Thanks to the change in the NBA’s annual calendar, brought about by COVID-19 of course, the earliest that the 2020 NBA Draft will be held is November 16. Originally rescheduled for October 16, the event has been pushed back for at least a month after the league and its players association came to an agreement. And that November 16 date is considered to be fluid, and the same can be said for the start of free agency (November 18). The salary cap and luxury tax figures for next season need to be agreed to, and it would make no sense to have a draft or free agency period without knowing those numbers.
It’s been said many times over that this year’s draft lacks that clear-cut top option, which was not the case last year. That offers up some intrigue at the top of the draft, and with the first overall pick Minnesota won’t lack for possibilities which include possibly making a trade. Where this draft may “excel” is in the depth department, especially on the wings, as there’s great value to be had in the bottom half of the first round. There are no guarantees with this mock draft, and there will be others between now and November.
1. Minnesota: SG Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Since there’s no clear-cut top option, fit may be taken into greater consideration than in most years when teams go the “best player on our board” route no matter what. Despite the presence of last year’s lottery pick (Jarrett Culver) and another wing in Josh Okogie, Edwards is the pick for Minnesota. There are strides to be made both defensively and in offensive efficiency, but the latter can be addressed in part by the presence of Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Those two will lead the way offensively for the Timberwolves, which in turn should help Edwards get cleaner looks than he did in his lone season at Georgia.
2. Golden State: C James Wiseman, Memphis
The question when it comes to the Warriors is a simple one: will they actually keep this pick, or will it be made for another team? Golden State is expected to be aggressive this offseason in adding a player who can pair up with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as the team wants to contend for (and win) more titles while that trio remains in its prime. LaMelo Ball could be a good fit when it comes to style of play, but there’s a need for depth/talent in the middle that can be addressed by picking Wiseman. He isn’t a true face-up big at this point in his career, but given the shooters that the Warriors have that won’t be a big deal at all.
3. Charlotte: PG LaMelo Ball, Illawara Hawks
This is where the “fit” question gets a bit interesting, because the Hornets already have two point guards in Terry Rozier (a $59 million signing last summer) and Devonte’ Graham (who should have been a finalist for Most Improved Player). In this scenario Ball would likely have to play without the ball in his hands more than he did in Australia, but it isn’t as if he has absolutely no experience doing so (remember, he played with older brother Lonzo on the grassroots circuit and at Chino Hills HS). And Hornets coach James Borrego had no issue utilizing lineups with both Rozier and Graham on the court at the same time this season. Given the struggles of Charlotte’s off-guards in recent years, taking a flier on Ball wouldn’t be the worst move to make. That being said, Wiseman dropping to three would be the better scenario due to Bismack Biyombo being a free agent and Cody Zeller heading into the final year of his deal.
4. Chicago: PF Obi Toppin, Dayton
Arturas Karnisovas is now calling the shots for the Bulls, and in addition to preparing for October’s draft he will also need to hire a new head coach. Looking at this draft class Toppin would be the best fit, even with Chicago having added Lauri Markkanen (via trade), Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford in the last three drafts. Toppin runs the floor extremely well and is likely the best athlete in this draft class, and he made strides as a perimeter shooter last season. The defensive footwork in pick-and-roll situations is a question mark, but playing alongside Carter Jr. and Gafford can help hide that to a certain extent. And adding Toppin to the mix could give the Bulls franchise some much-needed excitement, as the fan base has had to deal with the GarPax Jim Boylen eras at the same time.
5. Cleveland: SF Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Cavs have done a lot to add young talent to the perimeter in the last two drafts, selecting Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Dylan Windler (who did not play last season due to injury) and Kevin Porter Jr. That could potentially set Avdija to serve as a versatile forward, as at 6-foot-9 he has the height to be used as a small-ball four but has also proven to be adept as a decision maker in pick-and-roll situations. Cleveland has a lot of money locked up in the frontcourt in Kevin Love, Andre Drummond (provided he picks up his option as many expect him to) and Larry Nance Jr., with Tristan Thompson hitting free agency. That being said, Avdija isn’t a similar player and he would be a nice building block for the franchise as the Cavs continue to rebuild in the post-LeBron 2.0 era.
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6. Atlanta: PF/C Onyeka Okongwu, USC
The Hawks have done plenty in the last two drafts to address the perimeter, but this time around they’re going big. Okongwu is capable of playing either the four or the five, as he possesses the athleticism to defend on the perimeter while also being a good rim protector. And offensively he’s good running to the rim or knocking down shots in the mid-range area, which could grant John Collins even more offensive freedom than he already enjoys. Atlanta has Clint Capela and Bruno Fernando in the frontcourt as well, but Okongwu’s combination of talents could potentially give the Hawks the kind of five that they haven’t had in recent years.
