Updated: Oct 9, 2021
This year's draft process has definitely been one of the strangest in history. The NCAA Tournament was cancelled and NBA front offices have been forced to rely on limited live-game footage. More uncertainty lies within this draft class than ever before. In this article, I will be predicting the first 15 picks of the 2020 NBA Draft, a class with many fascinating prospects.
One quick note: this mock draft won't include any trades. The Warriors will more than likely trade down, but that won't be considered. Additionally, LaMelo Ball could go to virtually any team in the top-10 if they trade up; it's only a matter of who is most appealing to the seller.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia
No prospect's potential this year may be as tantalizing as that of Anthony Edwards. Some scouts believe he can live up to his immense potential as a three-level scorer. His importance to the Wolves would only grow as his 3-point shooting develops. Edwards is a freak athlete with endless explosiveness and length, boasting a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He consistently attacks the defense, using his bruising style to his advantage.
On the other hand, his playmaking and ability to read defenses leaves much to be desired. He often hits the brakes earlier than necessary; many times he settles for a mid-range jumper rather than pushing to the rim. If he possessed consistent touch on his jumpshot, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. However, Edwards only shot 40.2% from the field and 29.4% from 3. His defense fluctuates from play to play. If Edwards wants to have a productive NBA career, he needs to be open to coaching and develop consistent effort in his game.
2. Golden State Warriors - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Golden State general manager Bob Meyers has many choices at the number 2 spot in the draft. It is still highly possible that the Warriors will trade down. However, if there’s one thing the Golden State front office values more than anything, it’s basketball IQ. Enter Deni Avdija, an experienced wing with lots of room to grow.
6-foot-9 Avdija has the height to play at either forward position, yet also possesses the vision of a point guard. He rotates on defense when necessary and rarely is caught guarding the wrong man. One cause for concern is his inconsistent jumpshot mechanics. When he shoots from 3-point range, you rarely see the same form as the previous attempt. He has shot 56 percent on 363 free throw attempts since 2017. It is extremely rare to see a player with that poor of a percentage to become a consistent shooter in the league.
3. Charlotte Hornets - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Wiseman might be the most divisive player in the entire draft, as his position in mock drafts varies from top-2 to out of the top-10 entirely. Currently, he profiles as a rim-running big whose athleticism stands more than anything. While he isn't comfortable shooting outside the paint, his creativity around the rim more than makes up for it. However, his jumpshot mechanics are nice for a big man, and Charlotte's coaching staff could unlock a midrange game Wiseman never knew he had.
While he is fully capable of protecting the rim, he is often beat in pick-and-roll defense and caught in the air following pump fakes. He is a complete non-factor in the playmaking department; his passes often miss open teammates and he rarely displays accuracy. Hopefully, pairing him with a playmaker such as Devonte' Graham should allow Wiseman to play to his strengths, finishing lobs and rolling hard to the basket.
4. Chicago Bulls - LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks
Under head coach Billy Donovan, the Bulls could take a substantial leap in terms of overall record. But before they take that leap, they need a primary ball-handler and facilitator. At 6-foot-7, Ball possesses both elite size and court vision at point guard. His ability to make passes of all ranges from full-court outlets to pick-and-roll lobs allows him to control the pace of the game. It is possible that he can become an above-average NBA defender due to his height and quickness.
His lack of efficiency paired with an inconsistent jumpshot raises some concerns regarding his scoring ability in the U.S. Ball shot only 46% from 2-point range and 25% from 3 in 12 games in the NBL. If he shoots that poorly in Australia, what can teams expect of his efficiency in the NBA? When he gets into the paint, he often relies on difficult floaters and advanced layups. To increase his efficiency in the future, Ball will have to put on some strength to compete with larger defenders.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
Now that the Cavaliers have drafted two small guards in two consecutive drafts, it is time to address their aging core of big men. Kevin Love is 31 with a bloated contract and potentially could be traded away for future picks. 29-year-old Tristan Thompson is also becoming expendable with Cleveland's recent acquisition of Andre Drummond. Obi Toppin is the perfect complement to the young shooters Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.
Whether Love is dealt or not, Toppin should be able to reduce his low-post workload and eventually completely take over the role. His speed and athleticism should help him blow by slower NBA bigs. Although Toppin is the oldest player projected in this year's draft lottery at 22, he should bring instant offense to a young and developing team.
6. Atlanta Hawks - Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
The skillset of Isaac Okoro is a match made in heaven for the Hawks. He was a tenacious defender during his one year at Auburn, if not one of the best in the NCAA. Oftentimes in college he was tasked with guarding the focal point of the opposing team's offense, and he delivered. He should be able to immediately step in and provide much needed defense for Atlanta. Okoro is mainly a paint scorer, as he attacks the rim with intensity. If he sees traffic near the rim, he can kick it out to a shooter waiting on the perimeter. He rarely forces difficult finishes and instead looks for the open man.
There are questions about his ability to score outside of the paint in the pros. Okoro made just 29% of his 3-point attempts and went 67% from the free-throw line. Those numbers aren't very encouraging for a player that needs to improve his offensive output and efficiency. Even so, his high IQ and motor should mesh well with head coach Lloyd Pierce, who is known for his defensive knowledge.
7. Detroit Pistons - Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
At number 7, the Pistons are in a potential trade-down situation; the 2020 prospect pool is more balanced than top-heavy. However, if they were to maintain their position, their primary need would be a point guard. Dwane Casey has said that the Pistons will be looking to address the position this offseason, whether it be through a trade or through the draft. Motor City needs somebody to facilitate plays and provide a scoring punch as well.
