2020 Player Breakdowns

Onyeka Okongwu Breakdown


Mostly a line of sight passer who rarely passes with anticipation and finds players as a last resort.  He can find fan outs and flares out of post and makes solid high-to-low passes.  When he gets the ball off a ball screen in space he can back action pass to the opposite wing for three.  He garners so much attention in the post or with space that there will be loose ends forming to pass to and needs to sharpen his decision making.  He’s a workable passer with potential but has a ways to go.  Fantastic offensive rebounder; quick off the ground, carves out position, uses swim moves like a defensive end to win the rebound.  He didn’t shoot many long range shots but solid overall touch on his catch-and-shoot spot up midrange jumper; has a high release point but would like to see his lower body shot prep be synced up better with overall mechanics.  Can catch ball at the elbow area, take one dribble and leap from the midpost for a slam; has solid stride length on his gathering.  Can catch the ball off pick-and-roll, dive with a head of steam and side step defender at rim who has position; also likes to use jump stops to throw off defenders rhythm.  When attacking a closeout from the elbow can shuffle feet going downhill.  That’s why a lot of times when he attacks a closing defender who has cut off a straight away angle he’ll just back them down.  Dribbles away from his body, feels like he’s trying to catch up to his dribble and loses balance as a result; getting his handle in tight with a center of gravity will be key.


Great paint protector.  Converges on action in a timely manner, makes solid initial rotations and deters shots at the rim.  It’s really tough to execute when Okongwu goes vertical at the rim but unfortunately sometimes instead of establishing position and going vertical he’ll move into the vertical contest and fly into the defender committing a foul.  He’ll also bring his arms down on the vertical contest instead of remaining high and tight.  His good hand eye coordination, timing, length and pop help him be a great shot eraser but that ability comes with a cost as he can be prone to fishing for blocks/steals.  As a result instead of staying sound in his assignment he’ll either be stuck in the mud, take poor angles or bite on fakes.  Sometimes versus on-ball he’ll play with his hands out in front of him trying to tap the ball away but that hurts his balance especially against quicker players.  Needs consistent mirroring but overall has springy toes, strong armbar, a wide base, good anchor and nice lateral slides that serve him well containing dribble penetration.  Has versatility in his pick-and-roll coverages by switching, downing or hedging.  Sometimes though he’ll screw up the communication, like planning ahead without thinking ahead.  While defending the pick-and-roll and playing drop coverage he speculated the zone in which the ball handler would attack.  He cheated over to the right without understanding that help wasn’t in position to back that up and as a result the ball handler took advantage of that mistake.  Does a really good job on rotations closer to the rim but needs to process the perimeter faster if he wants a chance at becoming a true 1 through 5 defender.

2020 Player Breakdowns

Anthony Edwards Breakdown


Overall Edwards is a very talented player but it felt like he wasn’t working as hard as he could.  By that I mean it feels like when he beats the first level defender going down hill off ball or off ball screen he’ll struggle with decision making when the second level comes rotating over.  When met with the second level he’ll tend to shoot pull up mid range jumpers instead of working the defender deeper or threading the play along with instinctive passing.  He has the strength and athletic ability to fend off defenders on his drive then shed them at the rim.  He has a nice low center change of direction move which he uses a between the legs cross or a pull back cross and go.  He’ll in-and-out you out of your shoes, absorb contact at the rim and finish with control.  He has the ability to work the defense deeper middle off live-dribble but when faced with a decision at the second level he gets passive with pull ups.  This may change over time since it’s more of a mental block.  When you’re a good pick-and-roll scorer you should be adept at turning the corner or rejecting the screen but it seems like he’s a far better driver when he rejects the screen.  A lot of that has to do with the fact when he rejects the screen the big help defender is deeper in the paint rather than corralling his drive up close.  He likes to have a runway on his drives.  He doesn’t have an advanced shooting portfolio but is a decent tough shot maker displaying a pull back jumper halting his momentum on a dime and pulling back with a cross.  He’s not really an instinctive play maker but has used the advantages off his scoring ability and leveraged that into creation.  However he’s a better passer in transition rather than half court execution even though he does display fine rhythm off pick-and-roll passing.  He’s decent at reading the first action but any sort of sequence of events and he can struggle to read the court.


When Edwards gets his legs underneath his chest, has active feet, sturdy armbar and slides with purpose containing dribble penetration, man, he shows how tough it could be fighting for angles downhill; really good on-ball defense.  Unfortunately he doesn’t show much consistency in his fundamentals.  Sometimes he’ll poorly shade the ball handler, other times he won’t use an armbar and then when he does get beat versus the first step he’ll get handsy and hand check the drive.  Also more than what I would’ve liked to see was Edwards dying midpost after he lost the drive first level, it’s like he’s getting ready to brace for the rebound or maybe he’s getting ready for a quick inbounds play even though he could still funnel the ball handler.  He’ll also have lapses versus early offense and do a poor job matching up.  It’s tough to tell defensive communication 100% of the time just by watching a lot of televised games but a play that stuck out was one of his teammates pointing out an off ball switch early and Edwards didn’t pay it any mind resulting in an easy bucket.  Was it poor communication, was it poor processing speed, was it poor effort or was it a little of all?  Edwards has demonstrated he can play good on-ball defense, he’s shown the ability to rotate on middle drives and add that to his positive hand eye coordination feeding his creation Edwards has illustrated his pro defensive capability.  The issue however might be if he can sustain a full game of that level of defense.

2020 Player Breakdowns

Aaron Nesmith Breakdown


One of the best three point shooters in the class.  It’s a shame his season ended early with an injury but it left his three point percentage at 52% which is absurd.  And it’s not like it was only 4 games, it was 14 games.  The pump fake, side step, re-load pull ups are part of his repertoire but his most interesting shooting aspect is his movement shooting.  He can cleanly round corners off screens, catch on the move and stop on a dime raise up from deep.  His core stability gives him balance when his body is tilting momentum.  At times he’ll do the whole kick out his legs thing when a defender cuts off his landing space on jump shots.  You have to do what you have to do to get the call but it clearly affects his shooting ability for the negative.  He has a high release point on his jumper which helps verse contested shots which happens a decent amount.  On his drives he will lean into the defender forcing the player to put extra weight on the back of his feet then dislodge the player with a slight nudge creating separation in the process.  He has a NBA quality first step, drives mostly in a straight line with little shift or sudden movements, dips his shoulder into defender, holds off defender with arm guard then get to the rim but has trouble consistently finishing over contact.  He has good body control and coordination so he needs to do a better job with off timing his gather, follow his extension through and finishing with his off hand.  As a playmaker Nesmith is a line of sight passer.  Unless the play is unfolding right in front of his eyes it’s tough for him to sense breaking action peripherally.  He would beat the first level defender live-dribble, draw in the second level and will have tunnel vision missing players long corner or short corner.  Even though his decision making ability will be a question mark moving forward he can still play make of his scoring ability and create off those gained advantages.


