Five Winners and Five Losers of the 2020 NBA Draft

NBA Draft Tyrese Haliburton

The 2020 NBA Draft has been and gone with this year’s prospects discovering where they will be playing their basketball next season. The consensus top three played out as expected with Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball going to Minnesota, Golden State, and Charlotte respectively, though there were also some surprises with Tyrese Haliburton dropping to 12 and Patrick Williams going at four.

We likely will not know who truly won and lost in this draft until a few year’s time when a more complete evaluation of the players can be drawn but in the immediate aftermath, it is clear some teams and players did better than others.

Here are some of the key winners and losers from this year’s NBA draft…



Sacramento Kings

Most mock drafts had Haliburton going in the top eight picks and very few would have expected him to fall outside the top 10 but that is exactly what happened.

The Knicks, who are lacking at the point guard position, could have taken him but instead went for talented forward Obi Toppin, while the Wizards, Suns, and Spurs took Deni Avdija, Jalen Smith, and Devin Vassell respectively.


Phoenix’s decision to take Smith was especially surprising but it opened the door for the Kings to take Haliburton at 12. Sacramento would not have forecasted that the 20-year-old would fall to them so selecting the guard is a huge win for the franchise.

Last year Miami took Tyler Herro at 13 who went onto play a key role in the team’s run to the finals. On reflection, he would go much higher and Haliburton has all the tools to be in the same position at this time next year.

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Haliburton established himself as an excellent all-around prospect during his time at Iowa State. He averaged 15.2 points per game off 50.4 percent from the field and knocked down an impressive 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts.


His feel for the game is excellent and he has the ability to make those around him better, averaging 6.5 assists per game, while showing excellent defensive potential with 2.5 steals a game. Haliburton can make a strong contribution right away in the NBA and will provide excellent depth in the backcourt for Sacramento.

He should have gone higher, but the Kings will be overjoyed that he did not.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons needed to freshen up the roster and that is exactly what they managed to do. Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin were top players in the league at one time but injuries have had an impact on their ability to play at the top level.

Detroit’s front office managed to maneuver their way into selecting three first-round prospects in Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey. Hayes is a particularly intriguing talent with the ability to create his own shot, while Stewart and Bey will provide depth at the forward positions.

The franchise had to give up Luke Kennard, who looks headed to the Clippers in a three-team trade for the 19th pick. He has established himself as a capable scorer and shooter during his time in the NBA and while a loss, the team is searching for a way forward and has acquired some much-needed freshness.

It will not be an easy road back for the Pistons and patience will be required but the franchise is doing the right thing by building through the draft. All of the team’s focus must now be on maximizing the ability of their new talents.


Wiseman was unable to show his true talent in college after being handed a suspension, meaning he only played three times for Memphis. It did not harm his draft stock however as he was selected second by the Golden State Warriors.

The 19-year-old will be playing on a team that is hoping to contend for a championship next season, though a reported Achilles injury to Klay Thompson makes that task more difficult. Wiseman looks to be a great fit for the Warriors and can provide rim protection and a strong presence in the paint at a position where the team does not have many options.

He will be given time to develop on a strong team and possesses a diverse skill set which will help Golden State in their push for another title. Out of all the destinations Wiseman could have landed in at the top of the draft, going second was the best possible outcome for him.

The right supporting cast will be around him to help him thrive and reach his potential. His 7’1 size and athletic ability means he is ready to contribute right away in the NBA and he will provide a boost both offensively and defensively.


Williams was not even a starter as a Freshman at Florida State last year but did enough good things to warrant being drafted as the fourth overall pick by the Chicago Bulls. It is clear Williams has enormous upside and reports leading up to the draft had him going as one of the top picks but for a player who lacks experience on the court to go so high is an enormous show of confidence in his ability.

He may not be able to offer as much impact straight away as some of the other prospects selected later in the draft but the Bulls have opted to think more about the future than the present moment. Williams’ 6’8 frame and his two-way potential mean he could become a very dangerous player in the years to come. He shot 45.9 percent from the floor last season and also knocked down 32 percent of his threes, while his 83.8 percent free-throw percentage suggests there is more room for improvement when it comes to his shooting.

He will now get to play on a team with incredible history and which has some exciting young players, as well as a talented coach in Billy Donovan. Williams could have instead ended up on worse teams like Detroit or New York so will be pleased with the outcome of the draft.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ woeful defense

You do not need to do much digging to find out where the Cleveland Cavaliers are lacking. The team ranked bottom for defensive rating last season by giving up 114.8 points per 100 possessions, also ranking last in opponent points off turnovers per game and second last in opponent points in the paint per game.

The backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland is seriously vulnerable defensively. While the two have shown promise on offense and have the ability to score, they are currently hurting the team more than they are helping.

Enter Isaac Okoro, who was taken with the fifth pick. Widely touted as the best wing defender in the draft, Okoro is capable of guarding multiple positions and will provide some much-needed help in an area where Cleveland is severely lacking.

Okoro’s presence should provide some relief to Sexton and Garland. This was a move made with team need in mind and while more will be required for the Cavs to reduce the terrible impact the poor defense is having, Okoro represents a step towards improvement.

For the former Auburn man, however, there will be plenty of pressure on him as one of the only talented defenders on the roster.


Killian Hayes

Hayes is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. His ability to score in isolation and the many offensive tools at his disposal, such as his Harden-like step-back three, persuaded the Pistons to take a chance on the young guard.

This is a great move for Detroit who could have a future star on their hands but for Hayes, he will be playing for a franchise that has a long road ahead. Dwane Casey‘s team ranked in the bottom 10 of the league for both offensive rating and defensive rating last season and Hayes will likely have to take on a bigger role than he should have to at this stage in his career.

While the Pistons’ 2020 draft trades represent a move towards establishing the future, the team currently lacks talent. Hayes will not have a great deal of help on offense and does not currently have the right pieces around him to help him thrive.

Hayes is, of course, excellent in isolation situations meaning he does not always need a ton of support. In time he can provide a significant and much-needed boost to the offense but his start to life in the NBA is unlikely to be an easy or straightforward one.

There were certainly better places the talented youngster could have gone.

Charlotte’s guards

Ball’s playmaking might help the Charlotte Hornets mount a bigger push for a playoff spot but he will be joining an already crowded backcourt with Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, and Malik Monk.

Graham has been a revelation since being selected with the 34th overall pick back in 2018, averaging 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game last season. While there is work to do on his efficiency, he established himself as someone that could play a key part on the team moving forward.

Likewise, Rozier had his best season to date at Charlotte with an average of 18 points and 4.1 assists per game. Monk still has plenty of developing to do but contributed well with 10.3 points per game.

The arrival of Ball poses a problem for head coach James Borrego. He has another talented guard on his hands that he must fit into the rotation, while Ball also comes with a serious amount of fame and a big following. Fans will want to see him on the court.

This will ultimately mean that Charlotte’s guards will lose out. Rozier could again be used as a shooting guard so Graham will likely be the player most impacted by Ball’s arrival and could end up becoming a backup depending on their new team-mate’s performances.

Boston Celtics

It just did not seem to happen for Boston on draft night. Reports suggested that the front office was trying to make a deal happen involving the three first-round draft picks but in the end, two players were selected and one was traded away.

The Celtics secured arguably the best shooter in the draft in Aaron Nesmith, who shot an incredible 52.2 percent from three over 14 games for Vanderbilt last season. Somewhat surprisingly, the front office also opted to take Oregon guard Payton Pritchard at 26 before trading Desmond Bane to the Grizzlies at 30.

Boston has two new potential rotation players but ultimately did not manage to strike the sort of deal that got them a higher draft pick or a player that could help the team better contend for a Championship next season.

The future still looks bright in Boston but the 2020 draft was not quite as successful as it could have been.

Houston Rockets

Houston looked set to select at 16 after acquiring the Portland Trail Blazers’ pick but opted instead to trade it to Detroit, who chose Stewart.

The Rockets did not make a selection until 52 when they took Kenyon Martin Jr. Ultimately the team did not opt to strengthen through the draft, a bold strategy given that the futures of Russell Westbrook and James Harden are up in the air.

There is still free agency and the trade market to use to bolster the roster but much of the team’s future will depend on what is done with Westbrook and Harden.

It would have provided some encouragement for the future to take a prospect at 16 but the draft-night trade suggests the team is not ready to embark on a rebuild just yet.

The fans

The draft was not completely void of excitement, but it promised a lot more. There were plenty of reports that both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors could be looking to trade their first and second picks but these did not materialize on the night.

Given how much the draft had to be pushed back, it gave analysts and reporters more time to look over the prospects and put together mock drafts but in the end, it was the top three that everyone had expected a long time ago. Of course, there were shocks like Haliburton falling, while there were plenty of trades later in the first round. Ultimately though the top of the draft failed to deliver the twists and turns it might have done with no blockbuster trades.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images


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