The 2020 NBA Draft was supposed to arrive in late June but, for pandemic-related reasons, the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery won’t even take place until Aug. 25. That means almost four additional months of discussion on what is a challenging 2020 class of prospects but, for the eight teams not heading to Orlando as part of the league’s 2019-20 restart, the draft is the next firm event on the NBA calendar. To that end, it is time to revisit the draft, even before the bubble convenes and the postseason arrives.
For the purposes of this mock exercise, we’ll be using a lottery simulation from Tankathon because, well, it is more interesting to shake up the order rather than running back the same pre-lottery procession. Without further delay, here is a look at how the 2020 draft board could shake out… at least in the event that lottery swings this way.
1. Golden State Warriors – LaMelo Ball (G, Illawarra Hawks)
Ball is the No. 1 player on my big board, and that is a big factor in sending him to the Warriors. Is it a perfect fit? Perhaps not. Ball does have the size to play between Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, though, and his passing and basketball IQ would fit snugly in Steve Kerr’s system. It is possible that Ball’s potential as a ball-dominant creator could be mitigated a bit by landing with the Warriors, but Golden State also gets perhaps the most talented player in the draft. There is no “easy” decision here for the Warriors but, when in doubt, take the best player.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards (G, Georgia)
On paper, this may seem like an automatic choice for the Wolves, but it is a bit more complicated than that. Edwards’ defensive film was befuddling and, on a team with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, that isn’t ideal. From there, Edwards displayed poor shot selection and, in an average draft, he may not be seen as a consensus top-three prospect. Still, he’s probably the most talented player still available and, given that the Wolves aren’t in the market for a big man, the one-and-done guard does make sense. On the bright side, Edwards is best-suited to not being the No. 1 offensive option in my view, and he wouldn’t have to be in Minnesota.
3. Detroit Pistons – James Wiseman (C, Memphis)
As always, remember that this is a mock draft and not a big board. I say that because, well, this is not what I’d do. Wiseman takes more heat than he should in some circles of “Draft Twitter,” but he also isn’t a top-five prospect for me. Still, the NBA is definitely higher on Wiseman than I am, and the Pistons could be lured by his conventional profile. Detroit could have plans to re-sign Christian Wood as their center of the present and future but, if not, Wiseman may be the guy. I maintain a belief that someone will use a top-five pick on him.
4. Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu (C/F, USC)
Washington was all offense all the time this season but, at some point, they have to fix the other end of the floor. Okongwu would help in that endeavor, as a modern big man that actually rates as my No. 1 center in the draft. This isn’t a full-blown no-brainer for the Wizards, but Okongwu does a lot of things well and he can help to cover up for some of the misgivings elsewhere on the roster.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija (F, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Avdija is one of the very few prospects that put more basketball on film recently and, as a result, he is a popular topic in NBA Draft circles. Though his recent uptick in shooting efficiency doesn’t fully silence doubters, it is encouraging to see Avdija making shots at a higher clip. From there, Avdija brings intriguing two-way appeal, as a secondary play-maker and passer offensively and as a versatile, effective option on the other end. Just how high his upside is remains debatable, but Avdija is an unquestioned lottery pick and he’d help the Cavs.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro (G/F, Auburn)
Okoro is a local Atlanta product and he does a lot of things well. The Hawks spent two lottery picks on a pair of two-way forwards in 2019 and, in Okoro, they’d be following that model again to some degree. He is a bulky, physically gifted standout on the defensive end, with top-shelf athleticism and power leading to many saying Okoro is the best one-on-one defensive prospect in the class. Offensively, he has a defined weaknesses in perimeter shooting but, from there, Okoro brings more on-ball appeal than one might think, showcasing intriguing play-making skills and a high-level knowledge of the game.
7. New York Knicks – Killian Hayes (G, Ulm)
The Knicks would love to jump into the top three to have a chance at LaMelo Ball, as New York has been yearning for a top-shelf creator for a long time. In this mock, New York gets unlucky with draft slot, but they are actually fortunate that Killian Hayes slips this far. For me, he’s a top-three overall prospect in the class, but the league is a touch lower on him. Hayes doesn’t have the upside of Ball in my mind, but he’s a skilled creator who is already flashing defensive aptitude. If you buy into his shot taking a step forward, Hayes is easy to love.
8. Chicago Bulls – Tyrese Haliburton (G, Iowa State)
Haliburton is a context-dependent player that could be miscast if placed in the wrong organizational situation. In Chicago, he could support Zach LaVine and Coby White by doing some of the little things on both ends, acting as a ball-mover and floor-spacer offensively while being in right places on the defensive end. The league is probably a touch higher on Haliburton than I am but, even with that said, he does a lot of things that could help to produce winning basketball.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Obi Toppin (F/C, Dayton)
Practically, Toppin may go higher than this and it is easy to see why. He was the best college basketball player in the country this season, and Toppin has a ton of appeal as a modern offensive big man that can act as a roll man and also space the floor as a shooter. Defensively, though, it is going to be a challenge, and Toppin is also significantly older than any other lottery-bound prospect available. Charlotte has a strange roster that lends itself to best player available and, given the team’s track record, they might be attracted to the high-profile college player with big-time stats.