Watching Nesmith on defense is pretty misleading.  You see a player with a wide defensive base and athletic ability and think how tough he is to drive on.  It looks like he’s moving around the court all nimble but the closer you watch the more you see him play flat footed.  He should be playing on his toes and staying coiled but instead plays back on his heels with poor balance.  He’ll have poor foot positioning on-ball and give up too wide of an angle.  He doesn’t leverage his body as much as he needs to and needs more integrity on his slides while funneling dribble penetration.  When he does stay attached he demonstrates a strong arm bar rerouting the drive and long armed mirroring which means he has the ability to be a better on-ball defender.  He’s a mixed bag on team defense.  At times you’ll see him make well timed low man rotations to wall off the drive but then the very next play will slide out of position prematurely and leave the driver with no help middle.  He’ll stay at home and stick to his own when he should be helping the helper.  He’ll also be a step slow on rotations and rarely cycles through assignments.  He can create on defense by getting hand on ball for deflections, steals and blocks but will take unnecessary gambles and lazy swipe down fouls.

2020 Player Breakdowns

Tyrese Haliburton Breakdown


Fantastic off ball player.  Nice backdoor cut when reading teammates dribble push and flashes baseline as soon as help started to crowd ball handler.  Nice relocation off dribble drive passes and climbs to the open spot.  Has great touch around the rim but can struggle at times over height/size due to lack of pop and strength. Can’t really break guys down off the dribble so he attempts a lot of 1-2 plant pull ups.  Not really a tough shot maker but does attempt step backs, off screen and altered momentum shots; has shown some semblance of ability.  Uses his high level long range shooting ability to set up his drives whether that’s attacking a hard closeout or just using pump fakes.  Off ball screens he utilizes acceleration/deceleration moves down hill to get defenders momentum leaning.  Doesn’t have a lot burst but his change of speed game is solid.  The lack of a great first step probably hinders his upside.  Also off ball screens does great job anticipating defenders angles and whether to reject the screen or dribble off it to get down hill.  When he does get into the paint rarely draws fouls.  It could be because he isn’t versed in gathering by relying on his left foot leap, right hand finishes on both sides of the rim or maybe because he shrinks away from contact midair.  Although I will say he isn’t afraid to leap in the muck for an offensive rebound.  One of the best players in this draft when it comes to processing speed.  Reads plays before they break whether that’s off the bounce or pick-and-roll.  Very methodical turning the corner off ball screens and is patient waiting for the right loose end to reveal itself.  Very smart player overall.


One of the best at defensive creation for a guard in this class.  He has great hand eye coordination, great timing, and is quick to process the action.  He’s not afraid to leave his man or position to suffocate the action and force a havoc shifting play.  Although when he does leave his man or position his return home can be late.  His lack of closing speed is one of his biggest defensive constraints.  Also another impediment is his lack of fluid hips verse point of attack.  Doesn’t really flip his hips that well and can be susceptible to opening his hips too early.  However he does have great on-ball fundamentals by playing on the balls of his feet, staying coiled, strong armbar and strong balance.  He also has a wide base and solid defensive slide positioning.  The lack of a strong butt and anchor can be troublesome when absorbing offensive blows and controlling a ball handlers hips.  One of his biggest issues on team defense is at times he’ll ball watch and get lost in space.  He’s a heady enough player to reestablish ball-and-man but it feels like every so often he’ll be more interested in getting a steal rather than play sound team defense.  With that said though he’ll make nice low-man vertical contests from the weak side, shrink the court and crash down on third level rotations.

2020 Player Breakdowns

OldManBasketball’s NBA Draft Grade Sparknotes

The 2020 NBA draft is the first year I’m doing draft grades.  It definitely has been a process for me with a lot of trial and error.  I wanted to be as thorough and impartial as possible with the grades.  There are 30 categories on offense to grade and 15 to grade on defense with sliding weights given to different positions.  It’s taken me time to figure out what value belongs to each category and what markers make up the criteria.  I’ve also incorporated advanced stats and developed formulas to create grades.  For example something like ‘touch’.  

None of this is perfect and not anywhere close to a finished product.  As a result there won’t be as many completed player grades as I was hoping to post.  I’ve scouted over 60 players but unfortunately will be able to grade around 15-30 before the draft.  I technically could keep posting grades after the draft but I’m not sure if that’s necessary.  I want to start focusing on next year’s draft and especially the 2022 draft when hopefully the basketball world will be a little more normal.  I’ve gotten my grading procedure down to a suitable level now and with future drafts should be keeping grades up to date during the season.

For this year’s crop of player grades I’ll have a sortable table with player breakdowns linked.  If you’ve followed me in the past I typically write extensive scouting reports on each player but due to time constraints will be writing brief player breakdowns instead.

