2020 NBA Mock draft 2.0
The Minnesota Timberwolves win the 2020 NBA Draft lottery and have a tough decision to make in a draft that lacks a clear cut number one pick. Luckily for Minnesota, they already have their franchise cornerstone in Karl Anthony Towns and added his buddy D'Angelo Russell to be his sidekick earlier this year. Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards is arguably the most talented player in this draft class and has superstar potential written all over him. Edwards does come with some concerns about his defense, shot selection and decision making, but he gives the Wolves (who've only made playoffs once since 2004) fans a reason to be optimistic about their future.
The fact that the Warriors are in the position to draft a talent like James Wiseman is unfair. The 3X NBA champions were decimated by injuries last season and finished with the worst record in the NBA one season after making their 5th straight NBA finals appearance. Wiseman had his highly anticipated freshman season cut short after 3 games due to NCAA violations, so he's somewhat of a gamble due to his small sample size of high level game experience. But in my opinion he's worth the risk even in an era where the guard play and shooting are prioritized over post play. Wiseman would provide the Warriors with an uber athletic shot blocking, rim running vertical lob threat to groom for the post Splash Brothers era.
Charlotte made the biggest jump in the lottery and are in position to draft USC freshman Onyeka Okongwu who has the chance to be the franchise center Hornets have been missing since Al Jefferson left the Queen City. Michael Jordan and company will take a long look at LaMelo Ball as he would provide star power and instant marketing opportunities to a city that has lost Kemba Walker and NFL star Cam Newton to the Boston area in the last 12 months. Ball also makes sense on the hardwood as he would add size to a small backcourt that was lead by Devonte Graham's breakout sophomore season. However, in my opinion Okongwu is the safest pick in this draft and would contribute immediately on the defensive and on the glass which is why I would select him over his high school teammate from Chino Hills.
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I'm probably in the minority here, but I believe in the talent the Bulls have acquired over the last few seasons. It seems as if Chicago can't stay healthy and their frontline of Wendell Carter, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter missed around 70 games last season. Their backcourt features two shoot first guards in Zach LaVine and last years pick Coby White. White averaged 24.7 ppg and shot over 40% from behind the line after the All Star break and looks to have a bright future as a microwave scorer for years to come. However, I'd still take LaMelo Ball to add size, ball movement and excitement to the Windy City. Ball is a 6'8 passing wizard that would provide balance and playmaking and could share a backcourt with LaVine and White which would allow them to do what they do best. Which is putting the ball in the bucket.
Cleveland has to be disappointed to fall to the 5th spot after a disappointing season that concluded with only 19 wins. Like Chicago, the Cavs have young shoot first guards and are in dire need of a playmaker to balance out their backcourt. In the past 13 months Israel's Deni Avdija has led his country to a FIBA Under 20 European championship and was voted the Israeli league MVP after helping Maccabi Tel Aviv win their 3rd straight domestic championship. Avdija is the most accomplished European prospect since Luka Doncic and Cleveland would love for him to provide a similar impact on a franchise that is looking for an identity in the post LeBron James era. I know Doncic comparisons are unfair, but Avdjia is a versatile slashing combo forward that should thrive with NBA spacing. Outside shooting consistency and free throw shooting woes are a concern, but Avdjia can play both forward spots and his ability to make plays for others would fit well in Cleveland.
The Hawks gave up 119.7 points per game which ranked dead last in the NBA during the 2019-20 NBA season, so it's a priority for ATL to upgrade their defense in this draft. Auburn's Isaac Okoro is widely regarded as the top wing defender in this draft class due to his size, length, strong frame and versatility which should improve a Hawks defense that allowed opponents to shot nearly 48% from the floor every night. Okoro's long term potential is directly related to how much he improves as an outside threat, especially in todays NBA where defensive specialist can be liability if they're not a threat on the offensive end. If Okoro can become an average shooter from deep, it will open up his game in which he's a powerful slasher and underrated passer. The Hawks could look to trade this pick for a veteran since there is a lot of redundancy on the their roster at the wings, but Okoro is the physical on ball the defender that ATL needs to sure up their defense.
Killian Hayes to the Pistons is a perfect marriage in my opinion since Detroit needs a point guard to replace an aging but still effective Derrick Rose. Hayes is one of my favorite players in this class and has the toolbox to become an All Star and 2 way player that also brings excellent feel and court vision to the table. Resigning Christian Wood would be my top priority for the Pistons this offseason and keeping Rose around to mentor Hayes would also be high on my to do list. Drafting French teenagers in back to back drafts would help the Pistons popularity in France but also give the Pistons two solid pieces to build around for the future. Hayes most glaring weaknesses are his 3 point shooting and his right hand, but I believe he's a special passer that sees the floor at an advanced level.
