2020 NBA Mock Draft: LaMelo Ball Isn't the Only Prospect Worth Tanking for
The State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday tipped off college basketball and the NBA draft discussion. And the No. 1 overall pick discussion remains wide open in November, as we have four candidates who stand out as legitimate options.
The eventual lottery winner could have multiple lead guards to choose from, while our top big man erupted for 28 points and 11 rebounds in his debut.
Many executives and general managers made the trip to Madison Square Garden for Duke-Kansas and Kentucky-Michigan State, though scouts from across the league were also scattered around the country for the season's opening games.
There is plenty to talk about with regard to the prospects, but the projected draft order will also be interesting now that the Golden State Warriors should land in the lottery. The New York Knicks could also finish with the league's worst record, and the New Orleans Pelicans have struggled without Zion Williamson.
The draft order was based on the NBA standings heading into Tuesday, November 5.
NBA legends turned “All The Smoke” podcast cohosts, Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, join “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to discuss their new Showtime pod, the most misunderstood guys in the NBA (Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James), the best and worst organizations in the league, load management, and the negative culture of social media.
1. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
The 2020 draft represents the New York Knicks' best shot to solve their point guard problem, the rebuilding roster's most glaring issue. And while LaMelo Ball has already started making a compelling case overseas, New York figures to feel more confident in Cole Anthony, an explosive, full-package scorer, shooter and playmaker poised for a more productive season leading North Carolina.
Compared to Ball and Georgia's Anthony Edwards, the Knicks should already be super familiar with and high on Anthony, who was the MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit, is a member of USA Basketball and a participant at multiple NBA-sponsored camps.
He checks boxes with NBA tools, athleticism, genes (son of Greg) and a highly skilled shot-creator, shot-maker and passer. Maturity and a reputation for being a basketball junkie should create wiggle room from scouts when questions about his shot selection and turnovers start to pop.
For the Knicks, eventually pairing Anthony alongside RJ Barrett would be a key step forward in their rebuilding process.
2. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Teams could wind up viewing Anthony Edwards' ceiling as the highest based on his physical profile (6'5", 225 lbs), explosive athleticism and scoring skill set, which includes high-level shot-creation moves and a bag full of specialty-dribble jumpers.
Comparisons to bouncy go-to options such as Donovan Mitchell and Victor Oladipo are bound to surface. He'll play his entire freshman season at 18 years old, so scouts will ease off when he inevitably takes a bad shot, floats or gets lost on defense.
Georgia may have a tough time in the SEC, which will work against Edwards' case to be the draft's No. 1 pick. He's still a strong bet to consistently put up between 15-25 points while giving teams flashes of three-level scoring and highlights above the rim.
3. Memphis Grizzlies: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG/SG, 2001)
LaMelo Ball continues to position himself for No. 1 overall consideration overseas, consistently looking like one of the best players on the NBL floor.
Questions about his maturity and approach have quickly faded, despite his team's lack of success (1-7). Second in the league in assists with 5.75 per game, he's making an obvious effort to play the right way. Ball's playmaking and passing have popped the most, as the 18-year-old regularly creates highlights with nifty ball-handling, vision and high-level deliveries using both hands.
Scouts love his ability to create shots for teammates, easily his most valued skill at the moment. But he's also flashed excellent touch on runners and impressive finishing coordination at the rim.
Just 9-of-46 from three, Ball has had trouble shooting from deep. But he has hit at least two triples in three consecutive games, and his obvious shot-making range should ultimately help ease concerns for the 6'7", 18-year-old point guard producing against pros.
4. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
James Wiseman has fans and hesitant scouts around the league who either see incredible upside or question his polish and feel.
Being an explosive 7'1" center, it's easy to see why the banged-up Golden State Warriors will be tracking him closely. Wiseman's size, length and bounce should translate to easy dunks and blocks at Memphis, while flashes of post moves and outside touch point to enticing offensive potential.
Landing in Golden State would also be a huge help to Wiseman, who would benefit from being surrounded by shooters and passers in a full-strength lineup alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green. He'll just want to avoid lapses in awareness and effort when it comes to shot selection and defense, weaknesses that could raise concern and push him down boards.
5. Chicago Bulls: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
No prospect helped himself more on Tuesday in New York than Tyrese Maxey. He finished with 26 points and controlled Kentucky's offense, giving it timely penetration and shot-making.
He also buried Michigan State in the final minute with a dagger isolation pull-up from NBA range.
A 6'3", powerful combo guard, Maxey shook defenders with hesitations, leading to 10 free-throw attempts and high-percentage floaters. He looked comfortable scoring and passing off ball screens, and he demonstrated his signature shot-making with three triples.
Nitpickers may point out he lacks traditional size at 6'3" for a 2 and natural playmaking skills to run the point full time. But his driving ability, build for taking contact, runner game, shooting and defensive toughness are too strong for an inch or two to make a difference when evaluating his fit and potential.
Regardless of who's drafting at No. 5, Maxey appears on his way toward becoming a "best player available" option after Anthony, Edwards, Ball and Wiseman.
