Note: Comparing these prospects to someone means their playstyle/physical profile is similar. It is not saying that they will reach the level of the NBA player.
Anthony Edwards: Donovan Mitchell
Although this Draft has no consensus number one pick, Anthony Edwards is the most common selection for it amongst Mock Boards. The Georgia shooting guard had a terrific freshman season, averaging 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per contest. Edwards earns comparison to all-star Donovan Mitchell due to their similar skill set. Both players are explosive guards who possess great skill in finishing around the rim. Both also have the quickness and strength to be fierce defenders. They each can shoot off the dribble, although Edward’s efficiency from beyond the arc is below par (29%). They also take questionable shots, with a high degree of difficulty. Edwards took many ill-advised jumpers this season early in the shot clock, particularly from the perimeter. Edwards has the potential to be an all-star like Mitchell in the NBA, but like Mitchell, he will need to develop his game going forward.
LaMelo Ball: Jason Williams/Ricky Rubio
LaMelo Ball is the most intriguing prospect in this year’s draft. The 6’7” Point Guard spent this past season with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia’s NBL, putting up impressive showings leading to his NBL Rookie of the Year Award. Ball’s playing style and skill set are so unique, and it is hard to compare him to just one player. The Jason Williams comparison comes from his flashy play-style, particularly his passes. Ball tends to throw no-look, behind the back, and other fancy passes with high success. The Ricky Rubio comparison is more with skill-set. Rubio could be looked at as Ball’s floor in the league. Both are pass first, taller point guards with limited athleticism. The difference here, however, is that Ball has the potential to be a good NBA scorer. Ball also has strides to make on the defensive side on the ball, where he could utilize his size at the position to be an above-average defender like Rubio.
James Wiseman: Mitchell Robinson
James Wiseman looked like the most likely candidate for the number one pick heading into his freshman season with Memphis. However, he only played three games with Tigers, before losing his eligibility due to allegations on violating NCAA rules. Wiseman offers teams a talented offensive big, capable of scoring out of post-ups and pick and rolls. He also provides defensive potential as a terrific rim protector, thus earning him the comparison to Mitchell Robinson. Both Wiseman’s and Robinson’s most significant selling points are their athleticism. They both can be lob threats offensively, and great rim protectors and rebounders defensively. Something that will likely make Wiseman surpass Robinson’s level, however, is his talent offensively. Wiseman is a better scorer out of the post, and although inconsistent, still can shoot jump shots.
Isaac Okoro: Andre Iguodala
From the start of the NCAA season to now, Isaac Okoro has been one of the highest risers in this year’s draft board. Before the season began, he was looked upon as someone who would likely do more than one year at Auburn. However, Okoro’s size, speed, and intensity made him one of the best defenders at the college level this year. This is the primary source of the Andre Iguodala comparison. Like Okoro, Iguodala was seen as an exceptional athlete and defender in college. Both players were heralded for their ability to finish around the rim, their handle, and passing vision. However, Okoro’s success in the NBA almost entirely depends on the development of his jumper. Okoro only shot 28.6% from three at Auburn, a mark that certainly needs to be improved to be a successful offensive player. Iguodala had a similar percentage from three during his college career but improved his jumper to be a career 33.4% shooter from three. If Okoro can hit the three at this mark, he has the tools to be an all-star.
Deni Avdija: Gordon Hayward
Deni Avdija is a tantalizing prospect. The Israeli forward has the size to play the power forward position but possesses the skills of a point guard in terms of his passing vision. Many scouts compare him to Luka Doncic, which is a fine comparison, but a better one could be Gordon Hayward. Both Avdija and Hayward are versatile forwards with a great basketball IQ. One of the concerns with Avdija is his three-point shot. He shot just 32% from three and 52% from the line, a major red flag. However, Hayward shot even worse from three in his final season at Butler, at just 29%. Yet, with NBA coaching and years of development, Hayward has turned into an elite shooter from deep. Avdija will need to train in these areas, as his NBA potential largely depends on his jumper.
