NBA Mock Draft 6.0: One Week Left
By Jason McIntyre
The 2020 NBA Draft has been the most scrutinized in NBA history, if only because it’s taking place 5 months later than usual.
A global pandemic has hindered the usual draft process, and that’s on top of the college basketball season ending prematurely. As a result, we may see some massive surprises in next week’s draft.
LaMelo Ball is the most talented player in the pool, but does that mean he’ll go first? No.
The NBA had transitioned away from centers in the last decade, but then three of the four NBA Finalists in the bubble featured dominant big men (Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic). Are centers back?
We'll see. But with one week to go until the selections start, here's how I see the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft playing out.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia (Previous Rank: 1)
2019-20 season averages: 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists
The Wolves shouldn’t be interested in a project like LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman. This is a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and doesn’t have a first round pick in 2021 (trade with the Warriors). Edwards is a plug-and-play rookie who can score 15 points a game on a team chasing a playoff berth. Georgia coach Tom Crean compared Edwards to Dwyane Wade, whom he coached at Marquette. Fire up the video of Edwards giving Michigan State 37 points and seven three-pointers.
2. Golden State Warriors – Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC (2)
2019-20 season averages: 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
Maybe the Warriors see Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic in the West and wonder if it makes sense to grab athletic 7-foot-1 James Wiseman here, but then you’re playing their game, not yours. We haven’t seen the post-Durant Warriors yet - not healthy, at least - and if they don’t trade this pick, the idea of the 6-foot-9 Okongwu as an understudy to the 2017 DPOY Draymond Green makes sense in the short and long term.
3. Charlotte Hornets – James Wiseman, C, Memphis (8)
2019-20 season averages: 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks
Is his best case scenario Bam Adebayo? Or is he more of a rim-running Andre Drummond? And how long do you have to wait to see that? For someone who played three college games and had everything very easy for him at the high school and AAU level, the learning curve could be steep. Adebayo took three years to emerge as a major factor … in one of the best cultures in the league. Michael Jordan has struck out drafting post players dating back to Kwame Brown in Washington. Is Wiseman going to break that streak?
4. Chicago Bulls – LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks (3)
2019-20 season averages: 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists
Only question is where he fits in on a team with Coby White and Zach LaVine. But a new front office and new coach in Chicago could mean a roster shakeup in the next calendar year. Probably half the league has Ball as the best talent in the draft, but there are some undeniable, glaring red flags, from his lack of interest in playing defense to whether or not he can playing winning basketball within a system. Structure will be new for Ball, but he’s too talented to fall outside the Top 5.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv (5)
2019-20 season averages: 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists
The most hyped Israeli player of all time is only 19 and it wouldn’t surprise me in four years if he were the best player to come out of this draft. He’ll be challenged to succeed in Cleveland, where the Cavs are on their 4th coach in two calendar years. At 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, Avdija is probably a point forward and a distributor who must improve on a woeful 58 percent on free throws.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn (6)
2019-20 season averages: 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Perhaps the best wing defender in the draft, Okoro isn’t one of these heralded AAU offensive stars who was a scoring machine; he’s a winning player who is a superb defender. An All-SEC defender as a freshman, he’s crushed interviews during the draft process and my best case scenario for him is Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.
7. Detroit Pistons– Killian Hayes, PG, France (11)
2019-20 season averages: 12.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists
Dwane Casey won’t like it, but this is probably the prudent move - bring in a young point guard who isn’t quite ready, but has massive upside. See what you have on the roster, try to unload Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, and secure a high pick in the much stronger 2021 draft.
8. New York Knicks – Obi Toppin, F, Dayton (4)
2019-20 season averages: 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists
In four years, he’s gone from zero scholarship offers to lottery pick. Skilled offensively, there are major defensive questions. The recent history of Top 10 picks who are 22 years old is not promising, but Toppin is from New York, and he’s known Knicks President Leon Rose for years. Toppin’s ceiling is Amar'e Stoudemire; a more likely scenario is closer to Atlanta’s John Collins.
9. Washington Wizards – Devin Vassell, G/F, Florida State (12)
2019-20 season averages: 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists
If you want to be realistic, Bradley Beal could certainly be on the move, and Vassell eventually replaces him as the team’s best shooter. Vassell shot 41 percent on three-pointers last year, and is one of the best on-ball defenders in the draft.
10. Phoenix Suns – Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State (16)
2019-20 season averages: 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Didn’t start a game as a freshman. Something of a mystery man in that he’s a five-star recruit with all the tools, but quickness on the perimeter could be an issue if he plays the three, so perhaps he’s a stretch four, despite shooting just 32 percent from deep.
11. San Antonio Spurs – Tyrese Haliburton, PG Iowa State (7)
2019-20 season averages: 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists
Consummate Spurs player who can do everything well and contribute immediately at three positions. A high IQ player that could go as high as fifth in the draft. Only 20 years old, Haliburton has an extremely high floor, and his polished skillset projects along the lines of longtime NBA point guard Andre Miller.
12. Sacramento Kings – Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt (9)
2019-20 season averages: 23.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Given the ugly Buddy Hield situation unfolding, and the Kings' potential need for more shooting, Nesmith’s 52 percent from deep makes him a top target for the Kings.
13. New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis Jr, PG, Alabama (10)
2019-20 season averages: 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists
The Pelicans need to do two things simultaneously - build a contender to make sure Zion Williamson is happy, and decide what to do with Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, the two primary point guards on the roster. Lewis is one of the youngest players in the draft and we haven’t seen nearly his best, but is he ready to be a rotational player on a playoff team?
