Analysis of the 2020 NBA Draft's First Round Selections
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
The 2020 NBA Draft had an overarching theme of selecting talent based upon potential. Players like Patrick Williams and Jalen Smith were picked because of their unique offensive profiles. This year's draft class has been advertised as relatively weak compared to past years, but there's a chance that mid-round talent could become the best professional players. With that being said, here's some analysis of every first round selection of this year's draft.
1. Anthony Edwards, G, Minnesota Timberwolves
It was a toss-up between Edwards and LaMelo Ball right up to the start of the draft. The T-Wolves will expect Edwards to use his stellar athleticism and footwork to create scoring opportunities for himself. If he can develop consistency from behind the arc, the rest of the league better watch out.
2. James Wiseman, C, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors did the right thing drafting a center, their biggest need going into this offseason. Wiseman should fit quite well into Steve Kerr's system, running down the court in transition and wreaking havoc with his 7'6" wingspan. He has a soft turn-around jumpshot close to the rim that bodes well for his shooting range in the pros.
3. LaMelo Ball, G, Charlotte Hornets
Ball will be joining a young Hornets team looking to establish an identity. Passing is his forte, and he will be one of the league's best passers in his rookie year. On the day before the draft, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported that Michael Jordan gave the stamp of approval for Ball. He needs to steady his jumpshot if he wants to score consistently in the pros. We'll see how Ball's immense potential will pan out in Charlotte.
4. Patrick Williams, F, Chicago Bulls
This was the first surprise pick of the night, with Williams being selected far above his projected draft position in the mid-to-late lottery. Small forward was surely a need for Chicago, but they're definitely banking on his ceiling. Williams didn't start a single game at Florida State in his freshman season, averaging just over nine points per game. Still, he's got a smooth-as-butter jumpshot and long arms that can allow him to play effective defense.
5. Isaac Okoro, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
This is an excellent pick for the Cavaliers, a team that sorely needed strength on the wing. Their starting small forward last season was Cedi Osman, so Okoro should be an immediate upgrade from this season's tipoff. Cleveland already has three young guards to build around in Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, and Kevin Porter Jr. Okoro will add an excellent infusion of defense and unbridled effort to the young Cavaliers.
6. Onyeka Okongwu, C, Atlanta Hawks
Okongwu and the Hawks were connected for quite some time leading to Wednesday's draft. Atlanta didn't have any glaring needs this offseason, but it would have been nice for some wing depth. The selection of Okongwu will convolute the minute distribution between himself, John Collins, and Clint Capela, but the Hawks should figure it out. He will serve as an excellent pick-and-roll partner with floor general Trae Young.
7. Killian Hayes, G, Detroit Pistons
Hayes is a very interesting prospect that should immediately jump in as a primary distributor in Detroit. Hayes is an excellent passer, and though he didn't shoot very efficiently during his time with Ulm, his scoring potential is tantalizing. Paired with explosive forward Blake Griffin and sophomore Sekou Doumbouya, the French point guard will have many options on the court.
8. Obi Toppin, F, New York Knicks
Toppin was the exact pick that the Knicks had been looking for. They were worried they would have to trade up to select him, but the cards fell in place for Leon Rose and the New York front office. The Knicks probably would have been better off selecting a guard like Tyrese Haliburton, but there's no doubt that Toppin's entertaining style of play is tailor-made for Madison Square Garden.
9. Deni Avdija, F, Washington Wizards
The Wizards pounced on Avdija after he slid a few picks further than expected. They already have an established backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Bolstering the wing with the probable loss of Davis Bertans is a smart move for Washington. Avdija is a versatile 6'9" forward with the court vision and handles of a guard, so he should function well in the Wizards' transition offense.
