Rick Rycroft/Associated Press
11. Detroit Pistons: Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)
A shoulder injury has led to a wait-and-see approach on Maledon, who’s out recovering for ASVEL. However, performances for his national team and in France’s Jeep Elite league have Maledon slotted in the lottery with college basketball just getting starter.
The 6’4″ point guard has popped in previous settings with his passing IQ, shooting, defense and visible maturity. Teams may question his upside, which could seem limited because of uninspiring athletic ability. But enough below-the-rim ball-handlers have succeeded in the NBA with sharper skill levels and basketball IQ.
12. Atlanta Hawks: R.J. Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)
Ball has overshadowed Hampton, the other American teenager in the NBL who’s averaging 10.5 points and 2.3 assists on 9-of-21 three-point shooting through six games.
He did struggle in exhibition matchups against the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-of-11) and Memphis Grizzlies (1-of-8), with questions about his ability to separate surfacing after his trip back to the U.S. Still, the 6’6″ combo guard has flashed enough glimpses of ball-handling, passing and shooting for an 18-year-old.
His draft ceiling and floor have started to appear early, with Hampton a good bet to fall in the No. 6-20 range.
13. Portland Trail Blazers: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
More of an older-school big without a perimeter game, the 6’9″, 245-pound Okongwu provides a devastating mix of power, bounce, quickness and finesse.
Buy stock into his debut of 20 points, 13 boards and eight blocks. With NBA tools, he’ll build a case by giving USC easy baskets, a high-percentage post option, elite rim protection and energy. Teams initially in wait-and-see mode on Okongwu should be ready to believe by conference play.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah Jazz): Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Teams should already have a good feel for Stewart and his projected NBA identity. There isn’t anything overly exciting about his upside, but the right team will see value in a high floor propped up by tools, power and motor around the basket.
He’s also made strides as a shooter, and his jump shot should surprise anyone who feels Stewart is limited to finishing and rebounding.
15. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets): Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
Haliburton backed up his FIBA U19 World Cup performance over the summer by opening his sophomore season with 12 points, 14 assists and six steals. Though he lacks explosiveness and two-point scoring skills, the 6’4″ sophomore separates himself with advanced passing IQ and defensive instincts.
Another step forward as a shooter and self-creator should lock him into the first round and potentially push Haliburton into the lottery.
16. Charlotte Hornets: Samuell Williamson (Louisville, SF, Freshman)
Veteran forwards on Louisville will make it tough for Williamson to consistently produce, but flash plays of advanced shot creation, shot-making and passing should draw first-round interest. He’s a 6’7″, three-level scorer whose tools and skill level will make it easy to overlook his stat averages and so-so athleticism.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
A big role awaits Green at Arizona, where his strengths and weaknesses should be easy to spot. He’ll earn fans with his athleticism, slashing, passing and open shot-making. On the other hand, questions could arise about his creation ability and shooting consistency.
He can give teams a little of everything, including energy, but no core specialty to bank on. Either way, Green should be one of Arizona’s key starters and an immediate contributor with NBA athleticism and a versatile skill set to build on.
18. Houston Rockets: Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia, C, Freshman)
The right team could see Tshiebwe beefing up its front line and giving it easy baskets off rim runs, lobs, rolls and offensive rebounds. The more flashes of shooting touch he shows, the faster teams will ignore his 6’9″ size—and the higher he’ll move up boards.
19: Minnesota Timberwolves: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
Expected to fill Chuma Okeke’s role at Auburn, Okoro projects as an immediate contributor for his defensive toughness and ability to guard inside and out. He’ll win over scouts with his physical tools, at 6’6″ and 225 pounds, and impact over stats and flashy scoring.
Shooting will be a key that unlocks his draft stock, and though not known for it, the eye test believes in his made jump shots in high school.
20. San Antonio Spurs: Trendon Watford (LSU, SF/PF, Freshman)
A 6’9″ forward who likes to handle the ball and score facing up, Watford will make himself easy to identify as an NBA prospect. His identity revolves around offensive versatility, though he’ll need enough flashes of spot-up and pull-up shooting to solidify a top-20 case.