With the start of the season just over a month away, the NBA will finally hold the 2020 draft tonight. This draft may prove to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with trade rumors continuing to swirl as they have for the past several months. There’s also not a consensus prospect that’s expected to go first overall, so the intrigue will be high from the very beginning. With all that said, here is one humble writer’s perspective on how tonight’s draft may transpire.
A quick note: this mock draft is more heavily weighted towards what I think teams will do as opposed to what I think they should do. Also, while some trades are naturally expected, this mock draft assumes that each team will hang onto their first-round picks and make selections for their team alone.
1. Minnesota – LaMelo Ball, Guard, Illawarra
While Anthony Edwards would likely be a better fit with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, there have been a lot of questions surrounding him over the past several weeks which makes LaMelo the first overall pick in this mock. There’s valid concern with his jump shot but his playmaking prowess and defensive upside make the youngest Ball brother worthy of being the first player selected tonight.
2. Golden State – Deni Avdija, Wing, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Many are presuming the Warriors will select center James Wiseman, but Avdija seems like a great fit here as well. If everything goes according to plan, the Warriors won’t be picking this high for a while, so it might make more sense to target a young wing with room to grow into a star instead of a big man. Avdija admittedly comes with some baggage, though—his shooting is beyond concerning, and there’s a chance that it never comes around.
3. Charlotte – James Wiseman, Big, Memphis
The Hornets aren’t in a position to be picky about who they select; they need talent regardless of position. In Wiseman, Charlotte gets its best prospect in years and a guy that can be part of their next competitive core. At only 19 years old he has things to improve on at both ends of the floor, but he can be a plug-and-play big man for an organization that desperately needs some stability on the court.
4. Chicago – Tyrese Haliburton, Guard, Iowa State
Haliburton seems to be rising up draft boards each day, and there’s a small chance he might go even higher than fourth overall. Haliburton might not develop into a star player but he could definitely be a big reason why a team wins a championship. He’s not uber-athletic but he’s a crafty playmaker who can do multiple things well on both ends of the court. Haliburton would quickly become one of Billy Donovan’s favorite options.
5. Cleveland – Obi Toppin, Big, Dayton
One of the most exciting players in college basketball a season ago, it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see Toppin perform in the NCAA tournament. The consensus National Player of the Year won’t have to wait long to hear his name called and may have the opportunity to play a few hours north of his college town. Toppin’s offensive skillset will make waves immediately but he’ll need to work hard to improve on the defensive end if he wants to become a top-tier player.
6. Atlanta – Devin Vassell, Wing, Florida State
With a core of Trae Young, John Collins, and Clint Capela, the Hawks will be looking for a player that can help them win now. Vassell not only fits the bill, but he may end up being one of the best players when this draft class is looked back upon in five or ten years. His offensive game is still developing but there’s a lot to be excited about, and he looks like a lesser version of Matisse Thybulle on the defensive end which is intriguing.
7. Detroit – Patrick Williams, Wing, Florida State
Williams might find his way into the top five but it’s unlikely he’ll fall much further than this. The Pistons need a lot to become competitive again so it would be hard to pass up an 18-year-old wing with immense potential. The second-youngest player in this draft class, Williams will have to try and become more fluid on both ends of the floor to reach his ceiling, and Detroit would provide him with a low-pressure environment to develop the skills needed to succeed.
8. New York – Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia
Edwards may go first overall, but a subpar pro day, so-so workouts, and lukewarm background reports haven’t exactly helped his draft stock recently. Still, it’s hard to envision him slipping out of the top ten, and with the Knicks in search of young talent and future stars at any position, Edwards could be a risk worth taking. All aspects of the guard’s game scream potential elite talent, but Edwards will need to harness his skills to avoid flaming out.
9. Washington – Onyeka Okongwu, Big, USC
Some consider Okongwu to be the best big man in the draft class and when you watch his film it’s easy to see why. He can be a bit aggressive at times on defense but he has the potential to be special on that side of the floor, and his offensive skillset is tantalizing if he continues to develop it. At this point, the Wizards are in desperate need of players that can competently stop the other team from scoring, and Okongwu can check that box for them from day one.
