The 2020 NBA Draft is just days away, and that means it’s time for everybody’s favorite pastime: NBA Draft player comparisons! These things sometimes get out of hand, like when folks compared Adam Morrison to Larry Bird, so we decided to take a more careful approach with a handful of this year’s top prospects.
Instead of one overall player comp, we’ve listed three — the player’s ceiling, the player’s floor and the sweet spot, which lies somewhere in between. Occasionally it’s inevitable, but we’ve done our best to avoid the traditional traps like only comparing lefties to other lefties, white guys to other white guys, Europeans to other Europeans, etc.
Just so we’re clear, the ceiling represents the player’s absolute best-case scenario and the floors are the worst-case, so don’t get too up in arms if you think they’re too high or too low. Also, by listing three players we have a much better shot at being right, which is all that really matters.
Please feel free to bust these out at your virtual draft party and claim credit. We’re always happy to help.
Ceiling: Jason Kidd
This is the most obvious upside comp for Ball, and it’s totally justified. A big guard with elite passing skill in both the halfcourt and in transition, Kidd came in as a poor shooter and eventually became reliable. If Ball does the same, he could also have a long and illustrious career.
Floor: Tomas Satoransky
It’s very hard to find a lower-end comp for Ball — you just don’t see too many 6-7 point guards in the NBA. Satoransky might be as close as we get, as a tall point/combo guard who is good in transition, and while he lacks Ball’s elite passing ability, Satoransky dished out 6.8 assists per 36 minutes last season. Ultimately if Ball is unable to finish around the rim and consistently make 3-pointers, his career could look closer to Satoransky’s than Kidd’s.
Sweet spot: Anfernee Hardaway
Ball isn’t nearly as athletic as Hardaway, but the impact could be the same as a big point guard who affects the game through passing, rebounding and scoring, despite not having a consistent 3-point shot. It’s not a perfect comp, but again, there just aren’t a lot of 6-7 NBA point guards to choose from.
Ceiling: Anthony Davis
Wiseman has intrigued scouts from his early teenage years due to his combination of size, speed, athleticism and guard skills. If he fulfills all those areas to the absolute max, he can be a transcendent player on both ends of the floor, much like Davis.
Floor: DeAndre Jordan
At worst, Wiseman should be a serviceable rim-runner and lob threat like Jordan. Wiseman’s not quite as athletic so you probably won’t see the highlight dunks on Jordan’s resumé, but that type of solid career as a starting center is likely the floor, especially if Wiseman — like Jordan — proves unable to switch in the pick-and-roll.
Sweet spot: Myles Turner
Wiseman’s career will probably fall somewhere in between Davis and Jordan, as a good rim protector and defender who does most of his offensive damage around the basket but can occasionally step out and hit 3-pointers. Many are still waiting on Turner to fulfill his potential, and we may be saying the same thing about Wiseman five seasons into his career.
Ceiling: Dwyane Wade
Edwards named Wade as his NBA comparison and Wade himself endorsed it, so who are we to say otherwise? Edwards’ ceiling is a relentless bucket-getter with extraordinary strength and athleticism who can eventually develop his playmaking. While not yet a great defender, he has the physical tools to excel on that end, and he certainly has the “wow” factor when you watch him play, just like Wade.
Floor: Dion Waiters
On the converse side of the Wade comparisons is Waiters, a “bucket-getter” who has not been able to consistently defend or fit into a team concept. There’s no doubt Edwards will be able to score, but if he can’t do it efficiently then he may end up bouncing from team to team in search of the right fit.
Sweet spot: DeMar DeRozan
If Edwards’ 3-point shot never develops, a career like DeRozan’s is definitely possible: A multiple-time All-Star who can score from the midrange, get to the bucket and draw fouls, but never quite breaks through to the superstar level.
Ceiling: Detlef Schrempf
A big, playmaking forward with a solid 3-point stroke, Avdija has the tools to reach Schrempf’s three-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA status. Though he never averaged 20 points per game, Schrempf’s impact on the court was undeniable, and that’s the type of player that Avdija can become in the NBA.
Floor: Kyle Anderson
Avdija’s playmaking is probably his best skill, but he’s not an elite NBA athlete and may never be a dynamic scorer. A low-to-the-ground point-forward like Anderson may be a realistic floor if Avdija’s scoring ability doesn’t develop further.
