2020 NBA Mock Draft
Draft Day is here. One of the most exciting times of the entire NBA calendar, the NBA Draft often creates a whirlwind of moves, and this year is no different. The first pick has yet to be announced and we already have seen two blockbuster trades (Chris Paul and Jrue Holiday both have new homes), and two smaller, but still significant deals go down across the NBA.
There is more sure to come as teams start to jockey for position to land one or more of the prospects that they fell in love with during the pre-draft process. This year has of course been much different from an evaluation perspective, but teams were still allowed to meet with a limited amount of prospects in person and to conduct Zoom interviews.
This is a year where scouting departments may have more say than ever, and it could lead to a few surprise names falling out of the first round. The trade action could reach near record highs as, while not top-heavy, this is a particularly deep draft that has front offices big boards looking very different outside of the lottery. Let’s take a look at how the 2020 NBA Draft could unfold.
1st overall: Minnesota Timberwolves – LaMelo Ball (PG/SG – Illawarra Hawks)
The Timberwolves are going to shop this pick hard. James Wiseman has already said he has no interest in playing with Karl Anthony-Towns, he wants to go somewhere where he will have a significant role. With KAT and D’Angelo Russell dominating usage in Minnesota, that is something he may never see. Anthony Edwards needs to be ball dominant to be at his most effective, something that will never happen in Minnesota. Edwards also has shot selection issues and is poor from deep, not exactly what the Timberwolves need to surround their two stars. LaMelo Ball is a fit because as a 6’7 point guard who can play off-ball, he can spell Russell when needed and play beside him as a switchable, spot-up shooter who can slash to the basket.
2nd overall: Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (C – Memphis)
This is an easy one to predict. If the Golden State Warriors keep this pick, they will undoubtedly take James Wiseman. Wiseman is the missing piece the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green trio have been searching for in the frontcourt for, well, forever. Golden State is going to do its best to extract value for this pick, specifically packaging it with Andrew Wiggins in an offer to Milwaukee, but they may not get bites if teams have to absorb what is seen in NBA circles as an albatross of a contract attached to the young and talented shooting guard. Wiseman is a mobile big who can run the floor and switch on defense. He is a perfect fit for the Warriors.
3rd overall: Charlotte Hornets – Anthony Edwards (SG – Georgia)
Michael Jordan will be jumping for joy at his good fortune if Edwards lasts to number three overall. Well, he may not jump for joy, but he will at least give an en excited fist pump. Edwards is likely the player MJ wanted all along, and being able to stand pat and land him instead of handing over the ransom both the Timberwolves and Warriors were asking for is a serious coup for the troubled franchise. Edwards has first overall talent but his questionable motor and defensive effort coupled with the sometimes horrid shot selection have led him to fall. If there is any place in the NBA outside of San Antonio that could help correct his effort and basketball IQ issues, it is in Charlotte with the greatest of all-time.
4th overall: Chicago Bulls – Deni Avidja (SF – Maccabi Tel Aviv)
While Otto Porter Jr. is all but assured to opt-in to the final year of his deal (he gets paid $28,489,238), he is likely going to be dashed from the Bulls plans if Avidja is still on the board.
Deni Avidja is a creative offensive forward who, though not as talented, is going to appeal to a lot of teams searching for the next Luka Doncic. He should fit in well next to the collection of lottery talent Chicago has amassed and should help to form what will be known in the city as the ‘Baby Bulls 2.0″. Avidja will help to make the Bulls a complete team from 1-5, and one who should push for the sixth to eighth seed as soon as this upcoming season. He could get snapped up by MJ, but I have a feeling he covets Edwards over anyone else in this draft class.
5th overall: Cleveland Cavaliers – Obi Toppin (PF – Dayton)
Obi Toppin is likely the top player left available on the Cavaliers board at this point and gives them an immediate succession plan to Kevin Love. Dan Gilbert is silly enough to try to keep Love around for another season, but if they do indeed land Toppin, they would only be doing harm to themselves by relegating Toppin to a bench role. The Cavaliers biggest need is at the small forward position, so this pick will likely be dangled to teams like the Pistons who pick close enough to Cleveland and also have a need at the four.
Toppin is an exciting dunker with a 7’2 wingspan with switchability on defense. He needs to add weight and strength if he is going to stay at the four, but the rest of his game and toolset is saliva-inducing. Love should be moved to a contender by the trade deadline (perhaps dumped), which should open things up for Toppin to become the Cavaliers star offensive player for the second half of the season.
6th overall: Atlanta Hawks – Patrick Williams (SF – Florida State)
This pick is likely to come down to Kira Lewis, Patrick Williams, and Devin Vassell. With the Hawks having one of the most talented starting fives in the Eastern Conference, they are likely to go with the best player available instead of chasing a need. Patrick Williams is an odd fit for a team that just took Deandre Hunter and Cam Reddish, but with the NBA becoming more and more positionless with a premium placed on athletic two way forwards, Williams will likely be the pick here unless the Hawks trade down.
