The 2020 NBA Draft might not have any superstar prospects, but that doesn't mean it's devoid of talent. In fact, this draft should produce a number of solid contributors, and maybe even a couple of All-Star-level players. And it should be one of the more exciting, unpredictable drafts we've had in some time as this was a very abnormal pre-draft process for both prospects and teams. We could see some players drafted much earlier than the general consensus has them going. We could also see a number of trades as the NBA's trade moratorium will have just been been lifted two days earlier. Buckle up, people!!
Here's my vision of how things will play out if no trades are made:
By this point in the pre-draft process, we normally have a strong indication of which players are going first, second, third and sometimes even fourth or fifth in the NBA draft. After those picks are off the board, the draft really starts to get interesting. Not the 2020 NBA Draft!! The no. 1 overall pick is where things will start to get interesting on Wednesday night's draft - that's because there's a consensus top-three picks, but no consensus top prospect. We also have no idea whether the T'Wolves will keep the pick or trade down in the draft for more assets. Let's assume for this mock that they hold onto the top pick and select the player in the top-three that fits their roster the best: Anthony Edwards. While his inconsistency draws comparisons to Andrew Wiggins in college, Edwards' frame (he's built like James Harden) and two-way potential, ultimately make him too tough to pass up.
Again, there is a good chance that the Warriors deal this pick to improve their roster for the immediate future, but if they sit tight at no. 2, James Wiseman is the choice. In the immediate future, the raw big man out of Memphis can focus on rim-running and rim-protection. With all of the attention Steph Curry and Klay Thompson attract on offense, Wiseman should get a ton of easy dunks and layups off of pick-and-rolls. And while it may take him some time to get acclimated to switching onto guards on defense, he should be one of the top shot blockers in the league from the get-go.
Whether the Hornets trade for Russell Westbrook or not (which would be quite ill-advised), they'll want to pick the prospect with the most upside at no. 3 regardless. So while Onyeka Okongwu has been linked to Charlotte here, the right choice is the ultra-talented, ultra-risky LaMelo Ball. Despite his shaky shot selection and allergy to playing defense, Ball is the only player in this draft with elite playmaking abilities. And, at 6-foot-7, he could be a potential nightmare of a mismatch for opposing guards once he learns the NBA game.
Many suspect that the Zach LaVine era will be over sooner rather than later in Chicago, so expect the Bulls to find a good guard to pair with last year's first round pick Coby White. That man is Killian Hayes out of France. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Hayes has a body that is ready to take an NBA pounding and displays a lot of the skills and moves you see in the NBA's top guards (pick-and-roll execution, step-back and side-step jumpers, cross-court off-the-dribble passes). He also projects to be a solid defender, which is paramount next to White.
With Andre Drummond almost certainly exercising his player option, the Cavs should not make any attempt to re-sign Tristan Thompson as he doesn't fit their timeline at all. They also need to unload Kevin Love's contract once and for all. Assuming they follow that plan, Obi Toppin, the best player in all of college basketball last season, is the pick for Cleveland. Toppin has drawn comparisons to Amar'e Stoudemire, and should give the Cavs a go-to scorer for the next decade.
Although Atlanta is reportedly shopping this pick to improve its roster (side note: what is the rush?!?!), if they do remain at no. 6, expect them to choose between Tyrese Haliburton and Deni Avdija - both players that would fit seamlessly around Trae Young. Here, we have the Hawks taking Avdija as he brings something slightly different to the table than what the Hawks already have at wing and forward. Avdija projects to be a Danilo Gallinari or Dario Saric-type playmaking four who could be vital for spacing the court and getting Young open for plenty of three pointers.
While the Pistons are potentially thinking about moving up in the draft to go after the likes of LaMelo Ball, they'll sit at no. 7 and select the fastest rising prospect in the draft in Patrick Williams. The freshman out of Florida State has the body and skill set to be a special two-way player in the NBA at best, and a good three-and-D forward at the very least. He made his mark at FSU with his impressive maturity and desire to improve his defense as a freshman on an experienced, would-be Final Four contender. It'll be interesting to see what happens when he's given more opportunities on offense.
If Tyrese Haliburton is still here at no. 8, the Knicks should absolutely grab him as he projects to be the type of player that Tom Thibodeau would love. The 6-foot-5 combo guard from Iowa State projects to be a good defender who can play ones, twos and even threes in a pinch once he gains some weight. He also can play point guard or off-ball as he averaged 6.5 apg. and shot 42 percent from three in his sophomore season.
Seeing an opportunity to get a big man considered to have some Bam Adebayo-type potential, the Wizards happily select Onyeka Okongwu. The USC big man has all of the makings of a modern, do-it-all center who can defend the basket, switch out onto the perimeter, pass from the high post and finish around the rim. Within a year or two, he should be ready to be a plus-big man in today's NBA.
