2020 NBA Draft: Five prospects with tough decisions to make and no showcase events to aid the process

With college basketball’s postseason coming to an abrupt end last week over coronavirus concerns, aspiring NBA players across the country find themselves in limbo.

For players like Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin and other projected lottery picks, the cancellation of the season has a negligible impact. But for players on the fringe of being drafted, a critical section of the calendar has been wiped completely clean. It’s one fewer month to impress scouts and executives ahead of this summer’s draft. And with the NBA season suspended, the draft schedule remains in flux.

Because of the continued uncertainty surrounding the virus’s impact, the only certainty is that draft stock between now and the next month will likely stay roughly the same. No March Madness, no NIT, no CBI. And a huge hit to the draft calendar: there is no Portsmouth Invitational — an often critical event for seniors to be given the opportunity to showcase themselves in front of scouts leading into the home stretch of draft season. 

Draft season as we know it — along with the NBA, the NCAA and most every other major sport — is on hold.

For now, the NBA’s draft process is tentatively moving forward but with heightened uncertainty. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony reported this week that the league is now formally accepting applications to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee for student-athletes to receive feedback on their potential draft stock. That’s a critical first step to keep the process rolling, but it’s just one of many. Multiple sources I’ve spoken with in the industry over the last week believe it’s a matter of when, not if, the draft will be formally pushed back. That decision — along with unresolved coronavirus concerns — will almost certainly impact the lottery and the combine, too. If the latter is pushed back or even canceled, it will have a profound impact on the draft process.

That leaves some players with more challenging decisions than others. Seniors will have no choice but to move on, but underclassmen in hopes of boosting their stock in March can do nothing but ponder what path they take next — and with little information and guidance. 

Here are five big names who have tough decisions to make regardless of how the calendar and upcoming draft events fall.

1. Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford

Big board rank: No. 39

At a trim 160 pounds, Terry profiles as a Tyrese Haliburton archetype: a twig of a guard with impressive efficiency. He shot 40.8% from 3, averaged 14.6 points, and dished out 3.2 assists per game as a surprisingly brilliant newcomer to the Pac-12 this year.

Terry is a freshman with the feel of a senior. He plays with a comfort and confidence akin to a multi-year starter, and knows how and where to get to his spots. Even without top-end explosiveness as an athlete, he’s just incredibly smart and knows how to beat his man. Smart teams will be targeting him if he slips to the second round.

Heck, smart teams may be eyeing him in the late first, too. He needs to add some bulk to his frame and the decision-making as a point guard could use refinement, but the Stanford smarts are undeniable and worth a gamble in a weak draft.

2. Aaron Henry, SF, Michigan State

Big board rank: No. 45

Great frame, good skill set and at a premium position. However, Henry was simply too inconsistent this season for me to feel good about ranking him any higher than the 40s. Nonetheless, that’s right around the draft range where his decision becomes more complex. Should he stay in college a year and refine his game to show himself as a more complete prospect next summer? Or will a team in the late 30s or early 40s commit to developing him, knowing he may need some developmental time in the G League? With teammate Cassius Winston moving on and Xavier Tillman Sr. likely following suit, the opportunity to be a No. 1 or 2 option on a Spartans team could be enticing. But so, too, is NBA money and the chance to put school in the rearview. The feedback he gets and what he ultimately decides in the coming months will be a fascinating one that impacts one of the best teams in college basketball.

3. Scottie Lewis, SF, Florida

Big board rank: No. 46

It’s hard to come up with a player whose stock was more affected by the season than Lewis. He was a potential lottery pick at the start, yet is considered by many to be a sub-first-rounder at this point. I have him No. 46 on my big board.

Still, there’s reason to buy in on him overall — and perhaps at a discount if he declared. He’s a tenacious perimeter defender, he shot 36.1% from 3, and his defensive impact would be immediate even if the offensive arsenal isn’t diverse yet at this stage. I’d prefer he shoot it more consistently in spot-up situations — according to Synergy, he was in the 52nd percentile — but the athleticism and defense alone makes him a curious prospect to monitor. I suspect he goes but staying in college and finding success could help him revive his stock.

4. Ochai Agbaji, SF, Kansas

Big board rank: No. 50

I’m higher than most when it comes to Agbaji. I’ve seen the flashes he’s shown as a playmaker on the wing, the athleticism and the shot-creation. But there’s no denying he didn’t quite make the leap many anticipated he’d enjoy as a sophomore. That was a product of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike going scorched earth as much as anything, but it nonetheless affected Agbaji. It may have made his decision easier, even.

Jumping to the NBA now would seem risky. I like his long-term prospects for all the aforementioned reasons, but hitting more outside shots with consistency and having success as a guy who can carry a team would bode well for his prospects. Another year wouldn’t hurt him elevate his status.

5. Joel Ayayi, SG, Gonzaga

Big board rank: NR

Ayayi just missed my top 50, but I think his potential is there if he decides to test the waters. He shot 34.5% from 3, has a long and wiry frame and is an active and willing rebounder — a skill he really honed this season using those lanky arms at Gonzaga. I think he’s got real potential as a passer, too, though he’ll play off the ball at the NBA level. A very raw prospect, but one with enough tools and upside that teams may gamble on as early as the late-first.

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