The 2020 NBA draft is becoming a can't-miss event for Australian basketball fans. In ESPN's latest iteration of the mock draft, Josh Green is making moves while Makur Maker joins the 2020 class. NBL Next Stars prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton have consolidated their positions in the lottery.
Josh Green: cusp of lottery
Arizona Wildcat Josh Green was the biggest winner in ESPN's newest mock draft update, rising from 22nd to 16th. The 6'6 guard is currently averaging 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for Arizona, while shooting 33% from beyond the arc. These figures may not be spectacular, but he has impressed on the defensive end.
With a 6'11 wingspan, light feet and remarkable tenacity, Green's off-ball play could be his biggest asset in front of NBA scouts. The Sydney product has also shown flashes of an offensive repertoire that includes three-point range and above-the-rim athleticism.
It's early days for Josh Green, being just four games into the NCAA season. Furthermore, three of Arizona's four matches thus far have been blowouts, with Green sitting out for long stretches. He will have better opportunities to showcase his offensive talent as the season progresses.
Makur Maker: following in Thon's footsteps
In 2016, Thon Maker became the first player to jump straight from high school to the NBA in over a decade. He achieved this by staying in high school for one more year as a postgraduate senior, meeting the NBA's eligibility criterion of being one year removed from high school. Thon's cousin Makur now aims to follow the same pathway, with his class at Pacific Academy, California having graduated in mid-2019.
The only hiccup is that Maker actually fell two credits short of receiving a high school diploma. In a bid to gain eligibility for next year's draft, the Sudanese-Australian petitioned the league for inclusion by submitting his high school transcripts. The NBA Players' association is helping Maker with his application, and they expect him to get the green light.
ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony previously listed the Perth native at 21st in the 2021 mock draft. Now, following Maker's bid to reclassify, he makes his first appearance on the 2020 mock draft at 33rd. Standing at 6'11, Maker has been described as a "modern day point forward" by his guardian, basketball coach Ed Smith.
LaMelo Ball: gunning for top
LaMelo Ball's position remained unchanged in ESPN's new mock draft, where he is still listed third. The Illawarra Hawk is a potential #1 pick, with NBA level passing ability. Ball currently averages 6.1 assists per game in the NBL, ranking second only to Scott Machado. He has also an ability to take care of the ball, with just 2.1 turnovers per game on average.
Ball's shooting efficiency is a point of concern for NBA scouts, as well as his defensive instincts. The 6'7 point guard is shooting a paltry 24% from downtown through ten NBL games, as well as 36% from the field. His shot selection is often questionable, and he also has a propensity to gamble for steals on the defensive end.
Nevertheless, Ball is an 18 year old playing against grown men. Scouts have seen enough talent to place him among the top prospects in the class of 2020. ESPN NBA draft analyst Mike Schmitz recently sat down with Ball, going through his strengths and weaknesses using game film.
R.J. Hampton: firmly in lottery
R.J. Hampton's stock rose slightly since the previous ESPN mock draft. He went up one place from sixth to fifth, following some impressive performances for the New Zealand Breakers. Hampton is averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 45% from the field and 36% from 3-point land.
The Pick and Roll's Michael Kruger discussed Hampton's potential impact in the NBL landscape, in a feature titled "The Consequence of Promise".
There is nothing particularly new to the idea that an explosive, 6’5” point guard has the potential to alter the basketball landscape. Every year we are sold another star yet to be born, every year we rue a newly maligned messiah. But the intriguing tension of Hampton’s promise is that his success is possibly more important to the league he plays within, than to the team he actually plays for. The duality, and precarity, centred around Hampton’s growth is that his future may irrevocably change our Australian basketball reputation – even after he has left us all behind.
ESPN's Mike Schmitz recently sat down with the 18 year old, going through game footage as he did with LaMelo Ball. Hampton is an NBA level athlete, with blistering pace in the open court.