With the 2020 NBA Draft finally nearing, mock draft season is roaring, with opinions and projections from every corner of the basketball world. For the most part, mock drafts aim to be as accurate as possible, especially as the draft itself gets closer. After all, big boards are really where evaluators are able to differentiate themselves with opinions on prospects that might vary from the consensus and/or what is reasonably likely to actually take place.
However, DIME releases one mock draft each cycle that isn’t trying to be a projection, and we’ve arrived. This mock draft is one writer’s view of what every team, within reason, should do with their selection, following that train of thought down the board from No. 1 through No. 30. Practically speaking, the draft isn’t likely to fall this way but, sometimes, you have to mix it up, and that is doubly true in this never-ending draft cycle.
With all of that out of the way, let’s begin with the Wolves at the top of the heap.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – LaMelo Ball (G, Illawarra Hawks)
Ball is the No. 1 player on my board. That doesn’t mean it was a total no-brainer to suggest him at this spot, but none of my top prospects are perfect fits in Minnesota. Ball and D’Angelo Russell is anything but an ideal backcourt combination but, since I’m making the decisions, the move would be to simply take the best player and Russell quite frankly isn’t good enough to deter the Wolves from doing that. As you’ll see momentarily, there are teams that should definitely consider trading their pick, and the Wolves are high on that list. If they don’t, I’d take Ball.
2. Golden State Warriors – Anthony Edwards (G, Georgia)
The real answer to the question of what I think the Warriors should do is “trade the pick.” I just want to make that very clear. Golden State is in a different position than any other team near the top of the lottery and, while it may be tempting to reach for a player that would be a great theoretical fit (i.e. Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton or even Onyeka Okongwu), Edwards is the highest remaining player on my board. Is he a perfect player? Absolutely not, but one of the concerns I would have about Edwards is what happens if he’s asked to be the No. 1 option on a team. For the Warriors, that isn’t the concern, and he would be able to grow within a strong ecosystem. Beyond that, the Warriors might want to trade this pick later, and Edwards is probably the player that can hold his trade value more so than any other prospect remaining.
3. Charlotte Hornets – Killian Hayes (G, Ulm)
This is where the “what I would do” concept gets to be quite interesting. If the Hornets drafted James Wiseman, I’d have no problem with that. In fact, they probably will if he’s available here. If I was in charge, though, I’d be aiming for creation upside and Hayes is also my highest-rated player available. I know Devonte Graham enjoyed a strong 2019-20 season, but Hayes could play with him and, moreover, Graham isn’t the kind of player that would make me change my draft plan.
4. Chicago Bulls – Isaac Okoro (G/F, Auburn)
Taking Okoro requires me to stray slightly from my board, as Onyeka Okongwu would be the “best player available” choice. I do think that Chicago should see what they have in Wendell Carter, and there isn’t a big gap here anyway. Okoro is the best perimeter defender in the draft and, while the shooting questions are real, I believe in his skill set on both ends.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Onyeka Okongwu (C, USC)
Okoro and Okongwu could flip and it would be fine for both teams. That’s worth noting. With that said, Okongwu isn’t a “need” pick for a team that has Andre Drummond and Kevin Love but, if we’re being honest, the next good Cavs team probably isn’t going to include that frontcourt pairing. Okongwu is one of the safest players in the class, and he also has upside on both ends. Moreover, the Cavs desperately need someone that can defend, and he can bring stability through that lens.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Devin Vassell (G/F, Florida State)
If the draft actually broke this way (and it probably won’t!), the Hawks should be trying to move down. In fact, Atlanta should probably be evaluating that option anyway but, given the way that I view this range of the draft, there isn’t a no-brainer pick for the Hawks. Vassell gets the nod as my highest-rated perimeter player available, but he does feel like at least a slight reach at No. 6 compared to the consensus, particularly with newfound concerns about his shooting motion. That aside, Vassell is a plug-and-play wing with 3-and-D equity, and he’d help the Hawks.
