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NBA

NBA Draft 2020: What previous drafts can tell us about this year's class

Now that the season is over for eight of the 30 teams, many organizations will shift their focus to the 2020 NBA Draft.

Some teams are looking for franchise-altering stars while some are looking to fill in the gaps by addressing specific team needs. Regardless, teams routinely study previous drafts as there are a wealth of lessons to be learned as the margin between boom or bust can at times be razor thin.

Which type of players have the best chance of shining at the next level? Which might struggle in the transition to the pros?

Analysing the top-10 players selected in the eight drafts between 2010 and 2017, we broke down the skill sets and characteristics that set these players apart, relative to current NBA-player comparisons. Why 2010 to 2017?

The game has rapidly evolved to the point where the relative value of different skillsets has dramatically shifted away from years prior to 2010. And we left out 2018 and 2019 as it's still too early to tell for many of them, even if there are some obvious success stories such as Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson.

It's worth noting, that from the 80 players studied, we're basing our comparisons on how they were perceived at the time of the draft. Is Anthony Davis far more than merely a defensive specialist? Of course! But coming out of Kentucky, Davis was widely viewed first and foremost as a defensive game-changer even if there were signs of eventually developing into a two-way star.

Off we go!

Shooters

Our first group of players to break down is the shooters, an essential part of today's game and the one area that's become more important over the years above all else. Let's take a look at the names of the players who were drafted primarily for their abilities beyond the arc, separated into three groups. Those who have exceeded expectations or lived up to the hype (green light), those who have become solid role players (yellow light) and those now considered busts.

  • Green Light: Jamal Murray, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Buddy Hield, Gordon Hayward.
  • Yellow Light: Terrence Ross.
  • Red Light: Jimmer Fredette, Nik Stauskas.

Conclusion: Giving 100% to the first group, 50% to the second and 0% to the third, we reached an excellent 72% success rate for the nine shooters drafted in the top 10 between 2010 and 2017. Of the nine, only Fredette and Stauskas failed to establish themselves in the league, while two-thirds of them became All-Stars or solid role players. The outside shot is something that carries over very well from the NCAA to the NBA.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: Among the projected players for the Lottery, the player that stands out is Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith, who shot 52% from three through the 14 games he played in 2019-2020.

Playmakers

We've grouped the players best known for their passing ability and offensive involvement, with only have three examples among the 80 cases.

  • Green Light: Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball
  • Yellow Light:
  • Red Light: Evan Turner

Conclusion: Sample size! Insert giant shrug emoji. Beyond 67% accuracy, it is difficult to draw a conclusion with so few cases available, however, the 2020 Draft class features a couple of players that fit the mold. Even Turner, grouped here into our red light category, managed to score a hefty second contract.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: Two of the names projected in the top 10, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton clearly meet the criteria. Simmons and Lonzo Ball's background (especially considering LaMelo is his brother and Haliburton has a very similar game) is interesting, but again, the sample size is very small.

Two-way players

The third group features guards or forwards who entered the league with both offensive and defensive value. Below are 15 names that fit the mold.

  • Green Light: Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo, Paul George.
  • Yellow Light: Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Wiggins.
  • Red Light: Mario Hezonja, Stanley Johnson, Ben McLemore, Wesley Johnson.

Conclusion: In this case, the hit percentage is a positive 53%, indicating that two-way players are more valued once they reach the NBA. Of the 15, only four players have failed to live up to expectations, although McLemore appears to have found a home in Houston. Additionally, six of the 15 have transformed into All-Stars or key players like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: Anthony Edwards and Devin Vassell are the two main players best positioned to succeed in the NBA.

Interior players

For this category, we've grouped players recognised for their physical presence and dominance in the paint, including players like Enes Kanter or Julius Randle, who although not particularly tall, do the bulk of their damage around the rim.

  • Green Light: Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarcus Cousins
  • Yellow Light: Julius Randle, Jakob Poeltl, Enes Kanter
  • Red Light: Jahlil Okafor, Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Thomas Robinson, Greg Monroe

Conclusion: This is one of the most divided groups, with a 46% success rate and without too much of a midpoint: only three of the 12 can be considered role players, while four are stars and six struggled to make the impact many predicted around the draft.

The three who became All-Stars (Towns, Embiid, Cousins) are the only three who added a solid perimeter repertoire to their interior presence.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: Vernon Carey is the most similar to this class of players, but the Duke center will have to improve his outside shots (he connected on 9 triples in 31 games at Duke) if he's to go on to achieve similar success as the likes of Towns and Embiid.