10. Jalen Smith, F, Phoenix Suns
An interesting pick at number 10, the Suns selected Smith for his blend of inside presence and outside shooting. The Maryland power forward will need to add a bit more weight to his frame to hold his own against bruising centers, but he's more than capable: he went from 195 to 225 pounds in college. He can both face up in the post and hurt defenses from behind the arc. He has a beautiful jumpshot for a big man.
11. Devin Vassell, F, San Antonio Spurs
There were concerns that Vassell tweaked his previously pretty jumpshot in the wrong way over the offseason. He assured in his post-selection interview that it has not changed whatsoever. Vassell is a 3-point assassin and his long arms help him shoot the basketball above most defenders' reach. He should mesh very nicely with Gregg Popovich's selfless style of play.
12. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Sacramento Kings
Who told the league to let Haliburton fall this far? An absolute steal for the Kings, the Iowa State guard impressed teams in interviews with his basketball IQ and prowess. The best part is that he doesn't need the ball in his hands to be great; that responsibility can remain with De'Aaron Fox. Though his jumpshot is a bit wonky, it definitely works for him. Haliburton shot 42.6% from 3-point range in his two seasons in college.
13. Kira Lewis Jr., G, New Orleans Pelicans
I'm not sure what New Orleans is intending to do with all of these point guards. Lonzo Ball was their starting point guard, Eric Bledsoe came to town in the Jrue Holiday trade, and now Kira Lewis Jr. will be brought into the fold. Lewis Jr. is a lightning-quick athlete who blurs past defenders in transition. He's a player physically comparable to De'Aaron Fox.
14. Aaron Nesmith, F, Boston Celtics
In his just 14 games at Vanderbilt in his sophomore season, Nesmith shot a blistering 52.2% from 3-point range. Looking at a larger sample size of 32 games as a freshman, he only shot 33.7%. It should be interesting to see how Nesmith can maintain his efficiency in the pros and develop other facets of his game like playmaking and man-on-man defense.
15. Cole Anthony, G, Orlando Magic
Prior to his freshman season at the University of North Carolina, Anthony was a projected top-three pick in this year's draft. However, injuries and inefficiency made him slide to Orlando at number 15, closing out the lottery. Anthony is a microwave scorer that can pile points on in the blink of an eye. He's surprisingly scrappy on defense when he's focused. Consistency will be the key throughout Anthony's career.
16. Isaiah Stewart, C, Detroit Pistons
Another late riser this year, Stewart has a high motor and battles for every rebound. Stewart can very well fill the role that Andre Drummond possessed until his trade to Cleveland. He showed some shooting potential, making 77% of his free throw attempts. He's got an NBA-ready frame but some raw defensive tactics that need honing. This was definitely a reach on Detroit's part.
17. Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
Arguably the most intriguing player in the draft, Pokusevski exhibited flashes of starpower in limited tape in Greece. At 7 feet tall, he'll pull up from behind the arc without warning. He'll take the ball from basket to basket in transition. He'll pop a quick fadeaway from the baseline. The Serbian plays with a sort of flair that could propel him into stardom in the future. Pokusevski has the intangibles, but he needs to put on weight and improve his post fundamentals.
18. Josh Green, F, Dallas Mavericks
Green is a prospect that's been linked with one team for a while now, and they are the Dallas Mavericks. The Arizona forward is a prototypical 3-and-D wing who thrives off the ball. He should link quite well with Luka Dončić, who's always looking for teammates on the corner. Green always provides energy to his team and never gives up on a play.
19. Saddiq Bey, F, Detroit Pistons
Bey is Detroit's third pick in the first 30, rounding out a versatile group who will make their impact in different ways. I like to call Bey a Swiss Army knife because he's so well-rounded on both offense and defense. He gives 110% on defense at any given moment, and he's beginning to develop a reliable shot from deep.
20. Precious Achuiwa, F, Miami Heat
Achuiwa proved his offensive capabilities at Memphis after James Wiseman left to prepare for the draft. Miami proved to have one of the most versatile systems on both sides of the ball, a major factor in their Finals run last season. Achuiwa should have some defensive versatility against positions 3 through 5 at any point on the court.
