NBA Mock Draft 3.0
By Jason McIntyre
Great news, folks! We're just weeks away from the resumption of the NBA season — and on Friday, we officially learned when the 2020 NBA Draft will take place.
The league's annual selection process is set for Oct. 16, with the lottery going down on Aug. 25. (Free agency, for what it's worth, starts Oct. 18.)
So now seems like a pretty good time to dive back into our mock draft.
The college basketball season ended prematurely before March Madness even had a bracket, so buzz for the 2020 NBA Draft has been largely muted until this week's announcement.
Here’s what we know: It’s a guard-heavy draft, with as many as a dozen point guards going in the first round. It feels like a tipping point for big men in the draft, given the hype a year ago about high school superstar James Wiseman, the 7-footer who played just three college games and may see his stock falling. Let's get started.
1. Golden State Warriors — Onyeka Okongwu, F, USC
Surely there will be a lot of disagreement at the top of the draft, especially if the Warriors get the No. 1 pick.
They’ve got the best backcourt in the NBA, plus Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. What they don’t have is a wing to tangle with Kawhi Leonard or a big to tussle with Anthony Davis.
Is Okongwu that guy? At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, he’s a man-child who has the highest motor of any player in the draft. He was 10th in the country in PER, and led the NCAA in shooting (74.8%). He can defend 3-5.
His comps are all over the place: Maybe a young Kevin Garnett; he kind of plays like Bam Adebayo. Okongwu turns 20 in December. The only caveat: The Warriors could easily trade down a few spots and get Okongwu, who fits their win-now team better than Ball or Edwards.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers — LaMelo Ball, PG, Australia
The Cavs will come out of the quarantine with a new coach and a young (but dangerous) backcourt if they land the most polarizing talent in the 2020 draft in LaMelo Ball.
There are questions about whether Ball could co-exist with 2018 lottery pick Collin Sexton (20.8 ppg) personality-wise. Ball flashes the open court vision of Ricky Rubio and has the slender attacking game of Shaun Livingston, but his defense and conforming to a system are questions to which nobody has answers.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves — Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
The Timberwolves have been trying for four years to find a running mate up front for KAT. If Okongwu is off the board, Toppin isn’t a bad consolation prize.
He finished 7th in the country in PER, averaged 20 ppg and shot 63 percent from the field. Toppin’s college game was somewhat reminiscent of slimmer Thomas Robinson, the Kansas star who led the Jayhawks to the title game in 2012. That doesn’t mean I think Toppin will flame out of the league as quickly as Robinson did, but I can’t commit to saying he’ll be an NBA All-Star.
4. Atlanta Hawks — Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
The 6-foot-5 Edwards is from Atlanta, and would be the perfect complement to Trae Young for the Hawks.
The good: That’s a dynamic backcourt. The bad: Edwards was indifferent on defense as a freshman, and we know Young isn’t strong defensively. Think Tyreke Evans, who himself was a phenom coming out of Memphis.
5. Detroit Pistons — Killian Hayes, PG, France
Hayes doesn’t turn 19 until July. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, the comparisons to a young D’Angelo Russell are apt, down to being left-handed. Maturity won’t be an issue, though.
The Pistons will let Reggie Jackson’s contract expire and hand the reigns to Derrick Rose for one more year while easing Hayes into the lineup.
6. New York Knicks — Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
Auburn was supposed to crater after losing much of their 2019 Final Four squad, but Okoro put together a tremendous freshman season to help keep the Tigers in the Top 10 much of the season.
He reminds me of a more defensive Jarrett Culver, who went sixth in the 2019 draft. He’s not ready to be a 3-and-D guy now, but he won’t turn 20 years old until January.
7. Chicago Bulls — Deni Avdija, SF, Israel
Chicago’s new VP of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, played all over Europe and is well-versed in international basketball.
Avdija isn’t Luka Doncic or Toni Kukoc, but once Bulls fans grasp that, they’ll love his all-around game.
8. Charlotte Hornets — Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
When you combine the fact that Michael Jordan’s Hornets have whiffed on so many bigs, and his UNC connection, this pick screams Anthony, a dazzling scorer who at times reminds me of Austin Rivers.
The issue is, Charlotte’s stacked at guard with Terry Rozier, Devonte Graham and Malik Monk.
9. Washington Wizards — James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Wiseman is the toughest player to project because he came into college with tons of expectations, then played just three games because of the NCAA.
We know what he can do, but can he defend the pick-and-roll? He’s limited offensively. I’d project Wiseman a notch below DeAndre Ayton, who is a double-double machine in Phoenix. If Washington’s 2019 lottery pick, Rui Hachimura, worked on his 3-point shot during the quarantine, he and Wiseman could fit well together in DC.
