Final 2020 NBA Mock Draft Before the New Year
Scouting for the 2020 NBA draft suddenly got more complicated.
Injuries have knocked out a number of top guards for extended periods. And then James Wiseman announced he's leaving Memphis to train.
Luckily for teams, a handful of sophomores and juniors are having breakout seasons to keep the field interesting.
The mock draft order was based on the standings heading into Friday, Dec. 20.
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Key stats: 19.4 PTS, 3.0 AST, 2.1 STL, 2.3 3PTM, 41.1 FG%
Among No. 1 overall candidates, only Anthony Edwards figures to give the Golden State Warriors a full sample size of consistent production and flashes of star potential. James Wiseman is done at Memphis after three games. LaMelo Ball is out of Australia's NBL for a month with a foot injury, and Cole Anthony could miss even more time while recovering from a partially torn meniscus.
While Wiseman would fill a bigger need once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson return, teams typically address that in free agency. We suspect Golden State and most other teams will favor Edwards over Wiseman in a vacuum.
Edwards would still give the Warriors an explosive scoring wing who's interchangeable with Thompson. Along with 19.4 points per game, he's averaging 3.0 assists, 2.3 threes and 2.1 steals, numbers that highlight his shot-making, secondary playmaking and defensive tools/quickness.
2. Atlanta Hawks: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
Key stats (in three games): 19.7 PTS, 10.7 REB, 3.0 BLK, 76.9 FG%
With Edwards gone, the Atlanta Hawks could find themselves in a pickle, stuck choosing between injured point guards and a center who left college after playing just three games.
Would a Trae Young-LaMelo Ball duo work for the No. 27-ranked defense? And can Young and ball-dominant Cole Anthony coexist offensively?
The Hawks may talk themselves into James Wiseman, who'd give Young another high-percentage target and Atlanta someone with a 7'6" wingspan for rim protection.
Assuming most teams viewed Wiseman as a top pick heading into the season, they aren't likely to downgrade him for leaving school early, particularly since Anthony hasn't helped his case.
Ball should make Atlanta think, given his positional size and offensive skill package. But the Hawks may favor Wiseman, knowing that his tools and athleticism seem guaranteed to translate to easy baskets and shot-blocking from the center position.
3. New Orleans Pelicans: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG/SG, 2001)
Key stats: 17.0 PTS, 7.4 REB, 6.8 AST, 1.7 3PTM, 37.7 FG%
While pairing the Ball brothers in New Orleans would obviously draw attention, it may be the sensible move for the Pelicans if they get the chance.
There is an argument that LaMelo would be the best player available in this situation, which would be enough of a reason to draft him at No. 3. But he could also help New Orleans focus on the rebuild and move Jrue Holiday for a substantial return of assets.
With LaMelo, the Pelicans would add another elite passer who brings more speed and scoring versatility compared to his brother Lonzo. He can't give New Orleans what Holiday does defensively, but a future frontcourt of Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes should help the team compensate.
Though Ball will miss time with a foot injury, his triple-doubles, shooting improvement (12.1 percent increase in made field goals from his time in the LKL) and physical/mental development should help lock him into the top-five discussion. The Golden State Warriors could even consider him at No. 1.
4. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
Key stats: 19.1 PTS, 6.3 REB, 3.4 AST, 1.9 STL, 2.4 3PTM, 36.8 FG%
The New York Knicks know they need to find a solution at point guard. It's more important for them to just draft the best player available, regardless of position. Cole Anthony could check both boxes despite a recent knee injury expected to cost him the next four-to-six weeks.
History suggests president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry overlook inefficiency for long-term potential in the draft, so Anthony's 36.8 percent field-goal mark shouldn't be a deal-breaker.
From high school to North Carolina, the eye test still buys his positional athleticism and scoring. An advanced shot-maker and shot-creator, Anthony has flashed the ability to carry an offense.
Mills' and Perry's offseason goal may wind up focusing on Fred VanVleet in free agency, particularly given this draft class' fading reputation. But the pair would likely still view Anthony as a value pick outside of the top three if they can't get Edwards or Ball.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Key stats: 17.7 PTS, 9.0 REB, 3.2 BLK, 62.4 FG%
Unless the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to give up on a Darius Garland-Collin Sexton backcourt, the front office could be drawn to Onyeka Okongwu.
Kevin Love also seems unlikely to stick in Cleveland much longer. Averaging 17.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game with a 12.0 block percentage, Okongwu has flashed both scoring and defensive potential.
Though raw offensively, he's delivering advanced post moves with a soft touch using both hands while shooting 62.4 percent from the field.
At No. 5, Okongwu's floor may be equally attractive as his ceiling. At worst, his tools, athleticism and motor should help the Cavaliers feel confident they're getting a high-energy center, good for easy baskets and disruptive defense, even if his skill development plateaus early.
6. Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija (Israel, SF/PF, 2001)
Key stats (Euroleague and Israeli BSL combined): 17.0 MIN, 5.5 PTS, 51.0 FG%, 32.4 3P%
Strong play in the Israeli BSL has led to more minutes for Deni Avdija in EuroLeague, where he just put together consecutive productive and efficient performances, combining for 14 points on nine shots, 11 rebounds and four assists in 34 total minutes.
