2020 NBA Mock Draft: Updated Projections for Most Coveted Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 4, 2020

2020 NBA Mock Draft: Updated Projections for Most Coveted Prospects

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The gaps separating most 2020 NBA draft lottery prospects appear narrower than ever. But a favorite to go No. 1 overall is beginning to emerge. 

    Early in March, the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves own the worst records and 14.0 percent chances of landing the top pick. Debate over draft strategy—taking the best talent available versus filling fit and needs—is bound to ignite within these front offices plus others, including the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls.

    After talking with scouts across the league, it's evident how little consensus there is within the rankings. It's shaping up to be an unpredictable June, though March Madness represents a major opportunity for prospects to make final impressions that move the needle.

    The mock draft order was based on standings heading into games on Tuesday, March 3.

1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Anthony Edwards is currently delivering his most powerful pitch of the season for the No. 1 pick. He's led Georgia to three wins in its last four games, even erupting for 36 points on 22 shots during that one overtime loss to South Carolina last week.

    He scored 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting in a win over Arkansas on Saturday. And while the production has been there all season, the improved efficiency and victories are strengthening his case and easing concerns about any empty stats.

    There will be talk in Golden State about filling a need with James Wiseman at center. But the Warriors will presumably decide they can find a rim-runner and dunker relatively easily through trades or free agency. Edwards would give them a secondary creator next to Stephen Curry, as well as an immediate shot-maker who's burying 2.4 threes per game. 

    The bigger debate for Golden State will be whether to shop the pick for a star forward or big. With Curry racking up as many miles as he has and Klay Thompson coming off ACL surgery, the Warriors may be wise to draft and develop an 18-year-old wing for when their All-Star backcourt eventually declines. 

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to see results from Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. that could lead them to look past LaMelo Ball. The question is whether they go big with James Wiseman, Obi Toppin or Onyeka Okongwu or target the best fit for their current roster: Israeli forward Deni Avdija. 

    It's also worth asking about general manager Koby Altman's motivation in trading for Andre Drummond. He should have expected him to opt in for his $28.8 million next season when he made the deal with the Detroit Pistons. That likely means he wants to build with Drummond, preferring a veteran big man for the team's young guards rather than drafting a project like Wiseman to anchor the lineup.

    Plus, in recent years, teams have shied away from selecting centers early, and the ones that couldn't resist are likely regretful.

    According to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor, Altman reportedly made it to Israel last week for Avdija's 16-point, seven-assist, five-rebound effort in the Israeli BSL. He continues to make a case as the draft's most well-rounded prospect based on his 6'8" size, shot-making skill, passing and defensive versatility. 

    The debate with Avdija concerns his upside and whether he possesses star potential. But between his body, age (19), skill level, intangibles, production overseas and fit, both for the NBA and the Cavaliers specifically, he's a pick Altman can make and sleep well after.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG/SG, 2001)

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    Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Timberwolves would likely convince themselves a D'Angelo Russell-LaMelo Ball backcourt could work. The star power would be difficult to pass on at No. 3. He has a strong best-player-available case, plus Russell has demonstrated enough versatility to play some 2-guard. 

    With Ball and Russell, Minnesota would have two creative ball-handlers and passers, both of whom are at least 6'5". 

    It would be an interesting situation for Ball, who struggled with efficiency in the NBL carrying a heavy workload for the Illawarra Hawks. In Minnesota, he'd have Russell to take pressure away and Karl-Anthony Towns as an elite scorer to lean on and play off. 

    Minnesota could also look to trade down with a team like the New York Knicks, who'd likely be willing to give up the No. 5 pick and defensive stopper Frank Ntilikina for a chance to draft Ball. 

4. Atlanta Hawks: RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)

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    Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    RJ Hampton is a sleeper option in the top five, particularly if the Atlanta Hawks are picking and Edwards, Avdija and Ball are off the board. The acquisition of Clint Capela, signed through 2023, likely eliminates Wiseman, Okongwu and Toppin from consideration. 

    In this situation, the Hawks should be thinking hard about Hampton, an excellent fit for his open-floor scoring ability and secondary playmaking. Atlanta's 1.09 points per possession in transition rank No. 22 in the league, per Synergy Sports, and it wouldn't hurt to add another ball-handler to take pressure off Trae Young.