10. Phoenix Suns — Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
The highest riser — he wasn’t in my last mock draft — Nesmith put up obscene numbers in just 14 games (52 percent 3-point shooting, 23 ppg), and declared for the draft.
The best NBA comparison I could come up with — we’re talking ceiling — is Buddy Hield, who blossomed at Oklahoma, was taken in the lottery, and is a 20-point-a-game guy in Sacramento.
11. San Antonio Spurs — Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
A stat-sheet stuffer — 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.5 apg — Haliburton’s game kind of reminds me of Andre Miller’s. Not a great athlete, but does everything well, crafty, high basketball IQ, and a steady performer. The Spurs have a glut of guards, but Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills will likely be departing in the next two offseason.
12. Sacramento Kings — Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
It’s anyone’s guess what the Kings are doing, but they’ve supposed to have made the leap by now with talent like De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley.
When they go small, with Bagley and Harrison Barnes up front, Fox will need shooters to pass to, especially with Bogdan Bogdanovic likely departing after rejecting a $51 million offer. Vassell qualifies. He made a quantum leap as a sophomore, making 44 3s (41 percent), and he’s one of the best shooters in the draft.
13. New Orleans Pelicans — RJ Hampton, Australia
Hampton was a Top 10 recruit who played for the New Zealand Breakers against grown men in the NBL (9.4 ppg), and projects as a combo guard who should have a chance for minutes as a rookie on a team building around Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans have many questions ahead, starting with Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday. Hampton’s NBA comp for me is Spencer Dinwiddie, who went from second round pick in Detroit to 20 ppg in Brooklyn this season while only shooting 30 percent on 3-pointers. Hampton's attacking style will get him to the free throw line a lot (Dinwiddie attempts seven per game).
14. Portland Trail Blazers — Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
The Blazers have the highest payroll in the league, and their two best players are Lillard and McCollum. Injuries are a main reason for the fall from the Western Conference Finals to 29-37. Even if McCollum is traded, they have depth at guard with Anfernee Simons (21 in June) and Gary Trent (21).
In a loaded point guard draft, trading this pick makes sense, but if they keep it, a wing would be nice for when Carmelo Anthony, Mario Hezonja and Trevor Ariza move on. Williams could have stayed at FSU, put up big numbers, and been a lottery lock. This projection is a bit high, but his skill set — long wing who ideally is a 3-and-D — is tough to find in this draft.
15. Orlando Magic — Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
In a loaded point guard draft, Lewis will find himself above some of the higher-profile names as this process plays out. He was a first-team All-SEC point guard who put up 18.5 ppg as a sophomore and dropped 25 points on Auburn in January and 27 on LSU in February. He only turned 19 in April.
This is an ambitious comparison, but the more I watch him, the more I see a ceiling of John Wall given his speed; but a more realistic expectation is Dennis Schroder.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets) — Josh Green, SG, Arizona
Green is a fascinating prospect who was a consensus Top 15 player in the Class of 2019, and went to Arizona and put up modest stats (12 ppg). He’s a tremendous athlete who can toggle between the 2 and 3, play rugged defense, and finished the season strong (10-for-16 on three’s in his final six games).
The Wolves seem to have identified their new core: Karl Anthony-Towns, his buddy D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley, who they are smitten with since acquiring him from Denver. Teams will make a run at him, but Minnesota will match anything. Green provides depth on the wing with Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie.
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies) — Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
In a draft short on 3-and-D wings, Bey’s value continues to rise. His 45% shooting on 3-pointers puts him in the upper crust of shooters in the draft. We’ll see what happens with Gordon Hayward and free agency. He can opt-out of his final year ($34.1 million) and test the market for one last huge haul. But the uncertainty surrounding the salary cap makes that decision difficult.
Either way, Bey fits in the mold of switchable wings that Brad Stevens loves.
18. Dallas Mavericks — Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Highly-touted recruit had an up-and-down season for the Wildcats (39 percent shooting), and went into the year with Top 10 aspirations. At times, he reminds me at times of 13-year pro Steve Blake. He’s only 18, but one of the wilder stats is that Mannion didn’t block one shot all season.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers) — Theo Maledon, PG, France
The perfect draft-and-stash for the Bucks. Maledon turns 19 in early June. He reminds me of former UCLA star Kyle Anderson, with great vision, length to finish well at the rim, and a tight handle.