Onyeka Okongwu: Bam Adebayo
Onyeka Okongwu started on the unbeaten 2016 Chino Hills team, under the shadow of the Ball brothers. Since then, Okongwu has emerged as a star in his own right, enjoying a stellar freshman season at USC. The similarities between the USC center and Adebayo are endless. Both players are 6’9” and weigh around 250 lbs. Slightly undersized for the center position, they each make up for it with their athleticism and ability to space the floor vertically as a lob threat. Both are also exceptional defenders, with the athletic ability to protect the rim and the speed and lateral quickness to switch out onto the perimeter. A limitation of both players is the fact that they can’t stretch the floor and hit the three yet. This hasn’t seemed to have affected Adebayo’s success, who was a first-time all-star this past season. Nonetheless, the development would further Okongwu’s offensive potential. His solid mark of 72% from the charity stripe offers the promise that he can develop his jumper.
Obadiah Toppin: John Collins
Coming off a season where he won the Wooden Award, Obi Toppin may have the highest floor of any player in this year’s draft. The only question with Toppin in how just much better he can get. The Dayton power forward is an offensive juggernaut, averaging 20 points a game. His offensive skill earns him a comparison to Atlanta’s John Collins. Both players are high fliers who are lob threats and have exceptional ability to finish around the rim. Both also space the floor, with marks of around 40% from deep this season. Their most prevalent similarity, however, is one of their flaws: defense. Both players are poor defenders who can be exposed from pick and rolls or post-ups. Toppin has poor lateral quickness, which limits his ability to defend on the perimeter. Lackluster defense is also what limits both players’ ability to play center, along with height at only 6’9. Toppin is sure to be an offensive threat in the NBA but needs to improve defensively to be elite.
Tyrese Haliburton: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
In his sophomore season for Iowa State, Tyrese Haliburton was elite. The guard had averages of 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. He was also efficient, with shooting splits of 50,40, 80. Haliburton has a frame and set of skills similar to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Both are 6’5 and skinny compared to others at their position. While neither are explosive athletes, both are creative finishers around the rim and reliable playmakers. Coming out of college, Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper was a slight concern, with an awkward shot similar to Haliburton’s. Despite the form, both are now capable shooters. Entering this year’s draft, Haliburton has the potential to be a secondary playmaking shooting guard, much like Gilgeous-Alexander.
Killian Hayes: D’Angelo Russell
Killian Hayes has been playing professional basketball since he was 16 years old, where he debuted with Cholet Basket. This past season he played for Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, where he performed well enough to earn him a lottery spot on most draft boards. He draws comparison to fellow left-hander D’Angelo Russell. Both Hayes and Russell are exceptional playmakers, with good vision and a fluid handle. Hayes is a good shooter, and given his sound mechanics, his percentages will likely improve with increased experience. Although both are not exceptional athletes, they make up for it with tough left-handed floaters and layups around the basket. They also make up for it with size, using their 6’5 height to their advantage against smaller guards. Much like Russell back in 2015, a major concern for Hayes is that he is too left hand dominant, limiting his finishing around the rim and ability to make precise passes. Hayes also has strides to make on defense, although he has shown good ability as an off the ball defender.
RJ Hampton: Dante Exum
RJ Hampton left fans shocked when he decided to forgo college to join the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. Playing 20 minutes per game for the Auckland based team, Hampton had per-game averages of 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, with shooting splits of 40, 29, and 68. Although these numbers may seem underwhelming, especially compared to those of Lamelo Ball, it is essential to know that Hampton’s team was a playoff contender with players who were better than him. He played limited minutes and played against high-level professionals 5-10 years older than him, not college athletes. The comparison for Hampton is Australian Dante Exum. Like most comparisons on this list, both have a similar frame and physical ability. At 6’5, Hampton has the potential to play either guard spot. Both also have a terrific on-court work ethic and hustle. This season, Hampton showed how lethal he could be in transition with his speed and athleticism. Exum’s deep range shot was a cause for concern before being drafted like Hampton’s is now. Activating his talent offensively will require him to develop his jumper beyond the 29% mark he hit this past season.