Bleacher Report's Preseason 2020 NBA Mock Draft
Scouting for the 2020 NBA draft has begun, as many of this year's top prospects are already rolling overseas. Five projected lottery picks are currently playing in either Europe or Australia.
An NCAA freshman still starts atop our board, though at least four realistic candidates are auditioning to be the No. 1 overall pick.
October projections are loose. Put more stock into the prospect's tier than his exact draft slot or team fit.
Also, look for eager scouts to gather in New York on Nov. 5 for the first big scouting opportunity of the season: the State Farm Champions Classic featuring Duke vs. Kansas and Michigan State vs. Kentucky.
The mock draft order is based on Caesers' win-total lines for the 2019-20 NBA season.
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1. Charlotte Hornets: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
No consensus No. 1 exists before the season, and teams are viewing three or four prospects as possible candidates. The Charlotte Hornets won't be thinking about position or style when evaluating. They need the best talent available for a roster led by Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.
Our preseason projection has Charlotte eventually favoring Cole Anthony, who checks NBA boxes with 6'3" size and explosiveness for a point guard.
He'll likely put up huge numbers running the show at North Carolina. The MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, he now finds himself in a perfect situation to continue showcasing his scoring and playmaking package.
His decision-making and shot selection will probably be questioned at certain points of the season. However, his tools, athleticism, shooting skill, production, basketball genes (son of former NBA player Greg Anthony) and work ethic will wind up outweighing the bad shots and turnovers. Winning will also help since he'll be North Carolina's primary initiator on practically every possession.
Highly advanced with the ability to create and make shots or set up teammates, Anthony will have the attention of every lottery team that could use a lead guard.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
An explosive 6'5", 225-pound wing, Anthony Edwards starts the year in the No. 1 overall discussion with enough skill to match his elite natural talent.
His development as a shot-creator and shooter points to lead-scoring potential. His power and athleticism will translate to highlight finishes off transition and drives. But he'll build his No. 1 case by torching defenses with his pull-up stroke and three-ball.
Cole Anthony may wind up having the edge while playing for a ranked North Carolina team, and it wouldn't be surprising if Edwards' impact flickers on a weaker Georgia squad.
With a spectacular physical profile, plus the ability to get buckets from each level by using his handles and shot-making versatility, Edwards still figures to draw comparisons to some of the NBA's star scorers such as Victor Oladipo and Donovan Mitchell.
3. Memphis Grizzlies: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG/SG, 2001)
LaMelo Ball's decision to play in Australia already looks like a good one. At 18 years old, he's been a major contributor for the Illawarra Hawks early on, averaging 13.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
His abilities to create offense, pass and convert touch shots have stood out the most. Already, he's the Hawks' best initiator. And despite his skinny frame, he's flashed impressive finishing at the rim with his body control and ambidexterity.
As exciting as it has been to see Ball execute as a scorer and facilitator against pros, it's equally comforting that he's played the right way: unselfishly and within the Hawks offense.
His three-ball hasn't fallen (6-of-24), and he's had some difficulty containing on defense. But Ball's positional size, skill level, feel for the game and production suggest he's a top-five lock for the 2020 draft.
4. New York Knicks: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
Memphis basketball had its pro day earlier this month, drawing NBA scouts and executives eager to get their first look at James Wiseman in a college setting.
His 7'1", 240-pound frame, 9'6" standing reach and athleticism will create wiggle room when scouting his skills this season. But over the years, he's continued to flash signs of improving shot-creation and touch away from the basket.
Already sold on his spectacular physical tools, scouts will focus on assessing his overall polish, versatility and rate of execution. How far away is he as a shooter? How good are his footwork and moves in the post? He's going to block shots, but how will he read pick-and-rolls and rotations?
Talent-wise, Wiseman is a No. 1 overall candidate. His impact and general level of polish will determine whether he's the first player drafted or one of the first in the top tier.
5. Phoenix Suns: Deni Avdija (Israel, SF/PF, 2001)
The FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship MVP, Deni Avdija will be one of the biggest overseas draws for NBA teams.
Still 18 years old, he'll be getting most of his minutes in the Israeli BSL, though he should eventually start to see more time in Euroleague this season.
Avdija pops for his 6'8" positional size and skill versatility as a combo forward who handles the ball, facilitates and creates and shoots off the dribble. He's a scorer with point-wing abilities and feel.
He's also made strides defensively, and though a lack of explosiveness (plus tough shot selection) raises questions about his ceiling and projected efficiency, his well-roundedness, tools and international success suggest Avdija will emerge as one of the surest bets in the draft.
6. Washington Wizards: Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Though not a new-school big man, Isaiah Stewart should still draw plenty of NBA interest for his presence and motor around the basket, plus his improving outside touch.
Projecting him this high means buying into Stewart's shooting potential. He doesn't take a lot of threes, but his jumper looks promising when he lets it go off kick-outs and pick-and-pops.
Regardless, Stewart will earn his reputation and money in the paint, scoring through contact and fighting for loose balls. He won't come off as one of the draft's higher-upside prospects. But in this particular class, teams may put more stock into his perceived high floor.