7. Detroit Pistons – Obi Toppin (F/C, Dayton)
There isn’t an obvious choice for the Pistons with Hayes off the board, and Detroit isn’t my favorite landing spot for my top remaining guard in Tyrese Haliburton. As such, new general manager Troy Weaver goes the “best available” route with Toppin, even with Blake Griffin on the roster. It might seem strange to do so but, if we’re being honest, Griffin is very unlikely to be on the next good Pistons team and, while center could be a need, I’d prefer re-signing Christian Wood alongside Toppin to drafting James Wiseman and needing to move on from Wood as a result. Toppin’s defense is going to be an issue, but his offensive package is perhaps the most intriguing in the entire draft, and perhaps he can learn some tricks of the NBA trade from Griffin before Detroit moves on from their best player.
8. New York Knicks – Kira Lewis (G, Alabama)
I have Tyrese Haliburton rated higher than Kira Lewis. Why, then, is Lewis heading to New York? Well, I really, really like Haliburton for teams that already have lead creators and the Knicks… do not. The worst thing to do with Haliburton is to try to make him be a lead ball-handler, whereas Lewis is actually capable of carrying that load. I don’t think Lewis is going to be an All-Star, but he’d give the Knicks a real point guard option and, even as a two-year college player, Lewis is the same age as the one-and-done freshmen.
9. Washington Wizards – James Wiseman (C, Memphis)
Obviously, this isn’t likely to happen. Wiseman is probably going in the top three and, even if he falls a bit, somebody will snatch him before he falls all the way to No. 9. I’m a bit lower on Wiseman, mostly because of questions with his offensive ceiling and the value of pure centers in the modern game, but he does project as a quality starter at the center position. You probably need to play drop coverage with him defensively, and I think Wiseman needs to focus on being a center on offense rather than floating on the perimeter, but the total package is obviously strong enough to justify this investment. The Wizards don’t have a long-term starter at center (with apologies to Thomas Bryant) and Wiseman would help a defense that is in serious need of assistance.
10. Phoenix Suns – Tyrese Haliburton (G, Iowa State)
This is a (much) softer landing spot for Haliburton than the Knicks or Pistons would be. In Phoenix, Devin Booker is the No. 1 offensive option and, with Ricky Rubio still on the roster, Haliburton can take his time getting acclimated. Honestly, there is a ton to love about Haliburton, with his off-the-charts basketball IQ at the top of the list. He can shoot, he can pass, he can make plays defensively and, if you don’t ask him to put pressure on the opposition with penetration, there is a path to huge success.
11. San Antonio Spurs – Deni Avdija (F, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Avdija falling this far is (very) unlikely and, again, this is a reminder that this particular mock is driven my brain alone. It would be a lot of fun for the Spurs, though, and Avdija is a very Spurs-y player. My concerns with Avdija are largely upside-based, as he doesn’t have a single great skill to really bolster his play on either end. Avdija is a jack-of-all-trades guy, though, and I’d trust the Spurs to maximize his talents.
12. Sacramento Kings – Patrick Williams (F, Florida State)
The Kings are… a challenge. Williams is near the top of my board, but I’d consider other options and this isn’t a clear choice in the way that some others are. I do think Sacramento has a gem in De’Aaron Fox, but there is real uncertainty next to him with Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic on the roster. Then, you have the Marvin Bagley III conundrum, and Harrison Barnes is still here making big money. Williams is a best player available choice, but he also checks a lot of boxes the Kings could use, with strong physical tools and defensive projection.
13. New Orleans Pelicans – Tyrese Maxey (G, Kentucky)
Maxey is both the highest-rated player remaining for me, and a fit that I would enjoy at No. 13 overall. It has to be said that the Jrue Holiday trade talks could impact everything for New Orleans but, if Jrue was on the team, I’d almost like Maxey even more. Regardless, Maxey is a potent secondary ball-handler who can get his own shot, create a little bit for others, and defend both guard spots. He’s underrated after a so-so season at Kentucky but, if you look at his pre-college sample, Maxey should be a lottery pick.
