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Draft Preview

NBA Draft Prospects: Top 10

by Ryan Knaus
Updated On: June 30, 2020, 2:57 pm ET

The NBA season is set to resume in Orlando on July 30. All eyes are on the ‘campus-like’ bubble the NBA is establishing, but teams are also working furiously to prepare for free agency and the NBA Draft. The draft lottery will occur on Aug. 25, followed by the draft itself on Oct. 16. That’s a mere three days after a potential Game 7 of the Finals, so time is of the essence. As such, NBC Sports’ resident NCAA guru Rob Dauster has provided his list of the top prospects in the 2020 draft pool. Given his rankings and voluminous insights, I’ll take an educated guess as to where these players might land, based on team needs and draft-lottery odds.

Today we’ll focus on likely lottery picks – the top 10 players on Rob’s list. Before beginning, let’s look at the existing lottery odds for the bottom 14 teams (subject to change, depending on what happens in Orlando). These odds come from Tankathon.com.

Team

Odds of No. 1 pick

Odds of top-4 pick

Golden State

14.0%

52.1%

Cleveland

14.0%

52.1%

Minnesota

14.0%

52.1%

Atlanta

12.5%

48.1%

Detroit

10.5%

42.1%

New York

9.0%

37.2%

Chicago

7.5%

32.0%

Charlotte

6.0%

26.3%

Washington

4.5%

20.3%

Phoenix

3.0%

13.9%

San Antonio

2.0%

9.4%

Sacramento

1.3%

6.2%

New Orleans

1.2%

5.7%

Portland

0.5%

2.4%

As you can see, the league has flattened out the distribution of odds, giving the three bottom teams an equal chance at the coveted No. 1 pick (even though the Warriors had the league’s worst record). It’s worth mentioning that if any of the current non-playoff teams invited to the bubble play their way into the postseason, they will be ineligible for a lottery pick. Armed with that knowledge, let’s dive in!

 

1. James Wiseman, Memphis
Details: 19 years old, 7-foot-1, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg

Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.

The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to quit on his Memphis team in December, halfway through a suspension for breaking (admittedly silly) NCAA rules.

My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.

Where will he end up? The Cavs have Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love under contract through 2022-23, and Andre Drummond said he’ll opt in for 2020-21, so they’ll likely be looking for help on the wings (Kevin Porter Jr. shows immense promise, but Cedi Osman hasn’t taken that next step). The Hawks have John Collins as a rising frontcourt star, and they doubled-down on frontcourt experience with Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon. I can see Wiseman slipping a little bit due to the ‘red flags’ Rob mentioned, but a team like Detroit would be unlikely to pass him up. They moved on from Drummond this year and could pair Wiseman with Christian Wood (assuming they retain him) to have a dynamic frontcourt duo for years to come. Wood proved he can keep teams honest from the perimeter, at 38.6% this year, which also helps if Wiseman’s long-range game doesn’t pan out. The Warriors could also snag Wiseman, depending where they pick, as Kevon Looney couldn’t stay healthy and Marquese Chriss’ solid play this year may not convince them he’s a long-term answer.

 

2. LaMelo Ball, Australia
Details:
18 years old, 6-foot-7, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 17 ppg, 7 apg, 7.5 rpg

I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be you thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.

But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-7 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star feature guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every read you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.

Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’ll ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality. There are risks here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class.

The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence. He may have a high ceiling, but there’s also some bust potential at play. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.

Where will he end up? The Cavs have two recent lottery picks in their backcourt, the Hawks have Trae Young, and the Wolves want to see how D’Angelo Russell looks alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. There’s a chance one of them views Ball as too-good-to-pass-up, going for sheer talent over positional need, but a better fit would be teams like New York and Chicago – both muddling along with awkward platoons at point guard. To land him, though, they’d have to beat the odds for an early pick. The Warriors could also snag him, allowing him to develop behind Steph Curry. After all, LaMelo himself wrote on Twitter, “yo chill,” in regards to a report that his father feels he’d be a bad fit in Golden State. Then again, I’d bet the Dubs take Anthony Edwards if he’s on the board (see below).