The Knicks are entering a new era with former Creative Arts Agency super agent Leon Rose serving as the team president. Rose's first coaching hire was former Bulls and Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau who despite his short stay in Minnesota lead the Wolves to their only playoff appearance in the last 16 years. Thibs is a CAA client which also happens to be the same agency that represents Dayton high flyer Obi Toppin. New York had a log jam at power forward last year and Bobby Portis and Moe Harkless aren't expected to return which will open up a spot for Toppin. Julius Randle has a couple years left on his deal and it's unknown if he's in the Knicks future plans. It's not the ideal fit short term and defensively he's a major liability, but he's the most ready prospect on the offensive end of the floor and should be a shoe in for first team all rookie. Toppin is a high flying native New Yorker that can also stretch the floor and is a very underrated passer. If the Knicks can add a veteran point guard to pair with Toppin, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson they'll finally be heading in the right direction.
The good news is the Wizards had one of the best offenses in the league despite playing without John Wall, who up until this past season was seen as the face of the franchise. The bad news is the only team that struggled more on the defensive end of the floor than the Atlanta Hawks was the Washington Wizards. The Wiz gave up nearly 120 points per game which lead Bradley Beal to say " granted we were top 5 in offense, but our problem was we just couldn't guard a grandma". Last years rookie Rui Hachimura had a solid rookie season and looks to be a long term solution as the 4 spot, which leaves center and small forward as the top priorities to address in the draft. Florida State sophomore Devin Vassell is the ideal fit for the Wiz as he's the best 3&D prospect in this draft class. He'll fill their need for a wing defender and his shooting will keep defenses honest and provide more firepower for an offense that is expected to improve with the return of Wall and the natural progression of Beal and Hachimura.
The Phoenix Suns were the biggest surprise of the NBA restart known as the "Bubble League" and finished with a surprising undefeated record but more importantly competed at a high level even though they were entering Orlando with very slim chances of making the playoffs. This new Suns culture lead by head coach Monty Williams and Devin Booker is the perfect match for North Carolina guard Cole Anthony. Anthony came into his freshman season highly touted and projected as a top 5 pick but has seen his stock decline due to his up and down play that was related to injury and lack of talent around him in Chapel Hill. Anthony missed nearly two months of action with a torn meniscus and despite the fact that Carolina would have needed a miracle run to make the NCAA tournament (which was obviously cancelled) he came back and competed at a high level even though he could have played it safe and shut it down to prepare for the draft. His aggressive mentality can often lead to crazy shot selection, but you have to admire his competitive fire which would be gladly welcomed to an organization that has been associated with losing since Steve Nash bounced to Los Angeles. Anthony is more of a scorer than playmaker, but he can develop under Ricky Rubio and his off ball outside shooting would provide gravity for Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
I can even lie, it's weird seeing the Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs in this position. The last time San Antonio missed the playoffs the Clinton administration was running the country and Dominique Wilkins was the Spurs leading scorer after returning to the NBA from Greece. Florida State freshman Patrick Williams is one of the youngest players in the draft after turning 19 earlier this month and has never seen the Spurs in the lottery in his lifetime. Williams is a talented but raw athletic combo forward with a high upside as a defender and potential as a floor spacer. Currently his defense is ahead of his offense but he's shown flashes of being able to put the ball on the floor and make pull up jumpers. Williams in San Antonio is sure to draw comparisons to former Spurs great Kawhi Leonard due to his similar frame, defensive upside and ability to play both forward spots.
I honestly have no idea what the Kings should do with this pick or what direction they'll go in. There seems to be some friction with Buddy Hield who is reportedly unhappy about being moved to the bench and Bogdan Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent that will draw a lot of interest around the league this offseason. The Kings are set at point guard with De'Aaron Fox looking like a future All Star and they're hoping and praying Marvin Bagley can stay healthy and live up to the hype that lead him to being selected over Luka Doncic and Trae Young in the 2018 draft. Iowa State's Tyrese Haliburton is a safe pick that would be best used as a secondary ball handler and high IQ floor spacer that could be the connective tissue to boost a Kings offense that was ranked 22nd in scoring. However, I would not be surprised to see if this pick is moved on draft day.
The New Orleans Pelicans entered the 2019-20 season with high hopes to make a playoff run only to have their season end with major disappointment. Zion Williamson missed a significant amount of time due to injury and the team looked as if they quit on coach Alvin Gentry in Orlando which lead to his firing. The Pelicans have pieces to build around and should be one of the top job openings this offseason. Despite having a talented roster, there is going to have to be some tough decisions about the future of Jrue Holiday and even Lonzo Ball. Holiday would attract a lot of interest in the trade market and I have questions about Ball's long term position since he's not really a threat to attack the rim or put pressure on the defense. Which leads me to think RJ Hampton would be a good fit for the Pelicans although they're deep at guard on paper at the moment. Hampton's rare combination of size, athleticism, speed and defensive potential would be a nice piece to the Pelicans rebuilding puzzle.