OldManBasketball’s NBA Draft Grade Sparknotes

The players will be graded on OFFENSE and DEFENSE.  OFFENSE will be graded on shooting, screen setting/pick-and-roll game (for bigs only), scoring/finishing, driving/handle, feel and creation/passing.  Each category has its own grouping of skills totaling 30 to 35.  For example, drawing fouls on the gather/rim, movement shooting and win rate of drives.  DEFENSE will be graded on team defense, on-ball defense, creation and IQ.  Each category has its own grouping of skills totaling 15.  For example spatial awareness and help defense.  The more markers the player hits the better the grade.  OFFENSE and DEFENSE will be graded on a 1-99 scale:


95-99: God Status (generational skills)

85-94: Elite (all-nba skills)

75-84: Great (all-star skills)

65-74: Good (starter level skill)

55-64: Above Average (rotation player skills)

45-54:  Average (bench player skills)

35-44: Below Average (g-league lifer skills)

1-34: Poor (not in league skills)


There will also be ROLE POTENTIAL which features a ‘high’ and ‘low’ outlook.  For example, HIGH: swiss army knife big, LOW: rim-running backup big.  There will be STAR POTENTIAL which factors in functional athleticism and physical profile aka athletic ability, height, wingspan, lateral agility, shoulder size, etc.  It is graded on a 1-99 scale.  Just because player x graded better than player y doesn’t mean I project player x to be the ‘better’ player.  Incorporating STAR POTENTIAL can act like a tipping point.  I’ll also try to have SYSTEM DEPENDENCE included which entails the list of teams that will enhance a players skills and which teams could hamper them.  Basically ‘team fit’ potential.  If I do complete ‘system dependence’ it won’t be located on the sortable table and will be with the PLAYER BREAKDOWN (which you can find by clicking the players name).  The more players I grade and more film I watch the grades are always subject to change.  I’ll expand upon how in depth I go into the grades at a later date.

2020 Player Breakdowns

Kira Lewis Breakdown


Really good playmaker.  Can create off pick-and-roll or live-dribble but creating off ball screens was his favorite.  He can throw over the top, pocket pass or wraparound dump off passes to the roll man with foresight.  Sometimes he will drive and kick too early while he has the option to knife through the lane deeper to bend the defense and create more loose ends.  He can pass on the move and with anticipation.  Not terrible passing to the margins either; keeps head on a swivel.  His first step is one the best in the class.  He displays great downhill straight away speed and uses his quickness to get defenders leaning to change direction or shift gears.  Not overly herky-jerky but has solid wiggle.  His combo dribble drives moves can create more separation with an array of crossovers at his disposal.  Doesn’t create as much leverage on his drives and relies heavily on his first step and combo moves.  Needs to gain strength to ward off the physical defenders.  His gathering ability helps him become a solid scorer.  He can high rip a two step gather going downhill at a hundred miles an hour.  He can side step low man help defenders who are in position to take a charge and finish off his wrong foot.  His thin frame really is an issue however when it comes to finishing over contact or winning more drives.  He can get stronger over time but his rail frame is a concern.  He’s more of a spot up three point shooter rather than a movement shooter.  Did well with catch-and-shoot opportunities but a lot of those weren’t off the screen, catch on the move jumpers.  He’s more than just a spot up shooter with his behind the back pull back threes, floating away runners and crossover pull ups.  He needs to turn his tough shot making ability into drawing more fouls at the next level.


For a player that’s rail thin he’s better than one would think on defense.  Much of that has to do with his defensive fundamentals.  He can sit in his stance with clean slides and feathery toes.  Sometimes he’ll squat in his defensive stance with poor mirroring, that’s why even though he’s displayed pretty good defensive functionally his inconsistent tendencies can be a downfall.  His defensive anchor will be a problem at times getting overpowered on drives, getting bumped off at the rim or dying on screens.  He also is good enough as a help defender so he won’t be a complete liability.  He can cover for his teammate who gets washed out of the play, can rotate over one man away and chip at the action.  His improved creation might be the best thing about his defensive game.  He has solid hand eye coordination that causes deflections, gets blocks from behind unsuspecting drivers and jumps passing lanes that look open in the moment. 

2020 NBA Draft Grades

2020 NBA Draft Grades (1st Edition)

Click HERE to get a better idea what these grades mean.

Click on player names for further breakdown (grades are subject to change as we get closer to draft night):


NameOffenseDefenseRoleStar Potential
Kira Lewis 70.9462.57HIGH: Lead Initiator
LOW: Backup Ball Handler
Tyrese Haliburton69.2568.61H: All-Time Glue Guy
L: Backup 3-and-D combo guard
Aaron Nesmith66.6257.22H: Top Tier Scoring Wing
L: Backup Shooting Specialist
Anthony Edwards67.7560.59H: Two-Way Wing Initiator L: Microwave Scorer Off Bench81
Tyrell Terry7257.1H: Shot Creating Lead Ball Handler
L: Movement Shooting Combo Guard
Devin Vassell62.567.5H: 3-and-D Hybrid Wing
L: Spot Up Shooting Guard
Isaac Okoro65.3770.09H: Scoring Wing W/Elite Defense
L: Defensive Specialist
Grant Riller74.3756.53H: Lead Initiator
L: Backup Scoring Guard
Isaiah Joe62.6261.78H: Two-Way Movement Shooter
L: Defensive Liability Spot Up Shooter
Mason Jones69.1256.19H: Shot Creating Wing
L: Matchup dependent Bench Scorer
Cole Anthony72.2557H: Primary Ball Handler
L: Bench Scorer
Tyrese Maxey70.3760.16H: High Level Secondary Ball Handler
L: Bench Scoring Combo Guard


NameOffenseDefenseRoleStar Potential
Onyeka Okongwu66.5870HIGH: Elite Two-Way Big
LOW: Backup Rim-Runner
Obi Toppin67.3562.33H: Elite Scoring Big
L: Hustle Bench Big
College Draft sports


I just wanted to give an update since it’s been a bit since I posted an article.  I’m shifting my focus towards the NBA draft and scouting rather than NBA topics although I’ll still talk about free agency, the playoffs and events I deem worthy of a post.  For quick hit thoughts on the NBA check out my twitter.  I don’t post on there that much either but I’ll try to do so more usual.  My twitter will just be strictly scouting, NBA draft and NBA topics. (@oldmanbball1)

In the meantime I’ve been doing nothing but taking notes for scouting grades and scouting reports.  I’ve briefly shared some thoughts on a couple of players on my twitter.  I should’ve been sharing my reactions more frequently but I wanted to lock down my grading criteria for my new scouting grades.  No more draft big boards since I think my bias will undoubtedly show through and cloud my judgement.  Read my last article about my thoughts on draft biases.  I also don’t think draft big boards reliably emphasize my true analysis about particular prospects.  That’s why I wanted to minimize bias as much as possible, broaden my assessment and sticking purely to grades was the best option.