6. Sacramento Kings: Deni Avdija (Israel, 2001, SF/PF)
Scouts will put more stock into Deni Avdija's MVP performance at the FIBA U20 European Championships than his play this year for Maccabi Tel Aviv, since the 18-year-old is only averaging 10.4 minutes in Euroleague.
A 6'8" combo forward, Avdija is a combined 6-of-16 from three this season, playing mostly off the ball. But over the years, it's the flashes of creation and facilitating, as well as improving defense, that will lead to teams overlooking his lack of production in 2019-20.
While there may be questions about whether he has All-Star potential—based on a lack of explosion and shooting consistency—Avdija should emerge as one of the draft's high-floor, most well-rounded prospects.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Freshman)
Villanova continues to churn out NBA players—the latest being impressive Golden State Warriors rookie Eric Paschall. And Jeremiah Robinson-Earl should be the next after leading USA to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Cup, guiding IMG to the GEICO Nationals Championship and impressing scouts during a one-and-done season.
At 6'9" and 232 pounds, he compensates for limited bounce with size, strength, skills and basketball IQ. Robinson-Earl has soft hands around the basket, good footwork in the post and improving touch extending out to the arc.
Despite lacking obvious upside or star potential, he makes winning plays and should be an excellent fit at Villanova.
8. Orlando Magic: Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
Even if Markelle Fultz flashes enough glimpses of his old self, the Orlando Magic should still be drawn to guards in the upcoming draft.
Mannion will get looks in the late lottery by running Arizona's offense with an admirable balance of scoring, shooting and distributing.
Competitive, 6'3", well-rounded and presumably productive, he should earn trust from teams in his offensive abilities, even if there are concerns about his length, explosiveness and defense.
9. Washington Wizards: Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
The game looks easy for Jaden McDaniels, a smooth, 6'9" scorer with a wing's skill set.
But how well and often will he be able to execute it? Scouts could see both a high ceiling and low floor for McDaniels, whose highlights will say top five and lowlights will raise questions about his intensity, polish and ability to impact winning.
Tantalizing upside could be enough for a team such as the Washington Wizards to play the patient game with McDaniels, an obvious talent in need of NBA coaching.
He's a potential candidate to rise or take a tumble down the board by our next mock draft.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder: Killian Hayes (France, PG, 2001)
Teams looking for playmakers will look closely at Hayes, the 18-year-old Frenchman averaging 6.4 assists during Eurocup play and 5.4 assists in the German League per game.
He just dished out 11 dimes against Euroleague team Alba Berlin on Sunday. He's developed into an advanced facilitator off the dribble and ball screens, and he's even made promising early progress as a shooter, having hit a combined 10 of 30 threes after making just 14 of 77 last season.
His scoring upside isn't as high as Mannion's, as there are still questions about Hayes' jump shot, in-between game and explosiveness/strength at the rim. But the right team should value his knack for setting the table, finding teammates and putting pressure on defenses in transition.
11. Detroit Pistons: Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)
A shoulder injury has led to a wait-and-see approach on Maledon, who's out recovering for ASVEL. However, performances for his national team and in France's Jeep Elite league have Maledon slotted in the lottery with college basketball just getting starter.
The 6'4" point guard has popped in previous settings with his passing IQ, shooting, defense and visible maturity. Teams may question his upside, which could seem limited because of uninspiring athletic ability. But enough below-the-rim ball-handlers have succeeded in the NBA with sharper skill levels and basketball IQ.
12. Atlanta Hawks: R.J. Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)
Ball has overshadowed Hampton, the other American teenager in the NBL who's averaging 10.5 points and 2.3 assists on 9-of-21 three-point shooting through six games.
He did struggle in exhibition matchups against the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-of-11) and Memphis Grizzlies (1-of-8), with questions about his ability to separate surfacing after his trip back to the U.S. Still, the 6'6" combo guard has flashed enough glimpses of ball-handling, passing and shooting for an 18-year-old.
His draft ceiling and floor have started to appear early, with Hampton a good bet to fall in the No. 6-20 range.
13. Portland Trail Blazers: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
More of an older-school big without a perimeter game, the 6'9", 245-pound Okongwu provides a devastating mix of power, bounce, quickness and finesse.
Buy stock into his debut of 20 points, 13 boards and eight blocks. With NBA tools, he'll build a case by giving USC easy baskets, a high-percentage post option, elite rim protection and energy. Teams initially in wait-and-see mode on Okongwu should be ready to believe by conference play.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah Jazz): Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Teams should already have a good feel for Stewart and his projected NBA identity. There isn't anything overly exciting about his upside, but the right team will see value in a high floor propped up by tools, power and motor around the basket.
He's also made strides as a shooter, and his jump shot should surprise anyone who feels Stewart is limited to finishing and rebounding.
15. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets): Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
Haliburton backed up his FIBA U19 World Cup performance over the summer by opening his sophomore season with 12 points, 14 assists and six steals. Though he lacks explosiveness and two-point scoring skills, the 6'4" sophomore separates himself with advanced passing IQ and defensive instincts.