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) – Aleksej Pokusevski (F/C, Olympiacos B)
Rather than projecting trades (because that is a fruitless and largely impossible exercise), we’ll act as if the Celtics are going to make all three first round picks they currently possess. To be clear, no one believes Boston is actually going to do that but, if the Celtics did hang on to No. 14, No. 26 and No. 30, it would make all the sense in the world for Danny Ainge to aim for upside here. Pokusevski might flame out, but he has upside that no prospect in this range can match, and the Celtics have the roster setup to bring him along slowly.
15. Orlando Magic – RJ Hampton (G, New Zealand Breakers)
The Magic are in a weird spot as a team that probably needs to rebuild (again), but may not want to do so. Selecting Hampton wouldn’t cure all of their ills, but he is a lottery-level talent if things break right. Orlando isn’t exactly set in terms of perimeter creation and, if nothing else, there is reason to believe that Hampton could be an explosive offensive player at the next level.
16. Portland Trail Blazers – Josh Green (G/F, Arizona)
Green actually isn’t the top player remaining on my board here, but the Blazers need someone that can defend wings. As you’ll see momentarily, Aaron Nesmith could be in consideration but, while he would be a lot of fun with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum offensively, I trust his defense a little bit less. Green is certainly a riskier play given his downside offensively, but I’m in favor of taking swings on wing players that could be impactful starters. Green fits that description.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn) – Aaron Nesmith (G/F, Vanderbilt)
The Wolves certainly need defense, and you could flip Green and Nesmith, leaving both teams happy. However, Minnesota already has Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie, with Nesmith adding an element of potentially elite wing shooting. I’m actually a bit higher on Nesmith as a player with the potential to be solid defensively and, even if I don’t think there is much on-ball equity to speak of, Nesmith is one of the best three-point shooters in the class. That helps to raise his floor.
18. Dallas Mavericks – Cole Anthony (G, North Carolina)
This quite a fall for Anthony, at least when compared to preseason hype. Many believed Anthony could be in the mix for No. 1 overall but, after a struggle in Chapel Hill, he might not be a guaranteed top-20 selection. As an on-ball creator, Anthony’s star has really fallen, but I tend to actually think that his supporting traits (off-ball shooting, defense, etc.) are underrated at this stage. In Dallas, he would give the Mavericks someone with lead guard skills to pair with Luka Doncic, all without the workload that could sink a young guard. It’s a nice fit and a good value.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia) – Saddiq Bey (F, Villanova)
Bey isn’t terribly appealing to a young team that isn’t trying to win now, which might scare teams in the lottery and just outside of it. Brooklyn is firmly not in that position. While the Nets could go the other way and aim for ceiling because they don’t have a ton of “needs,” Bey is one of the only guys in this range that could conceivably contribute to a playoff team as a rookie. He can definitely provide spacing and, if you buy his defense at all, a top-20 slot is appropriate.
20. Miami Heat – Malachi Flynn (G, San Diego State)
I’m in on Flynn and I’m not a believer in Kendrick Nunn. Because Nunn isn’t “the guy” at point guard in my view, Miami needs a succession plan, even if Goran Dragic returns on a short-term deal. That leads to many projecting the Heat to nab a point guard and, while Flynn isn’t the consensus choice through that lens, I love his pick-and-roll acumen and well-rounded arsenal. He probably isn’t a star, but he can guard a little bit, provide quality offensive creation and fit into Miami’s overall ethos.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City) – Grant Riller (G, Charleston)
Philadelphia just needs someone that can run a pick-and-roll. It is possible, or even likely, that Riller is always a bad defensive player, and that does matter. With the Sixers, though, that weakness could be mitigated given the surrounding talent, and Riller is quite easily the best perimeter creation prospect available in this range. He was a dynamic scorer with off-the-charts efficiency in college, and Riller can give Philadelphia some juice immediately. You just need to have a plan for the other end.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) – Desmond Bane (G/F, TCU)
Bane is just good at basketball. After months of Draft Twitter™ yelling about the virtues of Bane, the mainstream is catching up and Bane seems to be a projected first-round pick as a result. That is a small victory, but a fruitful one for Bane, who is worthy of the praise. He is one of the draft’s most functional and potent shooters, with some passing equity and the ability to defend with strength and acumen. Denver could use another shooter and another body on the wing, with Bane checking both boxes.
