At last, the 2020 NBA Draft is almost here. After being pushed back nearly four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minnesota Timberwolves will finally be on the clock to announce their decision with the No. 1 overall pick.
This is not considered to be a strong draft by anyone who has evaluated this year’s class, but there are still plenty of intriguing young players who should have quality NBA careers. Much of the uncertainty entering this draft stems from the lack of an obvious No. 1 talent. So many of the teams picking at the top of the order have been rumored to be looking for a trade down, which could create a frantic night full of surprises.
This mock draft assumes no trades, with selections based on a combination of team fit, best player available, and early rumors about what could happen on draft night. Before the order gets up-ended by potential deals, here’s our best projection of what the draft could look like.
LaMelo Ball blossomed into the top overall prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft by showcasing his special combination of physical and creative gifts during a season aboard playing in the Australian-based NBL. Ball has tremendous size for a lead guard at 6’7 paired with ultra tight ball handling, boundless vision, and the confidence and skill to throw any pass. If Ball’s creation ability is the foundation of his game, he also has room to grow as a scorer and defender. Ball struggled to score efficiently in halfcourt sets in Australia and has faced warranted criticism about his shot selection. At the same time, Ball displays impressive natural touch on floaters around the basket, and could ultimately develop into a quality shooter in part because he already has so many reps taking deep pull-up threes off the dribble in game action.
Ball is still growing into his gifts as one of the youngest players in this draft class, but his talent is worth betting on. Nothing changes the trajectory of a team like adding a star-level offensive creator, and no player in this class has a better chance to one day fill that role than Ball. If he isn’t a perfect present day fit in Minnesota, the thought of what he could one day become is too much to pass up.
There’s no questioning Anthony Edwards’ physical talent. The 6’5 guard is the best raw athlete in the class, blending extraordinary quick-twitch burst in tight spaces with rare explosiveness in the open floor and around the basket. When Edwards is feeling it, he can also be one of the most impressive shot-makers in this draft. He hit four three-pointers or more in six different games, headlined by a breakout performance against No. 3 Michigan State in the Maui Invitational where he scored 33 of his 37 points in the second half and finished 7-of-16 from three. In terms of raw tools, no one in this draft has a better combination of elite physicality and scoring ability.
So why isn’t Edwards the consensus No. 1 overall pick? The reality is that his freshman season at Georgia left a lot to be desired. His shot selection was a disaster, often setting for contested pull-ups instead of making determined drives to the rim. His ability to read opposing defenses is a major question mark for someone who will often play with the ball in his hands. His defense is also decidedly underwhelming, with a lack of recognition and focus short-circuiting his wonderful physicality. Golden State still feels like the best place for Edwards to grow, where he can learn how to play off-the-ball next to Stephen Curry and Co. and won’t be expected to carry the organization from day one. If Golden State can re-wire how Edwards plays the game, he should be a useful piece in the short-term and potentially a building block long-term.
Wiseman was considered the top recruit in the country entering Memphis, and his truncated college career amidst an NCAA eligibility scandal hasn’t appeared to affect his draft stock. Scouts that like him as a potential top-five pick see a center with a 7’4 wingspan who can fly down the floor from end-to-end in the open court. Wiseman’s game will be blocking shots at the rim on defense and dunking the ball at the rim on offense. While he’s certainly a ‘high floor’ prospect based on his body and speed, there’s a reason Wiseman is also considered perhaps the most polarizing player in this draft.
Wiseman is not particularly quick off the floor as a jumper. His straight-line speed doesn’t fully translate to lateral movement skills. He also doesn’t add any value as a shooter or passer. Wiseman can be impactful as a drop coverage big man, but his lack of versatility brings legitimate questions on whether he can return proper value for a top-three pick. Charlotte is badly in need of a lead creator and two-way wings, but they reportedly like Wiseman enough to consider trading up for him. Despite fair criticisms of how his skill set will translate to the NBA, it’s hard to see him fall out of the top three given his pedigree.
As a general rule of thumb, until an NBA team has a star-level offensive creator, it needs to be looking for one. French-born guard Killian Hayes has a better chance to one day develop into that type of player than anyone in this draft class outside of LaMelo Ball. Hayes is a strong 6’5 lefty guard who can make every read on the floor. While not the most explosive athlete around the rim, he can put pressure on the defense as a scorer with floaters and pull-up jumpers. Hayes isn’t a wizard as a passer like Ball, but he is a more consistent on-ball decision-maker who has shown rare poise in the pick-and-roll as one of the younger players in this draft class. Hayes also has tremendous instincts defensively, knowing when and how to rotate in today’s help-heavy schemes.
