By Max Feldman
Year after year draftees become younger and younger. The trend makes the job of scouts and evaluators much more difficult as they are tasked with deciphering those who have untapped potential from those are capped out. Many of the top prospects have mass potential and extremely optimistic futures but do not necessarily fall in the category of untapped potential as they have already displayed, or tapped into, what they might be long term. An example prior to give a sense of what is to come will be Anthony Edwards. Edwards has all the signs of being a potential All-Star and 20+ point scorer down the line after a strong high school career and 19 points per game under Tom Crean and Georgia. While Edwards does have areas to improve, he already has largely displayed what his potential will be at his peak. FOG Knows First, and this will dive into the 2020 NBA prospects who’s full potential has not been tapped into yet and show you what it might be. The list is in order of how I scale out what they could be down the line assuming there is consistent growth, physical development and an ideal team fit.
1. James wiseman
19.1 years old, 7-1 and 237 pounds
Wiseman is at the top of the list by a large distance as limited exposure this season against low level competition and one game against Oregon where he impressed while on court but struggled with foul trouble caused him to slide down many boards. Wiseman will never drop below the 4 spot for FOG because of his oozing potential. This is just a hint at a future article dropping soon, but for one of, if not the best overall athlete in the entire draft to have a 7-1 frame and nearly 240 pounds at this stage of his career, it can not be an argument that Wiseman has sky high developmental potential. The widely viewed downfall is Wiseman’s IQ, specifically as a P&R defender. To me, that idea is hollow and not of any value, as most true freshman struggle in their first few collegiate games in terms of reads and digesting the new speed of the game. I am not in the boat saying Wiseman has elite deep range potential as a floor spacing big man, but I do see progression in the mid-range similar to LaMarcus Aldridge at a young age. A fueled motor and refined P&R mentality on both ends are necessary, but outside of LaMelo Ball, Wiseman would be my second favorite bet to be the best player in terms of top end ceiling in the entire draft.
2. Jaden Mcdaniels
19.6 years old, 6-10 and 200 pounds
Cases like McDaniels seem to roll around every draft process these days. A prototypical “unicorn” type of guard skillset on a 6-10 frame that we’ve seen with Brandon Ingram, Michael Porter Jr, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Jon Isaac and countless others in recent years. In draws so much attention year after year due to the mismatch potential if a strong handle and jumper can be developed. I am higher on McDaniels than most, as I do believe the Mike Hopkins system might not have created the spacing and tempo in which he would thrive. Similar to the previously mentioned players, McDaniels will take time, probably more than most will hope but as high on him as I am, I do think he needs it. He has incredible fluidity on his pull ups and strong finishes at the rim using his wiry arms. Physical development, sharpening up his handle and learning from NBA veterans will serve as catalysts for McDaniels to find that potential. McDaniels has a more difficult road than many others on this list, but I do feel that if he does grasp that potential and wind up near his ceiling, it is certainly higher than most in the field.
3. PATRICK WILLIAMS
18.7 years old, 6-8 and 225 pounds
Williams has managed to ride under the radar since High School as one of the most slept on five star players out of West Charlotte High School in North Carolina. In March, Williams elevated all the way up to the 11th slot on the FOG Big Board and since then he has rised a fairly large margin across all big boards. A sudden burst of production was not the cause for his elevation, but rather the flashes he showed blending athleticism and a refined skillset in the minutes he was given. Williams is noted as one of the better wing defenders in the class, but I do believe he very well might end up being the best defender in this entire class. There is plenty of room for growth in terms of shooting, creation and rebounding thus the reason he is this high up on a list projecting potential. I see him providing an early role in his career similar to Philly’s Matisse Thybulle, but down the line can develop into a Jae Crowder or Taurean Prince type of long, physically mature swingman that can bring valuable role player production but star on the defensive end by guarding the opposing teams best player night after night.
