While the 2020 NBA draft class will always be remembered for being a bit unconventional, the talent throughout the class was never questioned.
With COVID-19 protocols putting a damper on the combine and team workouts, and with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, some college athletes suffered greatly by losing a chance to improve their draft stock.
However, this class is still full of talent from top to bottom. In fact, this might be one of the most well-rounded classes in recent history.
As we approach the completion of the first dozen games of the NBA season, let’s dive in and examine a few rookies to keep an eye on going forward- not just this year but beyond as well.
Some may say this is due to recency bias. Those who watched Maxey at Kentucky know how good he is. Albeit, the fact that he’s dazzled in the past few games with the 76ers depleted due to COVID protocols certainly helps his case.
Maxey was spectacular on John Calipari’s Wildcat team, averaging 14 points and three dimes per game on another loaded UK team. Maxey was heralded as a surefire lottery pick but somehow fell to 21st overall in the NBA Draft.
Maxey can score, defend, and has the versatility to play both guard positions- a luxury that will fit in nicely with Philadelphia. Doc Rivers’ squad has a legitimate title shot, and having the ability to bring a prolific scorer like Maxey off the bench bodes well for their chances.
Haliburton is another player who dropped further than many people imagined. The Haliburton to the Knicks hype was real, as the Knicks desperately needed a point guard. Ultimately they rolled with Obi Toppin, and that’s certainly not a bad pick.
Regardless, Haliburton is an incredible player and is going to cause problems in the league for years to come.
He dropped to 12th overall to the Sacramento Kings in the 2020 NBA Draft. The 20-year-old point guard from Iowa State has gotten off to a great start for Luke Walton’s team this season in what always seemed like a perfect fit for both sides.
Haliburton has flirted with a triple-double on a few occasions so far in the 2020-2021 campaign, and De’Aaron Fox as his running mate is a mess for opposing teams. Fox’s downhill style meets perfectly for Haliburton, who might be best playing off the ball.
Haliburton’s court awareness and ability to pass the ball at a high level is second-to-none, and the rookie has a bright, long future in the NBA if he can continue at this rate.
Achiuwa wasn’t a lottery pick, but he has the perfect skill set to be a 10-year player in the NBA. He was selected 20th overall by the defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat.
The 6-foot-8 power forward out of Memphis is a headache to deal with on both ends of the floor. While Achiuwa hasn’t dazzled out of the gate- mainly due to the team he’s on- he will be a key contributor for many, many years.
Precious averaged 16 points and 11 boards in his freshman year at Memphis en route to being named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He was even slated as a high-end lottery pick in many mock drafts during draft season.
He has the ability to rebound at a high level, brings the energy you want from any player, and the tenacity to compete night in and night out. While he’s drawn some comparisons to Montrezl Harrell and Kenneth Faried, he has the tools to surpass both those guys as far as long-term success goes.
If Achiuwa can work on his outside shooting, he might be best served as a small-ball center, or a power forward playing next to Bam Adebayo for the next half-dozen years.
The name Precious Achiuwa is a name that will be around NBA circles for years to come.
Last but not least: LaMelo Ball.
Ball was perhaps the most highly-discussed prospect coming into the draft in the past several years, and not just because of his talent.
The youngest of the Ball Brothers has always been on the radar- since playing at Chino Hills, moving overseas to Lithuania, playing in the Lavar Ball JBA league, then going back to high school to play for Spire, before going overseas again to play for the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL.
LaMelo’s journey to the NBA has always been followed, so much so that his Lithuanian team had broadcasts in America so people can see the talented teenager play.
With all that being said, LaMelo Ball is the real deal. He was selected third overall by the Charlotte Hornets, and the 19-year-old has a long future in the NBA for a number of reasons.
He won’t turn 20 until August, and he is now being listed as a 6-foot-8 point guard. Ball’s ability to pass the rock has always been highly-touted, and even more impressive is his court vision, awareness, and patience- which is highly evident through the first ten games.
Ball can rebound at a high clip, and even though his shot is a bit unorthodox just like his brother, he can shot at a decent mark as well.
If the Charlotte Hornets ever give LaMelo the keys to the offense, he will soar and post triple-doubles on a near-nightly basis.
LaMelo Ball is the real deal, and he will be talked about in the league for the next decade at least.
Again, this rookie class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and Obi Toppin are just a few names that will be impact players in the NBA for the next decade as well.
As for now, the Rookie of the Year race certainly seems like LaMelo’s to lose, but a lot can change in the span of a few months.