It has been more than three months since we’ve had organized hoops in the United States, but basketball officially returns this weekend with Fourth of July fireworks. The Basketball Tournament begins its 11-day tournament — which includes nine alumni teams and a four-time champion — starting with the Round of 24 on Saturday on ESPN networks.
After reviewing every team in the field and breaking down the best talents on all the rosters, let’s take a dive into the 10 top players to watch in the 2020 TBT field.
1. Joe Johnson (Overseas Elite)
It’s no secret that “Iso Joe” is the most accomplished and best player in TBT this year. Between his seven All-Star appearances and 20,405 total points in the NBA, Johnson has a resume unlike any other to ever play in this event. The guard is just two years removed from suiting up with the Houston Rockets, so there is great intrigue as to if Johnson will dominate like the old days despite being on a loaded roster.
2. Aaron Craft (Carmen’s Crew — Ohio State alumni)
With medical school on the horizon, this is Craft’s last event before retirement. Carmen’s Crew is coming off their first TBT title, but Craft & Co. will face a whole new challenge this year with Overseas Elite reloading and a much deeper field overall. While William Buford is the squad’s go-to scorer, Craft’s intangibles are the main reason the Ohio State alumni team returns as the top seed.
3. Isaiah Austin (Team Heartfire)
It’s not every day that we get to watch this 7-foot-1 defensive force, as Austin is playing in just his second organized event in the United States since being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. His length and toughness in the paint provide Team Heartfire the chance to match up perfectly with opponents in its draw, such as Isaac Haas and Men of Mackey as well as Boeheim’s Army.
4. D.J. Kennedy (Overseas Elite)
While Johnson is the top overall talent on Overseas Elite, there’s no doubt that ex-St. John’s forward Kennedy has the best credentials at TBT level. Kennedy — a two-time event MVP — helped guide his squad to four straight titles, thanks to his all-around abilities. It’s hard to forget when Kennedy dropped 24 points in the 2015 final or when he averaged 15 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in 2017.
5. Eric Devendorf (Boeheim’s Army — Syracuse alumni)
There certainly are more flashy players on Boeheim’s Army, but Devendorf is a two-time New Zealand National Basketball League scoring champion and has a history of success in TBT. While Malachi Richardson is the best player on Syracuse’s alumni squad, there’s no doubt that Devendorf’s scoring abilities make him stand out.
6. Dwight Buycks (Golden Eagles — Marquette alumni)
After averaging the fifth-most points in TBT last year, Buycks is back to help lead the Golden Eagles alongside Jamil Wilson. As proved by his French Pro A Foreign MVP award and All-Star appearance in 2013, the ex-Marquette guard possesses the skill set to take over a game in a hurry because of his knack for easy buckets.
7. Jarrett Jack (Overseas Elite)
There is no denying how stacked Overseas Elite’s roster is, as this former 13-year NBA veteran is the third player on the team to be featured on this list. What can the point guard bring to the table at 36 years old and two years removed from his last NBA stint with the New York Knicks? We’ll find out when he teams up with Johnson in his first appearance in TBT.
8. Mike Daum (House of ‘Paign — Illinois alumni)
As a third-team All-American, a three-time Summit League Player of the Year and a 3,000-point scorer, this ex-South Dakota State legend is one of the most accomplished former collegiate players in this tournament. His versatility and ability to play inside and out will give the Illinois alumni squad a different dimension as it attempts to make a Cinderella run.
9. Hasheem Thabeet (Playing For Jimmy V)
A former No. 2 overall pick and a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year on a replacement team? That’s exactly what’s happening for Playing For Jimmy V, as they landed the former UConn big man earlier this week. It has been a while since we’ve seen the 33-year-old lace up the kicks on national television, so this could an opportunity for him to inch his way toward another NBA deal.
10. Wade Baldwin (The Money Team)
There’s one thing that can never be questioned with this ex-Vanderbilt guard — his talent. Baldwin was a four-star recruit out of high school and averaged 14.1 points per game in his sophomore campaign of college before being selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft. At just 24 years old, Baldwin can push for a spot on an NBA roster by carrying Floyd Mayweather’s squad deep into the bracket.