I wanted to scout 5-10 games per player before I published anything online and considering I’m at 100 players scouted to date it’s taking me a bit.  Next season I’ll have articles up more regularly once the college season begins, talking about initial impressions and being more engaged.  I was just really focused on making my grading system as legit as possible even though over time changes will inevitably be made.

I wondered if I should grade prospects Pro Football Focus style and grade based on a per play expectancy.  Every play is graded on a sliding -2 to +2 point scale.  I decided against that since so much of basketball is communication driven and a lot of that data could be noisy.  Instead I went with a list of criteria and certain markers to meet.  Over the last four years I’ve taken a substantial amount of notes and have complied a grading rubric.  The players will be graded on “offense”, “defense”, “star potential”, “role potential” and “system dependence” all on a 1-99 scale.  The grading system will have slight differences and weights for ball handlers, combo guards, wings, small ball fours and bigs.

“Offense” will be broken down into these categories: shooting, scoring, finishing, screen setting/roll-man, driving/handle, feel, off-ball movement and passing/creation.  Each category will have certain set markers and the more the player fulfills the better the grade.  For example on “finishing” certain markers include extension around the rim, fast-to-slow two step gather, one step gather, off hand finishes, off foot finishes, euro steps, side steps, body control etc.  Obviously something like screen setting will hold more weight for bigs and creation more for ball handlers.

“Defense” will be broken down into team defense, creation, on-ball defense and IQ.  Just how it was with “offense” the more markers the player meets the better the grade.  For example on team defense certain set markers include communication, how do they defend at the nail, low-man position, overall weak side principles, can they cycle through rotations or do they just make the initial rotation, do they go vertical at the rim or stay grounded etc.  Things like straddling the line between ball handler and roll man on pick-and-roll contain defense will be graded with more weight for bigs rather than ball handlers.  Pick-and-roll defense will fall under team defense.

The next three grades are pretty experimental.  “Star potential” deals with upside but not how likely they’ll meet that upside and “role potential” deals with what NBA role they can attain and how likely they can achieve that selected role.  For example someone like Cam Reddish last year would’ve had a high “star potential” grade with 3-and-D swing forward as their potential role BUT a not too flattering “role potential” grade.  Someone like Matisse Thybulle would’ve had a not too flattering “star potential” grade and a 3-and-D wing role with a high “role potential” grade.  Now someone like Zion Williamson would’ve obviously had a high “star potential” grade AND “role potential” grade as a do-it-all combo big.  

The reason why I wanted to make “star potential” and “role potential” was to give more context to the grades.  Just because a player has a high “offense” and “defense” grade doesn’t automatically make them a candidate to be a star player at the next level.  Someone like Ty Jerome would’ve had high “offense” and “defense” grades but that wouldn’t have met I think he’s some star player in the making.  I think making that distinction was important.  Obviously this is new and something I’m tinkering around with.  It won’t be perfect from the start and errors will be made.  If it ends up confusing a bunch of people then I might second guess myself.  My hope is that in time it will be a nice component to scouting.

The last grade is the one I’m on the fence on.  “System dependence” is all about system fit and situation.  Both factors play such a crucial role in a players success that I thought it needed a grade on it’s own.  It’s one thing to identify system fit and situation as important in terms of scouting, it’s another to approximate a grade.  That was the original plan, to give “system dependence” a 1-99 grade just like the other four grades.  This was partially the reason why I’ve delayed posting.  But the more I thought about it, the more I nixed the 1-99 grade.  Instead I’ll just list the teams I think the prospect would flourish under and the teams the prospect would deteriorate or stagnate under.  For example I would’ve listed Tyler Herro Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta favorably and Orlando, Detroit and Charlotte unfavorably.  “System dependence” is still a work in progress but nevertheless think incorporating situation and fit are vital to a players prosperity.

Switching from a draft big board to a grading scale will hopefully minimize bias, improve clarity, enhance accuracy, and expand on details.  Like with every other test run there will be bugs to fix and things to get better at.  Along the way I’ll give more updates to clarify any irregular matters.  I do have a twitter (@oldmanbball1) account now so if there are any questions contact me there.

College Draft NBA Off-Season sports

Stop Looking At My Bias

I’m biased.  You’re biased.  We’re all damn biased.  Being biased in sports isn’t an inherently bad thing as long as you are self-aware and can subside your impulses.  Everyone in sports has their preferences but as long as you take inventory of your viewpoints and self-diagnosis objectively than managing dogmatic convictions might seem plausible.  If you leave your biased beliefs unchecked, well, that could lead to a cycle of groundhog day returns.  Controlling your bias might seem like a waste of time and unpreventable but it doesn’t hurt identifying one-sided sentiments.  Step one is acknowledging your biased, step two is self-reflecting and step three is monitoring your tendencies.  This bode of action might not work for everyone and it might not work for me either but I want to at least try to mitigate as many errors as possible when doing my NBA draft big boards and overall scouting.  I’ve written multiple scouting reports and have only done big boards for the 2018 and 2019 drafts. Checking these biases now could help me improve upon my love for talent evaluation:



  • I really like/overrate role players


~ If you’re a reader of my website, this was obvious.  For the most part I’d rather write articles about Maxi Kelber, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and Gary Clark over star players.  Heck, the next article I was thinking of writing about was on Kenrich Williams, underrated role players and breakout role players.  I also ranked prospects who I thought were projected to be good role players in the NBA higher than most mainstream outlets: Grant Williams at 11, Talen Horton-Tucker at 16, Chuma Okeke at 17, Tyler Herro at 18, DaQuan Jeffries at 23, Josh Reaves at 26 and Terence Davis at 27.  I’m still regretting ranking Matisse Thybulle at 28 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at 21 and their careers haven’t even started yet.

 Probably one of the biggest reasons why I favor role players so much is the history of NBA champions personnel.  Whether you’re talking about good role players like Danny Green, Trevor Ariza, James Posey or great role players like Andre Iguodala, Robert Horry and Shane Battier throughout history these players help facilitate champions.  These are the players that make sacrifices to their box score stats, guaranteed money and have positive impacts on chemistry.  These players are important towards building title contenders but their obviously not the most important piece.  Drafting and signing superstar players is of course the best thing when it comes to winning titles.  Compare a player like Cam Reddish who has the potential to become a star player and a player like Grant Williams who might not have the ceiling of a Reddish but more potential to have greater impact towards on-court success, who do you rank higher?  Maybe that’s just a philosophical question on draft strategy but I at times do find myself ranking someone higher just because I don’t have enough potential role players ranked highly. This ties into my next bias.