7th overall: Detroit Pistons – Tyrese Haliburton (PG – Iowa State)
The Pistons decision here will likely come down to Tyrese Haliburton and the seemingly sliding Killian Hayes. Haliburton gets the nod here as head coach Dwane Casey will be more familiar with his game, and knows he can become one of the better defenders at his position. Haliburton is a 6’5 pure point who can score and will be the long-term answer for the Pistons at the point guard position. The Pistons hit a home run with either selection.
8th overall: New York Knicks – Onyeka Okongwu (PF/C – USC)
Killian Hayes will get a sniff here, but the Knicks have struck out on too many point guards to pass up on a franchise big like Onyeka Okongwiu from USC. Often compared to Bam Adebayo, Onyeka is a great shot blocker with rare off-ball movement skills, only a proven three point shot prevents him (in this scenario) from being a top-five overall pick this year. He will likely settle in at the four but has the skill, switchability, and elite 7’2 wingspan to play, or even feature as a small-ball five. Under Leon Rose, the Knicks will be looking to hit an easy home run rather than swinging to hit one out of the stadium.
9th overall: Washington Wizards – Isaac Okoro (SF – Auburn)
The only true hole the Wizards have to fill is at the small forward position. They will likely look to address this need in free agency but may want to solidify the long-term future of the position with a player like Okoro. He is not going to be a scoring superstar, but he is a physical slasher who can take advantage of the extra space a healthy Bradley Beal and John Wall will afford him. A good defender who is great in transition, Okoro will be a seamless fit next to Beal and Wall (or possibly Russell Westbrook).
10th overall: Phoenix Suns – Killian Hayes (PG – France)
This is a pure luxury pick for a team that just acquired Chris Paul, so don’t be surprised to see the Suns try to move down on draft night in an attempt to address a need, as opposed to just selecting the best player available. If they keep the pick, someone like Killian Hayes would be a tremendous coup for the Suns. Searching for an answer at the point for years, the Suns will have secured both the short term and long term future at the position.
11th overall: San Antonio Spurs – Devin Vassell (SG – Florida State)
Devin Vassell is an extremely intriguing shooting guard prospect who in this scenario will be groomed to replace DeMar DeRozan (who opted into the final year of his contract). He needs to work on his shooting efficiency, but as echoed above, there is no better place in the league for a guard oozing as much upside as Vassell is to learn to hone his craft. Vassell is a good defender, so he should see regular rotation minutes as a 3&D specialist before maturing into a primary option for the next generation of the San Antonio Spurs.
12th overall: Sacramento Kings – Aaron Nesmith (SG – Vanderbilt)
I initially had the Kings going with a big with this pick, but with Bogdan Bogdanovic traded, and Richaun Holmes and the talented Marvin Bagley already in the fold, they may now look to address the wing. There is no doubt that Vlade Divac would have wanted to draft his fellow countryman in Aleksej Pokusevski, but with Monte McNair in charge now, he is more of a trade down target than someone to select at 12th overall. Donte DiVincenzo can be a solid rotation player, but if he is your starter, you are in trouble.
Look for the Kings to sniff around Aaron Nesmith and Precious Achiuwa with this pick. The smart money would likely be on Achiuwa as he can play the three and the four, and the Kings already have Buddy Hield at shooting guard, but landing a long term starter at the two will be prioritized. Nesmith is an incredible shooter who does not need the ball in his hands to dominate. The Kings get a steal here in the 6’6 guard.
13th overall: New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis (PG – Alabama)
Kira Lewis is one of the biggest risers in the last couple of months and will be viewed as a potential long-term replacement for Jrue Holiday. He should be the lone surprise pick in the lottery but will make for a great fit for the ideal team makeup the Pelicans have in mind to surround Zion Williamson with.
14th overall: Boston Celtics (from Grizzlies) – Precious Achiuwa (PF/SF – Memphis)
Expect the Celtics to try their best to trade up to select Onyeka Okongwu, but with that being a longshot due to how coveted he is around NBA circles, Boston will happily finish the lottery with Precious Achiuwa. In this scenario, the Celtics made calls about trading up for the young big but were rebuffed by teams locked into their big board. Jalen Smith will also be a consideration here, but the Celtics are looking for someone who is ready as an NBA defender while they still have the bulk of their squad together.
Enter Precious Achiuwa, an active defender who can guard the three and the four, and will be able to run up and down the floor in transition with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker. In Boston, he will not be asked to do much offensively until he refines his skill set over the next few years.
15th overall: Orlando Magic – Jalen Smith (PF – Maryland)
While Smith needs to fill out, he will bring an exciting combination of shooting and defensive prowess to the Magic’s frontcourt. Aaron Gordon could be shipped out of town by the end of the draft, so the Magic are going to have a hole to fill.