Sweet spot: Hedo Turkoglu
Turkoglu became one of the best players on an NBA Finals team, and Avdija has similar potential if things come together. Never an All-Star, Turkoglu had a long, solid career with a few standout years in the mix as a big forward who could play make and knock down 3-pointers.
Ceiling: Alonzo Mourning
Okongwu has the chance to be an elite defensive big, and shows enough offensive potential to approximate Mourning’s 17 career points per game. It will take absolutely everything coming together, but Okongwu has the tools to be a Defensive Player of the Year and multiple-time All-Star like Mourning.
Floor: Ed Davis
If Okongwu’s offense simply never translates to the NBA and his defense isn’t quite as phenomenal as it projects to be, he could end up as an Ed Davis type, coming off the bench to wreak havoc defensively and on the boards.
Sweet spot: Bam Adebayo
I hate making this comparison because they both have Nigerian last names, but Okongwu really does remind you of Adebayo in terms of his defensive ability and offensive potential. One of the youngest players in the draft, Okongwu may take a couple of years to develop but, like Adebayo, his eventual impact could be tremendous if his team is patient.
Ceiling: Amar’e Stoudemire
A ferocious, athletic big with a sweet jumper, Toppin’s ceiling is the modern-day Stoudemire who can space to the 3-point line. Toppin, like Stoudemire, doesn’t show tremendous defensive potential, but that can clearly still lead to All-NBA career.
Floor: Christian Wood
Wood is just breaking out and might soon secure a big free-agent deal, but up until this season he was never quite able to find his footing as a super athletic big with 3-point range. Toppin has a similar skillset and physical profile, though he’ll enter the league with more seasoning and accomplishments than Wood did.
Sweet spot: Brandon Clarke
Clarke began his NBA career as a 23-year-old and was a bright spot on a surprising Grizzlies squad last season. Toppin is ready to be similarly impactful as a rookie, and shows potential as both a four and a five, just like Clarke.
Ceiling: Mike Conley
If Hayes can improve his 3-point stroke the way Conley did, he can have a solid career as a borderline All-Star and key contributor on contending teams. Hayes is a brilliant pick-and-roll passer and has a strong pull-up game like Conley. He has a long way to go to match Conley’s defensive impact, but the tools are there as a 6-5 point guard.
Floor: Kendall Marshall
Marshall was a great passer, but athletically he just couldn’t cut it in the NBA. This likely won’t be the case for Hayes, but he’s certainly not an elite athlete at the next level, which has to raise a few red flags.
Sweet spot: Andre Miller
Never a star, Miller played a thousand NBA seasons by being solid and reliable. Miller was able to thrive without a consistent 3-point shot, something that might not be possible for a point guard in the modern NBA, but Hayes has strong mechanics that suggest he’ll be a competent shooter.
Ceiling: Brandon Ingram
Of all the 3-and-D prospects in the draft, Vassell shows the most offensive upside. Ingram came in as more of a scorer and less of a shooter than Vassell, but eventually their trajectories could overlap if Vassell continues to develop.
Floor: Raja Bell
At the very least, Vassell will be able to lock down perimeter players and hit spot-up 3s, making him a valuable asset for any contending team for a long time.
Sweet spot: Michael Cooper
An eight-time All-Defense forward, Cooper never averaged over 12 points per game but still had a successful and memorable NBA career. With his ability to get out in transition and knock down open 3s, Vassell might have a similar path.
Ceiling: Brandon Roy
Before injuries ended his career, Roy was one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the league — a title Haliburton could one day assume if everything comes together. Like Roy, Haliburton can play both guard positions and alternate between scoring and facilitating as the game dictates. Teammates just liked playing with Roy, and Haliburton has a similar feel.
Floor: Garrett Temple
Some talent evaluators aren’t sold on Haliburton as a lead facilitator, so that leaves some questions about what he is in the NBA. There’s a chance that he just becomes a solid player who’s very good at a lot of things, but not elite at any of them. If that’s the case, it should still lead to a long career like Temple’s.
Sweet spot: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Haliburton’s trainer, Joe Abunassar, told me that he “glides” when he moves, which immediately made me think of Gilgeous-Alexander. They have a similar ability to get to their spots despite non-elite athleticism, and both can knock down 3-pointers while affecting the game in multiple ways.