  • I overrate “potential”


~ How can I overrate role players AND “potential” at the same time?  This just might be an issue of finding a delicate balance between the two biases moving forward.  However I often fall for prospects who have “potential” just because there’s a perceived chance he might became a “star”.  Players who are long, athletic, play at a scarce position or who have shown just enough of a skill set that indicates potential future success; Kevin Knox at 9, Marvin Bagley at 1, Lonnie Walker at 7, Zhaire Smith at 10, Darius Bazley at 5, Kevin Porter jr at 10, Romeo Langford at 12, Cam Reddish at 14 and Nassir Little at 15.

Now it’s only a year into the 2018 class and the 2019 class hasn’t even played yet so making definite determinations on these players is a little premature.  That’s not the point though.  I’m just identifying my potential blind spots to help bolster my ability to scout players.  A lot of times players with high “potential” their careers can be decided by situation.  How different is Jaylen Brown’s career if he gets drafted by Phoenix and not Boston?  Would Kelly Oubre’s career be different if he got drafted by Miami or Indianapolis and not Washington?  Same goes for role players.  How different is Draymond Green’s career if he didn’t get drafted by Golden State? Would Danny Green be a good role player if Cleveland never cut him resulting in San Antonio snatching him up?  Situation dictates success for most players outside of the truly elite.  Doing team specific big boards or post-draft big boards make more sense.

I like doing big boards in a vacuum because you get to see where that person stands on trends, prospects, positions and skill sets.  Moving forward I have to create some type of scale that will help sort out players with “potential” and role players.  I have to raise the requisite level of skill I use as a baseline when it comes to grading players with “potential”.  It doesn’t matter how long, athletic, mobile you are, if you can’t shoot over 40% on your two pointers, can’t make sound decisions on the move or have good processing speed on defense then I will have to readjust my outlook.  And just because someone projects to be a role player at the next level doesn’t mean they will have a significant on-court impact regardless of box score stats.  I have to do a better job classifying role players moving forward.  



  • I take player comparisons too personally 


~ Some might call me a basketball fan.  Others might say I need to get a life.  One thing is for sure, I take basketball very personally.  So when people in the mainstream, twitter or popular draft websites say that Tre Young is the next Steph Curry, well, I get heated.  When I hear people say that Young can be just as good of a shooter as Curry, I lose my mind.  I regard Curry as the greatest shooter of all time and arguably the second greatest point guard of all time.  Not only does he have a diverse portfolio of shooting ability but he’s also crazy efficient simultaneously.  He’s one of, if not the greatest off-ball player that I’ve ever seen.  His ability to manipulate his off-ball movement to his teams advantage plus his ability to be crazy efficient while having a diverse shot portfolio is the main reason why I hold him in such high regard.  And oh, he’s a pretty good playmaker too.  So comparing anyone to Curry is going to set me off since I think he’s one of a kind.

I ended up ranking Tre Young twelfth on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Not really having anything to do about his talent but to push back the aggrandized opinion of Young that most people covering the draft were stating.  One of the very first articles I have on this website is talking about my first impressions on Trae Young.  The article really isn’t the greatest representation of my scouting ability since I was so new to the process and have evolved my talent evaluation approach.  I keep up a lot of my old articles just to show the progress I’ve made over the years.  In that article there was a brief excerpt detailing why people need to pump the brakes on Young Link.  At the same time I wrote at the very end that Young has “Damian Lillard with better passing ability potential” and yet I ranked him twelfth on my big board.  Something isn’t adding up.  Why do I think a ball handler who can create unbelievably well and has a diverse shooting portfolio is the twelfth best prospect?  A lot of it had to do with his defensive issues, handle concerns and overall efficiency but ultimately my love for Steph Curry fogged my thought process.  I have to separate my fandom from methodology.  Since I’m such a huge fan of someone doesn’t mean I should ignore proper talent evaluation.  I also need to disregard the noise too.  Whatever outside factors are saying should have no bearing on my big board. This ties in to my next bias.  



  • I rank players higher/lower than the consensus just to try to act smarter


~ Everyone wants to be the first to discover a prospect.  If that player pops at the next level that means you have an incredible foresight.  Everyone wants to project the next draft sleeper, steal and bust.  If you can routinely find hidden gems during the draft process than clearly you know what you’re talking about.  If you can outsmart mainstream voices than surely more people should be taking notice of your work.  Everyone is trying to prove themselves, develop a resume and stand out above the fray.  One way of doing that is making bold, risky picks; taking gambles on players you might not otherwise just for the sake of out-thinking the guy on TV.

This is primarily what happened when I ranked Marvin Bagley one and Luka Doncic two on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Bagley and would say I was higher on him compared to the consensus even if I had ranked Doncic at one instead.  I still think Bagley can be a starting center on a championship team but he won’t be the driving force like Doncic can. Having Doncic at one seemed too inevitable for my first big board.  I wanted to make a gutsy call on my number one prospect.  Bagley was someone that had mixed reviews coming out of college due to his lack of defensive prowess and questionable long range jumper.  What gave me enough reason to take a chance on him as a possible number one was his athleticism, size, scoring ability, quick second jump, potential switch ability on defense and capable pick-and-roll nightmare skill on offense.  

I wanted to outthink people I respect just because it was a “quick” way to be noticed.  Same thing can be said about me ranking Darius Bazley at five.  I wanted to have a prospect ranked super high based off the fact he wasn’t graded favorably among the consensus.  I still like these prospects regardless but have to control my urge to take unnecessary risks for the sake of being “smart”.  I have to be reasonable with myself and not do anything outlandish just for the sake of looking shrewd.  I have to be more calculated and cool headed when it comes to my love for the game and not make a spectacle out of the scouting process.  



  • There’s probably more I can’t see


~ There’s probably other biases that I just can’t see because I’m so conditioned scouting a certain way that I normalize my tendencies.  Identifying my biases and working to pacify them will be an ongoing process.  I want to improve my ability to evaluate talent.  I thought doing more than just watching a bunch of game tape and analyzing the game of basketball can be an alternative way to address my technique. 


