Every year, you can find about 4 busts and 4 booms among the 14 lottery picks in the NBA Draft. Who will it be this year? Read on for The VideoScope’s predictions!
Last season was kinda easy to predict, with Zion Williamson and Ja Morant as guaranteed booms at the top, but this year’s draft is much harder to predict. Not only is there not a single guaranteed All-Star at the top of this draft, but most prospects have a lot of things to both like and dislike about them.
All three projected top 3 picks could end up either as booms or busts, with some elite characteristics, but also major holes in their games. LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman both have the necessary ingredients to at least survive a long time in the NBA, but I was much more unsure about Anthony Edwards, who could go either way. So let’s continue this boom/bust tradition by talking about him:
Anthony Edwards, SG/SF, Georgia (Boom)
This guy will be either a boom or a bust, almost guaranteed. As he’s the guy with possibly the highest upside in the draft, I’m gonna be optimistic and put faith in Edwards and pick boom.
If everything breaks right, Edwards has the talent and skill to be a multiple time All-Star with his elite physical frame, ability to create his own shot and high defensive upside. At his best he can score at all three levels and lock down his man defensively, and at that point, what more do you want?
Well, there is a world where Edwards busts. The fear is that he falls in love with his own jump shots like Dion Waiters and looks as clueless as Andrew Wiggins at times defensively, despite his great tools. He could easily become a guy with good stats on a bad team. Hell, that’s what he’s been so far in his career.
But maybe that’s just because he’s been on bad teams? It’s much tougher to play hard on defense if you don’t have faith in your teammates getting a stop and it’s easy to become a selfish chucker if that’s actually your team’s best way of scoring. If he lands in the right situation, he could very well defer to equally talented teammates on offense, while his defensive tools wouldn’t go to waste playing in a good defensive team.
Playing with better teammates could also open up more of his playmaking potential that he flashed at times with Georgia. He wouldn’t have to constantly look for his own shot and could become a much more efficient player by taking advantage of the times he’s left more open than he’s ever been in his career.
Anthony Edwards’ biggest enemy is himself, but in the right situation he could easily become the best player in this draft.
Deni Avdija, SF, Israel (Bust)
Luka Dončić is the hottest thing in the NBA right now, so naturally teams are trying to find the new hot prospect from overseas. Luka Legend was grossly overlooked in the 2018 draft when the Dallas Mavericks were able to manuever up from their 5th pick to select Dončić at #3.
Well, Deni Avdija is most likely available in that same draft range, as the most hyped prospect from the Euroleague in this year’s draft. But despite being a big playmaker with experience at the highest level in Europe, Avdija is nowhere near the talent Euroleague MVP Dončić was.
As a 6’9″ playmaker who can handle the ball, make smart passes, mostly go for layups and 3’s and stray far away from the “soft Euro” stereotype, there is actually plenty to like about Avdija, but he has some serious flaws that I just can’t look away from.
First and foremost, his shooting, exemplified by his horrible free throw percentage. 56% on 363 free throw attempts since 2017 is a good indicator that he’ll never become even a competent shooter. Free throw percentage is the best indicator for shooting ability and seeing as Avdija only made 27% of his 3 point shots for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague last season, he’ll always be a liability offensively. Especially when you consider the fact that his left hand is pretty useless too.
While he’s been a good team defender in Israel, he also has issues on that end of the court that will be hard to mask when he joins the upper echelon of basketball in the NBA. His lateral quickness defensively is lackluster and he’s simply not long enough to be a rim protector either. It’s hard to see who he’s gonna guard in the switch-heavy NBA and opposing teams will look to target him often too. A pitiful steal rate of less than half a steal a game is also a cause of concern.
Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton (Boom)
Time for some excitement again and there are not many more exciting players than Obediah “Obi” Toppin. Just check out his highlights:
As a super athletic, windmill-dunking power forward, Toppin has rightly been compared to the likes of Blake Griffin and Amare Stoudemire. While he’s not on Griffin’s level as a playmaker, Toppin has shown off some nifty passing and has shown promising range as a shooter, draining 43 of 103 shots from behind the arc in college. Shooting over 70% from the free throw line as well, Toppin could be a super versatile stretch four on offence and step right into a starting five in the NBA.
However, like Stoudamire, the question marks around Toppin is on the defensive end. Lacking great awareness and being top heavy, Toppin struggles to keep his man in front of him and will likely be a minus on defense for at least the start of his career.
Despite his defensively struggles, Toppin seems to have a good head on his shoulders and is brimming with confidence after being the best player in college last season. He’ll be a force offensively and has rim protection potential defensively as well. If anything he’ll be a good choice for the slam dunk contest.
Isaac Okoro, SG/SF, Auburn (Bust)
Now defense won’t be a problem for Isaac Okoro, who looks set to excel on that end, even in the NBA, but for a projected top 10 pick, that’s not enough.
