ESPN's latest 2020 NBA mock draft didn't bring good news for Australian basketball fans. Arizona Wildcat Josh Green fell two spots since the last update, and sits just outside the lottery at 17th. Former Illawarra Hawk LaMelo Ball dropped from 3rd to 4th, while fellow NBL Next Star R.J. Hampton took a major hit, going from 8th to 13th.
Green has been on the cusp of the lottery for months now, and will probably stay there for the foreseeable future. As for Ball and Hampton however, both may suffer after cutting their respective NBL seasons short. Given that the NCAA Division I basketball season isn't over yet, college prospects such as Green still have opportunities to impress NBA scouts. The same can't be said for Ball and Hampton.
Josh Green: Treading water
Green's position on NBA draft boards has remained steady for several months, in spite of an up-and-down season with Arizona. The Wildcats currently hold an 19-8 record, which is underwhelming for a team that showed so much pre-season promise. On an individual level however, Green has shown enough to be within reaching distance of the lottery. The 6'6 shooting guard has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive end, and shown flashes of explosive athleticism on offence.
The big question mark surrounding Green is his shooting. At the time of writing, he has made 77% of his free throws for the season, which gives him a solid foundation. However, the three-and-D prospect is only making 32% of his shots from beyond the arc. Green's mediocre scoring efficiency isn't helped by his relatively low volume of shot attempts. The Sydney native is averaging 11.9 points with 2.8 three-point attempts per game.
Green ultimately has the physical tools to impress NBA scouts - a 6'10 wingspan, lightning speed and an impressive vertical leap. His effort on the defensive end is also exemplary, and that could be his ticket to a major NBA role from day one - Matisse Thybulle is the blueprint. The 19 year old still has time to creep up draft boards, in the remainder of the college basketball season and subsequent draft workouts.
NBL exit backfires for Ball, Hampton
When LaMelo Ball suffered a foot injury in December, he had recently ascended to the #1 position on ESPN's mock draft. The 18 year old played just 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks, which was enough to win the NBL Rookie of the Year award. However, his stint in Australia wasn't enough to maintain his standing atop the NBA draft boards. Ball has now fallen to fourth, and could slide even further as his college peers head towards March Madness.
R.J. Hampton has suffered a similar fate to Ball, but on a larger scale. The 6'5 shooting guard was ranked fifth at one point, but now finds himself on the edge of the lottery at 13th. Citing a niggling hip injury, Hampton left the Breakers with two games left in the regular season. In fairness, it's unlikely that two games would have made a profound impact on his draft stock, but Hampton had more to gain by playing than he had to lose.
With Ball and Hampton out of the picture, the likes of Anthony Edwards and Isaac Okoro have generated draft hype. Deni Avdija and Killian Hayes have also drawn attention from NBA scouts, for their performances in Europe. It's not all doom and gloom for the two NBL Next Stars though - workouts and team needs will have a major say in what happens on draft night.