It's still all about the flashes for Avdija, given his age (18) and situation. Despite a limited off-ball role, he has managed to showcase the shooting potential, passing and defensive versatility that popped during last summer's U20 European Championships.
A lack of explosiveness for separating and finishing will raise questions about Avdija's ceiling. But for a 6'8" teenage forward, his scoring/playmaking skills and defensive tools/IQ point to a high floor.
7. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF, Freshman)
Key stats: 12.7 PTS, 4.5 REB, 57.3 FG%
The Boston Celtics will steal the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick if it falls outside the top six. It's becoming a more realistic possibility with rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke already impact players for Memphis.
The C's can't upgrade any starting position in the draft, so they'll likely take offers for the pick. Otherwise, the scouting process could lead them to Isaac Okoro, arguably the draft's most promising defender who continues to make strides offensively.
He's shown the ability to lock down, guard multiple positions and wall up inside, and with quick feet, strong legs, a 225-pound frame and focus, it's easy to buy Okoro's exceptional defense translating. His shooting touch needs work, but he excels as a driver, cutter and passer. And the eye test on his jumper suggests room for improvement down the road.
8. Chicago Bulls: Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
Key stats: 15.2 PTS, 5.0 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.1 STL, 44.8 FG%, 1.4 3PTM
Teams will love the idea of Jaden McDaniels, a 6'9" face-up forward who can create, score in the mid-range and knock down threes. There will probably be a divide among scouts, however, with some likely to think of McDaniels as a tease, given his inconsistency over the years when it comes to impact and execution.
Still, in this particular draft, one front office in the late lottery is bound to figure the potential reward is worth the risk.
McDaniels' mix of size, skill versatility and defensive playmaking should help build an enticing final highlight reel by draft night.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
Key stats: 14.8 PTS, 6.2 AST, 43.0 FG% 1.7 3PTM
The Minnesota Timberwolves should already be closely scouting Nico Mannion, one of the draft's top point guards who figures to be available in the Nos. 6-10 range, assuming Ball and Anthony go earlier.
With Jeff Teague approaching free agency, Mannion, who's averaging 14.8 points and 6.2 assists per game, could check both boxes for need and best player available.
He lacks Anthony's scoring upside. But Mannion has proved to be the superior passer, while his shooting accuracy and shot-making versatility remain convincing despite a recent slump.
10. Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes (France, PG, 2001)
Key stats: (Eurocup, German BBL, German Cup combined): 10.9 PTS, 5.5 AST, 48.5 FG%, 1.0 3PTM
While other top point guards miss time with injuries and Mannion tries to fight through a shooting slump, Killian Hayes is playing his best ball.
The 18-year-old playmaker is averaging 18 points (21-of-33) and five assists over his last three games overseas.
Hayes' size (6'5") and his passing have been the draw. But now scouts are starting to see more flashes of his scoring potential off pull-ups, step-backs and floaters.
He'll compete with Frenchman Theo Maledon and Iowa State's Tyrese Haliburton for looks from point guard-needy teams once Mannion is off the board.
11. Phoenix Suns: RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)
Key stats: 9.5 PTS, 2.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 43.8 FG% 31.7 3P%
A hip injury has sidelined RJ Hampton, though he's flashed enough athleticism in transition, shooting and playmaking potential and defensive IQ to still warrant lottery consideration.
His 6'5" size, versatility and maturity hint at a low-risk draft option, though his lack of a signature skill does raise questions about any star potential.
Regardless, teams will be intrigued by his ability to play either backcourt position. He's shown he can set up teammates as a passer and score by spotting up or slashing.
Teams will likely view him as a safe role player worth taking anywhere in the Nos. 6-14 range.
12. San Antonio Spurs: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
Key stats: 17.3 PTS, 7.7 AST, 5.7 REB, 2.5 STL, 54.1 FG%, 42.4 3P%
With 79 assists, 26 turnovers and 25 steals through 10 games, Tyrese Haliburton continues to showcase the playmaking IQ and defensive anticipation that stood out at last summer's U19 World Cup.
The improved scoring should push him into the lottery mix. Averaging 17.3 points with a 65.3 true shooting percentage, Haliburton is making open threes while finding ways to compensate for his limited burst inside the arc.
At worst, the San Antonio Spurs will feel they're getting a terrific passer and ultra-efficient guard who can add value defensively.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Key stats: 13.1 PTS, 3.3 AST, 40.0 FG%, 24.5 3P%
Teams will value the eye test over Tyrese Maxey's shooting percentages.
His shot hasn't fallen lately, but his attacking, floater game, finishing, passing skills and defensive quickness remain convincing. And even though Maxey hasn't been shooting the three-ball well (24.5 percent), he's demonstrated enough shot-making skills over the years for teams to buy into the idea of his jump shot improving.
His strong frame (6'3" 198 lbs), attacking prowess, ball-screen passing and toughness should create the perception he's a high-floor guard.