Sure, offensively he’s a decent finisher who can handle the ball pretty well, but his clunky shooting and lack of a quick burst with the ball in his hands will make it hard for him on the offensive end.
Okoro will still play in the league for a long time and be a defensive stopper, but he’ll struggle for playing time early on while still adjusting to the higher level of play in the NBA. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tom Thibodeau salivating at the thought of drafting him in his first year for the Knicks, just like he did with Kris Dunn in his first year with the Timberwolves.
Dunn was also a good defender pretty quickly, but he still didn’t survive long in Minnesota before being traded to the Bulls, who now decided not to give Dunn his qualifying offer. Okoro could be a SG version of Dunn, who will constantly find himself being a defensive stopper on new teams.
Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State (Boom)
The analytics darling of this draft is also probably my safest pick to be a boom in this draft too. What Haliburton lacks in quickness and athleticism, he makes up for with everything else.
A long point guard with great command of the pick & roll, Haliburton can be a really effective player on both ends of the court. He can step in as a complimentary player for any team in the league straight away. Despite a funky looking shot he eclipsed 40% from 3 in both of his seasons in college, shooting over 80% from the free throw line this past season too.
2.5 steals per game is also a fantastic indicator of what a long pest Haliburton could be on the defensive end, with size that makes him able to guard most shooting guards and some forwards as well.
Even with all these attributes, Haliburton’s maturity on the court and his passing might be his best quality. By constantly switching speeds and excuding perfect timing, the whole court is opened up for Haliburton. No need for speed to get separation when opposing players need to defend passing lanes, while still accounting for Haliburton’s far beyond NBA range 3 point shooting. He’s not gonna be a bonafide superstar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Haliburton ends up as the starting point guard for a championship team some day.
Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC (Bust)
It’s not that Onyeka Okongwu won’t be productive, he’s far too active and versatile on the defensive end to not be able to contribute. That said, for anyone who is trying to compare him to Bam Adebayo, they are pretty wide off the mark, at least in terms of offense.
Adebayo was drafted at #14, while Okongwu might go as high as #3 to Charlotte. That should tell you something about the lack of bigs in this draft, as Okongwu is far too limited a player to be a top 3 pick. He doesn’t have nearly the same playmaking ability as Adebayo that made the Miami Heat big man into one of the NBAs most popular bigs this past year.
On defense there are more similarities, but defensive bigs are never a sure thing. From Nerlens Noel to Willie Cauley-Stein and Noah Vonleh, potential on defense is not always realized when players arrive in the NBA. Okongwu will scrap for rebounds and get some easy buckets on the highest level, but those sort of guys are usually more likely to go in the latter half of the first round, not near the top of the board. For that, Onyeka Okongwu could turn out to be a disappointment.
Killian Hayes, PG/SG, France (Boom)
Killian Hayes might have the best combination of ball handling, shooting and passing in this draft and that makes him super intriguing. This 18 year old French combo guard also shows promise on the defensive end and has excellent length, especially as a point guard, with a 6’8″ wingspan.
What Hayes lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with a herky jerky set of skill moves that can give him the separation he needs to get his shot off. Despite shooting 29.4% from 3, Hayes shows promise as a shooter with good mechanics, a soft touch on runners and floaters and a free throw percentage of 87.6%. Those are all strong indicators that this lefty combo guard can figure it out, just like Luka Dončić did with similar numbers in Europe in terms of shooting.
Hayes has drawn comparisons to both James Harden and Manu Ginobili, so should he fall to #11 and land with the San Antonio Spurs, just watch out. For those in San Antonio who yearns back to the days of Tony Parker and Manu, this french left could easily develop into a fantastic combo guard with smartness and defensive prowess like the very best Spurs players tend to have.
Patrick Williams, SF/PF, Florida State (Bust)
Patrick Williams is one of the players with the potential to become the best player in this draft, as a 6’8″ forward with almost a 7′ wingspan, but after a year coming off the bench for Florida State, he hasn’t showed me enough to prove that he might live up to that potential. Athletic tweener forwards who seemingly could learn to do it all, are usually prospects I am weary of when analyzing draft picks.
I theory he could become a switchable defender, guarding positions 1-4, but his slow lateral quickness and poor footwork meant that quicker players regularly blew by him. He has good numbers from the free throw line, but his slow shot release and poor 3PT% makes me question if he manages to get his shot off in the NBA against longer and more athletic players. He at times shows great vision and some nice passes, but still ended up with almost twice as many turnovers as he did assists in college.
Williams is still young and is far from a finished product and he does seem like a great kid, but he probably could’ve used another year with Florida State to improve in a safe environment. However, with the uncertainty around the college basketball season and his sudden rise on draft boards and mock drafts (going as high as #4), you can’t really blame him for trying his luck in the NBA.
Hopefully he gets the time to develop at his own tempo and lands with a team that allows him to work through his faults for the first few years. This high up in the draft though, going to that type of team seems less likely.