2020 Draft Position Preview: Bigs
Breaking Down the Big Men with Draft Day On the Way
Before being crushed by the injury bug last year, the Golden State Warriors were the most dominant team of the past decade, and they’re still young enough to pick up the pieces next year and beyond. But with all-world big man Anthony Davis alongside LeBron James in L.A., they now realize that it’ll take a quality big man to get past their in-state rivals and back to the mountaintop.
If they sit tight at No. 2 – and that’s a fluid if – they’ll have essentially their choice of bigs in this year’s highly-unpredictable NBA Draft.
The entire 2020 Class is difficult to assess because of how last season ended.
Players count on the NCAA Tournament to raise their stock. Just ask Dylan Windler, whose massive showing against Maryland (and one of today’s featured big men, Jalen Smith) might have elevated him into the First Round last year. Or imagine what Penny Hardaway’s Memphis team might have done with two of this list’s players – James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa – patrolling the paint.
Last season is in the past. All that matters now is who goes where, how that situation suits him and what he does with the opportunity. Joel Embiid was the 3rd overall pick in 2014; Nikola Jokic was the 41st.
Here’s a look at a quintet of big men projected to be off the board when the First Round wraps up next month – featuring a prep star who was limited to 70 minutes of college action, an explosive dunker who matriculated alongside the Ball brothers, a defensive-minded dude who’s not afraid of dirty work, a high-energy sophomore known for his specs and the nation’s most-highly decorated player who starred right here in the Buckeye State …
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA – 6-9, 235 – Born: September 19, 1999 – (Bronx, NY) – College: Memphis – came to Memphis (alongside James Wiseman) as five-star recruit from Florida – was named McDonald’s All-American and doubled-up at the Nike Hoop Summit; considered perhaps the most athletic player in the Draft; averaged a double-double – 15.8ppg, 10.8rpg – in single season at Memphis; 6-9, but with chiseled 235-pound frame and huge 7-2 wingspan and 9-0 standing reach; has all the tools to be an elite defender at pro level; solid shot blocker – should be able to spend time at center but is considered more of a big wing; very good ball-handler for his size; didn’t start playing basketball until 8th grade when parents moved to United States; excels in transition and on the offensive glass, but can also step out onto the perimeter – has a developing three-point shot; excellent motor – isn’t afraid of doing the dirty work; was named AAC Player of the Year.
ONYEKA OKONGWU – 6-9, 235 – Born: December 11, 2000 – (Chino Hills, CA) – College: USC – entered USC as a five-star recruit after starting as a freshman on undefeated Chino Hills team that featured three Ball brothers in the same lineup; first Trojan to register double-double in his freshman debut since Taj Gibson; 6-9, but with a 7-2 wingspan; posted tremendous single college season – averaged 16.2pgg, 8.6rpg and 2.7bpg – all-team-highs – and was named first team All-Pac-12 and to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team; athletic enough to switch onto smaller opponents, can alter shots on the perimeter; should be able to contribute immediately on the defensive end; doesn’t have a three-point shot – attempted just four on the season, hitting one; faced and played well against top competition – 23pts, 14reb, 6blk performance against Oregon and 27pts, 12-14FG, 12reb against Washington State; led Pac-12 with a .616 field goal percentage; his 2.7bpg was 2nd-best in the Pac-12, 17th-best in the country.
JALEN SMITH – 6-10, 215 – Born: March 16, 2000 – (Baltimore, MD) – College: Maryland – coming off two outstanding seasons at Maryland – finished sophomore year as a Naismith Award semifinalist, First Team All-Big Ten, All-Defensive Team and AP Third Team All-American; plays well against good competition – averaged 17ppg, 10rpg and 3bpg in last year’s NCAA Tourney; still improving – began to add three-pointer to his game in second year – has potential to develop into a good shooter and stretch the floor; fierce competitor; very good rebounder; great around basket, but needs to add lateral quickness outside the paint; solid free throw shooter – 75 percent as a sophomore; helped lead Terrapins to 2020 Big Ten title; doesn’t initiate much contact around the rim; started all 64 games in career at Maryland; decent size – 6-9, with 7-1 wingspan; good defensive instincts; averaged double-figure scoring in both seasons; needs to add lower body strength; has the numbers to back up his Draft standing – averaging 15.5ppg, 10.5rpg and 2.4bpg in the rugged Big 10 Conference.
OBI TOPPIN – 6-9, 220 – Born: March 4, 1998 – (Ossining, NY) – College: Dayton – the nation’s most decorated and recognizable player in truncated NCAA season; only player in the nation to average at least 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and shoot 60 percent from the floor; individual success directly impacted Dayton – finished season 29-2, undefeated in the conference and ranked No. 3, the school’s highest ranking since 1955-56; seen as a late-bloomer; trying to be the first Flyer picked in the first round since Jim Paxson back in 1979; just average wingspan; shot 42 percent from long-range over both seasons at UD; energetic, team leader, great personality; older prospect – will turn 23 before completion of his rookie season; led the NCAA in dunks with a school-record 107; solid passer – averaged 2.2apg as sophomore; extremely efficient on the offensive end – averaging 20ppg on just 12.5APG, shot 63 percent from the floor, 39 percent from deep and 70 percent from the stripe overall.
JAMES WISEMAN – 7-1, 235 – Born: March 31, 2001 – (Nashville, TN) – College: Memphis – came to Memphis as arguably the country’s top recruit, was named prep Gatorade National Player of the Year after earning spots in the McDonald’s All-American, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit and was named preseason AP All-American; ideal size – 7-1, 240 with a 7-6 wingspan and 9-6 standing reach; projects as an elite shot-blocker at the next level; outstanding in transition, end-to-end; committed just three turnovers; does his best work in and around the paint – took just 26 shots in three-game run at Memphis and 18 were dunks and layups; magnet for contact around the rim; excellent athlete, explosive leaper with great basketball instincts; put up great numbers in short college stay -- averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 boards and 3.0 blocks per, shooting 77 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the stripe, but it was a small sample against weak competition.