Defensive specialists

This group is headlined by Anthony Davis, who was evolved into much more than just a defensive player in the NBA and is arguably the best big man in the game. However in college, he stood out mainly for his ubiquitous presence on D and his unparalled versatility.

  • Green Light: Anthony Davis, Justise Winslow
  • Yellow Light: Jonathan Isaac, Zach Collins, Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Red Light: Frank Ntilikina, Kris Dunn, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ekpe Udoh

Conclusion: The success rate is a mediocre 39% and only Davis has established himself as an All-Star, among the nine cases studied. Defense does not seem to be the most valued on arrival in the NBA, especially among the guards (Ntilikina, Dunn). Almost half, four out of nine, can be considered busts until today. Isaac in particular showed immense progress this season which hints at the reality that many players who fit into this mould require patience and opportunity.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: The two clear front-runners on the defensive end among lottery projections are Isaac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu.

NBA teams must assess whether they see potential to expand the rest of their games (see Davis and Winslow), while a commitment to defence will get you on the court in the NBA, the ability to knock down shots in the flow of the offence will keep you there.

One-on-one specialists

In this case we group the players not only with good shooting ability, but above all great scorers in one-on-one situations. Again, we're looking at players' scouting reports at the time of their respective drafts, not necessarily their current status in the league.

  • Green Light: Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, D'Angelo Russell
  • Yellow Light: -
  • Red Light: Markelle Fultz, Trey Burke, Dion Waiters, Jabari Parker, Austin Rivers

Conclusion: With a hit rate of 37%, it is clear that transferring that one against a university to the NBA is complicated. Of the eight, only Kyrie, Kemba, and Russell have become stars. Rivers, Parker, Fultz, Burke and Waiters, for different reasons, have not lived up to the expectations that had been placed on them though Rivers has grown into a serviceable role player on a contender. Especially if we remember that Fultz was the first pick of the Draft, that Waiters was compared to Wade and Jabari with Carmelo ... well, you get the idea. These are often high risk, high reward types of prospects.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: This year's class has minimal players that fit the mould among the projected lottery picks. The closest player is North Carolina's Cole Anthony, who draws plenty of comparisons with Kemba Walker, while French sensation Killian Hayes could well be the next James Harden.

The Athletes

Now we move onto the high-flying players who attracted the attention of scouts with their speed, leaping ability and explosiveness.

  • Green Light: Aaron Gordon, De'Aaron Fox, John Wall
  • Yellow Light: Tristan Thompson, Derrick Favors
  • Red Light: Marquese Chriss, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Dennis Smith Jr., Emmanuel Mudiay, Elfrid Payton, Brandon Knight, Dante Exum

Conclusion: This is the second group of players with a lower percentage of success: only 25% and 10 of the 16 can be considered busts or players who would not be starters in an average team. The numbers are very negative mainly between the bigs, with Thompson and Favors as the only ones to earn a place as regular starters during their careers.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: James Wiseman and Obi Toppin lead the charge, projected by many as two of the top candidates that could be drafted in the top 3. Had we considered the last two drafts, the likes of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant would be on the list.

Stretch bigs

The final group is the stretch bigs, known for their ability to space the floor and shoot from beyond the arc. We've included the likes of Anthony Bennett and Derrick Williams who showed promise in the NCAA, as well as Thon Maker who many believe, can still develop into a solid stretch big in the NBA.

  • Green Light: Kristaps Porzingis
  • Yellow Light: Lauri Markkanen
  • Red Light: Dragan Bender, Thon Maker, Frank Kaminsky, Noah Vonleh, Anthony Bennett, Derrick Williams.

Conclusion: Clearly we are in the presence of the group with the worst percentage of success of all: only 19%. Which is curious, considering how well it went for the group of outside shooters and big men who added a perimeter game to their arsenal.

However, when the only thing you have is the combination of height and shooting, without too many other weapons, the results aren't great, with six busts among the eight cases. Ever since Dirk Nowitki rose to prominence teams have searched high and low for Dirk 2.0.

What does it mean for the 2020 Draft?: Serbian Aleksej Pokusevski is the clear cut player likely to follow the blueprint of a Porzingis, with the Aleksej Pokusevski forward on the bubble. of the lottery.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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