7. Chicago Bulls: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Freshman)
Opinions vary on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl's NBA potential, mostly due to a lack of exciting athleticism. He should make up for it in enough ways, though, with a 6'9", 231-pound frame, expanding skill set and feel for the game.
A key contributor to IMG Academy's championship run at Geico Nationals and USA's gold medal at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, Robinson-Earl compensates for a lack of burst and bounce with touch, passing IQ and timing on his cuts, rolls and crashes on the offensive glass.
There isn't star upside tied to his outlook, but he makes winning plays and continues to add to his skill versatility as a big who can convert from the post, hit catch-and-shoot jumpers or put the ball down and score off a short face-up move.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
The last time scouts saw Nico Mannion, he went for 28 points, five rebounds and five assists against Cole Anthony and the USA team at the Nike Hoop Summit. A full-package lead ball-handler, he balances three-level scoring and playmaking fueled by tight handles, shooting versatility and passing skills.
Scouts will use the year to determine whether he has enough length and athleticism to separate and execute against starting NBA guards. He could have a tougher time finishing around the rim or getting his shot off as cleanly.
But he is set to rack up stats running Arizona's offense and initiating the majority of possessions. Shifty with pull-ups, floaters and driving ability, plus a good feel facilitating for teammates, Mannion leaves few weaknesses to nitpick on the scouting report. The challenge for teams will be projecting his ceiling.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)
There was a lot of anticipation surrounding Theo Maledon's first year playing in Euroleague, and it got off to a rough start when he suffered a shoulder injury expected to keep him out a month.
It makes every remaining game count more, as Maledon won't be expected to play significant minutes as an 18-year-old. His previous performances in FIBA and France's Jeep Elite league earn him a spot in the early 2020 lottery discussion, however, as he has become one of the top international draws for NBA teams.
He's stood out with 6'4" size, passing IQ, shooting and defensive potential, coming off notably poised and efficient for a prospect his age.
A lack of athleticism and burst raise questions scouts hope he'll be able to answer this season. For now, we'll slot Maledon into the second tier of top prospects.
10. Atlanta Hawks: RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, PG/SG, 2001)
It's been an up-and-down start for RJ Hampton with the New Zealand Breakers. But since he's only 18 years old, the positives outweigh the negatives.
He looked like he belonged during his first two pro games in Australia's NBL, flashing shot-making skill, playmaking and finishing athleticism at the rim.
The 6'5" combo guard had a more difficult time when the Breakers visited the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies for a pair of exhibition games. NBA scouts attended those preseason outings to watch Hampton shoot a combined 3-of-19.
But he's well-rounded and mature with excellent positional tools, and if he's able to put up numbers in the NBL that are similar to those freshmen are registering in the NCAA, he'll position himself as a safe top-20 bet.
11. Sacramento Kings: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
Despite missing the flashy scoring skills synonymous with becoming a lottery forward, Isaac Okoro is poised to win over scouts with defense, toughness and enough flashes of offense that hint at more to come.
He's already started to generate buzz at Auburn with a 6'6", 225-pound frame that's built to lock down multiple positions. He'll fill the spot left by 2019 first-round pick Chuma Okeke, though Okoro must show similar shooting potential to earn the desirable three-and-D label.
12. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes (France, PG, 2001)
Playing in Germany and Eurocup, Hayes has impressed early this season with his playmaking, and he's made seven of his first 20 threes, potentially a key development after he shot 14-of-77 last year.
His perimeter game, decision-making and defense need work, but he'll still be 18 years old on draft night. His ability to set up teammates and slash already set him apart among international pros.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG, Freshman)
Quick and competitive, Lewis should immediately start building a reputation as one of the nation's peskiest wing defenders. His explosiveness will lead to highlights in transition and off drives.
He can struggle with control offensively, both as a shot-creator and finisher. But enough flashes of his pull-up and spot-up abilities—both types of jumpers are capably in his bag—could make scouts willing to stay patient through his wild layup attempts and inconsistent three-point shooting.
14. Orlando Magic: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Maxey will help replace Tyler Herro's scoring and shooting at Kentucky. He's a confident shot-maker with a deep pull-up jumper, spot-up three and soft floater in his bag. Scouts will have to decide how much his lack of height (6'3"), explosiveness and playmaking ability will hold him back as an NBA shooting guard.
15. Dallas Mavericks: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, SF/PF, Freshman)
A 6'9", 225-pound forward, Achiuwa pops with an NBA body and flashes of versatility at both ends. He's missing a signature, refined skill, but he'll still be a force in transition and around the basket, a slasher and cutter, a capable shooter and a multi-positional defender.
16. San Antonio Spurs: Wendell Moore (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
Moore gets the job done without flash or bounce, instead using skill level, basketball IQ and body control. His general movement and lack of potent shooting ability may hint at a lower ceiling than other one-and-done wings. But he should score efficiently and from all over the floor with drives, pull-ups, floaters and set jump shots.
17. Miami Heat: Trendon Watford (LSU, SF/PF, Freshman)
Watford will generate interest with versatility since he's a 6'9" forward who likes to handle the ball in transition or face his man up and slash. At this stage, he's most effective attacking, cutting and scoring in the lane. Just looking capable of making set shots and the occasional pull-up could be enough for him to go in the first round.