4. Precious achiuwa
20.6 years old, 6-9 and 223 pounds
Achiuwa is the oldest player on this list and while there is a lot of room to grow his game, his biggest development might come in finding his role at the next level. Bam Adebayo has been the consistent comparison for Onyeka Okongwu, and while it fits in many ways, I do think Achiuwa has a lot in his game that is similar to what has made Adebayo so successful. Since his days at Montverde Academy, Achiuwa has had the tendency to run the point-center type of role and it only became sharper in his one season at Memphis where his skills as a five man were refined. The exit of Wiseman allowed Achiuwa to take over a role where he might find plenty of success at the next level. His elite athleticism allows him to outrun bigger, slower five men and his pogo stick jumping ability allows him to compete with them down low. The idea of switch-ability is incredibly vital in my eyes as the NBA continues to grow more P&R dominant, and Achiuwa has the highest ability in entire draft to guard all five positions. The “untapped” portion of his potential comes in to play on the offensive end, where Memphis did not allow Achiuwa to handle the ball much at all. His handle needs to be tightened, but his instincts and motor in transition are undeniable and the eventual accumulation of these skillsets are bound to make Achiuwa a mismatch each and every time he grabs a rebound. The floor stretching touch has shown flashes, similar to Adebayo. In all, Achiuwa has a much higher floor than it might appear. If he is given the freedom to expand and refine his game as a point center, his development might be eerily similar to the All-Star Heat big man, Bam Adebayo.
5. Kira lewis jr
19.0 years old, 6-3 and 170 pounds
I have received backlash for consistently placing Lewis in the low 20’s or early 30’s, but because I think he needs plenty of development. The difference between him and others in that range and also what places him so on high on this list? He’s capable of developing a ton and has already showed signs of growth. The first and foremost aspect of his development must be physically, as his frame will not allow him to finish through big men at the NBA level or defend stronger NBA guards. But on the other end of things, Lewis is debatably the fastest player in the entire class (Tyrese Maxey, Cole Anthony and Ayo Dosunmu might have something to say about that) and shows a great deal of fluidity and finesse when finishing. He certainly can be a blur in transition, but the development and his potential lays in what he can do in the half court, where NBA games are won and lost. His finishing ability going either way and pull up shooting ability are among the best in a massive guard class. With his athleticism, I can see plenty of potential on the defensive end. He has quick feet, long arms and good instincts picking the passing lanes, but needs to improve his strength as well as his P&R defense to make an impact on that end. Much of the potential discussion aligns with players draft age, and there is no better draft age situation than Kira Lewis who will enter the NBA at just over 19 year old after playing two full seasons at Alabama. The touch from around the rim and from range is apparent, not overly consistent but shows optimism. A refined and rebuilt floater game might do a world of good for his deep range and finishing as well. His turnover totals were certainly too high, but could be worse considering his assist output and usage rate. Maturity in terms of P&R playmaking, ability to change pace and floor stretching ability will be the swing factors in Lewis Jr developing his half-court potential as all the tools to thrive in transition are present.
6. Tyrell Terry
19.6 years old, 6-1 and 160 pounds
Terry is so attractive and incredibly different than the other guard prospects because of his pure talent, IQ and overall skill ooze in every one of his stand out traits. He has solid to good speed for a lead guard, poor vertical ability and needs plenty of work in the weight room. These all can be developed, but he’ll make his money by seeing plays before they happen, whipping cross court passes to catch the defense on their heels and using his flare from range. His production is not on the level of Trae Young and is not quite as good of a self-creator, but his tools are all reminiscent to the Hawks All-Star. Unlike others, I do not think Terry ‘must’ improve his athleticism to be able to find success. Terry ranks near the top among the most refined and skilled lead guards in this class alongside Hayes, Mannion and Ayayi. His potential lays in the opportunity of sharpening his passing versatility, consistency in his finishing and defensive motor.