Another step forward as a shooter and self-creator should lock him into the first round and potentially push Haliburton into the lottery.
16. Charlotte Hornets: Samuell Williamson (Louisville, SF, Freshman)
Veteran forwards on Louisville will make it tough for Williamson to consistently produce, but flash plays of advanced shot creation, shot-making and passing should draw first-round interest. He's a 6'7", three-level scorer whose tools and skill level will make it easy to overlook his stat averages and so-so athleticism.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
A big role awaits Green at Arizona, where his strengths and weaknesses should be easy to spot. He'll earn fans with his athleticism, slashing, passing and open shot-making. On the other hand, questions could arise about his creation ability and shooting consistency.
He can give teams a little of everything, including energy, but no core specialty to bank on. Either way, Green should be one of Arizona's key starters and an immediate contributor with NBA athleticism and a versatile skill set to build on.
18. Houston Rockets: Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia, C, Freshman)
The right team could see Tshiebwe beefing up its front line and giving it easy baskets off rim runs, lobs, rolls and offensive rebounds. The more flashes of shooting touch he shows, the faster teams will ignore his 6'9" size—and the higher he'll move up boards.
19: Minnesota Timberwolves: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
Expected to fill Chuma Okeke's role at Auburn, Okoro projects as an immediate contributor for his defensive toughness and ability to guard inside and out. He'll win over scouts with his physical tools, at 6'6" and 225 pounds, and impact over stats and flashy scoring.
Shooting will be a key that unlocks his draft stock, and though not known for it, the eye test believes in his made jump shots in high school.
20. San Antonio Spurs: Trendon Watford (LSU, SF/PF, Freshman)
A 6'9" forward who likes to handle the ball and score facing up, Watford will make himself easy to identify as an NBA prospect. His identity revolves around offensive versatility, though he'll need enough flashes of spot-up and pull-up shooting to solidify a top-20 case.
21. Toronto Raptors: Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)
Jones' scouting report doesn't appear like it will change much based on his performance against Kansas Tuesday night, when he finished with 15 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He missed all four of his threes, but teams will value his ball pressure and passing IQ in a backup role worth filling with a late first-round pick.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG, Freshman)
Lewis' athleticism and defense should keep scouts patient with his offense. He's still a transition weapon, slashing threat and capable shot-maker, and he impacts game with his ball pressure and intangibles. Regular signs of pull-ups, floaters and catch-and-shoot jumpers should lock Lewis into the No. 15-30 range.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, SF/PF, Freshman)
Achiuwa should immediately stand out with 6'9", 225-pound size, athleticism and face-up offensive ability to play the wing. He's not advanced in any one area, lacking strong shot-creation and shooting skills. But his tools and skill set should buy him time, as long as he flashes enough glimpses of finishing on the move, touch and defensive versatility.
24. Los Angeles Clippers: Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Hurt flashed his shot-making against Kansas in Duke's opener, knocking down three triples and a short step-back jumper. It doesn't appear he'll offer much inside or defensively, lacking strength and athleticism. But this late, teams will see a big who can stretch the floor and make high-IQ plays.
25. Phoenix Suns: Bryan Antoine (Villanova, SG, Freshman)
A shoulder injury will delay Antoine's debut and possibly lead to a slow start. But scouts are well aware of his combo skills and pesky defense. They'll show eventually at Villanova. Even if the injury keeps him sidelined for longer than expected, teams will be willing to take a first-round flier on Antoine's scoring potential and quickness at both ends.
26. Boston Celtics: Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)
The NBA scouting lens should quickly pick up Williams' chiseled 6'8" frame and athleticism. But he'll create first-round buzz by showing off face-up offense and outside touch. He'll be a potential-over-polish prospect capable of rising into the lottery with consistent production and encouraging shooting numbers.
27. Boston Celtics: Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG, Sophomore)
Henry's 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists against LSU in the NCAA tournament helped lead to breakout expectations for 2020. Joshua Langford being out months with a foot injury should create an even heavier workload for Henry, a 6'6" 2-guard who'll rise up boards by building on last year's flashes of shot creation and shooting.
28. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): Jordan Nwora (Louisville, SF, Junior)
Nwora opened his junior season with 23 points against Miami, looking the part of an NBA scorer with 6'7" size and high-level shot-making. Leading a strong Louisville team to a successful season should ultimately reflect favorably on his stock, even if his assist numbers remain low and his defense doesn't improve. Nwora has scoring-specialist potential.
29. Miami Heat: Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)
Toppin returns as a breakout candidate after averaging 14.4 points and ranking 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.
30. Los Angeles Lakers: Trevelin Queen (New Mexico State, SF, Junior)
Queen starts on sleeper watch after registering per-40-minute numbers of 20.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.0 blocks on 60.3 percent shooting inside the arc. Poised for a bigger role, he checks boxes with shot-making, passing skill and defensive playmaking ability.