrafted. But it was always clear that at the very least Dort was an NBA-caliber defender who could add value on that half of the floor in a playoff game.
But for as much as we liked Dort during his prep career and at Arizona State, Okoro is even bigger (6-foot-6), longer (6-foot-10 wingspan) and just as physical at around 225 pounds, with more offensive skill as a ball-handler and passer. Jaylen Brown's success putting the clamps on Pascal Siakam while continuing to evolve on the offensive end should also bode well for Okoro, who has similar dimensions to his fellow Georgia native. Okoro has clear areas to improve, but like Dort and Brown early in their careers, his baseline as a defender, slasher and occasional spot-up shooter is extremely useful come playoff time, which teams should weigh heavily come draft night. Dort's defensive value also figures to help a stout perimeter defender like Arizona's Josh Green.
PF | Jordan Nwora, Louisville
While even Robinson didn't expect to be a key starter for one of the NBA's hottest teams, he has certainly brought more attention to 6-foot-8 wings who can shoot off movement like he can. There might not be another prospect exactly like Robinson in this draft. After all, starting 76 of 81 games and shooting 66% from 2, 44% from 3 and 91% from the free throw line is a lot to ask of a second-year player.
But Robinson's breakout season could cause scouts to view a prospect such as Nwora through a different lens, focusing more on his size and elite skill than what he can't do. Nwora has his shortcomings as a defender and passer, and he'll surely have an adjustment going from Louisville's go-to scorer in back-to-back seasons to a more floor-spacing role in the NBA with less offensive freedom. But so long as he can rev up his defensive motor and continue learning to read the game out of quick actions like Robinson has, Nwora could look to emulate a similar path -- there aren't many players with his size and shooting stroke in this draft.
The 21-year-old has a strong collegiate and Nigerian National Team resume and shot 39% from 3 on 450 NCAA attempts, with several of those coming on the move off screens, out of handoffs or off the dribble.
C | Onyeka Okongwu, USC
PF | Precious Achiuwa, Memphis
Bam Adebayo's emergence has helped make what scouts used to call "undersized centers" more valuable than ever. While you'll still see jumbo front lines from teams like the Bucks and Lakers, the 6-foot-10 big man has proven just how devastating a 1-through-5 defender who handles and passes truly is, so much so that the Bucks are on the ropes in Orlando.
With that said, Okongwu and Achiuwa are not carbon copies of Adebayo. While he handles it well for his size and can guard all five spots in a pinch, the 6-foot-9 Achiuwa is still very much evolving as a passer. Okongwu has Bam-like bounce and defensive versatility (although Okongwu is better around the rim than on the perimeter) but he's not quite the ball handler that Adebayo was prior to the NBA. Even though they're not identical, there are absolutely some similarities between the three -- and Miami's success with Adebayo should help pave the way for players like Okongwu and Achiuwa.
SF | Patrick Williams, Florida State
SF | Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State
Although Toronto stumbled out of the gates against Boston, 23-year-old Anunoby has proven just how valuable it is to have a 6-foot-8, 230-pound wing who can play either forward spot, defend multiple positions and make open 3s. Anunoby's game has never been flashy, and some scouts questioned his feel and skill level coming out of college -- part of the reason he fell to the Raptors at 23, in addition to an ACL tear at Indiana. But the Raptors wouldn't be where they are without his defense, floor spacing and presence on the glass.
Anunoby's proven value opens the door for Florida State forward Patrick Williams, who is built a lot like the Raptors wing at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds with tree-trunk thighs and a 7-foot wingspan. Williams, the second youngest player in the draft, is viewed as a potential top-10 pick because he can fill the coveted 3-and-D combo forward role like Anunoby. He actually struggled some to contain the ball on the perimeter at Florida State and has room to grow as a 3-point shooter (32% on low volume), but Williams has the body to bang with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard-type big wings in the mid-post and some untapped potential as a ball-handler and passer.
Although not quite as tall, 6-foot-7, 230-pound combo forward Robert Woodard out of Mississippi State also fits that mold. Like Anunoby, his game isn't sexy and he's not quite as quick-footed, but the tools are similar -- the shooting potential is there. He could end up as a late first-round steal. In terms of second-round names, Penn State's Lamar Stevens should also benefit from Anunoby's emergence.
