NBA player comparisons for the 10 best big men in upcoming draft

Krysten Peek

The chances of us finding the next Anthony Davis in the 2020 draft class are slim, but there are a few instant-impact guys who could come in and make a difference for a franchise next season. Fans won’t have a chance to see potential No. 1 draft pick James Wiseman play the rest of the college basketball season and might be wondering who his comparison is at the NBA level. Here’s a look at the top 10 bigs most likely to be taken in this upcoming draft class and who they compare to in the NBA.

C James Wiseman, Fr., Memphis, 7-1, 240

Background: Wiseman moved from Nashville to Memphis to play for coach Penny Hardaway when Hardaway was still a high school coach in the Memphis area. In an intense recruiting battle, the No. 1-ranked player coming out of high school chose Memphis over Kentucky, giving Penny the top-ranked recruiting class coming into the season. Wiseman only played three games this season before he was hit with a 12-game suspension from the NCAA. Wiseman announced he’s leaving the team to prepare for the 2020 NBA draft.

Player comparison: Early in the season, before all of the drama unfolded, NBA scouts packed the practice gym at Memphis to get a look at the potential No. 1 player in the 2020 draft. Even with the small sample size of practice and three games, there’s one name that most scouts compare Wiseman to: Chris Bosh. “You can see the similarities in their game even with Wiseman being so young,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He’s a lefty, runs the floor extremely well for his size and has a decent perimeter shot.” Hardaway has high expectations for Wiseman, already saying not only is he the No. 1 draft pick, but that he’ll also be the Rookie of the Year.

Memphis' James Wiseman and Oregon's Anthony Mathis battle for position on Nov. 12. Oregon won the game 82-74. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Memphis' James Wiseman and Oregon's Anthony Mathis battle for position on Nov. 12. Oregon won the game 82-74. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

F Obi Toppin, So., Dayton, 6-9, 220

Background: Toppin only had 13 Division-I offers in high school before he settled on Dayton. He grew six inches from his junior year in high school to now and has been one of the early breakout stars of the college basketball season, averaging 20 points and eight rebounds per game.

Player comparison: Toppin has great length, a nice outside jumper and can absorb contact while still getting his shot off in the lane. The first comparison that comes to mind is Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. Millsap is a player who can knock it down from deep and also make good reads inside, similar to what Toppin is doing at Dayton.

PG/SG Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv, 6-9, 215

Background: Avdija’s dad played professionally in Europe from 1979-90 and played against Michael Jordan when Jordan was at UNC. Deni started playing basketball at an early age and became an elite player early on. He’s now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv and the U20 Israeli national team and is a projected lottery pick in the 2020 draft.

Player comparison: Avdija might be the best player coming out of Europe this year but he’s not quite Luka Doncic. He’s more like Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric, with speed for his size and the ability to shoot off the dribble, sometimes on deep threes. “He can shoot the ball, play defense on guys stronger and much older than him, shoots the three well and is a versatile modern-day big the NBA is looking for,” a EuroLeague assistant told Yahoo Sports.

F Vernon Carey Jr., Fr., Duke, 6-10, 270

Background: A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Carey chose Duke over Michigan State and Miami. Carey struggled early at Duke but has found his stride after leading the Blue Devils to the 2K Empire Classic title by totaling 51 points and 22 rebounds in two games.

Player comparison: If Carey stays healthy and continues on his upward trend, he has the potential to be a Marcus Morris type at the next level. Both big men are actually having very similar seasons on their respective teams, with Morris averaging 18.8 points per game for the Knicks, while Carey is averaging 18.6 points. A power player in the lane, Carey is great at establishing position and is almost unstoppable on the block where he shows a variety of moves, from baby-hook shots to soft touches around the basket.

F Zeke Nnaji, Fr., Arizona, 6-11, 240

Background: A Minnesota native, Nnaji chose Arizona over Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and Baylor. Nnaji is averaging 16 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Player comparison: Marvin Bagley III went No. 2 overall in the draft two years ago, and I’m not saying Nnaji should go that high, but there are some similarities in their games. Both are athletic bigs who run the floor with ease. There were some defensive concerns with Bagley after his one year at Duke, and there are similar concerns with Nnaji. Nnaji has been one of the surprises of this season, and few NBA scouts had considered him a one-and-done when the season started. “We all know about the backcourt talent at Arizona, but the biggest surprise was seeing Zeke play. With some development at the next level, he can have a good career as an NBA big man,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.