Haliburton is a creative playmaker with fantastic vision and the ability to finish with both hands. Despite his strange jumpshot, his 3-point percentage is an impressive 43%. As he physically develops in the NBA, he should have more success finishing layups and drawing fouls. For now, Haliburton is a wiry athlete that generally avoids contact and avoids shooting off the dribble.
8. New York Knicks - Killian Hayes, G, Ulm
The Knicks just can't catch a break. Every single year since their selection of Patrick Ewing in 1985, New York has failed to move up in the draft lottery. However, this year's draft has no surefire superstar to drool over. The 2020 prospect pool is more balanced than top-heavy. This October, the Knicks need to draft someone that can accompany RJ Barrett's ability to drive to the rim and create off the dribble.
Enter Killian Hayes, an intriguing prospect with the scoring profile of a James Harden-lite and passing similar to Manu Ginobili. Although he shot 29% from behind the arc, his free throw percentage of 87.6 is encouraging. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he will become increasingly difficult to shed on defense as he continues to develop.
9. Washington Wizards - Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
The backcourt pairing of John Wall and Bradley Beal could cause problems for defenses next season. Onyeka Okongwu, while undersized at 6-foot-9, is a versatile defender with soft touch in the paint and nifty footwork. His shot-blocking ability should breathe some life into the Wizards' lethargic defense; they ranked 29th in defensive rating for the season. Okongwu can stick with anyone, even against guards on the perimeter. His quick feet and off-ball agility allow him to recover if he bites on pump fakes.
Similar to Bam Adebayo on the Heat, Okongwu would solely play at center despite his size. He only attempted four 3-pointers in his one year at USC, converting just one (albeit, a full-court buzzer beater). While his offensive upside may be limited due to his height and scoring range, he might have one of the highest floors in the draft.
10. Phoenix Suns - Aaron Nesmith, F, Vanderbilt
Phoenix is finally putting the pieces together. Stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton thrived in the bubble, while their supporting cast of young wings provided the deep shooting necessary in today's analytics-driven league. However, the Suns would benefit from more depth at the 3 and 4 spots. Aaron Nesmith would provide everything Phoenix is looking for at this stage in their development.
The Vanderbilt small forward is arguably the best shooter in the draft, shooting a stunning 52% from 3-point range with more than 4 makes per game in his sophomore year. He is not just a catch-and-shoot player; he consistently made shots off screens, moving from side to side, and with a hand in his face. Although he is not the most prolific shot creator, Phoenix wouldn't need to see that ability. He knows his role: a sharpshooting wing with reliable on-ball defensive skills.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Devin Vassell, G, Florida State
At this point in time, the Spurs are in the midst of a transition period. They missed the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years and have several aging stars with bloated contracts (LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan). Devin Vassell is a 3-and-D forward who boasts the IQ and wingspan to earn All-NBA Defensive Team selections in the future. Although he may not have the highest ceiling, he may be one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this entire draft. In less than 30 minutes per game, he averaged 1.4 steals and 1 block.
Even though Vassell shot 41.5% from 3-point range, he still has room to grow offensively. If he gets more comfortable from midrange and off the dribble, he should become the perfect off-ball sidekick.
12. Sacramento Kings - Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
Sacramento does not have a particularly young or inexpensive rotation. However, they do have De'Aaron Fox, their lightning-quick point guard entering his fourth season. Fox will be better suited playing next to teammates with similar pace and intensity. Buddy Hield signed a $94 million deal, Harrison Barnes is still playing uninspiring basketball, and Bogdan Bogdanovic is about to eat up even more cap room with an impending contract extension. The Kings' wing core could use an infusion of youth.
A Swiss Army knife of sorts, Bey can score efficiently, make passes out of the post, grab rebounds, and defend multiple positions if called upon. On 6.7 attempts per game in his sophomore year, he shot 45.1% from behind the arc. He simply makes smart passing decisions out of screens and off the dribble. Bey needs to prove that he can find the same shooting success, and he should have a very productive career with the Kings.
13. New Orleans Pelicans - Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
In order to compete for a championship in the future, New Orleans needs to bolster their defense and build around their two stars: Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. All of the pieces surrounding them are currently question marks. Can Lonzo Ball continue to improve offensively? How long until Jrue Holiday begins to lose a step? Is Josh Hart being stretched too thin on defense?
Patrick Williams' blend of team defense, rebounding, scoring off the dribble, and budding 3-point shot should benefit the Pelicans immensely. At 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, he has a body ready for the physicality of the NBA and will only get stronger. While slightly raw offensively, his athleticism and versatility should serve New Orleans well.
14. Boston Celtics - Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
The Celtics already have a star point guard in Kemba Walker, but it would make sense to look towards the future, as his contract expires in 2023. Boston has three first-round picks this year, so they could address the forward position later on.
Anthony is a microwave scorer capable of heating up at any moment. He has shown the capability to carry a team on his back to victories. Conversely, Anthony can start a game cold and fail to make an impact that night. His potential is simply too tantalizing for the Celtics to pass up; they should be able to stash him on the bench and let him learn under Walker, a bonafide offensive virtuoso.
15. Orlando Magic - Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
It appears that the Orlando Magic are becoming comfortable with Markelle Fultz as their point guard of the future. However, they cannot move forward with just him manning the backcourt. The team needs another option to handle the ball and provide reliable scoring.
Tyrese Maxey can fulfill that role. While he played mostly off the ball during his time at Kentucky, he occasionally used the pick-and-roll to create open looks off the dribble. Maxey is a blur in transition, using floaters and other tricks to finish all around the rim. Although his calling card is scoring, he needs better shot selection and should work on developing his passing skills. Maxey plays physical defense and uses his long arms to defend taller and stronger play.