It's highly possible that this pick ends up in the hands of the OKC Thunder with the rumors of a Chris Paul deal swirling, but if it's still Phoenix drafting at this spot, they'll have an opportunity to draft a point guard of the future in Kira Lewis Jr. The speedster from Alabama averaged 18.5 ppg., 5.2 apg. and 4.8 rpg. as a sophomore and shot well enough from three (36.6 percent) to play him alongside Devin Booker.
The Spurs are another team that is apparently working on some deals behind the scenes. If they stay pat at no. 11, and draft plays out this way, San Antonio should be thrilled to still have Isaac Okoro on the board. Okoro is already good at attacking the basket and a heck of a wing defender...if he ever develops a three-point stroke, this could be the best pick in the draft. There are some Kawhi Leonard-like traits with Okoro.
This would be a bit of a fall for Devin Vassell should he still be available at no. 12 for the Kings. Once thought to be in play in the top-5, Vassell has lost a little shine in most mock drafts as of late - some of which undoubtedly has to do with his new, concerning-looking jump shot . In general, arching your back and launching from such a high release point like Vassell does in that clip leads to wild inconsistency in games. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule (Larry Bird had a very unorthodox shot), but for a guy that shot 41.5 percent from three in college, teams have to be wondering why Vassell is reworking his shot in the first place. Hopefully, we're not looking at another Markelle Fultz or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist because Vassell has some very good potential and could be a steal for the Kings at 12 otherwise.
In a draft with so much uncertainty, Jalen Smith going to the Pelicans at no. 13 seems like one of the more obvious fits. Smith projects to be a perfect complement to Zion Williamson as he is large (6-foot-10, 225 pounds), protects the rim (2.4 bpg.) and spaces the court (36.8 percent shooter from three). He should develop into something along the lines of Myles Turner, which is excellent value at the end of the lottery for the Pelicans.
RJ Hampton was a big-time prospect out of high school and decided to make money playing basketball for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL rather than collect hundred dollar handshakes and shoe boxes full of cash at Kansas or Memphis. Unfortunately, the speedy guard didn't get enough playing time to improve his draft stock, so it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to stick in the NBA. He's been working with former NBA player, Mike Miller, who believes Hampton will develop into a star in the right situation. Boston could present him that situation.
Desperate to add some scoring pop, the Magic select the fast-rising prospect, Tyrell Terry, out of Stanford. Although he isn't blessed with the most NBA-ready body (he looks like Shabazz Napier), Terry can score from everywhere on the court, and is a big-time competitor. He could fit in nicely alongside Markelle Fultz, and eventually replace him when the Magic grow tired of waiting for his once-smooth jumper to ever return.
The Blazers have had a hole at the small forward position for seemingly forever. While Gary Trent Jr. and Carmelo Anthony played admirably during the bubble, the team needs a player that's bigger than Trent and younger and more defensively-capable than Melo. Saddiq Bey out of Villanova seems like an obvious fit here at no. 16 for Portland. Bey projects to be a solid three-and-D player in the NBA. He's a good defender and has good size (6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan). And despite having an unorthodox looking shot, he shot an impressive 45.1 percent from three on 5.6 three-point attempts per game as a sophomore with Villanova last season.
Desmond Bane is one of the few upperclassmen going in the first round, so it'd be no surprise if the T'Wolves, who are looking to make the playoffs this season, take the rotation-ready, three-and-D wing out of TCU. Bane is a knockdown three-point shooter (44.2 percent from three last year) and projects to be an above-average defender on the wing. He's also, by all accounts, a very mature individual who should be very low maintenance off the court, which is always a plus.
This is the point in the draft where good teams like the Mavericks start to draft for fit over upside. The one thing a team with Luka Doncic can never get enough of is floor spacing. Enter Aaron Nesmith - a scintillating shooter out of Vanderbilt. Looking at Nesmith's three-point percentage last season (52.2 percent on over eight attempts per game!!) will make you do a double-take, maybe even a triple-take. Envisioning Nesmith spread out on the three-point arch along with Seth Curry (45.2 percent), Tim Hardaway Jr. (39.8 percent) and Kristaps Porzingis (35.2 percent) while Luka Doncic starts to penetrate the lane will give coaches around the league nightmares. I couldn't think of a better fit for the Mavs.
Every contender could use an energetic big man that crashes the boards and makes hustle plays all over the court. Precious Achiuwa - a mega-athlete with a game that brings to mind Montrezl Harrell - would be a good fit for Brooklyn at no. 19. Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward, averaged 15.8 ppg. and 10.8 rpg. for the Memphis Tigers last season.
Tell me if you've heard this one before: An underutilized freshmen from Kentucky goes in the middle of the first round, gets to the NBA and turns out to be an All-Star-level player. Whether it's Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro, it's sometimes Kentucky's young role players that really pop once they get to the league. Tyrese Maxey has a chance to be the next one. Having already successfully nailed their Adebayo and Herro picks, look for the Heat to strongly consider adding this tough, well-rounded, winning combo guard.