 

3. Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Details:
18 years old, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 40% FG, 29% 3PT

Edwards is the best scorer in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level bucket-getter that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. Ask Michigan State. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.

But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settled for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hit a couple in a row, but he shot 29 percent from three as a freshman. That speaks for itself, although part of that inefficiency absolutely stems from the load he was asked to carry. Edwards was not getting too many easy looks created for him.

There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.

Where will he end up? It was reported in early June that Edwards was “on top of Golden State’s draft board,” and I doubt that’s changed. If they land the No. 1 pick they’ll likely bet on his upside and ability to develop more consistency under an elite coaching staff, rather than roll the dice on Ball. The Cavs and Wolves could also use scoring punch and a ready-to-play wing with franchise-level potential, so they’d likely scoop him up if they got the opportunity. Edwards is also still developing at 18 years old, and at a certain point sheer upside trumps concerns about inconsistency or effort.

 

4. Onyeka Okongwu, USC
Details:
19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 1.2 spg, 72% FT

For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produced at the college level, both as a scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 15-for-35 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-19 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line on 143 free throws.

Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.

Where will he end up? As a versatile big with ready-made defense and evolving offense, there are few spots Okongwu wouldn’t fit in well. If the Wolves slip out of the top spots, they may view him as the right guy to pair with KAT as the No. 4 or No. 5 pick overall, for instance. The Knicks have the sixth-best odds in the draft and they’re reportedly not enamored with Julius Randle’s fit on the team. It’s unclear if they’ll be able to swing a trade involving Randle, but if they do, Okongwu slots in nicely as a replacement.

 

5. Obi Toppin, Dayton
Details:
22 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 bpg, 63% FG, 39% 3PT

Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that, if I were an NBA GM, I would want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.

The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that is versatile offensively — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game, he’s a capable and willing passer. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter. And while there is some value in being capable of guarding fours or fives, there are some valid questions about whether or not he’ll be above average guarding either.

I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.

Where will he end up? The concerns about Toppin’s defensive abilities are crucial, though as Rob said he seems like a safe ‘floor’ guy. I am guessing he falls past No. 5 in the draft, but Knicks could view him as a nice long-term addition. New York’s vision as a franchise is opaque, but they’ve made it clear they want to facilitate RJ Barrett’s development in any way possible. Adding a ready-made NBA player via the draft accomplishes that goal, especially since Toppin’s passing and 3-point shooting will make life easier for Barrett on that end (unlike the aforementioned Julius Randle). The Wolves could also be an option. Omari Spellman wasn’t even in the rotation and James Johnson isn’t part of the long-term solution despite his impressive play after joining the Wolves. Young pieces like Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie aren’t dynamic offensive threats, either, so Toppin could take some pressure off KAT and DAR.

 

6. Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 175 lbs
Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg, 41.9% 3PT

Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.

If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level?

I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.

Where will he end up? Jeff Teague might not return in free agency this summer/fall, and the Hawks are in search of a backup point guard. They can use all the shooting they can get, too, so if Haliburton is there for them, they might grab him. The Hawks’ position as the fourth-worst team does them no favors, since the bottom three have equal odds, but they don’t dip too far – there’s still a 48.1% chance they’re in the top four picks. Their wings are full of young talent with De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter, so my guess is they take the best guard available.

 

7. Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 29% 3PT

Okoro is another guy that I would want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that better fits that role than Okoro.

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball. He definitely is a capable and willing playmaker.

The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.

Where will he end up? As Rob points out, plenty of teams should be happy to add Okoro to their roster. For my money, the Bulls look like a sweet spot. They have young talent in the backcourt (Zach LaVine, Coby White) and the frontcourt (Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.), but the versatile-wings area is sketchy. Otto Porter looks increasingly injury-prone and has only one year left on his deal. Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison are also question marks at this point, with their own mounting injury issues. Adding an elite defender who can cover teammates’ mistakes and create at least a modicum of offense seems like a smart bet.

 

8. Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 218 lbs
Key Stats: 12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 37.5% 3PT

The intrigue with Avdija is the shooting and playmaking that he provides as a 6-foot-9 power forward type. At the lower levels of international basketball, he played as something of a point forward, and while he’s someone that profiles more as a complimentary player than a full Luka Doncic, his ability to pass and operate in pick-and-rolls at his size is going to make him a useful player down the road.