F Precious Achiuwa, Fr., Memphis, 6-9, 225

Background: The athletic freshman from Nigeria waited until the last minute, choosing Memphis over Kansas and North Carolina, and he’s now averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds. Achiuwa's older brother, God'sgift Achiuwa, also played college basketball for St. John's from 2011-14.

Player comparison: Achiuwa is a freak of an athlete who has great size and plays above the rim. He’s a score-first wing/combo forward and needs to improve his shot selection and passing in the lane. He is a smaller Bam Adebayo. Both players run the floor extremely well, and Adebayo is having a breakout year for the Miami Heat.

F Isaiah Stewart, Fr., Washington, 6-9, 250

Background: Stewart played high school ball at La Lumiere in Indiana, where some of the alumni include Jaren Jackson Jr., Jordan Poole and Brian Bowen III. Stewart chose Washington after developing a great relationship with head coach Mike Hopkins when Hopkins was an assistant at Syracuse.

Player comparison: Stewart is a bully in the lane and his back-to-the-basket game and power off the block remind scouts of Elton Brand. Not only do the two players look similar, but their games are comparable too. Stewart has a monster frame with great strength and hits the glass hard. There aren’t a lot of sure bets in this draft class, but NBA scouts and executives know exactly what they’re getting with Stewart. “He’s a Zach Randolph, Elton Brand-type of player. With that size and skill at his age right now, he has the makeup to be a solid big in the NBA,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.

F Jordan Nwora, Jr., Louisville, 6-7, 225

Background: Nwora stuck with Louisville through the FBI investigation and Rick Pitino’s firing and has thrived under head coach Chris Mack, averaging 17 points per game as a sophomore and 21 points per game this season.

Player comparison: Capable of playing as either a small forward with size or a stretch four, Nwora is a versatile offensive player who is highly skilled. The player Nwora is most similar to at the NBA level is Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris. Both players are solid wings/stretch fours who can get to the lane and finish at the rim. Nwora has a nice touch from mid-range and an above average handle for a player his size.

F Trendon Watford, LSU, 6-9, 235

Background: A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Watford chose LSU over Memphis and Alabama. He was a McDonald’s All-American and played in the Jordan Brand Classic his senior year of high school. Watford’s productivity on the court has been consistent so far this season, averaging 13 points and six rebounds per game.

Player comparison: Watford is a unique player and it’s tough to project what he’ll be like at the next level. In high school, Watford played all over the court, scoring with ease and putting up big numbers against some of the top teams in the nation. The closest comparison scouts could come up with is former Ohio State power forward and current EuroLeauger Deshaun Thomas. Both players were highly rated recruits coming out of high school and prolific scorers. Watford has the size and skill set to potentially be a great modern-day forward in the NBA.

F Onyeka Okongwu, Fr., USC, 6-9, 245

Background: Okongwu is a Southern California native who played two years with Lonzo and LaMelo Ball at Chino Hills High School. Okongwu has always been a solid rim protector but made his presence known early with eight blocks in his first game with USC.

Player comparison: Outside of his elite rim protection, Okongwu can also finish at the rim with contact. His skill set reminds scouts of a young Montrezl Harrell with his motor and explosiveness. Okongwu has a lot of upside with a decent mid-range game and the ability to develop his game past the three.

F Paul Reed, Jr., DePaul, 6-9, 220

Background: A Florida native, Reed was a no-name recruit that DePaul took a chance on. Fast forward three years and Reed has grown four inches and added 50 pounds to his frame. He’s now leading DePaul to one of its best starts ever, averaging 15 points and shooting 59 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range.

Player comparison: Reed has upside and is similar to Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu. Reed is a guard’s dream in transition, beating everyone down the floor and has a nice touch from mid-range to behind the arc. On defense, he has excellent timing with his shot-blocking ability and has the speed to chase down players for blocks in the open court.

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