Jonathan Issac has proved more than capable of manning the three, which makes the one and the four the positions the Magic will target. Smith has no doubt lottery level upside, and will in essence force the Magic’s hand in bringing in the best player available as opposed to targeting a larger need at the point.
16th overall: Houston Rockets (from Blazers) – Tyrell Terry (SG – Stanford)
Acquired in the Robert Covington trade, the Houston Rockets have to go best player available here. The Rockets could look very different at this point next year with James Harden and Russell Westbrook both in the early stages of forcing their way out of town. Things could of course change if the Rockets choose to flip this pick and some salary for someone like LaMarcus Aldridge, but if the rebuild is on, this pick will likely come down to Tyler Terry, Cole Anthony, or Tyrese Maxey. Expect the Rockets to eventually settle on the explosive scorer with limitless range.
17th overall: Minnesota Timberwolves (from Nets) – Saadiq Bey (SF – Villanova)
Now the Timberwolves can look to address their hole at the three. Forcing the issue with Edwards at number one overall would have been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but outside of the lottery, Minnesota can draft based on need. Saadiq Bey is a rugged 3&D prospect who does not need the ball to be effective. He is a high effort defender and is the type of piece that will be invaluable in helping to change the Timberwolves defensive culture. The top player available based on our consensus big board, Bey and Ball will help to usher in a new era of Minnesota playoff basketball.
18th overall: Dallas Mavericks – Tyrese Maxey (PG/SG – Kentucky)
The Dallas Mavericks have been looking for a secondary playmaker and luck into one they coveted at 18th overall. Maxey is score first enough to play off the ball (where he is probably a better fit in the first place), something that may actually aid in his shot selection. While he has a G-League floor, he is a two-way guard who can fill in at point guard for Doncic and provide everything that Tim Hardaway Jr. does and more at fraction of the price. He can turn into something special alongside Doncic and Kristaps Pronzigis if he can iron out his efficiency issues.
19th overall: Brooklyn Nets (from Sixers) – Aleksej Pokusevski (PF – Serbia)
If the board falls like this, there is no doubt that this pick will be traded. Coveted players like Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, and Aleksej Pokusevski are still on the board, giving the Nets plenty of interested parties to pit against each other. If the Nets do decide to keep this selection, the pick will likely be big man Aleksej Pokusevski. Brooklyn is dangling Jarrett Allen in Harden talks, so if the Rockets do not acquiesce to a draft day trade, they will look to the draft to have his replacement at-the-ready.
Pokusevski may not be coming to the NBA this season, but remains a tremendous talent who still holds value as a draft and stash candidate. He is a premium trade asset should a Harden deal ever be consummated, and has enough fans in NBA front offices to allow the Nets to pry a two or a four from a rebuilding or a playoff team. Called a poor man’s Kristaps Prozingis, if Aleksej can ever put it all together, he has all-star upside. However, if the Rockets do trade for this pick, they will use it on Cole Anthony, effectively helping remake their backcourt in one day.
20th overall: Miami Heat – Cole Anthony (PG – North Carolina)
Cole Anthony is going to be out for blood after falling all the way to 20th overall. Anthony slips here both due to depth at the position and some concerns with his shooting efficiency. He has the upside to be the top scorer from this draft class, especially if Edwards lands on a Charlotte team angling for Russell Westbrook. He can run the offense when needed and can function as an explosive slasher who can drain the three at will when Jimmy Butler is running the show. His floor suggests he could spend the first couple of years of his career bouncing between the NBA and the G-League. His ceiling puts him as a potent number two scorer on a team that desperately needed one during their NBA Finals run.
21st overall: Philadelphia 76ers (from Thunder) – R.J. Hampton (PG – New Zealand Breakers)
With Ben Simmons no doubt being dangled in James Harden conversations combined with the 76ers decision to move Simmons to power forward during the playoffs, the ‘Simmons as a point guard’ experiment may be over. Especially, with a new head coach. Yes, Simmons is an incredible creator and distributor, but his range limitations are made more glaring by sticking him at the point. As an attacking point forward Simmons can still control the offense when needed while masking his limitations on the perimeter. If the 76ers keep Simmons and Horford, an explosive point guard may be the answer with Simmons moving to the three. The three point issues will persist, but R.J. Hampton has the potential to develop into an electric number three option who can score from all over the floor.
22nd overall: Denver Nuggets (from Rockets) – Josh Green (SG – Arizona)
The Denver Nuggets are going to be aggressive in the trade market, making backcourt reinforcements their priority if they end up keeping this pick. NBA ready on the defensive end, Green may be the missing piece to the Nuggets puzzle if he is able to play the three. He is only 6’6 but is long with a 6’10 wingspan that will allow him to play both wing spots. He needs to find consistency from deep but will become a valuable rotation member as a rookie, before hopefully joining the starting lineup for good as a sophomore.