Ceiling: De’Aaron Fox
Lightning quick with great ability to score in transition and on pull-up jumpers in the halfcourt, Lewis is very reminiscent of Fox. They both have a solid floater game and are adept finishers around the rim, while also being able to play make for others. Lewis’ 3-point shot is better than Fox’s at the same stage.
Floor: Ish Smith
If Lewis is unable to defend or become a knock-down 3-point shooter, he could have the destiny of a change-of-pace backup point guard like Smith.
Sweet spot: Coby White
Lewis is probably a better playmaker than White, but both put pressure on the defense with relentless speed and scoring ability. If given the opportunity, Lewis could have a similarly successful rookie campaign.
Ceiling: Khris Middleton
Middleton made the jump from a role player to an All-Star, and that’s definitely in the cards for Bey if he gets into the perfect situation. He’s already a knock-down 3-point shooter and potentially elite defender at 6-8.
Floor: Patrick Patterson
Bey isn’t the most dynamic athlete despite his defensive prowess, so he could become a strong wing defender and pick-and-pop option, leading to a long career like Patterson’s.
Sweet spot: Robert Covington
Bey has the potential to be an elite wing defender with size and a reliable 3-point shot, much like Covington, who has become the 3-and-D poster boy in the modern NBA.
Ceiling: Klay Thompson
Watching Nesmith’s smooth shooting stroke coming off of screens, it’s hard not to think of Thompson. Nesmith profiles as an elite 3-point shooter (52 percent on 8.2 attempts per game last season at Vanderbilt), and has the length and size to be just as impactful as Thompson defensively if he stays healthy and he improves his lateral quickness.
Floor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
There’s a chance that Nesmith’s shooting last season in just 14 games was a bit of an anomaly. If he shoots closer to the 34 percent he made as a freshman, he’ll end up being more like Caldwell-Pope, a streaky shooter who makes for a strong rotation piece.
Sweet spot: Joe Harris
Nesmith probably won’t reach Thompson’s caliber on either end, but he could potentially match Harris, who has become one of the most efficient 3-point shooters in the league while holding his own defensively.
Ceiling: Andre Iguodala
Okoro will likely never become a prolific 3-point shooter, but he can potentially become an elite wing defender while thriving in transition and on cuts, much like Iguodala. It’s easy to see Okoro becoming one of those players who just makes everyone better as his career progresses.
Floor: Thabo Sefolosha
If the offense never comes, Okoro is looking at a career more like Sefolosha’s, as a coveted wing defender who gets matched up against some of the league’s best scorers.
Sweet spot: Gerald Wallace
It’s realistic to imagine Okoro having a career like Wallace, who made an All-Star team, an All-Defense team and once led the league in steals. Wallace never developed a consistent 3-point shot, but he was a valuable contributor nonetheless.
Ceiling: Steve Francis
A three-time All-Star, Francis was a 20-point per game scorer who also averaged six assists for his career, and that’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Anthony. What Francis lacked in efficiency, he made up for in aggressiveness and confidence, and Anthony seems cut from a similar cloth.
Floor: Shabazz Napier
Napier has been a solid backup for most of his career, and that could ultimately be the destiny of Anthony if he doesn’t manage to find consistency at the NBA level.
Sweet spot: Reggie Jackson
More of a scorer than a distributor, Anthony could fall into a similar role as Jackson, who has moments of brilliance occasionally offset by moments of utter frustration. There are also injury concerns surrounding Anthony, just like those that have plagued Jackson for the last few seasons.
Ceiling: Pascal Siakam
Williams is a hot name rising up draft boards, and Siakam is a great example why. Williams put up modest numbers at Florida State but is an athletic, 6-8 lump of clay ready for the right team to mold him into an All-NBA player.
Floor: Al-Farouq Aminu
Williams shot 32 percent from the 3-point line at FSU, and if that never improves then he’ll likely become a player like Aminu — a useful defender whom opponents dare to shoot from beyond the arc.
Sweet spot: Jerami Grant
Grant has evolved from an energy big off the bench to the definition of a modern-day wing with his defensive versatility and 3-point shooting. Whichever team drafts Williams will be hoping for a similar trajectory.