  • Grading Scale

~ I don’t even know if I’m going to do big boards moving forward.  I’ve always wanted to scout players on a grading scale.  I think if I just stick to objectively grading players on a scale that would remove most of my biases.  Can the player dribble proficiently with both hands?  How diverse is their finishing ability?  Can they pass on the move?  How fast can they process offensive actions?  How advanced are their live-dribble moves?  All these are yes or no questions on a varying scale.  Looking back on my first two big boards they are riddled with flaws and biases.  As of now, I’m leaning towards a grading system when scouting players.  I was thinking about grading players on offense, defense, star potential, role potential and system dependence.  Stuff like IQ would be all encompassing when grading offense (offensive feel) and defense (defensive IQ).  Star potential would deal with mostly a players upside and physical profile while role potential deals with the likelihood that they achieve their NBA roles (lead initiator, floor spacer, 3-and-D wing, hustle big).  And lastly system dependence would deal with figuring out if their game can adapt to all types of NBA offenses like motion, drive-and-kick, ball screen heavy, flow, spread, post heavy, etc.  I’m obviously still figuring out the kinks but I’ll try to be more thorough when I post my first scouting report for the 2019-2020 season.

College Draft Off-Season sports

My Favorite “Breakout/Sleeper” Candidates (Returning to College)

Last season’s returning college class was great.  There were four upperclassmen taken in the top ten and six taken in the lottery.   Players like Ja Morant, De’Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver exceeded expectations but were still projected to be potential lottery picks even before the college season started.  Even players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and PJ Washington had lottery buzz before the season started.  This years crop of players returning to college as of now is looking pretty…meh.  When looking at and’s 2020 NBA mock draft there are no returning players mocked in the top ten.  Heck, the first college returnee on’s 2020 mock draft is Tre Jones at 16 and there’s five in total mocked in the first round.  This year’s incoming freshmen/international class is deep in terms of quality NBA starting talent.  There isn’t a generational talent like Zion Williamson but there’s plenty of rotational players with upside. The closest thing to a sure fire number one pick would be Cole Anthony but as of now that’s something that will need to play itself out during the season.

Typically speaking, are all of these highly touted freshmen/international prospects going to have as good of a season as most are expecting?  No.  There are overhyped freshmen every season that fall out of favor when it comes to talent evaluation or physical ability.  Players like Bol Bol, Trevon Duval, Skal Labissiere, Louis King, Luguentz Dort and much more know this fact all too well.  That means either some lower graded freshmen/international player will have a surprisingly good season or a returning upperclassmen has an unexpected breakout season; enough so to launch themselves in serious draft consideration.  

The list of players that I’m about to talk about aren’t the college returnee favorites like Tre Jones, Tyrese Haliburton, Charles Bassey, Jalen Smith, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson or Ayo Dosunmu that are listed highly on and’s mock draft.  I wanted to identify my personal favorite “breakout/sleeper” candidates for the upcoming 2020 season, ones that I’m most looking forward to watch.  Even though I have these players listed under “breakout/sleeper” that doesn’t mean they aren’t on people’s draft radar already.  It just means players who aren’t being heavily considered on current popular mock draft boards ( and that have the potential by seasons end to boost their draft stock significantly: 


Obi Toppin, 6’9, PF/C, (RS)SO, Dayton, 21.4 years

( 43, not mocked)

~ It’s tough putting Obi Toppin on this list since he’s mocked 43rd on’s 2020 mock draft.  I guess since I consider Toppin the best returning bigman (only because Killian Tillie never stays healthy) and would mock him in the first round.  He’s also pretty old for a player who only played one season of division one basketball.  I don’t even know if he’s going to have a proper “breakout” season since the offensive system at Dayton doesn’t exactly highlight his skills.  The Dayton offense looks to be a Princeton styled offense which has Toppin cutting most of the time.  Personally I’d like to see him more as a ball screener in a spread offense, whether that be pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop.  His screen setting ability does need to improve since he tends to avoid contact and dive early.  He does have great timing on his dives to the rim but hardly ever did I see him delay his roll and break open extra passing lanes.  Still, his length, athleticism, soft hands, touch around the rim and one foot leaping ability help with his overall rim-running prowess.  Toppin actually has a solid intermediate game displaying movement two point jumpers now and again.  I would like to see his decision making improve when being the release value but he still can make plays with his respectable feel for the game.  I would also like to see Toppin spot up more.  He rarely shot from distance and when he did showed capable rhythm and touch.  I want to see him attack closeouts and display his dribble drive game more often next season.  With the offense that’s being run at Dayton I don’t know if Toppin will get that opportunity but on the rare occasion of him doing those actions he looks more than adequate.

On defense Toppin showed his positional versatility being able to bang down low with burly bigs and stay in front of jitterbug guards.  He still needs to gain more muscle if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with NBA frontline players.  But his ability to play on the balls off his feet, his lateral quickness, end-to-end speed and length help when defending multiple positions.  For the most part he’s a solid team and on-ball defender.  Nothing special but won’t beat himself. At times he has bit on fakes and lost position but made up for it with great recovery speed.  He’s the type of player who will thrive chasing down blocks.  I would like to see him fight at the rebounds apex more often.  I don’t know if that’s to prevent an injury but sometimes he seems too grounded.  I think he’s being somewhat undervalued due to the offense ran at Dayton and personally have a first round grade for him.  Until Killian Tillie shows me he can stay healthy the best returning bigman is Toppin.


Keyontae Johnson, 6’5, SF/PF, SO, Florida, 20.2 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ Keyontae Johnson really is an undersized power forward.  Heck, I think he can play some small-ball center as well.  Even though he’s listed at 6’5 he weighs 225 pounds, has wide shoulders, strong bulky frame, ample butt, lengthy arms and large hands.  He also apparently measured his vertical at 41” but even without that recording his explosion on tape shouldn’t be up for debate.  That explosion and his intuitive ability to track down rebounds helped Johnson post 10.7 rebounds per 40 minutes, 9.4% offensive rebounding percentage and 16% total rebounding percentage.  His defense was the first thing that I took note of.  He’s definitely a better on-ball defender compared to a team defender.  It’s not like he’a a bad team defender, it’s just that more times then I would’ve liked Johnson was a split second late on his assignments.  Sometimes he’s too locked in on the ball and has to quicken his recognition on back end rotations.  He can cover ground at a fast pace so as long as he aligns his head with his movement Johnson should become a more than suitable team defender.  But his on-ball defense and switchability really stood out. Johnson has a big, muscular frame and is still quick at the same time.  He has decently fluid hips and does a good job staying attached even when he gets beat.  He can be taken to the post by bigger forwards and do an admirable job holding his ground.