7. Josh green
19.4 years old, 6-6 and 206 pounds
I certainly believe in Josh Green a bit more than most. His volume was not as high as it could’ve been in one year at Arizona where Nico Mannion consumed most of the usage. His two-way ability stands out as athleticism combines with his frame to create a versatile wing who can guard the 1 through 3. While he is regarded as a strong defender, I do think that he is the best wing defender in the draft after the likes of Isaac Okoro and Patrick Williams. He rebounded at a strong rate even with a high volume rebounder in Zeke Nnaji playing alongside him. He has room to grow in terms of creating on his and refinery of his handle, but his slashing ability and instinctual scoring are very strong. Green is a prime candidate to capitalize on his ‘untapped’ potential as he seemed to put in a box under Sean Miller in terms of what he was responsible for doing. There are Jimmy Butler and Josh Richardson-esque tools in his game in terms of two-way skills and raw athletic ability. Green’s ability to serve a role as an off ball guard are recognized, but his progression and potential to cap out will be reliant on his ball handling, finishing around the rim and shooting consistency.
8. Cassius Stanley
20.2 years old, 6-6 193 pounds
The discussion of potential would be hollow without mentioning Cassius Stanley in the debate. Stanley would be a top competitor to break the vertical leap record at the NBA combine if/when it does occur. Stanley showed a bit more in terms of intangibles and skill than expected, but still has plenty of room for development. The case that comes to mind is a higher end, more skilled Hamidou Diallo. Stanley could have showed less on the offensive end in terms of output and likely would still be a top 40 selection, but his ability to score on spot ups and attack the rim blending power and finesse show give him a chance to be a top 30 pick. Stanley was held back and is another old one and done prospect but has an expanded draft range simply due to what his ceiling might be. Stanley shot a solid 36% from deep on a somewhat smaller volume, but has strong verticality and fluidity on his release. Two areas he must improve are his playmaking for others, overall IQ and his ball handling which resulted in too many turnovers. On the defensive end he is capable of guarding the 1 through 3 if he can add strength to his frame, making his defensive ceiling somewhat high. A go to move or area of the floor could be a key development as he is solid in many areas but not fantastic in any area outside of his athletic ability. He has showed signs similar to Kelly Oubre and even Dear DeRozan at the collegiate level, where they were reliant on their speed and vertical ability until further development in specific areas were in place. While Stanley could very well fall into the mid 2nd round, he could also very well turn out to be a top 10-15 player in the draft class a few years down the line.
9. Joel ayayi
20.2 years old, 6-5 and 180 pounds
Ayayi might not remain in the draft this year and because what I have heard, he is included the FOG 2021 Big Board’s top ten. Ayayi has the prototypical European feel for the game which allows for an incredibly balanced output. His top end potential is not as a 20+ point scorer, but more as a creative playmaker and effective rebounder who can play as a lead guard or off guard. Ayayi makes the right plays and was a catalyst for a very unselfish Gonzaga team. The Frenchman flaunts extreme finesse and touch when finishing at the rim off of Euro steps and floaters. He does an incredible job using his length to whip passes around length and has no issue making the right pass which consistently lead to hockey assists. In terms of what he can become, offensively it is not difficult to imagine him growing into a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander esque type of playmaker. Defensively, his motor and physicality can improve but his instincts as a rebounder and in the passing lanes will translate rather quickly. The principles engrained in European ball handlers and wings are becoming more and more prevalent and essential in todays NBA filled with P&R, off ball movement and shooting touch, making Ayayi’s ascension all the more timely.
10. chris smith
20.6 years old, 6-9 and 215 pounds
A new name to the FOG Draft forecast, Chris Smith is not widely regarded as a standout prospect on nearly outlet. He will be making his debut on the FOG Big Board come June as a deeper dive into his film shows an incredibly underrated mixture of power and verticality along with touch and feel. The Pac-12’s Most Improved Player arrived at UCLA at just 17 years old making him a 20 year with plenty of experience under his belt. Smith told two different stories on either end of the court. Offensively, Smith was incredibly around the rim finishing off of cuts and drives while showing vast improvement from extended range from his freshman year. Smith is an incredibly powerful athlete above the rim but displayed plenty of skill using his floater and short range jumper in the paint. Defensively, Smith was too weak at times to compete around the rim and made far too many mistakes with reads and slow feet. He has plenty of room to learn and grow meaning he will land in the G-League early on, but he does have some sneaky similarities to Jerami Grant and Brandon Clarke with an early carer comparison of Devin Robinson. He certainly might be more of a long shot, but deserves attention in the early second round.