    Hampton is highly regarded by scouts for his athleticism, versatility and maturity. Some may question his signature skill, but before he shut it down in the NBL after experiencing hip trouble, enough flashes of attacking, shot-making, passing and defensive anticipation helped paint him as one of the draft's safest picks.

5. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    With Ball, Edwards and Avdija off the board, there may not be an obvious best player available for the New York Knicks. That could lead them to factor in needs and give Cole Anthony an edge, particularly if he's able to build on the improvement he's made over the past month.

    Currently playing his strongest ball of the season, Anthony is averaging 20.4 points and 5.0 assists on 49.3 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from three over his last five games. The Knicks could eventually look past the freshman's overall inefficiency given his heavy workload and how little support and space he's had at North Carolina.

    While he does need to work on his decision-making and shot selection/execution on runners and layups, he figures to benefit from more threatening teammates and the open floor in the NBA. At the least, if his playmaking doesn't improve, his scoring seems like a good bet to carry over based on his positional tools, advanced perimeter skills and 19.7 points per game.

    The Knicks could always play RJ Barrett at the 3 if they're forced to move Anthony to shooting guard at some point.

6. Detroit Pistons: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons' roster isn't in great shape without a sure-thing centerpiece to build around for the future. Only the best player available should matter in the draft, though he might be difficult to identify outside the top five.

    At No. 6, it would be tough to picture Detroit passing on James Wiseman, particularly after it traded Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    The attraction to Wiseman stems almost exclusively from a spectacular physical profile that includes 7'1", 240-pound size, 7'6" length and plenty of bounce. He's a weapon without skill, able to protect the rim and pick up easy baskets off dump-downs, lobs and offensive rebounds.

    But drafting him at No. 6 still means expecting substantial development from his post moves, shooting touch and defensive instincts. Questions about Wiseman's polish at both ends may lead to a mini-slide during an era in which centers who can't stretch the floor, pass or switch have lost value. 

7. Chicago Bulls: Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)

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    DeFodi Images/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bulls have received some massive scoring outputs from rookie Coby White over the past month, but he may be best suited for his current role coming off the bench. Killian Hayes would give Chicago a passer next to Zach LaVine. 

    At 18 years old, he's No. 4 in Eurocup for assists per game (6.2) while playing 26.8 minutes per contest. The immediate draw is his ball-screen playmaking for teammates, but he's also averaging 14.5 points over his last 11 games (Eurocup and German BBL) as he continues to build on his shot-creation skills and shot-making with step-backs, pull-ups and runners. 

    Flashes of quick hands and off-ball reads hint at defensive potential, as well, making Hayes an intriguing fit for a starting backcourt that features LaVine at shooting guard. 

8. Charlotte Hornets: Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    The Charlotte Hornets should just continue to stockpile young talent and worry about sorting it out later once they have a better idea of who and what they have. They'll only be thinking about star potential in a vacuum—which player left is the top long-term prospect, regardless of position.

    Right now, Obi Toppin is playing himself into that conversation.

    It's getting harder to keep downgrading Toppin due to the level of competition or defensive questions. He's been too effective offensively given the improved shooting and advanced passes that continue to pop.

    Along with his 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting versus Davidson on Friday, Toppin added three three-pointers and four assists. He also continues to flash a high skill level and convincing fluidity on his post moves and face-up drives. 

    Meanwhile, Toppin leads the nation in dunks thanks to his special blend of power, explosive leaping and coordination.

9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Onyeka Okongwu could be one of the Washington Wizards' targets entering the draft given their need for a defensive presence next to Rui Hachimura. 

    His shot-blocking rate has slowed down lately, but he's still swatting 2.7 shots in 30.5 minutes per game, completing plays with 6'9", 245-pound size, length, aggression and quickness that make it easy to picture his defensive activity carrying over. 

    Still, Okongwu has offensive upside to unlock from his post game, fluid footwork, pick-and-roll finishing and capable mid-range touch. 

10. Phoenix Suns: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Isaac Okoro falling to No. 10 could be seen as a dream scenario for the Phoenix Suns, who'd value his efficiency, defense and intangibles in a lineup featuring Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. 

    Creation and shooting limitations may make top-five teams hesitant to target the 6'6" forward. But he'll always be an impact-over-stats contributor, and the right team can surround him with playmakers and shot-makers to optimize his role-player qualities. 

    Even if his offense never takes off, Phoenix should be able to bank on his defensive tools and IQ. Okoro could be versatile and interchangeable enough to be the player who head coach Monty Williams uses to guard whoever causes the most trouble, whether it's a ball-handler, wing or big.