10. Phoenix – Killian Hayes, Guard, Ratiopharm Ulm
Quite possibly the most polarizing prospect in this draft class, Hayes could seemingly go much higher or much lower than this. As it stands, he’s an outstanding playmaker with a solid shot who could stand to improve on the defensive end. The major issue—he relies heavily on his left hand and needs to become more comfortable with his right hand if he wants to succeed. Still, learning from Chris Paul might be the best possible scenario for the 18-year-old from France.
11. San Antonio – Isaac Okoro, Wing, Auburn
The Spurs could go in a number of different directions here but Okoro might give them the most bang for their buck. The Auburn wing could go higher than 11 and represents good value here. He projects to be a phenomenal defensive option, and if his offensive game comes around San Antonio might have found their next Kawhi.
12. Sacramento – Saddiq Bey, Wing, Villanova
Villanova has been pumping out talented players for years and Bey will soon join them. The prototypical 3-and-D wing, Bey should be a reliable shooter who can contribute in all facets of the game. If Sacramento decides to take the 21-year-old, he’d be able to play with fellow Wildcat alum Donte DiVincenzo who declared for the NBA draft just before Bey arrived.
13. New Orleans – Aaron Nesmith, Wing, Vanderbilt
After trading away Jrue Holiday and accumulating some first round selections and pick swaps, the task for New Orleans will be to find players who can mesh well with Zion Williamson. An extremely hard-worker who would fit in with any organization, Nesmith would bring a slick shooting stroke and defensive versatility to a team that could use another talented wing.
14. Boston (via Memphis) – Aleksej Pokusevski, Big, Olympiacos
The Celtics will be a team to watch on draft night as they hold three first-round picks with a plethora of talent already on the roster. If they decide to use the 14th pick, Pokusevski could be a solid long-term investment. It’ll take the 18-year-old some time to reach his unicorn potential, but Boston can afford to wait for Poku to build out his frame and develop his skills.
15. Orlando – Kira Lewis, Guard, Alabama
After years of targeting big men and wings in the first round, it might be beneficial for the Magic to take a look at a guard this time around. Steve Clifford supposedly wants his offense to run at a quicker pace and Lewis would be the perfect player to accomplish that goal. An extremely fast and athletic guard, Lewis has the ability to completely transform the Magic on the offensive end.
16. Houston (via Portland) – Tyrese Maxey, Guard, Kentucky
With rumors swirling that James Harden and Russell Westbrook want out of Houston, there will be a lot of minutes up for grabs amongst Rockets guards this season. Maxey could step in on day one and provide excitement and entertainment for a team that seems more likely to bottom out than make the playoffs; he could also develop into a nice long-term piece for the franchise.
17. Minnesota (via Brooklyn) – Precious Achiuwa, Big, Memphis
With LaMelo in hand, the T-Wolves might try and turn their attention to a big man that they can pair with KAT. Achiuwa’s defensive capabilities could definitely be appealing to Minnesota. While his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired right now, his skillset on that end of the ball could improve enough over the next few years for Achiuwa to become a reliable two-way threat.
18. Dallas – Desmond Bane, Wing, TCU
Dallas emerged onto the scene this past season, and now the main priority is to surround Luka Doncic with as much talent as possible to remain competitive in the West. Enter Desmond Bane who played his college ball just about an hour west of Dallas. Bane is one of the best shooters in this class, and with some coaching he could be a valuable piece on the defensive end.
19. Brooklyn (via Philadelphia) – Josh Green, Wing, Arizona
If Brooklyn doesn’t trade this pick in a Harden package, snagging a 3-and-D wing player would be ideal. They could go in a couple different directions here but Green might be the best of the remaining bunch at this point. His offensive game should translate to the next level, but the Nets would likely be more interested in his defensive skillset which is slightly more appealing.
