NBA Mock Draft: Projecting the First Round with the Draft Order Setby Josh Elias August 21, 2020 1 comment
The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery can be added to the history books, with the Minnesota Timberwolves set to start the festivities for the second time in their history. Compiled from data, team tendencies/priorities, and conversations I’ve held with agents and members of front offices around the league, here’s how I see the first half of draft night winding up.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Edwards is the consensus number one pick, with very little deviation on the matter within league front offices. While he may not be the face of a franchise in the near future. He’s a unique prospect in that he’s the sort of powerful, big guard the league has lacked star quality in since the retirement of Dwyane Wade. He should be a natural fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell in Minnesota, and hopefully, he’s the piece to finally turn the Wolves’ fortunes around. The only major question is how will the team reconcile a backcourt of Russell and Edwards with the massive strides Malik Beasley took since he was traded to the team in February.
2. Golden State Warriors – LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks
No, Ball will not be a Golden State Warrior, but all signs point toward the Warriors trading the pick at this point in time, with neither Ball nor James Wiseman on their big board. Some of the teams most interested in bringing Ball aboard include Philadelphia, Toronto, Atlanta, and New York. Golden State will likely try to leverage the pick and Andrew Wiggins in an effort to pull off a blockbuster trade, with Ben Simmons as a top target.
3. Charlotte Hornets – James Wiseman, Memphis
There are three players widely considered to be a league above the rest of the draft class, and with the way the lottery panned out, it should be expected that they are all gone by the end of the third pick. Despite having his college career cut short last fall, Wiseman should be arguably the most NBA-ready player in the draft and the type of dynamic big man Charlotte is desperate for after starting Cody Zeller at center in five of the last six years.
4. Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Chicago doesn’t have quite the luxury of the top three picks insofar as the choice is fairly obvious, but Avdija, who both the Bulls and Cavaliers have sent scouts to see countless times, fills a big hole at the small forward position for a team that’s seen enough injury struggles among their forwards that Zach LaVine was the primary starting small forward most of last season. He’s also a creative player that thrives both on and off the ball and shouldn’t disrupt the play of LaVine or Cody White. If he can improve his three-point consistency and diversify his defensive portfolio, Avdija could be the perfect fit in Chicago for years to come.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Onyeka Okongwu, USC
The Cavaliers are a team with a young core that is filled to the brim with veteran big men who play like they don’t want to be there. They should remedy that. Okongwu is an elite athlete who plays smart defense and has experience dominating as a rim-running center at the high school level playing with Ball brothers at Chino Hills. In Cleveland, with a pair of young, fast, combo guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, Okongwu won’t need to take time to adapt and should fulfill both the flashy and ugly parts of his job.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Obi Toppin, Dayton
Atlanta can’t afford to linger toward the bottom of the NBA standings for much longer, nor do they expect to. In Toppin, they would be getting an older prospect who should already be closer to his ceiling than most, as well as adding one of the best all-around offensive weapons in the college game this last year to a potential offensive juggernaut in the midst of a draft class full of non-shooters in the lottery. His biggest weakness is going to be switching onto smaller defenders on the pick and roll, but that would be somewhat mitigated by having a rim protector of Clint Capela‘s quality behind him.
7. Detroit Pistons – Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, things look very ugly for the Pistons in both the present and the near future. They badly need to draft the player they see as the best overall player and someone they can build around. Among the remaining players, Hayes is that guy. While still a long way off from what he can become if his player in the top division of Germany last year is any indication, Hayes has “potential future star” written all over him.
8. New York Knicks – Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
New York is in a similar boat of needing to target the best player available, although perhaps not quite as bad as Detroit. If they can’t manage to trade up for Ball, Haliburton is the exact guy they should go for. A natural floor general whose height allows him to defend three positions. He has great vision, and elite shot selection to make up for his wonky shooting form. Haliburton is viewed by NBA scouts as one of the surest things in the draft, and his playstyle should allow him to be perfectly comfortable either leading a team or deferring to stars, in case 2021 is the year they finally attract one.
9. Washington Wizards – Devin Vassell, Florida State
Next year is do-or-die for Washington, as without a resurgence to the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff race, it seems likely Bradley Beal will be on his way out by this time next year. One player who provides enough of an immediate impact to make that more possible is Vassell, who should translate as a great 3-and-D option right away. Someone like the Wizards may be urged to draft Vassell, in part, because of the immediate success Matisse Thybulle had as a rookie this past season in Philadelphia.