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF, Sophomore)
Key stats: 19.8 PTS, 8.0 REB, 61.9 FG%, 1.2 3PTM
Obi Toppin has exploded into the lottery discussion by averaging 19.8 points on 37.1 percent shooting from three through 11 games.
He's become a sharper post scorer and shooter while continuing to give Dayton easy buckets on finishes from high above the rim.
Any hesitation on Toppin stems from his age as a sophomore (21), defense and three-point legitimacy on low volume. But his tools, bounce, expanding offensive game and production won't allow the question marks to scare away teams once all the flashy freshmen and teenagers are gone.
15. Orlando Magic: Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)
Green's athleticism, energy and defense will allow teams to remain patient with his skill development. He's still flashed promise offensively, however, demonstrating enough shooting potential, passing IQ, slashing and floater touch.
16. Sacramento Kings: Jordan Nwora (Louisville, SF, Junior)
Nwora has made a legitimate jump this year, returning a sharper scorer off the dribble and shooter who's up to 41.4 percent from three. His 6'7" size, shot-making and production should be enough for teams to look past his age (21) and lack of playmaking.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder: Theo Maledon (France, PG, 2001)
Maledon has scouts' attention for his poise in Euroleague at 18 years old, plus solid passing feel, shooting touch and body control on finishes. A lack of burst and signature skill may make lottery teams hesitant, but at No. 17, a front office should be okay drafting a role-playing guard.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets): Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)
Converting 50.0 percent on 8.5 three-point attempts per game, Nesmith continues to bury jumpers at a scorching rate. He's emerged as one of the draft's premier shooters for both his accuracy and shot-making versatility. Nesmith isn't an advanced creator or passer, but playoff teams should value a 6'6” wing who can spread the floor and run off screens.
19. Utah Jazz: Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Freshman)
Lewis is strengthening his draft profile with a balanced mix of scoring, shooting and passing. He isn't elite in any area, including athletically, but his first step can break down defenses, and he's developed enough skill with his drives, playmaking and jumper. Playing his entire sophomore season at 18 years old will help his image.
20. Dallas Mavericks: Paul Reed (DePaul, PF/C, Junior)
Reed developed into an inside-out scorer last year, but it's been his defensive improvement that should help generate 2020 first-round interest. He's racking up a combined 4.9 steals and blocks per game while averaging a 15.5-point double-double. Proving he's a shooter over the next two months should be considered a priority.
21. Houston Rockets: Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
Averaging 18.6 points and 9.3 rebounds on 61.0 percent shooting, Carey is having his way with teams inside, where he uses his strength, quickness and post game. He looks more mobile than his 270-pound listing suggests. Carey is still more of an old-school, back-to-the-basket big, but occasional flashes of face-up moves and touch (plus 2.2 blocks per game) have been encouraging.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF, Freshman)
With Wiseman done at Memphis, Achiuwa will carry the load, which should lead to more production but also exposure to his lack of skill and polish. He's still a first-round talent with 6'9", 225-pound size, good for finishing, attacking and switching defensively.
23. Brooklyn Nets (via Sixers): Saddiq Bey (Villanova, Sophomore, SF/PF)
Bey has stood out since arriving at Villanova for his toned, 6'8", 216-pound frame. This year, he's turned a corner in his skill development, now averaging 15.5 points with a 63.3 true shooting percentage. Bey isn't the smoothest one-on-one scorer, but he's become a solid ball-handler, smart passer and 41.5 percent three-point shooter who defends bigs, wings and guards.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)
Teams looking to beef up their front line could favor Stewart, who uses post-ups and putbacks for 67.1 percent of his offense. Lacking shooting range and switchability limited his perceived upside, but his 250-pound frame and motor should still translate to interior scoring and second-chance points.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)
Jones' identity is built around passing IQ, defense and toughness, though it's his improved scoring that should solidify first-round interest. Scouts' eyes will be locked onto his jump shot and shooting during conference play and workouts.
26. Toronto Raptors: Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State, SF, Sophomore)
Woodard's athleticism, toughness and shooting should eventually lead to a draft-stock spike. Though not a creator, role-player potential lights up on his off-ball finishing, defensive tools and three-ball (13-of-24).
27. Miami Heat: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Freshman)
Despite lacking athleticism and speed, Robinson-Earl is building a case with his skill level and basketball IQ. His game screams role player—a 6'9" forward with soft hands around the basket, rebounding instincts and touch to pick-and-pop or catch and shoot.
28. Boston Celtics: Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, C, Freshman)
Teams figure to view Nnaji as a low-ceiling, high-floor big, good for finishing, post scoring, energy and adequate defense. He'd become more enticing by showing off more of a jumper, though his 80.6 percent free-throw mark is encouraging.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG, Sophomore)
Ayayi has developed into a key piece for Gonzaga with his shooting and two-way playmaking. He ranks in the 88th percentile out of spot-ups and the 72nd percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Ayayi lacks exciting athleticism, but for a 6'5" combo, his skill versatility continues to pop each game.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks): Patrick Williams (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
Williams figures to make more draft noise during the combine and workouts, as his skill level remains behind his tools and mobility. He's bound to entice certain teams to gamble on his chiseled 6'8", 225-pound frame for defense, athleticism for finishing and shooting potential.