18. Toronto Raptors: Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
Primed for big minutes at Arizona, Green should build his stock with athletic plays at both ends and complementary offense.
He's more of a straight-line player off the dribble, but he earns himself baskets by slashing and stepping into rhythm jump shots. A full-time role could also expose his need to improve as a shot-creator, and scouts could start questioning whether he's good enough in any one area if he doesn't make threes at an encouraging rate.
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Warriors): Jaden McDaniels (Washington, PF, Freshman)
A skilled 6'9" forward, McDaniels' perimeter skills and highlights scream lottery pick. His lowlights raise questions about his feel for the game and whether he has enough polish to execute.
He'll wind up being drafted based on potential, but how high he goes will come down to his consistency and impact at Washington this year. Early on, he comes off as a textbook risk-reward prospect.
20. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets): Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Hurt will hear the "needs to add strength" critique all season long, but his skills will buy him time with scouts. His shooting and passing will pop for a 6'9" forward, and his basketball IQ and vision show on quick-read assists. He'll also receive a green light to initiate the break off defensive rebounds, as he can handle the ball and make plays off the dribble.
He'll be looking to show teams he can slide his feet around the perimeter. And though he may get pushed around inside as a freshman, he can compensate with timing and coordination blocking shots.
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia, C, Freshman)
Listed at 258 pounds, Tshiebwe will create buzz with his powerful frame, athleticism and motor around the basket. NBA teams will have to look past the fact he's a 6'9" center, though he can help himself by demonstrating the mid-range touch he's flashed in doses coming in.
Either way, there are bound to be teams intrigued by his tremendous physical profile, as well as his effectiveness using it to make and finish plays.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)
Toppin is on breakout watch after he averaged 14.4 points and ranked in the 90th percentile off post-ups, transition, cuts, rolls, put-backs and general finishes around the basket, per Synergy Sports. An exciting athlete with developing touch (11-of-21 on three-pointers), Dayton's sophomore should enter the first-round mix by taking another step as a shooter and defender.
23. Boston Celtics: Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG, Sophomore)
Aaron Henry didn’t produce enough to make a convincing case for the 2019 draft, but he earned a spot on watch lists for 2020, particularly after his 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists against LSU in the NCAA tournament. Returning to a bigger role, Henry will look to build on the freshman flashes of pull-up scoring, three-point touch and passing.
24. Los Angeles Lakers: Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)
Jones' defensive prowess is widely acknowledged and praised, as he's capable of changing games with his on-ball pressure. He'll need to return with more of an edge offensively, however, for his draft stock to blow up.
Worst case, he'll still be viewed as an NBA backup who can be relied on for game management, defense and smart play. Jones will move closer to the top 20 by raising last year's 11.0 points per 40 minutes and 26.2 three-point percentage.
25. Houston Rockets: Amar Sylla (Senegal, PF/C, 2001)
Sylla has moved on from Real Madrid's junior team to B.C. Oostende of the Belgian Pro Basketball League, where he'll have a bigger role during his first draft-eligible year. He's struggled through his first three games, but scouts are focused on the long-term potential that stems from his 6'9" size, 7'3" wingspan, bounce at the rim, defensive range and flashes of ball-handling and shooting.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF, Sophomore)
Looking visibly stronger than he did this time last year, Stix may need a new nickname. He returns with a more developed body that's ready for a bigger role after Bruno Fernando went pro.
Smith's tools and motor work well around the basket, and he clearly has jump-shot and floater touch to take to another level. He'll need to execute more and raise his level of impact as Maryland's featured big man.
27. Utah Jazz: Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
Listed at 275 pounds, Carey has skeptics who question his body/athleticism, older-school game and defensive outlook. He still provides a presence around the basket with finishing, post scoring and offensive rebounding. And he's flashed signs of developing touch out to the arc, an obvious key to going first round.
28. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): A.J. Lawson (South Carolina, SG, Sophomore)
Lawson came off a promising freshman season to average 16.7 points for Canada at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. Already a convincing shot-maker, the 6'6" 2-guard will try to build a 2020 first-round case by carrying South Carolina to big wins and taking steps forward as a shot-creator and playmaker.
29. Los Angeles Clippers: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Haliburton managed to improve his stock over the summer, standing out for the USA at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. Through seven games, he backed up freshman flashes of shooting, good decision-making and passing by making 10 of 18 threes and totaling 48 assists, eight turnovers and 16 steals.
His draft ceiling and overall upside do seem capped, though, as he lacks explosiveness and any two-point scoring skills.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks): Trevelin Queen (New Mexico State, SF, Senior)
A junior college transfer, Queen joined New Mexico State in December and wound up turning heads in the conference and NCAA tournaments. His per-40-minute numbers were eye-catching: 20.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.0 blocks on 60.3 percent shooting inside the arc.
A 6'6" wing, Queen checks boxes with shot-making and passing skill plus impressive defensive playmaking ability. He's poised for a bigger role and a breakout season.