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) – Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky (13)
2019-20 season averages: 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Given Kemba Walker’s injury history and Brad Wanamaker’s free agent status, finding a lead guard who can play minutes immediately is a need. Maxey is a scoring guard in the mold of Walker and Carson Edwards, but stronger and bigger (6-foot-3).
15. Orlando Magic – Cole Anthony, PG, UNC (15)
2019-20 season averages: 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists
If DJ Augustin leaves in free agency (Lakers?), the Orlando point guard situation falls squarely upon the shoulders of Markelle Fultz. Anthony was a top-five prospect heading into the season, but didn’t make the leap that many other point guards did.
16. Portland Trail Blazers– Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova (14)
2019-20 season averages: 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists
The Blazers have major roster questions, and it’s difficult to project their decision here given the uncertainty at guard, forward, and center. Given the likely departure of Carmelo Anthony, Bey and his 3-and-D style (45 percent on three-pointers) would be a terrific fit behind Gary Trent.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis (22)
2019-20 season averages: 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks
If KAT is pulling the "I don’t want to play center" card like Anthony Davis, then grabbing Achiuwa is a smart idea. Achiuwa’s best case scenario projects him as Montrezl Harrell.
18. Dallas Mavericks – Aleksej Pokusevski, F/C, Serbia (18)
2019-20 season averages: 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks
No change here from August’s mock draft. Dallas wants to keep its salary cap situation under control to make a run at Giannis, so they could stash the 7-foot, 200-pound Pokusevski in Europe for a few years while he grows into his body.
19. Brooklyn Nets – Jalen Smith, F, Maryland (NR)
2019-20 season averages: 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
Perhaps I’ve been too low on Smith during the draft process. Smith’s length and three-point shooting potential (36 percent, but on just 87 attempts) give him an edge over the bevy of other rail-thin bigs in this draft. Would the Nets try him at the four one night with Kevin Durant at the five? They’ll have 72 games to tinker.
20. Miami Heat – Theo Maledon, PG, France (20)
2019-20 season averages: 7.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Keeping Maledon here because it seems apparent that Goran Dragic is going to be returning to the Heat, perhaps on another one-year deal. This would enable the 19-year-old Maledon to stay overseas for a year or two until he’s ready for the NBA.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC) – Desmond Bane, G, TCU (23)
2019-20 season averages: 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists
A slight uptick here for Bane because the 76ers have a new GM in Daryl Morey, who the world knows, loves three-pointers. Bane made 92 three-pointers last season and shot 43 percent from deep over the course of four years.
22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) – Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford (NR)
2019-20 season averages: 14.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Surprised many by entering the draft after a solid first year at Stanford. His three-point shooting (40 percent) is attractive in a draft where the guards mostly aren’t great shooters. Played five games against ranked teams and shot under 45 percent in all of them.
23. Utah Jazz – Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego St (30)
2019-20 season averages: 17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists
The Mike Conley experiment didn’t go terrific last season, and he just turned 33. The Jazz have some questions about scoring off the bench, and Flynn could check both of those boxes.
24. Milwaukee Bucks – RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers (19)
2019-20 season averages: 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists
Doesn’t possess the jump shot that fits with the Bucks ethos, but a major problem their second unit had was anyone who could reliably create their own shot. Hampton is much bigger (6-foot-5) than Eric Bledsoe and specializes at getting to the rim. Hampton would inject some youth onto a roster that could start the season with eight players over the age of 30.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) – Paul Reed, F, DePaul (17)
2019-20 season averages: 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks
The Thunder had a surprising season, but the next couple of weeks could see the roster ripped apart because they had the third highest payroll in the league. Reed was an under-the-radar Big East talent, and of course, he can’t replace Danilo Gallinari, but he could push Darius Bazley for minutes off the bench at either forward position.
26. Boston Celtics – Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State (26)
2019-20 season averages: 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Led college basketball in defensive BPM (box plus/minus), and though very raw offensively, he’s similar to what they have in Robert Williams, with a winning pedigree and less foul prone. The Celtics struggled badly against big men last year, and there’s a need for some more size up front in the playoffs.
27. New York Knicks – Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville (NR)
2019-20 season averages: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists
The Knicks don’t have their point guard situation sorted out, so that could be a move here, but they’d get an A+ draft grade for adding two versatile forwards in Obi Tobbin and Jordan Nwora. Toppin can play the 4/5, and Nwora could toggle between the 3/4 (he made 153 three-pointers in the last two seasons).
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Robert Woodard, F, Mississippi State (NR)
2019-20 season averages: 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Late in the process, new names will bubble up, and that’s Woodard, a surprise entrant into the draft, The 6-foot-7 wing put up modest numbers - 11.4 ppg, just one 20-point game - but he falls into the potential-over-production category, mostly because of his ability to defend the wing. He made 30 three-pointers in 31 games, and only shot 64 percent from the line.
29. Toronto Raptors – Grant Riller, PG, Charleston (29)
2019-20 season averages: 21.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists
The Raptors will fight to keep Fred Van Vleet in free agency, and Kyle Lowry has one year left on his deal. Riller is a candidate to go late first/early second, a 23-year old player who can come in and contribute immediately without a steep learning curve.
30. Boston Celtics – Leandro Bolmaro, SG, Argentina (NR)
2019-20 season averages: 3.1 points, .95 rebounds, 3 assists (11.1 minutes per game in Liga ACB and EuroLeague)
With three first round picks, it’d be a stunner if Boston didn’t A. Make a trade or B. Draft a player they could stash overseas. Bolmaro just turned 20 in September, but has been playing professionally since 16.