7. Detroit: SG Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Even with the presence of both Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, the Pistons don’t have the look of a team capable of vaulting into the mix for a playoff spot next season. Simply put, lead executive Troy Weaver has a rebuilding project on his hands. Even if Rose were to be a key player for Detroit next season there’s a need for a creator on the perimeter, making Haliburton a potential fit. He can be used either on or off the ball, has good size and is no slouch as a defender, either. Detroit does have Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown on the perimeter, but neither possesses the combination of skills that Haliburton brings to the table.
8. New York: SF Isaac Okoro, Auburn
A new era in New York didn’t keep the franchise from experiencing lottery disappointment, but to be fair if there’s any year to slip in the draft order this would be it. There’s good value to be found beyond the top three, and in Okoro the Knicks add a tough, versatile wing who can defend both twos and threes. He will need to become more consistent as a perimeter shooter, but the athleticism and defensive ability would fit in well alongside RJ Barrett. While there may have been those who desired the opportunity to add a Ball or Edwards to the mix and Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau begin the rebuilding process, this situation isn’t similar to last year when the Knicks missed out on Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
9. Washington: SG Devin Vassell, Florida State
From a fit standpoint it would be preferable for the Wizards if the aforementioned Okongwu was available here. But he isn’t, so instead Vassell is the pick despite Washington not exactly lacking perimeter bodies. John Wall and Bradley Beal will be available next season, as will Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson, but what Vassell brings to the group is athleticism and defensive ability. He defends well both on and off the ball, and he’s also a capable perimeter shooter. That offensive note is critical, given how much Wall and Beal will have the ball in their hands to create for themselves and for others. Vasell would not a bad “consolation” prize for Washington if Okongwu is already gone at this point.
10. Phoenix: PG Killian Hayes, Ulm
The Suns have their starting point guard in Ricky Rubio, but the backup role was a bit of a mess before the bubble. Once in Orlando however, Cameron Payne made a positive impression and Jevon Carter also played well. Phoenix also has Ty Jerome, acquired by way of a draft night trade with the 76ers. Given the flux of young point guards and the Suns’ recent investment in wings Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, it would make more sense to go with a big here. But Patrick Williams is more of a combo forward than a traditional post, so he would not fill that void. Hayes can play either on or off the ball, but if there isn’t a chance to grab a player like Okongwu it would not be a surprise if Phoenix looked to move this pick.
11. San Antonio: PF Patrick Williams, Florida State
I think Williams makes sense for San Antonio here. DeMar DeRozan is expected to opt into the final season of his deal, which is understandable given how unpredictable things seem to be when it comes to the free agency market. That would give Williams a more than suitable veteran to learn from offensively, and his defensive versatility would be an asset as the Spurs look to start a new postseason appearance streak.
12. Sacramento: SF Saddiq Bey, Villanova
The Kings are once again in the lottery, and there are a lot of questions to be answered this offseason. Oh, the person calling the shots (Joe Dumars) is doing so in an interim role. The biggest issue that Dumars will need to address is the shooting guard position, as Buddy Hield has made it clear that he doesn’t want to come off the bench and the man who replaced him in the starting lineup (Bogdan Bogdanovic) will be a restricted free agent. Whether or not both return Sacramento is in need of talent on the wing, as Kent Bazemore will be an unrestricted free agent. Bey can certainly help in that regard given his ability to score on all three levels, and in recent years it’s been more likely that Villanova products pan out than flame out.
13. New Orleans: SG Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt
The Pelicans don’t lack for perimeter talent, but given the team’s placement in this draft and the available talent it’s likely that David Griffin will be adding another to the mix. There are some who believe that Nesmith is the best shooter in this draft class, and he’d fit in will with a team that ranked in the top ten in 3-point attempts, makes and percentage. How much playing time would be available to Nesmith in this scenario largely depends upon what happens in free agency, as both Brandon Ingram and E’Twaun Moore will be unrestricted free agents.
14. Boston (from Memphis): C Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos B
Boston has three first-round picks, and with 12 players already under contract for next season there isn’t a lot of room for more. As a result it would not come as a surprise if Danny Ainge made a deal (or more) on draft night. Pokusevski’s expected to be a first-round pick; the question is whether he goes mid-first or slides a bit. He’s the youngest prospect in the class, as he doesn’t turn 19 until December, and there’s still a need for development with regard to his build. Boston could roll the dice here, but this is the kind of pick that the Celtics could move down to make if they find the right trade partner.
15. Orlando: PG Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
The Magic have some questions to answer at point guard this offseason. Markelle Fultz is firmly entrenched as the starter, but both D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams will be unrestricted free agents. Obviously this can be addressed by bringing either (or both) Augustin and Carter-Williams back, but Orlando is in a spot where it won’t lack for point guard options in the draft. Lewis, Cole Anthony and Tre Jones should all be available at pick number 15, and Lewis is the pick here. He has room to grow with regard to consistent perimeter shooting and turnovers, but with the Magic seemingly placing a high priority on length in recent years Lewis fits the mold.