On offense Johnson is pretty limited.  He’s more of a straight line driver with little wiggle and finishes most of his drives with jump stops.  He has an average first step but is still able to draw fouls at a fair clip.  Johnson does a good job playing the game low so when he’s able to get a beat on his defender does a good job creating distance with his shoulders and chest and finishing around the bucket.  He has a good feel for off-ball cutting and does most of his damage around the basket.  His jump shot probably needs more extension on his set/release point to raise his follow through.  He did manage to catch-and-shoot at an average clip but anything off the dribble needs to improve.  He’s more of a ball mover on offense but at times has made some nice passes with anticipation.  Johnson probably doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning upperclassmen and really maxes out around high level role player. With a quality freshman class and the transfer of Kerry Blackshear the Florida Gators should be a lot more talented this year compared with last season.  That should only boost Johnson’s role on the team and could be someone by seasons end with more hype.


Aaron Henry, 6’6, SF, SO, Michigan State, 20 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ As the season went along last year Henry got better and better.  He ended up starting and contributing for a team that went to the final four.  Henry plays the game with such balance and has a good center of gravity it helps him move about the court with as little wasted motion as possible.  He is a sound defender that plays well on-ball and team defense.  His low defensive stance helps defend 1 through 4 and his communication skills help him process the game.  Having a strong defensive anchor supports his upside as a total package defender.  There is still room for improvement as he can float on defense, ball watch and commit silly fouls.  He was a freshmen under Tom Izzo last year and Izzo doesn’t give much rope.  I mean during Jaren Jackson’s freshman season he barely cracked 20 minutes per game at the end of the season.  Henry should be able to afford more leeway his sophomore season.

Henry impressed me the more I watched him on offense.  I thought he was just going to be a straight line driver and floor spacer but I was pleasantly surprised by his skill set.  For starters his dribble drive game is more diverse than I expected with variations of pivots, jabs, step offs and pump fakes.  He can use this array of set ups while attacking closeouts.  He can finish with touch, hit runners and make jumpers on the move.  Even with all that said Henry is still pretty limited as a live-ball creator but has shown these flashes of skill which is a good place to start from.  He’s not really quick twitch in the lane and is still developing counter dribble drive moves.  His passing is pretty underrated making some pin-point passes right before the play breaks open.  His overall sharp IQ should help in aiding his developmental process.  Henry will be getting a greater opportunity to showcase his skills this season and has a chance to make the sophomore leap. 


Nate Hinton, 6’5, SG/SF, SO, Houston, 20.2 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ I really like Hinton.  The guy is just a good basketball player on both sides of the ball.  His handle in comparison to the other wings on my list (Johnson and Henry) is probably the furthest along in his progression.  He can actually grab-and-go defensive rebounds and jump start the offense.  He has a serviceable go-to live-ball move with a right-to-left push cross, has decent stop and go moves with balance and can accelerate/decelerate in the lane.  This could be a reason why he gets to the line at a good clip with a 32% free throw rate.  With that said he still doesn’t have the most advanced handle and still needs more counters, shiftiness plus more rim attacks.  Also, his first step seems to be pretty average but his solid control and stability help him with downhill speed.  But the bottom line is that his handle and live-ball skills are further along when compared with his peers and gives him a head start with his maturation.  Additionally, he’s growing his off the bounce pull-up game and can make tough movement two point field goals.  That will help enhance his overall scoring ability.  He also has some appeal as a playmaker even though it sparsely happens displaying passes on the move, out of the pick-and-roll and one hand passes cross court.  It kind of feels like a skill laying dormant and could be a huge x-factor in his development.  Maybe he never showcases his passing capability but from what I’ve seen there’s potential gains.

He should improve upon his 33.7% three point shooting percentage this season.  Mechanically speaking he does dip the ball down pretty low at times but has a quick trigger with his follow through.  Developing core strength and getting stronger in general should help with power and accuracy which should improve his shot.  His 85.7% free throw percentage is a fair indicator of potential shooing success in the future as well.  On defense Hinton plays with energy and hustle.  He’s a hard nose defender using his brawn and leverage to body up his man.  Off-ball he can get his assignments mixed up occasionally but overall has a manageable IQ plugging up the gaps and shrinking the court.  It also helps that he has good timing in the passing lanes and creates events on defense.  Overall Hinton has two-way wing ability.  His role should expand with Houston and so to should his draft stock.  


Paul Reed, 6’9, SF/PF, JR, Depaul, 20.3 years

( 51, 36)

~ It’s funny.  Out of Toppin, Johnson, Henry, Hinton, Reed and Pickett, Reed is probably the player I favor the least but is still mocked on both and  Go figure.  I debated even having Reed on my list since there’s nothing “sleeper” about him at this point in time.  I’ve been a fan of Reed for a while and think he has major upside nevertheless.  So to keep in theme of upperclassmen that I favor for next season Reed would have to be on that list.  The very first thing that stood out about Reed is his long limbed profile.  His height, length and athletic ability really does fit well with the modern NBA.  Depending on how his skill set develops he could play small forward all the way up to center.  He does have to get stronger if he wants to absorb the heavy blows at the next level however.  I personally would’ve liked to see Reed involved more as the screener in pick-and-roll’s since he can be a devastating dive man and can function better with more space popping out from a ball screen.  He can drive in a straight line and spin back to the basket in the lane.  Most of his live-ball moves are pretty sluggish.  I mean, he does have a crossover but it’s pretty slow.  He has good overall touch, solid leaping power, body control exploding off one foot which makes for efficient finishing.  He didn’t shoot that many three’s but has a high release point along with solid touch gives Reed sufficient room to improve.  He’s more of an extra pass type of player but has made drive-and-kick passes on occasion.  Although he can be a black hole on offense and get tunnel vision.  He needs to do a better job taking advantage of his scoring ability and create for others.