10. Phoenix Suns – Cole Anthony (G, North Carolina)
Anthony went from being a projected top-five pick to a prospect that could conceivably drop out of the lottery. That is the kind of adventure that his freshman season at UNC was in 2019-20. Still, the reactions have perhaps been a bit too aggressive, as Anthony still has big-time pedigree, the ability to create shots and a higher baseline as a potential supporting piece than you may think. He isn’t a flawless fit in Phoenix, but Anthony could be an interesting backcourt partner for Devin Booker, especially as Ricky Rubio ages and eventually hits free agency.
11. San Antonio Spurs – Devin Vassell (G/F, Florida State)
Vassell is the epitome of a high-level role player prospect. He knocked down more than 40 percent of his three-point attempts at Florida State, and there is reason to believe he can add some secondary creation in time. Defensively, Vassell is a fantastic off-ball player, often generating deflections, and he has enough size and athleticism to hold up in one-and-one situations. He may not be “sexy,” but Vassell is going to be useful for a long time, and this is an easy choice for a Spurs team with a glut of guards to sift through.
12. Sacramento Kings – Patrick Williams (F, Florida State)
Sacramento is an odd team to draft for, especially in this range. This isn’t a team with a flashing need compared to some others but, at the same time, there are spots in which the Kings could use a boost. Williams is a tremendous vertical athlete with interesting flashes during a one-year sample at Florida State, and he would be a fun small-ball 4 option. How he fits with Marvin Bagley is another thing entirely but, given the Kings’ roster makeup, it would be tough to take a small guard (i.e. Tyrese Maxey or Kira Lewis) and Williams gives them some versatility and upside.
13. New Orleans Pelicans – Tyrese Maxey (G, Kentucky)
I still believe in Maxey and this is a bargain when compared to my big board. If you don’t use pre-college film and stats in evaluating prospects, Maxey will look worse, simply because his efficiency wasn’t tremendous at Kentucky. When remembering why he was a five-star high school prospect, though, the picture makes more sense. I think he’ll be able to provide a ton of creation equity offensively and, despite limited size, he’s a competitor on the defensive end that shouldn’t be a negative overall. Pairing him with Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball would be a lot of fun, and Maxey brings upside to boot.
14. Portland Trail Blazers – Aaron Nesmith (G/F, Vanderbilt)
The Blazers have a desperate need for wing help and Nesmith is the best wing remaining. Is he a great defensive fit in Portland? Absolutely not, because Nesmith is more suited to defending 2’s than 3’s, and that isn’t ideal next to Portland’s small backcourt. He does have a reported 6’10 wingspan, though, and Nesmith happens to be one of the best shooters in the draft.
15. Orlando Magic – Kira Lewis (G, Alabama)
Everyone is projecting a point guard to the Magic for a reason. They still need one. I remain a Markelle Fultz optimist but, even if that pans out, Orlando has very little in the mold of a primary creator, and Lewis could be that. He’s young, super quick and very skilled. At No. 15 overall, sign me up for this fit.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn) – Precious Achiuwa (F/C, Memphis)
Achiuwa is a polarizing prospect. Some view him as a lottery talent. Some view him as a second-round pick. That’s a (very) wide gap but, in Minnesota, he could let some of his more intriguing talents shine. Achiuwa may be best utilized as a center despite his modest size, but he’s a great athlete who plays hard and should be able to defend in time. Pairing him with Karl-Anthony Towns may be a good idea, especially when allowing for Towns to fire away as the best-shooting center in NBA history.
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) – RJ Hampton (G, New Zealand Breakers)
Hampton is very difficult to project, especially after an uneven showing in the NBL. He’s quite appealing with a combination of athleticism and skill, though, and teams that buy into his jump shot would have him higher than this on draft boards. Boston can afford to be a little more aggressive than some given the presence of three first-round picks, and Hampton is a value at this point.