Hayes’ shooting will be under the microscope early in his career. In his first year on Ulm, Hayes made serious improvement as a shooter off the dribble, but strangely struggled on spot-up opportunities. Chicago drafted a guard last year in Coby White, but he likely projects as more of a microwave scorer than a future offensive engine. There’s a strong case to be made that Hayes is both the best overall talent and the best fit for the Bulls at No. 4.
As a redshirt sophomore at Dayton this past season, Toppin blossomed into the most dominant player in college basketball. Surrounded by shooting in head coach Anthony Grant’s pro-style offense, Toppin was an electric finisher at the rim while also stretching out the range on his own jump shot. No player in America provided high-volume scoring with incredible efficiency like Toppin. He finished the year in the 99th percentile of points per possession, and graded out as ‘excellent’ on a variety of play types.
The questions for Toppin come on the other side of the ball. He doesn’t have a position defensively: he’s unable to anchor the backline as a rim protecting center, and he can’t stick with smaller players at the four, either. It’s also worth pointing out that Toppin is one of the oldest players in this draft class. He’s only one day younger than Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who already has three years of NBA experience under his belt. Cleveland has a ton of holes on the roster, but the promise of Toppin’s offensive versatility is appealing for a franchise that could use a dynamic finisher. Even if Toppin ultimately gets played off the floor deep into the playoffs, the Cavs can take solace in the fact that they are far, far away from that being a tangible concern for them.
Avdija is a 6’8 Israeli combo forward who makes up for his lack of an elite skill with a well-rounded game that can fill the cracks in the foundation of any team. While he doesn’t project as a lead offensive initiator, Avdija’s secondary playmaking is beneficial both in the half court and transition. He’s a smart off-ball cutter who isn’t afraid of contact at the rim, both as a finisher and rebounder. Shooting will be his swing skill. Avdija only hit about 33 percent of his three-pointers and 59 percent of his free throws as a 19-year-old for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he exhibits good footwork and a clean release on his jumper. The team that drafts him will believe it can fine-tune his jumper to at least league average levels, where it will be more of an asset than a liability.
It’s possible Avdija is off the board by the time Atlanta comes on the clock, but the Hawks feel like the best possible fit for him. He wouldn’t be depended on as a primary creator with Trae Young running the show, but his supplemental playmaking ability would free Young to be deployed as a shooter off the ball. The Hawks already have several combo forwards on the roster after drafting De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish last year, but Avdija’s offensive versatility would make him uniquely valuable within Young’s orbit.
Tyrese Haliburton put together an impressive statistical profile during his two years at Iowa State that took him from an under-the-radar recruit to a surefire lottery pick. The tall-but-skinny 6’5 guard provided knockdown shooting on catch-and-shoot opportunities, ranking above the 90th percentile nationally in spot-ups chances each of his years in school, per Synergy Sports. Haliburton also posted a sky-high 3.8 steal rate and hit better than 82 percent of his free throws as a sophomore, two indicators that typically predict NBA success. While Haliburton has some clear strengths as a player, he also has some equally clear limitations that makes his role and team context vital for whoever drafts him.
Haliburton is an impressive passer, but he’s not a major threat to create offense out of pick-and-roll or isolation situations. He rarely puts pressure on the rim with drives to the basket and doesn’t get to the foul line. There are also questions on how he’ll project defensively if he can’t add strength to his 175-pound frame. The Pistons don’t have a primary creator who Haliburton can play off of just yet, but his intriguing package of skills and overall efficiency still could be enticing for a team that needs all the backcourt help it can get.
Kira Lewis went from the youngest freshman in the country to a breakout sophomore playing in Nate Oats’ pro-style scheme at Alabama. No player in this draft class is faster with the ball in their hands. The 6’3 point guard can blow by defenders at the point of attack or dust them in transition to apply consistent pressure on the rim. That speed creates advantage situations for himself and others even if he isn’t the most polished finisher or live dribble passer just yet. Lewis is also a solid catch-and-shoot threat, ranking in the 88th percentile of America in spot-up opportunities while hitting 36.4 percent of his threes.
While Lewis continues to refine his skill set, his aggressive drives will serve as the foundation of his game. This Knicks roster has no one who can get into the paint like he can. Whether he sticks as a lead initiator or eventually finds a home in multi-guard lineups a la Dennis Schroeder (a frequent NBA comparison), Lewis’ ability to break down the defense has a variety of ways to provide value.