Seemingly every offseason, contenders do their best to collect as many Danny Green-type three-and-D wings as possible. The more of these role players you can find, the better as your team will almost certainly have to go through a gauntlet of superstar wings like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, etc. to win it all. With limited cap flexibility this offseason, the Sixers can go about getting one of those Danny Greens by simply drafting the closest thing to him in this draft: Josh Green. At 6-foot-6 with a wingspan over 6-foot-10, Josh Green should be able to immediately contribute for Philly at the wing position along with last year's first round pick, Matisse Thybulle.
With a roster already loaded with talent, and a front office willing to take big swings on boom or bust prospects, Aleksej Pokusevski seems like a potential fit at no. 22 for the Nuggets. Pokusevski certainly has a ton of upside, but on the Bruno Caboclo-Giannis Antetokounmpo spectrum of unknown boom/bust foreign prospects, Pokusevski skews way towards Bruno. I'd expect the Nuggets to try to develop him in a similar manner in which they've developed Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol.
This seems to be another obvious fit in the draft. At 6-foot-9, McDaniels can do it all - he's athletic, he is skilled with the ball in his hands, and he can shoot it from three. He can be the best player on the court for short blips. He's also very inconsistent. Having hit an artificial ceiling the past few years in the playoffs, the Jazz should be looking to take big risks in the draft and hope that they find another hidden gem like they did with their current stars, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
While there's a good chance that the Bucks move this pick in a deal to acquire more "win-now" players to appease Giannis Antetokounmpo, if they keep the pick, Cole Anthony should be the guy. Anthony won basically every MVP award a high school player could win (McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Classic Game, etc.) and was highly-touted coming out of high school (no. 2 in ESPN's Top-100), but then struggled on an awful UNC team all season. If he's available at 24, the Bucks should grab him and hope that when he's tasked with a reasonable role, like being a heat-check guard off the bench, he can regain that swagger that made him such a big-time prospect not too long ago.
Assuming the Thunder decide to rebuild this offseason, Theo Maledon would be a good value pick at no. 25 as he was once viewed as a high lottery pick before he injured his shoulder last fall. Maledon is a decent-sized point guard (6-foot-4 with a rangy wingspan) who can play on or off the ball on offense and projects to be a solid defender in the NBA. Hailing from the same town in France as Tony Parker, Maledon definitely has some of the same nice touch from mid-range and around the rim as Parker once did. He'd give the Thunder another big, savvy guard to play next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for years to come.
Leandro Bolmaro, a flashy, big guard out of Argentina, is starting to show up more and more in the 20s in a number of mock drafts as of late. And, if you watch his highlight tape , it isn't hard to see why. He's obviously nowhere near the player Manu Ginobili was, but you can see Ginobili's influence on his game...and then, you remember that Ginobili wasn't the stud player we remember back when he was drafted either as he went no. 58 in the draft! I'm sure that the Celtics - a team that is a piece or two away from being contenders for the next decade - will be more than willing to take a risk on a player with Bolmaro's potential and feel for the game in the late first round.
Not sure if you've heard, but Tom Thibodeau loves defense. Guess who was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and just set the NBA combine record for max vertical jump (43.5 inches)? Tyler Bey, that's who. While Bey was mostly used as a power forward in college, his defensive abilities and somewhat raw offensive game will force him to be more of a wing in the NBA. While he only attempted one three-pointer a game last year, he did manage to knock down 13 of them (41.9 percent). He could be a steal if he starts knocking threes down on a higher volume of shooting in the league.
While the Lakers will officially make this selection on Draft Night, the pick will be dictated by the OKC Thunder, who are set to acquire the pick in a deal for Dennis Schröder. Since they're definitely giving up one of their point guards, and might be trading another (CP3 to Phoenix), it wouldn't be surprising to see the Thunder pick up Maledon at no. 25 and Payton Pritchard here at no. 28. Pritchard, a four-year point guard out of Oregon, who developed into a big-time scorer in his senior year, averaging 20.5 ppg., 5.5 apg., and 4.3 rpg. with impressive 47-42-82 shooting splits.
Staring down the possibility of losing Fred VanVleet to unrestricted free agency (although I believe FVV will return to Toronto if the money is close), the Raptors should be looking to replace his production from beyond the arc. Immanuel Quickley, the SEC Player of the Year and a guy who can bomb threes with the best of them (42.8 percent last season), seems like a good fit for the Raptors. And at 6-foot-3 with a gangly 6-foot-10 wingspan, he should continue to be a stud defender in the NBA like he was in college.
Rounding out the first round, the Celtics take a ready-made three-and-D wing, Robert Woodard II, out of Mississippi State. At 6-foot-7 and a thick 235-pounds, Woodard should be able to get rotation minutes immediately for the Celtics, who hope to add some depth behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (especially with the rumors that Gordon Hayward is looking to leave). Woodard is a good athlete and seems poised to be a good three-point shooter in the league as he shot 42.9 percent from deep last season, but only attempted 70 threes.