23. Utah Jazz – Jalen Smith (C/F, Maryland)
The Jazz are in an interesting spot. They don’t “need” another big necessarily, but it’s certainly a spot in which Utah could upgrade if the right player was available. Smith could provide them with a backup center that can potentially function with Rudy Gobert, and that comes back to Smith being a plus shooter as a combo big. It’s hard to find the best spot for him, but this is a low-risk choice.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana) – Theo Maledon (G, ASVEL)
Speaking of teams that aren’t drafting for need… the Bucks! Maledon is an interesting player to monitor, because he’s a combo guard with impressive offensive potential but also limited defensive acumen right now. How does he differentiate himself from more well-known college players? Well, he was solidly efficient in the second-best league in the world, and Maledon can play in the backcourt with different kinds of players, including Eric Bledsoe.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) – Tyrell Terry (G, Stanford)
Oklahoma City’s No. 1 building block is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, so this might seem like a curious fit. However, I like that partnership, with Terry’s shooting and the fact that Gilgeous-Alexander has the length to defend both guard spots. The Thunder should simply be taking the best player available with how clean their books are moving forward, and Terry makes a lot of sense as someone who can grow alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Lu Dort and a bunch of future draft picks.
26. Boston Celtics – Xavier Tillman (C, Michigan State)
I have Tillman even higher than this on my big board, and the Celtics get a great value. Despite modest size, Tillman is a center, and there could be a little bit of crossover with Grant Williams in Boston. Still, he’s the best player available, and Tillman is (very) high on the list of rookies that could be functional rotation players immediately. He’s a brick wall defensively, he can pass on the short roll, and buzz about his improving jump shot is percolating in basketball circles. Regardless, Tillman was an excellent college player and his basketball IQ, combined with his strength and skill, should bridge the gap to a long NBA career.
27. New York Knicks (via LA Clippers) – Isaiah Joe (G/F, Arkansas)
This might seem high for Joe, with mainstream boards projecting him in the second round. Still, there is a pretty easy projection for Joe as a high-volume three-point sniper that can be a solid-or-better defensive player. He’s a bit raw, but the flashes are tremendous, and the Knicks could absolutely use a bomber to pair with RJ Barrett and, in this mock, Kira Lewis on the perimeter.
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Tre Jones (G, Duke)
The Lakers actually have a bunch of guards, at least if they bring the band back from their title-winning squad. At the same time, Jones gives them on-ball defensive juice (a la Alex Caruso) with the ability to potentially transform into a competent, starting-level point guard if things go according to plan. He isn’t a high-upside offensive prospect, but Jones knows what to do in running an offense and, with his defensive abilities, he’s a first-round talent at a position where the Lakers might need a boost in the not-too-distant future.
29. Toronto Raptors – Precious Achiuwa (C/F, Memphis)
This is much, much later than most have Achiuwa projected. I get that. I would also say that there are a few places before this in which I’d seriously consider taking him. Selfishly, though, I’d love to see him in a developmental situation that I trust, and that is certainly the case in Toronto. I firmly believe Achiuwa’s best future comes as a small-ball center, and Nick Nurse can figure out a way to utilize him properly, especially in taking advantage of his intriguing defensive potential.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee) – Jaden McDaniels (F, Washington)
As noted previously, the Celtics could do just about anything if, for some reason, they used all three picks. McDaniels was once seen as a lottery lock and, even after a really challenging season at Washington, he still has fans in the league. I like his defense a lot more than his offense, but the Celtics don’t have a huge need for offensive creation. I also trust Boston’s developmental approach, and McDaniels would be best served in a situation like that.