Okongwu went from winning state titles with the Ball brothers at Chino Hills to emerging as the most complete big man prospect in this draft class during an excellent freshman season at USC. Okongwu showed he can be a foundational defensive piece during his year with the Trojans, effectively pulling off a variety of different pick-and-roll coverages and showing outstanding rim protection instincts. Offensively, Okongwu projects as an efficient-but-low volume scorer. While he didn’t make a set three-pointer all year (his only make was a heave), Okongwu did finish in the 94th percentile on post-ups, 90th percentile on put-backs after offensive rebounds, 78th percentile as a roll man, and 73rd percentile in transition.
Okongwu’s game isn’t flashy, but his impact on winning is noticeable. The Wizards would benefit greatly from adding a versatile defensive big man to a front court that includes Rui Hachimura and potentially free-agent-to-be Davis Bertans.
Patrick Williams is the youngest college player in this draft class, and as such remains far away from what he could one day become. The Suns are in a unique position to be patience grooming his talents, partly because the ideal version of his development would be a perfect fit alongside their already promising young core. A long-and-strong 6’8 forward, Williams flashed intriguing supplemental rim protection skills while wrecking havoc in the passing lanes defensively. His offense is fairly rudimentary at this point, but his nearly 84 percent mark from the foul line is a positive indication for his long-term shooting outlook.
As our Pistons community Detroit Bad Boys noted, Williams is one of just five college players since 2010-11 to hit better than 83 percent of his free throws, finish with a block rate above five percent, and a steal rate above 2.5 percent. Two of the other players were Robert Covington and Matisse Thybulle as seniors. If Williams can eventually fulfill his promise as a shot-blocking four who provides some spacing on offense, that sure sounds like a wonderful match next to Deandre Ayton in the Phoenix front court.
Okoro’s defensive versatility is one of the great skills in this draft class. How he develops from there will go a long way towards determining if he one day looks like the steal of the first round or merely a stopper who just couldn’t bring enough offensive value. Okoro has the total package defensively for a 6’7 wing: he makes sharp rotations as a help defender, has the strength to absorb contact while protecting the rim, can switch onto a variety of different player types, and provides intimidating point of attack defense that could one day bother even the world’s best scorers. His offense is much less of a sure thing, mostly because he borders on being a non-shooter from the perimeter right now. As his outside shot develops, Okoro can still positively impact an offense by getting to the foul line, finishing off cuts, and continuing to develop his promising passing ability.
The league should be determined to keep Okoro away from the Spurs, because it sure feels like the best possible landing spot for his development. While any Kawhi Leonard comparisons would be way too optimistic, San Antonio’s history of building outside shooters from scratch could be a huge boon for Okoro. If his range starts when the Cavaliers come on the clock with pick No. 5, San Antonio feels like the end of it.
The Florida State sophomore is perhaps the best bet in the draft to turn into a quality 3-and-D wing. While not the most powerfully built forward at 6’7 and about 200 pounds, Vassell is a super sharp team defender who buzzed around the court for a top-15 FSU defense. Vassell can challenge shots at the rim (4.1 percent block rate) and rip the ball away for takeaways (2.8 percent steal rate) while also providing more subtle value with crisp rotations. Offensively, Vassell isn’t going to be much of a creator, but should space the floor effectively from three-point range. He hit better than 41 percent from three in both seasons with the Seminoles, but he’ll have to work on increasing his volume from deep for it to truly be impactful.
If Vassell slips to No. 12, the Kings should be doing backflips on their way to draft him. Sacramento lacks high-IQ help defenders and off-ball scoring on the wings in the worst way. Vassell’s range feels like it starts with Atlanta at No. 6, but Sacramento should be the floor.
Maxey has the size of a traditional point guard, but he’s best suited playing off a bigger lead initiator rather than running an offense. If Maxey can find the right fit, he has an impressive package of skills that could make him look like a draft day steal down the road. Maxey is a fast, strong, and fearless guard who thrives attacking the rim and finishing through contact. He’s a physical defender who can slow down smaller guards with good length (6’6 wingspan) and quick hips. Maxey’s outside shot (29 percent from three) is his biggest red flag, but he’s a good free throw shooter (83 percent) and could easily improve from deep when he gets into the league. For now, Maxey is an aggressive combo guard who can get buckets and compete defensively. In a purported ‘weak’ draft class, you can do a lot worse than that in the middle of the first round.