Reed is a mixed bag on defense.  You see his potential and upside as he can traverse through large swaths of ground at a brisk pace.  He displays great creation skills and sports solid block and steal percentages (2.3%steal, 6.8%block).  But the guy just has poor fundamentals.  He can’t flip his hips on defense which hurts defending at the point of attack.  He plays back on his heels too often and needs to play on his toes for better mobility.  He commits careless fouls which can be highly frustrating.  He goes for the ball instead of staying sound with his responsibility which ends up knocking himself out of position.  He has underwhelming recognition skills on defense.  He can make the initial rotation but struggles to cycle through multiple rotations.  Reed is by no means a terrible defender but just infuriating to watch someone with such defensive upside be prone to that lack of detail.  He has the baseline ability and tools to become a lottery pick but until he establishes better habits his future might restricted.         


Jalen Pickett, 6’4, PG/SG, SO, Siena, 19.8 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ It feels like most people following the NBA draft knows Pickett by now and the term “breakout/sleeper” really doesn’t apply to him.  I just think there’s a very good chance by season’s end Pickett will have first round draft consideration.  I had to put him on my list especially since Pickett isn’t mocked by either or  Does this mean I like Pickett more than other returning guards like Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson and Ayo Dosunmu?  Well, yea.  You can make the argument that those four other point guards have better first steps, better athletic ability and higher ceilings.  But they all have their question marks as well. Lawson is taller but I don’t trust his touch, Hagans and Dosunmu have quick first step’s but need to be a better shot makers and Jones can’t shoot threes.  I guess I favor Pickett more because of offensive versatility.  I think Pickett has more potential to become a Fred VanVleet type combo guard in the NBA in comparison to the others.  Pickett can set firm screens, move well without the ball, make tough movement shots, catch-and-shoot and make good decisions attacking closeouts.  

Pickett might not have a swift first step and top notch athletic ability but is a good leverage scorer using his butt, base, shoulders and footwork to create scoring angles.  He then takes these scoring advantages and uses them to support his ability to create for others.  He does need to tighten his handle as it can be high at times and he needs to finish with his left hand more often.  His long distance shot has a high release point but has a slight hitch in my opinion.  As long as he buffs that out then I think he can raise his three point percentage especially considering he has solid touch and a good unassisted make rate.  His mid-major competition level might be covering up some of his defensive capacity since Pickett doesn’t have explosive athletic ability.  He gets by defending with his strength, broad shoulders, long arms, functional movement and processing speed which helps create on defense.  Those traits will have to carryover at the next level if he wants to be a plus defender. Pickett doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning guards but his game could translate better to an ever growing versatile league.  



Kessler Edwards, 6’8, PF/C, SO, Pepperdine, 19 years

(Not even close to being mocked anywhere)

~ He’s probably more likely to be a four year player than a second year breakout candidate.  Still, even after his senior season at college I don’t know how credible an NBA prospect he will be then.  He’s definitely a long shot to make the NBA.  But after watching some games from his freshman season there is a slight chance he becomes draft relevant.  For starters his physical profile is the most NBA ready quality about him.  He’s long, with good explosion and closing speed.  He can also cover ground in a hurry.  His overreliance on his athleticism to make plays is a problem though and he needs to develop better functional speed.  On defense his hand eye coordination is probably his best trait.  Add that to his long arms and he creates defensive events at a solid rate.  His defensive footwork is sloppy, his IQ is maybe average and he needs to be more focused off ball.  With that said he did show pick-and-roll versatility, doing an admirable job switching, hedging and recovering, and downing the roll.  That skill alone is in demand around the league and could be what propels his career.

On offense Edwards was mainly a spot up shooter.  He has a low set/release point but since he’s long armed and tall he gets his shot off over most defenders.  Developing core strength will be important to quicken his release over time.  Probably the next best thing he does on offense is diving off pick-and-rolls.  Being a great rim-runner makes sense with his athleticism, length, hand eye coordination, leaping power and touch around the basket.  He doesn’t really have a handle, mostly will attack a closeout with a 1-2 plant and release.  But his overall shot creation and live-dribble game is pretty much non-existent at this point.  I admit this is a long shot but it’s fun following prospects throughout their college career.


Honorable Mention

Anthony Lamb, 6’6, SF/PF, SR, Vermont, 21.6 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ Good leverage scorer; dips shoulder into defender, strong base and smooth footwork to create scoring angles.  Promising long distance shooting traits that should help translate to the NBA.  I’d say he’s an average NBA athlete with a strong frame and board shoulders.  Nice touch around the rim, gets to the line at a fairly high clip and makes tough movement two point jumpers.  Average to above average IQ on defense.  Needs to improve processing speed if he wants to consistently defend at the next level.  Overall by years end could be regarded as a second round prospect.  He’s more of an undersized power forward and his role in the NBA could be bench/rotational scorer.


Devin Vassell, 6’6, SG/SF, SO, Florida State, 19 years

( not mocked, not mocked)

~ Vassell didn’t play that much this season, only played in short spurts.  Has a long limbed frame that needs to fill out over time but solid NBA athleticism.  He was mostly a catch-and-shoot three point shooter on offense for Florida State but shot well from deep overall.  Most everything about his game seems at least average: vision, team defense, on-ball defense, finishing and handle.  His shot creation and off the bounce game are probably his bigger question marks.  Overall he looks like a potential 3-and-D wing in the NBA.


Quintin Dove, 6’8, SF/PF, SR, UT-Martin, 21.2 years

(Not even close to being mocked)

~ He’s another long shot to make the league like Kessler Edwards.  He transferred from a community college last season so he only has one year division one under his belt.  He’s a questionable defender, extremely foul prone and needs to tighten up his decision making.  So yea, long shot.  I guess what intrigued me about Dove was his physical profile, offensive rebounding, active hands on defense, he’s really good around the rim, actually has somewhat of a straight line handle, got to the free throw line at a good rate, shot 81% from the line, made some difficult shots and his jump shot looks to be translatable to the next level even though he hardly shoots any threes.  He really has to pop on defense, foul less and shoot more threes to get on any draft radar.