A previous trade with the Memphis Grizzlies puts the Boston Celtics in the lottery. I'm guessing Boston was expecting a higher pick and did not anticipate Ja Morant and the Grizzlies to be in the playoff picture which lead to this draft pick being at the back end of the lottery. I don't think Boston keeps this pick but in the case they do, Memphis' Precious Achiuwa would be a good selection. I think long term he'll be best used as an undersized center that changes games with his energy, rebounding and defense. He has the size and athleticism to be a switchy defender that guards multiple positions and he has some ball handling and slashing skills that could developed to exploit mismatches. Free throw shooting and decision making are concerning, but his motor and elite athleticism are worth the risk.
The Orlando Magic are in a weird predicament despite coming off back to back playoff seasons after a 6 year absence. The main issue in Orlando is they're not bad enough to be in position for a top 5 pick and not good enough to challenge the 7 teams ahead of them in the eastern conference standings. They could really use some star power but that could be tough to find at #15 in a draft considered low on franchise players. The Magic could look to add depth and shooting on the wing with Vanderbilt sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith or look to address their point guard situation as Markelle Fultz is the only point guard under contract for next season. Alabama speedster Kira Lewis would be my choice and could possibly push Fultz for the starting job next season. Short term it may not be the best fit, but Lewis has the speed and quickness to breakdown defenses and create easy scoring opportunities for an Orlando team that ranked 24th in points per game.
As a Blazers fan I'd be more than happy to see Saddiq Bey in Portland as he would fill the need for a switchy defender that can knock down open 3's and make plays for others. This season Portland was decimated by injuries and had major issues on the defensive end of the floor. I'm not a fan of the Blazers starting Zach Collins at the 4 spot and I think Carmelo Anthony is best suited for a role off the bench at this point in his career. With the return of Trevor Ariza, Rodney Hood and the emergence of Gary Trent, Jr., the Blazers should have plenty of depth at the wing so Bey would be playing exclusively at the 4 if drafted by Portland.
Aleksej Pokusevski might be the ultimate wild card in this draft class. From a talent and skill perspective, Poku has it all. He's a 7 footer than moves and plays like a wing but also offers a high upside as defender and shooter. I had the opportunity to watch him live last summer that the FIBA U18 European Championships and left impressed with his skillset but had questions about his toughness and motor. The Wolves are a young team that is unlikely to make the playoffs next season and their 2021 pick will go to Golden State as part of the D'Angelo Russell trade, so I'd take a swing for the fences on the youngest player in the 2020 draft.
The Dallas Mavericks built the most efficient offense in NBA history around the brilliance of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and players that can shoot the cover off the ball. Since offense isn't an issue, the Mavs could look to tighten up their defense and look to add a potential 3&D defender like Josh Green out of Arizona, but Vanderbilt sharpshooter Aaaron Nesmith would make a potent offense even more dangerous. Although his season was cut short after 14 games due to an ACL injury, Nesmith shot a blistering 52.2% from 3 in his sophomore season. Adding Nesmith's shooting to historical offense is the epitome of the term "The rich get richer".
Although the Nets have two centers on the roster that averaged over 22 minutes per game, I think Brooklyn could use another big in their rotation that can stretch the floor and knock down open shots. Maryland's Jalen Smith is an inside/outside threat that also rebounds and protected the rim, so he has a unique blend of skills that can be useful to a contender. I expect Kevin Durant to see a lot of minutes at the 4 next season so it may be tough for Smith to crack rotations minutes as a rookie, but in a league where shooting and floor spacing is valued this a value pick at 19.
Miami is expected to value cap space for next summer so it's a strong possibility Goran Dragic could be leaving South Beach once the season concludes. If Dragic is not retained that leaves Kendrick Nunn as the only point guard on the roster for next season. Stanford freshman Tyrell Terry was not projected as a 1st round pick coming into the season, but a strong freshman campaign where he shot over 40% pushed him above more highly touted prospects. Terry is light in the pants (only weighs 160 lbs) but he isn't afraid to attack the basket and has a game and style that may remind some of a poor man's Trae Young or Steph Curry.
