The longest NBA Draft cycle in recorded history comes to an end on Wednesday, Nov. 18. While it certainly isn’t the fault of any prospect or team that this particular class has been in the public consciousness for an extended period of time, the anticipation is significant to turn the page and kick-start what is certain to be a fast and furious offseason for the league as a whole.
At this juncture, there is still drama at the top of the heap, with genuine disagreement in some circles as to how to rank the top prospects available. While that is at least somewhat unusual, it does add drama to the proceedings, with virtually every team drafting near the top of the draft involved in some level of trade buzz. Still, most believe the consensus top three will arrive in some order, even if trades shake up the teams making those selections.
Our last foray into the world of mock drafts was DIME’s annual “what every team should do” projection but, this time around, we’re back to the basics of making actual projections based on intel and rational thought. Without further delay, here is the final mock draft of 2020:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – LaMelo Ball (G, Illawarra Hawks)
As noted above, this isn’t a given. In fact, it is a tiebreaker of sorts that leads us here, as it appears as if Ball is the most likely to be the No. 1 pick, in part because other teams may be targeting him in a trade-up scenario. The Wolves could absolutely pull the trigger on Ball and, candidly, he is my No. 1 prospect overall. Minnesota could just as well take Anthony Edwards, though, and that wouldn’t be a crazy reach at the top.
2. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (C, Memphis)
As a general rule, we don’t predict trades here. The Warriors could absolutely move this pick but, if they don’t, virtually everyone believes that it will be Wiseman. That is especially true if Ball goes off the board at No. 1, as he does in our scenario. Wiseman does have detractors, but Golden State seems to like him, and there is no denying his physical tools and impressive profile.
3. Charlotte Hornets – Anthony Edwards (G, Georgia)
It isn’t a secret that the Hornets like Wiseman, and he is a (very) obvious choice for Charlotte if available. In this mock, he’s off the board, and the Hornets simply go with the best player available. Edwards isn’t perfect, but he is a big-time athlete with shot-making potential. If nothing else, the Hornets can sell themselves on his star equity in a way that no other player available can bring.
4. Chicago Bulls – Tyrese Haliburton (G, Iowa State)
Avdija has real buzz with Chicago, too, but the Bulls are such a mystery with a first-time front office that it is tough to nail down. Haliburton frequently comes up with the Bulls, and it is undisputed that he has a ton of fans with teams across the league. It might be odd with Coby White and Zach LaVine on-board, but Haliburton is much more of a complementary player and he can fill in the gaps as a high-character player.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija (F, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
The Cavs could go a number of ways here, but there is smoke that they really like Avdija and would be thrilled if he was available. In addition, other teams might also look to move up to snag him. Avdija doesn’t have any elite traits to speak of, but he’s pretty good at basically everything. Throw in quality size and pedigree, and you have a player that many seem to like.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro (F/G, Auburn)
This could be Haliburton or Avdija if available. It could also be Onyeka Okongwu. Beyond that, the Hawks are a team frequently linked to trade possibilities, and it should surprise no one if another team is picking at No. 6 by Wednesday night. Still, Okoro checks a lot of boxes for Atlanta, as a top-flight defensive prospect with local ties that also fits the organization’s recent profile of defense-first wings to build around Trae Young.
7. Detroit Pistons – Patrick Williams (F, Florida State)
Personally, this is a little bit high for Williams. The Pistons may feel differently, though, and the murmurs about Williams being a favorite of Detroit’s new front office are getting (very) loud. Detroit certainly should consider a lead guard like Killian Hayes, but in terms of actually projecting, we’ll roll with Williams. The league seems to be quite excited about his future.
8. New York Knicks – Obi Toppin (F/C, Dayton)
Toppin is a CAA client, which should inspire some jokes about the CAA-centric front office in New York. But, more seriously, Toppin is also worthy of this investment. He could go in the top five on draft night, and Toppin’s offensive tools are genuinely impressive. There are significant questions about his defense, but the Knicks could go a number of ways, and Toppin is one of them.
9. Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu (C, USC)
The Wizards have to at least plan as if Okongwu won’t be available, and he certainly could be gone. If he falls to No. 9, though, this should honestly be an easy choice. He’s arguably the best player available and a great fit on a team that needs a defensive anchor. Call it in.
10. Phoenix Suns – Devin Vassell (G/F, Florida State)
Phoenix is suddenly in win-now mode with Chris Paul on board, and that could change the calculus here. Even if it doesn’t, Vassell is more than worthy of this pick as an elite off-ball defender that can knock down shots. He is often compared to Mikal Bridges, and the two could cause havoc on the wings. In addition, the Suns now have something of a need on the wing with Kelly Oubre Jr. heading to Oklahoma City.
11. San Antonio Spurs – Saddiq Bey (F, Villanova)
This is a touch high for Bey in my view, but he has big fans in league circles. The Spurs are pretty loaded in the backcourt right now, but they could use a forward that can space the floor. From there, San Antonio could coax improved defense from Bey and, if that happens, he becomes a highly valuable role player that can grow alongside the team’s other young players.
12. Sacramento Kings – Killian Hayes (G, Ulm)
I have to be honest and say that I genuinely don’t understand why the league seems to be lower on Hayes. He’s a top-five prospect for me but, at some point, a mock draft is supposed to be about projection and teams just don’t appear to see him that way. At any rate, the Kings are a team that is rumored to like Hayes, and he could be a “best player available” pick that also could (theoretically) play alongside De’Aaron Fox.
13. New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis (G, Alabama)
The Pelicans are now in an interesting position, with myriad guard options on the roster. Eric Bledsoe and George Hill may not be part of the long-term plan, but New Orleans also has Lonzo Ball, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart to consider. As such, Lewis may not be the pick here, but New Orleans doesn’t necessarily have their “point guard of the future” and he could be it.
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) – Tyrese Maxey (G, Kentucky)
Boston is probably making a move of some kind but, in this mock, we aren’t flat-out projecting trades. Maxey would be a great fit with what Boston currently has, and they have the developmental structure to allow him to grow. Evaluators are split on Maxey, but this would be a soft landing spot.
15. Orlando Magic – RJ Hampton (G, New Zealand Breakers)
The Magic might do cartwheels of Lewis falls to No. 15, but Hampton is the other prospect with big-time upside in the backcourt. Unlike Lewis, Hampton isn’t a pure point guard, but he gives Orlando some juice with the ball in his hands, and that is something the Magic desperately need in the future.
16. Houston Rockets (via Portland) – Aaron Nesmith (G/F), Vanderbilt
Good luck trying to figure out what Houston might do here. I’m plugging in Nesmith as a best player available choice, and he would also give the Rockets a knock-down shooter if they continue to try and compete. If this is a rebuild in the near future, there may be better options, but everyone is guessing.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn) – Precious Achiuwa (F/C, Memphis)
Achiuwa is a polarizing prospect, but there are some rumblings about Minnesota. It makes sense in that Karl-Anthony Towns is perhaps the best three-point shooting center of all-time, but he also struggles a bit defensively. Achiuwa may be a small-ball center in the future but, for the Wolves, he could utilize his defensive versatility and be the rim-runner when Towns is spacing the floor.
18. Dallas Mavericks – Aleksej Pokusevski (F/C, Olympiacos B)
Pokusevski has fans in the league, with some murmurs about Oklahoma City trying to snag him. That very well may happen, but the Mavericks might also see a path to intrigue by swinging for the fence. Pokusevski is the ultimate gamble in this year’s draft, and this is the point on the board where it may be too juicy to pass.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia) – Josh Green (F/G, Arizona)
Brooklyn is clearly all-in for this season and the near future. That makes any draft pick difficult but, if they make the selection, Green brings defense and potential versatility. He probably won’t help them a ton right away, but Brooklyn’s roster might look very different by the end of the week anyway.