That being said, he’s probably a year or two away from contributing. The Bucks have one of the most formidable rosters in the NBA, with young talent like Donte DiVincenzo in the backcourt, and Pat Connaughton providing depth on the wing.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers) — Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Jones wisely stayed for his sophomore year and improved every facet of his game (16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 36 percent on 3s), and now he’s solidly in the first round. His brother, Tyus Jones, had a better career (one season) at Duke, but Tre’s NBA ceiling is higher because if his size.
The Nets will probably look a little different next year. Joe Harris probably signs elsewhere, and maybe they make a trade (Dinwiddie? LeVert?) for a third amigo to join Durant and Kyrie. Keep an eye on finding a backup for Irving. He missed 37 games in two seasons in Boston; he only played 20 games this year. (There are injuries in Cleveland and at Duke, too.)
21. Denver Nuggets — Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis
Achiuwa was second in the country in defensive rating. He could develop as a small-ball center (6-foot-9, 225 pounds). Right now, he’s a taller PJ Tucker, who you may remember was a second round pick before decamping to Europe for a few years and returning to the NBA to thrive with the Suns and Rockets.
Tucker played three years at Texas and attempted four three-pointers. Eight years later, he developed a reliable 3-pointer. Can Achiuwa do the same?
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder) — Jahmi'us Ramsey, PG, Texas Tech
Ramsey had seven 20+ point games as a freshman, and shot 42 percent from deep. In the open floor, he’s dynamic, and he’s a great athlete. He did strangely disappear against some ranked teams (Kansas, WVU, Kentucky).
Assuming the 76ers don’t reach the Finals, the 76ers might be the most fascinating team heading into this offseason. Can they really afford max deals to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris, while paying Al Horford $81 million over the next three years? If Ben Simmons ends up wanting out, at least you’ve got a point guard in the pipeline with Ramsey.
23. Miami Heat — Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
Could be a combo guard in the role of Mario Chalmers. Pat Riley struck gold with Kentucky stars in 2017 (Bam Adebayo) and 2019 (Tyler Herro). Could Maxey be next?
COVID-19 may have derailed (or postponed?) a lot of team’s offseason plans, given we don’t know where the salary cap will be. But it’s safe to assume the Heat could be cooking up something, given all the young talent around Jimmy Butler, but no certifiable second star to help this team challenge the Bucks and Celtics.
24. Utah Jazz, Paul Reed, F, DePaul
Reed is poised to be the first DePaul player drafted since Wilson Chandler in 2007. A lightly-regarded 3-star prospect, Reed barely saw the floor as a freshman, and now there’s a chance the 6-foot-9 power forward could sneak into the first round.
Everyone’s looking for a Draymond Green clone, and given Reed’s length and defense, if you squint really, really hard, you could see that as a best case scenario.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder — Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
It was a tough freshman campaign for the consensus top-10 high school recruit, shooting just 40 percent and just 33 percent from deep. Came into the season with lottery potential, but he’s still very raw.
26. Boston Celtics — Cassius Stanley, SF, Duke
The Blue Devils have had a ton of talented wings get drafted in the last few years — RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Justise Winslow — but Stanley’s not quite in their class. Still, there’s potential for him to oscillate between the 2-3-4 in a small-ball unit.
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers) — Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
I watch Dotson dominate at both ends for Kansas (18 ppg) and become an All-American, and I see Jeff Teague, the former Wake Forest star. Not sure Dotson can be the scorer Teague is, but Dotson is aggressive and tough.
The Knicks have been whiffing on point guards since Carmelo Anthony forced them to get rid of Jeremy Lin. They have point guards known for offense (Dennis Smith) and defense (Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina), but nobody that combines both. Dotson is that guy.
28. Toronto Raptors — Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
The league keeps trying to pillage the Raptors' front office because they’re been terrific in the draft, and in undrafted free agency. They’ve done well with experienced players, and Pritchard — one of the best point guards in Pac-12 history — qualifies.
Stop looking at what he can’t do, and focus on what he can do (20.5 ppg, 46/41/82 shooting as a senior).
29. Los Angeles Lakers — Elijah Hughes, F, Syracuse
Blossomed into a stud in the ACC last year, scoring 19 ppg. He just turned 22, and reminds me of a more mature version of Malachi Richardson, the Syracuse wing who was drafted in the 1st round in 2016.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks) — Grant Riller, PG, Charleston
A 23-year old point guard from a mid-major? Could be the best-kept secret in the draft. His fearless, confident style gives the impression he’s watched a lot of Kyrie Irving. Yes, the Celtics landed Carsen Edwards in the 2019 draft, but you’re not drafting for need here. You draft talent.