Michael Porter Jr., Darius Bazley
PF | Jaden McDaniels, Washington
Although he has taken a bit of a backseat since the playoffs tipped off, Porter Jr.'s bubble success could make scouts think long and hard about passing on a 6-foot-10 wing like McDaniels. While McDaniels was never the same level of prep star that Porter Jr. was, the rangy Seattle native did spend time near the top of our 2020 mock draft prior to his freshman season at Washington for a reason. Fluid, jumbo wings who can handle, shoot off the catch and show glimpses of defensive ability aren't easy to find -- and McDaniels fits that prototype.
Opponents have exposed Porter Jr.'s defensive shortcomings in the playoffs and McDaniels himself has flaws, he's still learning how to impact winning consistently. But I'd expect Porter Jr.'s bubble success -- and even the play of 6-foot-9 OKC wing Bazley -- to make McDaniels attractive to a team with a strong infrastructure and that can be patient like Denver has been. In a draft that doesn't have a ton of high upside prospects outside the top three, McDaniels has the tools to pop, unlike others in his draft range.
PF | Aleksej Pokusevski, Serbia
The Bol Bol experience was fairly short-lived, but watching the 7-foot-2 unicorn run around making on-the-move 3s, firing one-handed outlets into tight windows and rotating to block shots should make a prospect like Aleksej Pokusevski harder to pass on. Like with most of these comparisons, the parallels aren't identical. Pokusveski projects more as a jumbo 4/5 with wing-like agility, but like Bol was, he's quite polarizing. The youngest player in the draft, the 7-foot-1 Pokusevski can sprint off screens, pull up off the bounce, handle and pass like Jokic in transition, and protect the rim, as he posted historic shot blocking marks at the FIBA level for Serbia.
Although it's a very low level of play in the Greek second league, Pokusevski's statistical profile is unique, with per 40-minute averages of 18.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.1 blocks, 2.2 steals and 2.7 made 3s at a 33% clip. However, Pokusevski has battled motor and durability issues throughout his career, like Bol, and made it through only 11 low-level games this season. As we questioned with the former Oregon Duck, it's unclear if Pokusevski can make it through rigorous 82-game seasons or if he'll be best as a change-of-pace big who can give coaches a different wrinkle to work with. As was the case with Bol, throw on a highlight reel and you could make a case for Pokusevski having as much upside as anyone in the draft.
C | Xavier Tillman, Michigan State
Although he's far from a box score standout, 21-year-old Grant Williams has made it increasingly harder for Brad Stevens to keep him off the floor given his toughness, basketball IQ and affinity for winning plays. While Williams is a better perimeter shooter at the same stage, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and potential first-round sleeper Tillman brings a lot of the same energy and toughness to the table.
Similarly undersized for a 4/5 at around 6-foot-8, teams might have the urge to nitpick Tillman like they did Williams. But as Tillman told us during our film session, "I'm a winner. I don't lose a lot of games ... I do whatever it takes to win." He's a physical post defender, battles for rebounds on both ends of the floor, is an excellent passer and is a capable rim protector in a pinch. While there are certainly prospects with more traditional upside than Tillman, he's ready to step into a playoff game tomorrow and have an impact, which scouts are surely taking note of with Williams' growing role.
Although not the same level of passer, the more highly touted Isaiah Stewart is a physical, ultra-productive big who could also benefit from Williams' play. Stewart has the type of spirit, length, mentality and shooting potential to help an NBA playoff team right away.
Gary Trent Jr.
SF | Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt
Watching Trent Jr. knock down big 3 after big 3 while also trying his best to contain LeBron on the other end will have teams thinking more and more about drafting 6-foot-6 long-range shooters with the body to defend elite wings. Despite putting up huge numbers at the prep level and with Team USA as a young teen, Trent Jr. fell to 37 in the 2018 draft in part because of his shot-hungry style and inconsistent defense at Duke. But Trent Jr. is a great example of just how important having that confidence is -- even if sometimes irrational -- for a 3-and-D-style wing.
Although a potential lottery pick, Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith faces similar questions about his defense and affinity to hunt shots. But, like Trent Jr., Nesmith has an absolute flame-thrower ability, stands 6-foot-6 with a great frame and a 6-foot-10 wingspan, and is fairly competitive, even if he wasn't the defender he could have been at the collegiate level. Trent Jr.'s emergence should also trickle down deeper on the draft board as well, helping names like physical 6-foot-6 shotmakers Desmond Bane (TCU) and Elijah Huhges (Syracuse).
MORE: Latest 2020 NBA mock draft