Achiuwa checks every box physically for a modern hybrid front court player. At 6’9, 225 pounds with a 7’2 wingspan, the Memphis freshman is a big, strong, fast athlete who can provide tremendous defensive versatility and a major impact on the glass so long as he’s disciplined. The other side of the floor is a different story. Achiuwa is a rough outside shooter and only made 60 percent of his free throws. His ‘feel for the game’ very much remains a work in progress especially on the offensive end, which is troubling for a freshman who is already 21 years old. The hope is that Achiuwa can play a variety of coverages defensively either as a four or a five, and that his offense slowly develops with cutting ability and spot-up shooting. His tape at Memphis leaves a lot to be desired, but the physical tools are hard to come by.
Nesmith had already established himself as the most prolific outside shooter in the draft before he endured a fractured foot that ended his season early. While teams would have liked to get more tape on him defensively, there’s no questioning he’ll immediately provide three-point shooting for whoever drafts him. Nesmith hit 52.2 percent of his three-pointers on 8.2 attempts per game, often flying around screens in head coach Jerry Stackhouse’s offense to get open. His points per possession on spot-ups, off screens, in transition, and off hands-offs all graded out as ‘excellent’, per Synergy Sports. Nesmith won’t create offense off the dribble and his defense will hope to be average (his 6’10 wingspan should help), but in a league that values knockdown shooting off movement, he should be a worth mid-first rounder.
Bey shot up draft boards with a breakout sophomore season at Villanova where he put together an impressive offensive profile with elite efficiency as a shooter. The 6’8 wing hit 45 percent of his threes on 5.2 attempts per game, and also ranked in the 98th percentile on spot-up opportunities. Bey also performed well as a pick-and-roll ball handler (88th percentile) and in transition (93rd percentile), but his limited burst leaves questions on how that will translate against bigger, stronger NBA defenders. Bey’s own defense is also questionable with a notable lack of perimeter mobility, but his frame should at least allow him to compete at the point of attack.
The Blazers are perpetually in need of wing help, and Bey’s shooting skill makes him a good enough bet at this point in the draft.
Pokuševski is this year’s international mystery man in the draft — and the fact that he might have the highest long-term upside of any player available only makes him more tantalizing. Poku is a 7-footer with flashes of shooting, ball handling, and creative playmaking. It just requires a leap of faith to take him in the mid-first round because his tape is so limited to this point and his body needs so much development with a professional training staff. The Wolves may as well swing for the fences here and see if they can hit a home run.
Green is the definition of an elite athlete on the wing while also offering projectable spot-up shooting. The 6’5 freshman flew all over the court for Arizona this season, showcasing impossibly quick hips, tremendous straight line speed, and sharp defensive instincts. He isn’t a threat to create off the dribble, but adds value offensive in transition and potentially as a catch-and-shoot threat. Green ranked in the 77th percentile on spot-ups while hitting 36 percent of his threes on relatively low volume (2.8 attempts per game). It feels like this could be a major addition for a Dallas team that needs defense and athleticism on the wing.
Hampton was a five-star recruit out of Dallas who decided to play in New Zealand rather than at a college hoops power program like Kansas or Memphis. The 6’5 combo guard flashed his skill as an aggressive downhill attacker and competitive defender before a hip injury shutdown his season after 15 games. Hampton remains a work in progress as an outside shooter, and still hasn’t proven he can score efficiently in the halfcourt. He’s certainly more of a scoring guard than a natural floor general. Hampton still has enough tools to bet on in the mid-to-late first round. The star-power Brooklyn has at the top of the roster would benefit him by letting him develop at his own pace.
Bane isn’t a trendy one-and-done prospect and he doesn’t have elite explosiveness around the rim, but if you’re looking for a high-IQ guard who can shoot, pass, and defend, there aren’t many bets better than the senior out of TCU. Bane canned 44 percent of his three-pointers on 6.5 attempts per game as an outside shooter. He also started running the offense more frequently, with attempts as a pick-and-roll ball handler going from 5.6 percent of his work load as a junior to 22.7 percent in his final college season. He performed admirably on those play types, finishing in the 85th percentile as a pick-and-roll handler. Bane’s defense is also reliable and competitive. If he goes to Miami, expect him to be one of the steals of this draft.
Terry entered Stanford as the No. 88 overall recruit in the incoming freshman class before emerging as a surprising one-and-done following a standout season. Terry is a 6’3 guard whose shooting ability will serve as the foundation of his game. He made nearly 41 percent of his three-pointers on almost five attempts per game, and showed some ability to shoot off movement. He also performed well as a pick-and-roll handler (77th percentile), but his lack of burst and inability to get to the foul line means he’s likely more of an off-ball player in the league. Philly needs all the shooting it can get, and Terry provides that with the hope of more untapped upside yet to come.