21. Tyrese Maxey, G, Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers headed into the draft in need of shooting. Maxey definitely can score, but he's slightly less efficient than fans would have hoped. He only shot 29.2% from behind the arc in his one year at Kentucky. His best work comes in the midrange and at the basket. Maxey has a bag of tricks for crafty finishes around the rim that should help him against taller defenders.
22. Zeke Nnaji, F, Denver Nuggets
Nnaji is the presumptive heir to Jerami Grant, assuming he accepts a larger contract elsewhere in the league. He's a creative finisher around the rim for an almost-7-footer and fights hard for rebounds. There is definitely room for Nnaji to improve defensively, especially on the perimeter. He gets caught lagging behind when switched onto smaller opponents, but there is potential with his high motor and 7'1" wingspan.
23. Leandro Bolmaro, G, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bolmaro is one of the best perimeter defenders in this year's draft class. Ambidexterity is an underrated skill of his, as he can make any pass with either hand. Similar to Argentinian counterpart Manu Ginobili, Bolmaro is a crafty finisher around the rim. He uses various floaters, McCollum-esque runners, and Euro steps to do damage in the paint. Unfortunately, he likely won't be utilized much in Minnesota with D'Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio taking minutes at point guard. Keep an eye on Bolmaro as a development-type player.
24. RJ Hampton, G, Denver Nuggets
Hampton kept sliding down the board after being projected as a late-lottery selection. Some may be concerned about his offensive game translating to the NBA. While he has a quick first step that allows him to drive to the basket, his jumpshot is far from consistent. Hampton should develop into a quality defender because of his wingspan and athleticism.
25. Immanuel Quickley, G, New York Knicks
Quickley is a fun pick for the Knicks; he provides some much-needed offensive production from the point guard position. He's downright dangerous from 3-point range and has a huge wingspan that allows him to poke the ball out as he pleases. Quickley will form a great trio for the future with young teammates RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin.
26. Payton Pritchard, G, Boston Celtics
Pritchard will be able to display his drive and pedigree with the Celtics, a team inching toward a Finals run. He isn't the most athletic, but he more than makes up for it with his passion for the game. There are videos of him performing dribbling drills in his garage that are simply mesmerizing. His ball control isn't preternatural, but he displays his experience in the pick-and-roll. Pritchard will play valuable minutes behind Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart.
27. Udoka Azubuike, C, Utah Jazz
I'm ecstatic for Azubuike because he worked extremely hard to get his body and skill into NBA shape. He cut 14 pounds in this offseason alone and measured a record vertical among centers in the combine. Azubuike is a terror around the rim, whether he's throwing down a lob or sending an opponent's shot into the stands. The Jazz are an excellent team for the Kansas product, as he can learn under Rudy Gobert, a player with a similar build and skillset.
28. Jaden McDaniels, F, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves needed wing depth after adding Ricky Rubio to their guard collection. McDaniels could be one of the best players of this year's draft when it's all said and done, given his special physical measurements and scoring prowess. He's got a hypnotizing side-to-side dribble that he uses to pull up from midrange, but he sometimes leans on it too heavily. He's extremely thin and needs to put on some muscle to stand a chance on defense.
29. Malachi Flynn, G, Toronto Raptors
I love this pick for the Raptors. Flynn isn't the most vocal player, but his play does all the talking. Kyle Lowry is inevitably getting older, and the Raptors needed to start looking at a future without him. This was the first step towards that new era. Flynn has a similar grit and confidence from deep.
30. Desmond Bane, G, Memphis Grizzlies
Bane is a flamethrower from deep. He's got a muscular build at 6'6" that allows him to bully smaller guards down at the rim. It also helps that Bane's got a smooth touch once he reaches the paint. He is a great blend of finesse and power, and the Grizzlies will be pleasantly surprised by the impact he'll make early in his career.