10. Phoenix Suns – Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Encouraged by an undefeated performance in the Bubble, the Suns should expect to make a serious effort to move into the playoffs next year. With the steady leadership of Ricky Rubio and the partnership of budding stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the Suns should focus on filling out their roster in a way that compliments their core. Maxey would give them a scoring punch off the bench that they’ve lacked for years. Cameron Payne proved to be a welcome addition in that regard, and Maxey could be a long-term solution.
11. San Antonio Spurs – Patrick Williams, Florida State
As the Spurs begin the rebuilding process for the first time in legitimately decades, combo forward Williams has intrigued San Antonio’s front office more than most prospects. Williams didn’t have an exceptional freshman season, but he showed off a level of untapped potential that leading development coaches around the league are drooling to get a hold of. Lengthy and uber-athletic, Williams is still raw, but work on his shot and fundamentals could quickly turn him into a useful player, and potentially much more than that.
12. Sacramento Kings – Isaac Okoro, Florida State
Okoro is one of the absolute best defensive talents in the draft, and his presence would give a swift kick in the ass to a Kings teams that lagged behind their optimal developmental curve last year without any great primary stoppers on that side of the floor. He should be a high energy role player from the get-go, and while he might be rough to watch on the offensive end as a rookie, his defense and effort should at least keep him on the floor enough for people to take notice.
13. New Orleans Pelicans – Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt
After a breakout season as a sophomore, the question most pertinent to Nesmith’s draft stock is the real Nesmith. Having jumped from 33.7% to a mind-boggling 52.2% in just one season, somebody toward the end of the lottery’s going to take the wager that he is, in fact, as good as he was this year. A New Orleans team that’s going to spend a large part of their upcoming season trying to figure out how to distract opposing players from Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram and how to take advantage of defenses collapsing in on their stars, Nesmith’s catch-and-shoot bonafides should help him fit right in.
14. Boston Celtics – Saddiq Bey, Villanova
With most of the top prospects left not fitting Boston’s biggest needs, they may trade out of this pick if these are the options left available to them, but I have them picking Bey. While they may not expressly need him, filled to the brim with all-star level wings as they are, Bey is the best non-PG (and arguably best player) available, and no team can have too many tall, ball movement-oriented, floor-spacing wings.
15. Orlando Magic – R.J. Hampton, New Zealand Breakers
With the impending departures of D.J. Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams, and potentially Evan Fournier, the Magic could use some backcourt reinforcements. Fortunately for them, with the players left on the board, they can pretty much have their choice of them. Hampton is capable of playing at both backcourt spots. He fits the character archetype that Orlando’s front office seems to prefer, and he could be a goldmine of a player on the fast break and in pick and roll situations.
16. Portland Trail Blazers – Precious Achiuwa, Memphis
Portland was dramatically impacted by the losses of Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu between last season and their current campaign, with, at times, approximately zero reliable defenders on the wing. Achiuwa would bring to Portland a defensive versatility and intensity that would thrive in Terry Stotts‘ switch-heavy defensive system, with the ability to defend 2-5 at the NBA level depending on the matchup.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Someone has to draft him eventually, and despite a horrendous season at North Carolina, Anthony is still a borderline lottery talent in a draft class as underwhelming as this one. He has the ability to create high-quality shots for himself and others, and his athleticism and ballhandling make him a weapon at any level. He just needs a team to take the risk of bringing in someone who underwhelmed at the college level, and with their second first-round pick Minnesota can afford to take a bit of a risk.
18. Dallas Mavericks – Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
Without any leading wing prospects left, Lewis makes sense as an option for Dallas if they hold onto the pick. He thrives off the ball, which is absolutely necessary for any point guard who wants to play alongside Luka Dončić, and he has the quickest first step in the draft class. On top of that, he’s got decent length, with a 6’7″ wingspan, and he’s a decent shooter.
19. Brooklyn Nets – Jalen Smith, Maryland
Smith is the closest thing left on the board to immediately contributing for a Nets team that plans on contending for the title next year. He’s a well-rounded player with multiple facets to his offensive game and very few out-and-out weaknesses. He also displayed a much-improved jumper this year, which is a good sign for his ability to occasionally step back and stretch the floor.