Anthony deserves to go much higher than this based on his talent and pedigree, but some rough circumstances around his freshman season at UNC could push him down the board. A consensus top-3 recruit out of high school, Anthony found himself needing to carry the load for a Tar Heels team that lost so much talent to the NBA and graduation from the year before. Then he tore his meniscus around Thanksgiving and struggled to regain his explosiveness and efficiency. Anthony has clear skills as an off-the-dribble shot-maker, but his rim attacking and ability to read the floor didn’t quite match the hype. His range likely starts at the end of the lottery, but falling to a talented team like Denver might ultimately be the best thing for his long-term development.
Smith bloomed into a third-team All-American during his sophomore year at Maryland, showcasing his shooting ability and scoring touch as a 6’10 big man. Smith hit 37 percent of his threes on 2.8 attempts per game and 75 percent of his free throws while also shining on the glass, especially on the offensive end. Smith also posted nice numbers as a shot blocker (8.2 block rate) and transition scorer (99th percentile on 8.5 percent of his plays) but there are questions of how those attributes will translate because Smith isn’t the most powerfully built athlete. If he can find a way to stay on the floor defensively, his offense should make him a valuable player.
Maledon is a 6’4 French guard who emerged as a Euroleague starter for ASVEL Lyon this past season at just 18 years old. While he’s not an explosiveness rim attacker as a lead guard, Maledon plays a measured game built on making pick-and-roll reads and scoring efficiently from two-point range. His three-point shot and his defense will be swing skills. He shouldn’t make a huge impact in either area, but just being passable there would be a big boost for his value.
The Thunder have a history of selecting tools-y young players with a limited history of efficient production, and McDaniels would certainly fit the archetype. A consensus top-10 recruit out of high school, McDaniels had some flashes of impressive scoring touch, but ultimately only shot 40 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range. Maybe he isn’t the future star some thought he could be as a high schooler, but his length and scoring instincts makes him a worthy developmental flier at this point of the first round.
Bolmaro is a 6’7 guard from Argentina who flashed his playmaking potential and defensive instincts in a limited role with Barcelona this year. Bolmaro has a chance to develop into an oversized creator down the road who can effectively run offense. Defense will likely be his calling card early in his career, where he uses his plus size and high basketball-IQ to make an impact as a help defender. The best thing about Bolmaro? He’s a wonderful draft-and-stash option thanks to a quality developmental setup with Barcelona, which would be ideal for a Celtics team with three first rounders should they decide to keep every pick.
Woodard is worth a flier late in the first round as a big wing without too many apparent holes in his offensive skill set. Woodard has excellent size at 6’7, 230 pounds with a 7’1 wingspan, and he hit 43 percent of his threes on low volume as a sophomore at Mississippi State. While his shooting remains a question mark, Woodard showed good instincts finishing off cuts, and graded out as ‘average’ on transition opportunities, spot-ups, and put-backs. There are worse bets to make if you’re looking for a wing at this point in the first round.
Flynn was one of the best players in America in his debut season for San Diego State as a transfer from Washington State, leading the team to a 30-2 season and earning a second-team All-American nod. The 6’1 guard was an efficient, high volume three-point shooter (37 percent from deep) and was excellent defensively. He ended the year leading the country in win shares and No. 6 in box score plus-minus. He doesn’t have ideal size or athleticism for a lead guard, but Flynn is simply really, really good. That’s worth a shot for the defending champs at the No. 28 pick.
Tillman was simply one of the most impactful players in America whenever he was on the floor for MSU. The 6’8, 245-pound center plays a below the rim game, but wins with strength and smarts. He led the country in box score plus-minus this season by playing intimidating defense in the paint, making smart reads as a passer, and hitting the glass hard as a rebounder. He might not have a ton of untapped potential, but he’s ready to handle minutes right now.
Riller will turn 24 years old as a rookie and spent the last four years playing in the Colonial Conference, but his unique gifts as a scorer are worth betting on at this point in the draft. Riller has incredible burst with the ball in his hands to create separation on the perimeter combined with quality shooting touch to give him one of the most diverse scoring packages in this class. He finished in the 97th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in the 87th percentile in isolations, and in the 96th percentile on spot-up opportunities. His defense is a huge question mark, but offensive players like this are worth a shot with the final pick in the first round.