Yes, we’re barely two months past the last McDonald’s All-American Game. Yes, some kids from the 2019 class are still pondering their options and picking colleges. Yes, even those slotted in the 2020 class are reclassifying in some cases (look no further than R.J. Hampton).
But what is life without fun? And what brings more fun than fantasying with what can happen in the future and building our own dream scenarios?
That’s why I’m here today, to try and predict who will be featured on the 2020 MCDAAG almost one year from this day, come next March. Don’t get me wrong, though. I won’t just throw some names of prospects I like. Nope. I will be looking at what has happened in the past (I have data from 2003 on) and based on that, come up with a 24-player roster.
In order to do this exercise, I will be using information from 247Sports, namely their Composite Rankings of recruits from 2003 to 2019. I will break down the data, try to find trends, and then kind of predict what could happen to the 2020 HS class in terms of this or that player being or not selected to be part of the McDonald’s showdown. Let’s get it poppin’.
Top-10 Prospects Are Almost Locked-In
I am working with a data set covering the last 17 years, from the class of 2003 (that of LeBron James) to the last one of 2019 (that of James Wiseman). In that time frame, Top-10 prospects have been snubbed only 19 times out of a potential 170 selections. If we’re picky, that number is lower because some of the snubbed players missed the game because of ineligibility reasons or injury.
The following players are the only ones considered Top-10 prospects that were not named to the game because of health or “legal” issues: Steven Adams, Andray Blatche, Charles Bassey, Henry Walker, Jonathan Isaac, Enes Kanter, and Thon Maker.
Top-11 to Top-30 Prospects Are Solid Picks
The average number of snubs ranked No. 1 to No. 10 since 2003 has been 1.9 per year. The average number of snubs ranked No. 11 to No. 30 has been 6.6 per year. That is, 6.6 players out of 20 have missed the game, which is to say 33 percent, or only around one of each three.
The bulk of the snubs have come from prospects ranked No. 24 to No. 30, so we can more or less assume that any player inside the Top-23 have a really good chance of making the final MCDAAG roster (they have made it 315 times out of a potential 391 times, so they have an 80.5 percent chance of making it next year).
Players Ranked No. 31 Or Lower Are Random Roster Fillers
Only those ranked No. 32 have made the McDonald’s game six times in 17 years. Players ranked No. 33 and No. 34 have made it five times each. The rest of the players, which are as lowly ranked as No. 78 (Demond Carter in 2006), have not surpassed the four-time mark.
One good clue when looking at potential picks from that group can be their position in their home state rankings. Out of 55 players selected to the MCDAAG while ranked No. 31 or lower, 42 were Top-3 players in their state. That’s something to be definitely considered when predicting future classes.
Five-star Recruits and Top-Position-Prospects Rarely Get Snubbed
Since 2003 there have been 427 kids deemed five-star recruits. Of them, only 70 have missed the game without a clear reason (injuries, ineligibility, etc). That means 83.6 percent of the five-star recruits make it to the McDonald’s All-American Game on a yearly basis.
When looking at positional rankings, only three players with a clear position have missed the cut while being the No. 1 prospects at their role: Steven Adams (C), Enes Kanter (C) and Will Barton (SG). The rest of those who have missed were labeled Combo Guards, making it a little harder to asses their true skill level given their different roles.
There Is Always A Positional Balance
When looking at the full 17-year time frame, the average number of picks at each of the five positions on the court has been really balanced. If we consider each class to feature 24 players, it has normally featured the following structure: 5 PGs, 6 SGs, 4 SFs, 6 PFs, and 3 Cs.
So, How Could The 2020 MCDAAG Rosters Look Like?
Taking all of the information gathered from the past 17 years into account, we can kind of project a potential roster for next year’s event already. These rankings will vary from now to the days before the game, and this is ultimately silly to do now, but whatever.
I’d work in “rounds” of picking players until I get to the full 24-prospect roster, starting with the most obvious picks and filling the holes taking the knowledge we gathered from the data set into account.
- First Round Picks
Almost 90 percent of Top-10 prospects are selected. Looking at the 2020 rankings, there is one player labeled a “Combo Guard” in that group: Jalen Suggs from Minneapolis, MN. We have our snub right there.
The other nine prospects selected would be: Evan Mobley (C), Jalen Green (SG), Jalen Johnson (SF), Scottie Barnes (SF), Greg Brown (PF), Joshua Christopher (SG), Cade Cunningham (SF), Brandon Boston (SG) and N’Faly Dante (C).
Roster construction so far: 0 PGs, 3 SGs, 3 SFs, 1 PF, 2 Cs - 9 Players
- Second Round Picks
One of the most heavily featured positions on the McDonald’s Game is that of the point guard. Given that we don’t have one still on our roster (it’s not that strong a class in those terms, to be honest), we need to start picking some little ballers here.
Between prospects ranked No. 12 to No. 20 we have three PGs: Daishen Nix, Jeremy Roach, and Sharife Cooper. All of them make it straight (remember 66 percent of players from No. 11 to No. 30 usually are selected, so this fits the model).