20. Miami – Jalen Smith, Big, Maryland
The Heat surprised everyone in the bubble by making it to the finals and will look to add another cost-controlled piece as they eye free agency in 2021. Jalen Smith could make sense as someone who could play with or behind Bam Adebayo for years to come. The Maryland product shoots well for a big man and spaces the floor well, but he could stand to improve a bit defensively.
21. Philadelphia (via Oklahoma City) – Cole Anthony, Guard, North Carolina
The Sixers need perimeter shooters and players who can create for themselves in the half court, so they’ll have a solid group of options at #21. Anthony, who was considered the best point guard in his high school class, carries some risk but the sky-high offensive upside is hard to ignore. He’d get the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in Philly immediately.
22. Denver (via Houston) – Isaiah Stewart, Big, Washington
Following their first conference finals appearance since the 2008-09 season, the Nuggets may attempt to replace Paul Millsap with this pick. Stewart’s presence should immediately pay off on defense, but the former National Player of the Year in high school can hold his own offensively, too. In an ideal world, he’d fit well with Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Nikola Jokic.
23. New York (via Utah) – Payton Pritchard, Guard, Oregon
If there’s not a wing or big man here that the Knicks like a lot, it wouldn’t hurt to go back to the guard pool where they’ll have some options. Pritchard would bring strong leadership skills and a high level of maturity to an organization that could use both. The senior guard can do a lot of things well on offense and competes hard on defense considering his lack of athleticism.
24. New Orleans (via Indiana) – Leandro Bolmaro, Guard, Barcelona
Bolmaro will be in Barcelona for a while and New Orleans makes sense as a team that can draft and stash the enticing point guard. His calling card is his playmaking ability but he’s not a slouch on the defensive end of the floor. Still, if he can improve his shooting, Bolmaro could certainly become the Pelicans point guard of the future.
25. Oklahoma City (via Denver) – Jaden McDaniels, Wing, Washington
It’s increasingly clear that the Thunder have their sights set on the future. They could really go in any direction with their two first round picks, and McDaniels could turn out to be an incredible selection. Considered a top-ten prospect in his high school class, McDaniels didn’t quite live up to the hype at Washington but he flashed enough to make him an interesting long-term project.
26. Boston – Tyrell Terry, Guard, Stanford
He’s not as polarizing as Hayes but Terry’s range in the draft is wide; some view him as a mid-first round talent, others won’t consider him until the second round. If Boston keeps this pick, Terry could supplant Brad Wanamaker as a backup guard for the team. He’s a light-out shooter with some playmaking talent, but defensively Terry will likely be similar to a traffic cone.
27. Utah (via Los Angeles Clippers) – RJ Hampton, Guard, New Zealand
He has shades of Dante Exum in his game which will naturally cause any Jazz fan to shudder, but Hampton would be a nice get for Utah if he’s still available. He’s a work-in-progress but for a team that’s returning most of their minutes from 2019, the Jazz would be able to bring him along slowly and let him learn from Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell.
28. Oklahoma City (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Immanuel Quickley, Guard, Kentucky
A sophomore from Kentucky, Quickley will have a good chance to carve out a long career regardless of where he goes tonight. The guard was named SEC Player of the Year as he showcased his excellent shooting ability and eye-opening defensive skills. Quickley would have a chance to play a lot as a rookie if OKC takes a chance on him.
29. Toronto – Malachi Flynn, Guard, San Diego State
With Fred VanVleet seemingly on the way out and Kyle Lowry potentially not far behind, the Raptors would be wise to address their guard rotation in the draft. Flynn’s draft stock has been steadily rising and as one of the best players in the nation last season, there are a number of teams that have interest. He’ll likely be a valuable contributor for years to come.
30. Boston (via Milwaukee) – Zeke Nnaji, Big, Arizona
It would be somewhat shocking if the Celtics actually used this selection on draft night, but if they can’t find a trade partner, they might look to grab an offensively-minded big man with some defensive potential. Nnaji’s issues on the defensive end shouldn’t be ignored but they seem to be fixable given enough time with a good coaching staff.
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