23rd overall: Utah Jazz – Theo Maledon (PG – ASVEL)
This is a stunning drop for the explosive 6’5 point guard from France. He played against grown men in the French league and has impressed with a good first step and good size. The Utah Jazz have a strong international scouting department (or they at least did prior to COVID) and will no doubt have done extensive homework on this tremendous prospect. If he really lasts this long, several general managers will be kicking themselves for not knowing more about Maledon prior to draft day. His lack of proven range limited his draft ceiling in this mock, but there is a lot to like about Maledon, especially if he can develop from deep.
24th overall: New Orleans Pelicans (from Bucks via Pacers) – Leandro Bolmaro (SG – FC Barcelona)
Acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade, the Pelicans will likely treat this pick as a luxury pick. With the draft’s most intriguing draft and stash prospect still on the board, the Pelicans quickly pull the trigger. New Orleans may not get their hands on Bolmaro for a year or two, but he is an exciting draft and stash prospect who fits perfectly with the Pelicans timeline.
25th overall: Oklahoma City Thunder (from Nuggets) – Jaden McDaniels (SF/PF – Washington)
Expect the Thunder to be aggressive on draft night, but if they stand pat at 25th overall and McDaniels is still on the board, he makes for a slam dunk of a pick. Dripping with upside, McDaniels has the elite upside to be a two-way star. I think he should be drafted much, much higher, but this mock is about what I think NBA teams will do, not what I want them to do or think they should do. The Thunder are far too focused to let McDaniels slip any further and will rely just as much on his high school tape as they will his college film for evaluation purposes. His positional versatility and switchability will allow him to mesh well with Kelly Oubre Jr.
26th overall: Boston Celtics – Daniel Oturu (C – Minnesota)
It is almost criminal that someone this talented lasted this long, and is even more criminal that it is the Boston Celtics that land him. Danny Ainge is going to be lauded for this shrewd pick a couple of years down the line, but we should remember to also blame about 12 other general managers before giving full credit to Ainge. A true big man who can defend and hit the three, at 26th overall? I love him as a lottery talent but this mock is meant to project what NBA teams will actually do on draft night.
27th overall: New York Knicks (from Clippers) – Nico Mannion (PG – Arizona)
In this mock, the Knicks went with freefalling big man Onyeka Okongwu with the eighth overall pick, so if they keep this pick (it is part of the Russell Westbrook discussions) they may look to the late first from the Clippers to address the point guard position. The logjam at the one should be cleared up in the coming days, and the Knicks will be looking to secure their potential point guard of the future. This is a tremendous value for Mannion who has the talent to go in the late teens. His floor is a quality backup point guard who can mop up minutes at the two as well. His curling is as a quality NBA starter. He is a good fit for a rebuilding Knicks team that is extremely short on quality talent.
28th overall: Oklahoma City Thunder (from Lakers) – Cassius Stanley (SG – Duke)
Acquired in the Dennis Schroeder trade, the Thunder will likely look to secure the long term future of their backcourt beside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Stanley played on a loaded Duke team in his lone college season so his production was muted, but he is going to prove to be a steal for the Thunder. One of the top prospects coming out of high school, Stanley’s shine faded at Duke.
Stanley is a gifted athlete with significant upside. He can become a complete player if he learns to break his man down off the dribble, but will be asked to be more of a 3&D guy to start his career. The Thunder got a whole lot better in the first round of this draft and if you take a look at their draft pick war chest, you can be sure that the future is bright for Oklahoma City.
29th overall: Toronto Raptors – Vernon Carey (PF – Duke)
The Raptors could go the safer route here, but attempt to swing for the fences with a boom or bust prospect. They will be extremely active in chasing undrafted free agent guards, and instead, decide to utilize their lone draft pick on the talented big from Duke. His free throw shooting and shot selection will need work, but flaws in prospects this late in the draft are to be expected. Zeke Nnaji will also be considered here, as the Raptors are likely to be extremely thin up front with the expected losses of both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency.
It should be noted that Toronto could also look to switch gears and address a potential loss of Fred VanVleet in free agency by adding Devon Dotson, Desmond Bane, Jah’mius Ramsey, or even Isaiah Quickley. One year removed from an NBA Championship, the Raptors could be forced into rebuild and wait-on-Giannis mode if VanVleet bolts for a max offer sheet.
30th overall: Boston Celtics (from Bucks) – Tyler Bey (SF – Colorado)
Bey needs to work on his defensive game if he ever plans to become a starter in this league, so some may be questioning this pick. However, Bey is ready as a defender and will be able to log valuable rotation minutes for the Celtics right away. Zeke Nnaji will also be in play here, especially if the Celtics trade their earlier pick, or choose not to go with a big.