Roster construction so far: 3 PGs, 3 SGs, 3 SFs, 1 PF, 2 Cs - 12 Players
- Third Round Picks
To this point, 12 players make our roster. Of those 12, all of them are five-star recruits. As of today, there are 11 more players considered five-star prospects in the class of 2020, and given that on average almost 84 percent of them are MCDAAG guys, we still have 7 more five-star players to pick to reach that percentage (19 picks out of 23 five-star players available).
Of the remaining five-star players, and as the roster is constructed right now, the most probable thing is that big-men would be picked. On top of that and in order to make the most logical picks, I’ll also take state rankings into account in this third round.
Isaiah Todd is the 2nd-best PF and the best player from Virginia. He’s in.
Isaiah Jackson is the 3rd-best PF and the best player from Ohio. He’s playing prep ball at SPIRE Academy, which yields eligibility doubts, but I’m going to put him in.
I’m going to pass on Walker Kessler (3rd-best C) in favor of Hunter Dickinson, who is the 4th-best C and No. 1 player from the state of Maryland.
As SGs are also prominent each year, another two five-star recruits to cover that position while being highly ranked in their states are Jaden Springer (3rd-best FL recruit) and Cameron Thomas (2nd-best VA recruit). That would make it for this round.
Roster construction so far: 3 PGs, 5 SGs, 3 SFs, 3 PF, 3 Cs - 17 Players
- Fourth Round Picks
We’re only seven players away from the full 24-men 2020 MCDAAG roster, and we still lack several point guards and forwards.
There are three states that have produced MCDAAG players while ranked 6th or lower: California, Florida, and Texas. No surprise considering they are the states to produce the most basketball talent on a yearly basis. Knowing that we can make a few more picks for next year’s game.
Although Ziaire Williams is only the 5th-best SF and 4th-best recruit out of California, that should be enough to help him getting in, plus he’s a five-star prospect.
At least one player from New Jersey normally features in the event. They have to be the best of the best in the state though, and although overall Lance Ware may not strike one as a stud (he’s only the 7th-best PF in the class), he’s the best NJ has to offer in 2020. He makes the cut.
Let’s look at two point guards now. Adam Miller is the 4th-best and Caleb Love the 5th-best of the class at the position. Miller is the best player from Illinois, and Love the same from Missouri. As Illinois has produced many more MCDAAGs, I’m picking Adam Miller for the 2020 event. Another point guard, Deivon Smith from Georgia goes with him (6th-best PG, 4th-best overall from GA).
Roster construction so far: 5 PGs, 5 SGs, 4 SFs, 4 PF, 3 Cs - 21 Players
- Fifth Round Picks
Welcome to the round where the final three players of the game will be picked.
Given how the players are spread over the five positions, the most logical remaining picks would be geared toward a couple of forwards (one SF and one PF) and a SG. Let’s see what is available and make the most sense.
While Tennessee is not a lock in terms of producing All-Americans, they have 10 to their name and rarely they are the best at their position. This aligns with the case of Keon Johnson, only the 7th-best SG of the class yet No. 1 from TN.
The forwards are a little trickier. Of those still available, Kyree Walker slept through the cracks of the system in prior rounds but is the best prospect out of Arizona and 4th-best SF in the nation. AZ is not usually a MCDAAG state, let’s say (only four players in 17 years) but it has been able to provide highly-coveted talent. Kyree ultimately makes the cut.
Finally, we need a PF. There are only four four-star players remaining at such position, and two of them are ranked No. 65 and No. 101 nationally. Those are long shots that I’m going to keep far from. We’re left with two options then: Jaemyn Brakefield from WV and Xavier Foster from IA. West Virginia has produced more talent and has done it more recently than Iowa, so I’m going to lean toward Jaemyn Brakefield on this one. He’s the 4th-best PF and the best overall player from his state.
Roster construction so far: 5 PGs, 6 SGs, 5 SFs, 5 PF, 3 Cs - 24 Players
Final 2020 McDonald’s All-American Game Roster
After all, this is what we have come up with:
- Point Guards: No. 13 Daishen Nix, No. 15 Jeremy Roach, No. 18 Sharife Cooper, No. 24 Adam Miller
- Shooting Guards: No. 2 Jalen Green, No. 6 Joshua Christopher, No. 8 Brandon Boston Jr., No. 21 Cameron Thomas, No. 30 Keon Johnson
- Small Forwards: No. 3 Jalen Johnson, No. 4 Scottie Barnes, No. 7 Cade Cunningham, No. 17 Kyree Walker, No. 19 Ziaire Williams
- Power Forwards: No. 5 Greg Brown, No. 12 Isaiah Todd, No. 14 Isaiah Jackson, No. 26 Jaemyn Brakefield, No. 53 Lance Ware
- Centers: No. 1 Evan Mobley, No. 10 N’Faly Dante, No. 22 Hunter Dickinson
Some notable snubs: No. 9 Jalen Suggs (CG), No. 20 MarJon Beauchamp (SF), No. 27 Xavier Foster (PF), and No. 31 Caleb Love (PG).