The key for Avdija long-term is two-fold: What does he turn into defensively, and how well can he shoot the ball? He’s never consistently shot it at a high percentage from beyond the arc, and that’s concerning given the fact that he has consistently been a sub-70 percent FT shooter throughout his time in the youth ranks. But passing translates, size translates, and shooting can be taught. If he continues to improve defensively, he’s got a chance to be a good starter in the league for a long time.

Where will he end up? The Suns are building a franchise around Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, so complementary players – especially guys with size/length and shooters – are critical. Phoenix showed they’re willing to pay up for shooting on draft day, too, having selected Cameron Johnson at No. 11 overall last year. Plus, the frontcourt may need restocking in the near future – Dario Saric is an unrestricted free agent, and both Frank Kaminsky ($5.0m) and Cheick Diallo ($1.8m) have team options that aren’t a lock.

 

9. Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm
Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-5, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 11.6 ppg, 5.4 apg, 29.4% 3PT

Full Scouting Report

Hayes is a flat-out terrific passer out of ball-screens, and the coaches at Ulm this past season knew as much. To put this into perspective, Hayes played 33 games for Ulm this past season and, according to Synergy’s video logs, ended a possession by using a ball-screen 428 times. That’s an average of 13 ball-screens per game. He played 25 minutes per game. Do the math, and Hayes played out of a ball-screen once every two minutes for the course of an entire season, and that only counts the possessions where those actions resulted in a shot or a turnover.

That’s insane.

And given the direction the NBA is heading, the success that Hayes had in that kind of action is notable. As I mentioned, he is a terrific passer that can makes all of the reads when he is going to his dominant left hand. He can get to the rim, his floater is solid and he has the size (6-foot-5) to be able to see over defenses. Where he struggles a bit is when he is forced to go to his right. He also was an inconsistent three-point shooter, hitting just 29 percent while attempting more than three threes per game. The stroke doesn’t look bad, and he has terrific feet and handle, creating all kinds of space for himself to get step-back jumpers off.

The key is his jumper. If that comes around, if he develops into a guy that can play on or off the ball, he’ll be a great pick up at No. 6. But that is a big ‘if’.

Where will he end up? This may seem unlikely, but I think there’s a chance the Hornets grab Hayes if they get the chance. Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak said recently, "We're just not good enough to [draft for a specific position] right now. [We won't] bypass maybe a more talented player because we think we need help at a certain position." That means the obvious need at center may not be a deciding factor, and the presence of Terry Rozier (an unrestricted FA in 2022) and Devonte’ Graham (restricted FA in 2022) won’t necessarily dissuade the team from taking another guard. Especially one with the nifty offensive arsenal and passing ability that Hayes has displayed. NBA teams may not get a chance to see him in person, either so this is certainly a ‘gamble-on-upside’ pick.

 

10. Devin Vassell, Florida State
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 12.7 ppg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 42% 3PT

Vassell was one of the breakout stars of the ACC, leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubled as their best three-point shooter. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and he’s proven to be a playmaker on that end of the floor — he averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s precisely what you look for as a 3-and-D wing. In a 2020 NBA Mock Draft where it’s hard to find sure things, Vassell, on paper, seems to be as close to a known quantity as you are going to get in this range.

Where will he end up? I mentioned the Bulls’ need for a reliable wing and they’re an option here, but I won’t rule out the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal will earn a combined $148.7 million over the next two seasons, plus another $84.6 in player options for 2022-23. The Wizards probably aren’t keen to tie up more money and key roster spots on backup guards, and can use a rotating cast of veterans and pickups to fill those roles. The frontcourt has Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura, with Davis Bertans likely to be re-signed, but the wings (an increasingly important part of the NBA landscape) look rather barren. Troy Brown Jr. showed promise but failed to take the next step at either end this year, so adding Vassell as a strong defender who can be taught to evolve his scoring makes perfect sense. This is a team that’s screaming for defense, too, with the worst Defensive Rating in the NBA for 2019-20 (allowing 115.0 points per 100 possessions).

Ryan Knaus
Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.