20. Miami Heat – Desmond Bane (G/F, TCU)
The Heat could go with one of the myriad ball-handlers available, but Bane also makes sense. Miami has enjoyed success with hard-working players, and Bane is well-known for his tenacity. From there, he’s a very good shooter that can handle the ball a bit and also defend at a solid level.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City) – Isaiah Joe (G, Arkansas)
In 2019, it was widely known that the Sixers were in love with Matisse Thybulle, to the point where Philadelphia was prompted to give up an extra asset to select him. In 2020, the rumblings are that the Sixers may have given Joe a promise, either at No. 21 or at No. 34. To be fair, Joe isn’t quite this high on most mainstream boards, but it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable for Philadelphia to select him here. Throw in the (loud) whispers about a promise, and this projection makes the most sense, even if No. 34 may be the “real” promise.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) – Cole Anthony (G, North Carolina)
Anthony’s stock has tumbled, but Denver isn’t shy about aiming for the ceiling. Gone are the days when he was in pre-season contention for the No. 1 overall pick, but Anthony remains talented and could pair well with Jamal Murray if things work out. If anything, Anthony’s supporting traits (shooting, defense) might be underrated, and the Nuggets would be just banking on talent.
23. Utah Jazz – Robert Woodard (F, Mississippi State)
Woodard checks a ton of boxes while not being elite in any one area. He’s 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, though, and there is a path to relevance as a do-everything forward. Utah could use more role players in that mold, and he fits the bill cleanly.
24. New Orleans Pelicans (via Indiana, then Milwaukee) – Jalen Smith (C/F, Maryland)
As noted above, the Pelicans are in flux after a big trade, and their roster could change even more in the coming days. Smith is both a bet on talent and a bet on potential fit. New Orleans did invest a lottery pick in Jaxson Hayes, but Smith is a (much) different player. He’s a floor spacer that could pair with Zion Williamson and give the Pelicans a different look.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) – Jaden McDaniels (F, Washington)
In practicality, this makes a ton of sense. In reality, McDaniels could be gone by now, especially with chatter that teams are buying into his pre-college sample and could pounce in the top 15. Alas, the Thunder love to pick players with impressive measurables, and McDaniels was a five-star prospect for a reason.
26. Boston Celtics – Xavier Tillman (C, Michigan State)
Boston’s trio of picks could be on the move at any moment, but the Celtics do need a center. Preferably, that player could help immediately, and Tillman profiles as exactly the kind of rookie that could have a positive impact in a winning situation. His basketball IQ is off the charts, he is a brick wall defensively, and Tillman won’t have any problem fitting into a modern offensive scheme with his short roll passing and low-usage profile.
27. New York Knicks (via LA Clippers) – Grant Riller (G, Charleston)
If the Knicks don’t go with a guard in the lottery, they will probably add one late. It may not be Riller, though, as this is a class that has a bunch of similarly graded collegiate performers in the backcourt. Riller is perhaps the most intriguing from an upside perspective, with off-the-charts metrics as a three-level scorer.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles) – Tyrell Terry (G, Stanford)
The Thunder could use a backcourt complement to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Terry might be it. He is a shooter, first and foremost, but some NBA teams like Terry’s other traits as well. This is a solid value for a team that is firmly in asset accumulation mode.
29. Toronto Raptors – Isaiah Stewart (C, Washington)
Stewart has plenty of fans in the NBA, and he is known as a hard-working young man with a great motor. His skill translation is up for debate but, in Toronto, Stewart would be properly utilized and developed. Even with some reasons for pessimism, the widespread belief is that he’ll be a first round pick somewhere.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee) – Leandro Bolmaro (G, Barcelona)
We’ve reached the end and Boston has another pick. The Celtics likely won’t make all three of their picks but, if they do, a roster crunch dictates that one of them kind of needs to be a draft-and-stash. Bolmaro is the best player that fits that archetype, with first round talent and a place to develop without being on Boston’s cap sheet.