20. Miami Heat – Nico Mannion, Arizona
Mannion’s decision-making skills as a pure point would be a godsend for a Miami team that had very real issues with holding onto the ball this last year. Especially with Goran Dragić, the one natural point guard in their rotation, reaching the end of his contract and rapidly approaching his mid-thirties. He has major shortcomings defensively and finishing in traffic though, so don’t expect much more than conducting the offense.
21. Philadelphia 76ers – Tyrell Terry, Stanford
Terry is the type of quick-releasing sharpshooter we’ve just barely begun to get accustomed to in recent NBA seasons. Shooting over 40% from behind the arc and nearly 90% from the free throw line, there’s no reason to think his elite shooting won’t translate to the big leagues. He thrives in the pick and roll offense and is capable both with and without the ball in his hands, which should make him a natural fit to play with Simmons.
22. Denver Nuggets – Josh Green, Arizona
With limited financial flexibility for the foreseeable future, the Nuggets have to make their draft picks count while they remain in title contention. With Gary Harris continuing his downward trend and Beasley no longer on the team, the clear issue for Denver is the shooting guard position. In Green, they get the prototypical 3-and-D swingman that they have had much success surrounding Jokic with over the years and one of the highest potential wing defenders in the draft at that.
23. Utah Jazz – Théo Maledon, ASVEL Basket
With the Mike Conley trade having gone about as poorly as possible, they badly need to find someone capable to complement Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt. While Maledon may not be that player yet, the explosive yet smooth young combo guard seems optimal for placing in lineups where he can share the ballhandling duties with a high-usage off-guard.
24. Milwaukee Bucks – Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech
Milwaukee will be looking to bring someone in who can contribute to a winning team right away, as they may have only one year left of contention if Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t re-sign in 2021. At pick 24, there isn’t anyone left who fits that mold for the Bucks, and if they hold onto the 24th pick, odds are it will be because they either fall in love with someone at the combine or they simply couldn’t manage to trade out of it. Ramsey is simply the best player available at this point, but his immediate contributions to a team like Milwaukee wouldn’t be much more than as a catch-and-shoot option.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jaden McDaniels, Washington
It’s common knowledge that Sam Presti is very high on McDaniels, to the extent that he reportedly promised to draft him with their first-round pick if he was still available as early as February. An athletic freak with the tools to dominate the open court, McDaniels dropping to Oklahoma City at pick 25 would make the Thunder front office very excited. Beware, though: McDaniels is two years away from two years away.
26. Boston Celtics – Aleksej Pokuševski, Olympiacos
Boston would also love to have McDaniels fall to them, but it seems likely they would have to trade up to before Oklahoma City’s pick to get him. If Boston holds onto all their picks, it seems very likely that one of them would be used as a draft-and-stash, considering they nearly have a full roster of guaranteed contracts for next year already. Pokuševski, Leandro Bolmaro, and Filip Petrušev are the obvious draft-and-stash choices for this range, and since Pokuševski has the highest potential, I have them going for him.
27. New York Knicks – Desmond Bane, TCU
The Knicks finished bottom of the league in three-pointers made this last year. Bane is a more than capable shooter at 44.2% from behind the arc who could play a part in their team as a multidimensional shooting specialist right off the bat.
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Grant Riller, Charleston
Riller is one of the older players in the class, and as such he has less room to grow than most. He’s already a highly developed scorer who was one of the most efficient players in all of college basketball from the pick and roll, as well above average as both a finisher and a spot-up shooter. There’s an argument to be made that Riller is the most complete offensive package available, and with Quinn Cook‘s contract only partially guaranteed, he would be a great tertiary lead guard option.
29. Toronto Raptors – Vernon Carey Jr., Duke
The Raptors could feasibly be losing both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka this summer, and even if they don’t, their roles will significantly decline in the upcoming years. Carey is a backdown post player with faceup capabilities, very similar to Gasol when he entered the league. One of the most skilled big men available, Carey could easily thrive despite an old-school playstyle with mentoring from one of those two.
30. Boston Celtics – Isaiah Stewart, Washington
Boston doesn’t need much help in the post, but a physically dominant power forward who is active on the glass, can protect the rim, and isn’t afraid to do the dirty work is perhaps too good to be true. At the very least, it isn’t something you turn down at the end of the first round when the two power forwards already on the roster combine for just 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.
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