18. Dallas Mavericks – Aleksej Pokusevski (F/C, Olympiacos)
Somebody has to take the swing on Pokusevski and it’s Dallas in this exercise. The 7-footer has immense potential to the point that it isn’t crazy at all to call him one of the more talented players available in this draft. Pokusevski is also quite risky in that the competition level he’s faced is anything but top-tier, and it might be tough to utilize him in the near future without substantial gains in terms of strength. Dallas can afford to be patient and take the chance.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana) – Saddiq Bey (F, Villanova)
For me, Bey is both the best player available and a fit in Milwaukee. The Bucks could use another potent long-range shooter and Bey definitely qualifies, with a big-time pedigree in that regard. Defensively, Bey is far from a perfect prospect, but he’d be insulated in Milwaukee and he could be ready to contribute quickly.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia) – Xavier Tillman (C, Michigan State)
I’m higher on Tillman than the league is, and I’m willing to acknowledge that. He may not go this high. Still, the Nets should be in the market for a player that can help them now and grow alongside their top-tier talent, and Tillman can do both. Obviously, Brooklyn doesn’t “need” another big with Jarrett Allen, DeAndre Jordan and others on board, but with whispers (and logic) that Allen could be included in a consolidation trade for another star, Tillman would work well.
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) – Josh Green (G/F, Arizona)
The Nuggets have a lot of intriguing pieces, but they are still in need of more wing depth, especially on the defensive end. Green profiles as an interesting role player, especially if you buy into his three-point shooting development. He is a willing passer, should be a solid-or-better defender and this is an archetype that is really valuable in the league.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City) – Tyrell Terry (G, Stanford)
Nothing is more commonplace in an NBA mock draft than seeing the 76ers tied to a smaller guard who can really shoot. Tyrell Terry fits that bill. Just because it’s a popular fit doesn’t make it any less interesting to pair Terry with Ben Simmons and company.
23. Miami Heat – Paul Reed (F, DePaul)
The Heat don’t have incredibly defined “needs” on the roster, and many project Miami to select a point guard like Tre Jones or Devon Dotson with this slot. Obviously it’s still early, but Reed makes a ton of sense based on his off-the-charts defensive metrics and potential integration into Miami’s culture. Candidly, though, the Heat feel like a team that could do just about anything here.
24. Utah Jazz – Theo Maledon (G, ASVEL)
Maledon isn’t really an upside play but, at this point in the draft, he’d be a strong value. The Jazz obviously have Donovan Mitchell as a long-term pillar in the backcourt but, with Mike Conley hitting free agency in 2021, Maledon would fit in nicely. Beyond that, he’s better off in a system that doesn’t require him to be the lead option offensively, and there is a lot to like in Maledon’s supporting tools.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) – Zeke Nnaji (F/C, Arizona)
It would be on-brand for the Thunder to draft an athletic wing with defined strengths and weaknesses. That very well may happen. But if it doesn’t, the Thunder may be interested in Nnaji as an interesting complementary piece in the frontcourt. If you believe in his shooting touch, he’s a first-round talent and, with Danilo Gallinari hitting free agency, Steven Adams is the only player locked-in for the Thunder near the rim.
26. Boston Celtics – Desmond Bane (G/F, TCU)
This placement may surprise people, but Bane is legitimately a first-round talent. He’s definitely off-the-radar, aside from draft die-hards, but Bane is a 3-and-D prospect with big-time pedigree as a shooter, including off movement. Boston doesn’t have huge needs, but every team could utilize what Bane can bring in a supporting role.
27. New York Knicks (via LA Clippers) – Jalen Smith (F/C, Maryland)
After securing a lead guard option in Hayes with their lottery pick, the Knicks don’t have an exceptionally pressing need, but they do need more shooting. Smith definitely provides that. He doesn’t have big-time upside, but Smith can play both big man spots, space the floor and provide a lot of intrigue as a versatile role player.
28. Toronto Raptors – Jaden McDaniels (F, Washington)
Almost everyone acknowledges how difficult it is to project McDaniels, both in terms of the player he’ll become and where he might go in the draft. At one point, he was a consensus lottery pick but, after a roller coaster season at Washington, many wouldn’t grade him as a first-rounder at all. There is significant appeal in his raw tools, especially defensively, and Toronto can afford to take a bit of a shot on their player development pipeline. I like this landing spot.
29. Los Angeles Lakers – Grant Riller (G, Charleston)
This is a fun fit for both player and team. Riller is (very) old for a prospect and he played against sub-optimal competition. His numbers were off the charts, though, and the Lakers could use another shot creator in the backcourt that could help right away. I think Riller can do that, and this is more than an appropriate value given his lead guard appeal.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee) – Killian Tillie (C/F, Gonzaga)
The Celtics probably aren’t making all three of their picks and that should be acknowledged. Boston already has a bevy of young players and, as a team that is trying to win now in a big way, it makes sense to consolidate. Without projecting a trade (or two) in this space, though, Tillie checks a lot of boxes. For one, he’s a clear first-round talent that profiles as an exceptionally valuable role player if he can stay healthy. On the other hand, there are real injury concerns, so this feels more risky than it probably should, at least from the outside. It’s a gamble without clean medical information, but the potential of Tillie is intoxicating.