The Sixers came into this season with high hopes despite some questionable moves in the offseason that saw the team lose Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick in free agency and dish out nearly 300M combined to Tobias Harris and Al Horford. The end result was a disappointing season which lead to head coach Brett Brown being fired and more questions about the fit and future of their two All Stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Philly is in salary cap hell and whoever is hired to replace Brown will have to find a way to make the pieces to this unbalanced roster fit. Kentucky combo guard Tyrese Maxey would bring defense and a scoring punch the Sixers lacked in their backcourt this season. Maxey struggled with his shooting in his one season in Lexington but projects to be a good shooter due to his touch and excellent free throw percentage. I think Maxey could thrive in a role where he's used as the secondary ball handler that collapses defenses with his dribble penetration. However, if Philly does not address their floor spacing issues, Maxey (like Simmons and Embiid) will struggle to maximize his strengths.
Denver would be thrilled to find Arizona's Josh Green available at 22. With Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig scheduled to hit free agency, the Nuggets will need an athletic, physical wing defender that can also space the floor. Denver seems to have found their version of a Big 3 in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. but it's imperative the Nuggets front office surrounds them with plus defenders that can also contribute on the offensive end of the floor.
As of today Leandro Bolmaro is in the 2020 NBA Draft but I'm not sure if he'll remain in the draft due to him signing an extension with Barcelona and the draft being during the 2020-21 season in Europe. I've heard he's planning to stay in Barcelona and is looking for the opportunity to play under Sarunas Jasikevicius. Even if he does opt to stay abroad this upcoming season, I think Bolmaro would be a good fit in Utah and would fill a role as a wing ball handler, ball mover and high IQ team defender. He'll need to become a better outside shooter but I love his intangibles and see him as a high level glue guy in the NBA.
Nico Mannion has seen his draft stock slip in the last 12 months and could a big time steal for the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe Mannion is a better shooter than his college numbers indicate as he's coming off a freshman season where he shot 39% from the floor and 32% from three point range. The Bucks are coming off a dominant regular season and are in position to win now, so playing time could be scarce early in Mannion's career.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have picks galore in the next few years and have a promising future with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the cornerstone. Rookies Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort are already ahead of their development schedule as both are contributing and gaining valuable playoff experience. Washington freshman Jaden McDaniels is a super talented 6'9'' wing with guard skills and defensive upside. McDaniels is arguably one of the top 5 prospects based off pure talent in this draft class, but he has a tendency to settle for contested pull up jumpers and had 35 more turnovers than assists in his freshman season. OKC's player development staff has a strong track record and McDaniels could be their next prospect to outplay his draft position.
With the second of three first round picks I think Boston should take a long look at adding depth at the point guard position just in case Brad Wanamaker is not retained. However, I do expect Boston to make a trade so this pick could be packaged since Boston has at least 12 players under contract next season. Theo Maledon is a 6'5" French point guard with an advanced basketball IQ and defensive potential. He enters the NBA as one of the most decorated French prospects ever with Pro A and French Cup championships, in 2019 he was voted as France's top young player and he also has a French Cup MVP and an All Star appearance on his resume.
Knicks fans are begging for an upgrade at point guard even though New York has 3 point guards under contract for next season. If I were a betting man I'd bet only Frank Ntilikina will be on the roster opening night and the Knicks will look to upgrade in free agency. Michigan State senior Cassius Winston is a rare 4 year player and leaves East Lansing as one of the best players to ever put on a Spartan uniform. While the consensus may assume he does not have the same upside as other point guard prospects in this draft, you can make a case and say he's the most NBA ready. What Winston may lack in physical tools he makes up for it with his shooting, passing and knack for making plays out of pick & rolls as a scorer and distributor.
Los Angeles could go in a couple directions here. They could look to add a point guard here but I think they can address their need for another playmaker in free agency. The Lakers could also look to add a stretch big, but I feel they'd be reaching by grabbing mid second round talent with the 28th pick. In my opinion the best fit for LeBron and the Lakers is Desmond Bane from TCU. Like Cassius Stanley, Bane is an experienced senior with over 140 games of college experience which could help him crack a spot in the Lakers rotation as a rookie. A career 43% shooter from 3, Bane would give the Lakers another deep threat to open driving lanes for LeBron and Anthony Davis.
The Toronto Raptors will have some big decisions to make this offseason with their front line rotation of Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson headed for free agency. Colorado junior Tyler Bey is an athletic versatile wing defender that was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year would be an ideal replacement to fit in Nick Nurse crazy defensive schemes. Bey has the size of a wing but rebounds like a center and shows flashes that he'll be able to develop into a reliable floor spacer.
Boston's can use it's final first round round pick to semi addresses their need for size in the front court. Isaiah Stewart is a throwback physical post player that would've been a lottery pick 20 years ago. Although undersized at 6'9", Stewart has a 7'4" wingspan and kind of reminds me of a young Elton Brand. At the minimum, Stewart should be able to have a long career as role as a high energy role player that does all of the dirty work that doesn't show up on the stat sheet but leads to wins.