Late Lottery

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    11. San Antonio Spurs: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)

    The Spurs should already have a good feel for Haliburton despite a sophomore season cut short by wrist surgery. Before going down, he was averaging 6.5 assists while ranking in the 99th percentile out of spot-ups, stats that highlight his passing IQ, catch-and-shoot ability and versatility playing on and off the ball.

    Teams will be hoping to see Haliburton recover in time to work out so they can get a closer look at his jumper's unorthodox mechanics.


    12. Sacramento Kings: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Maxey's draft case is built around consistency and stability over star power. At 6'3" without explosion or high-level shooting and assist numbers, he might be available in the late lottery.

    A worst-case scenario still shows a valued role player who's capable of driving and finishing through contact, making tough shots, willingly passing and competing defensively. Best case, he's a deadlier shooter than his 28.3 three-point percentage suggests. Like former Kentucky guards Devin Booker and Tyler Herro, Maxey could prove a more creative scorer and playmaker with increased NBA space and freedom.


    13. New Orleans Pelicans: Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos, PF/C, 2001)

    The predraft process is designed for international prospects like Pokusevski, an exciting 18-year-old who's played sparingly with Olympiacos. He's bound to mesmerize at least one lottery team during workouts with his unusual ball-handling and shooting fluidity for a 7-footer.

    Pokusevski ultimately became a must-track prospect following the U18 European Championships, in which he averaged 1.4 threes, 4.0 assists and 4.1 blocks for Serbia. While no team will expect an immediate contributor, the long-term upside tied to his size, perimeter skills, passing and defensive potential may appear too enticing. 


    14. Portland Trail Blazers: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

    Achiuwa made his strongest statement of the season on Saturday during a 22-point, 22-rebound, five-block effort against Tulane.

    Even without a great deal of skill, he continues to impact games by maximizing his 6'9", 225-pound frame, 7'2" wingspan, mobility and motor for rim-runs, finishes, second-chance opportunities and defensive playmaking. Achiuwa's jump shot and decision-making still require significant improvement, but few bigs in the draft have a more impressive physical foundation to build off.

Nos. 15-20

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    15. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets): Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)

    Vassell's athleticism, 42.6 percent three-point shooting and reputable defense create a convincing draft profile of a three-and-D wing. Though he's somewhat limited creating off the dribble, the right team will value his off-ball shot-making and ability to guard multiple positions while making high-level defensive reads. 


    16. Orlando Magic: Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Bey will draw top-20 interest for his 6'8", 216-pound frame and 45.1 percent three-point shooting. But there is more versatility for the Magic to unlock with his slashing, passing and defensive tools. 


    17. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

    Flashes of power, shooting touch, live-dribble passes and defensive activity should help Williams draw first-round looks. Surrounded by veterans at Florida State, his touches and production have been up and down. But one team should bet on his potential trajectory, which could eventually lead to a combo forward who has three-point range, ball-screen playmaking skills, off-ball scoring comfort and defensive playmaking ability.


    18. Dallas Mavericks: Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona, SG/SF, 2001)

    Bolmaro has been putting up numbers in the Spanish LEB Silver league, averaging 15.8 points over his last four games with Barcelona II. Even though he hasn't received many recent minutes in Euroleague or Spanish ACB play, it's reassuring to see he's standing out at the lower levels.

    Coveted for offensively versatility fueled by 6'7" size, playmaking and slashing skills, Bolmaro could boost his stock in June by using workouts to get teams to buy into his jumper and shooting potential. In 20 combined games this season, he's 15-of-54 from three.


    19. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)

    Once the higher-upside prospects start flying off the board, the appeal of specialists increases. Nesmith should be one after making 52.2 percent of his 8.2 three-point attempts per game before a foot injury cut his season short. Though a limited creator and passer, the 6'6" wing has demonstrated incredible accuracy around the perimeter, as well as the versatility to bury jumpers off spot-ups and movement.


    20. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

    McDaniels should help himself during workouts, where his 6'9" height, ball-handling and shooting fluidity will pop in empty gyms. His 40.3 percent field-goal mark and 3.3 turnovers per game highlight an obvious lack of polish when it comes to execution and decision-making. But the long-term scouting lens remains intrigued by a versatile skill set that allows him to create and make shots as an oversized wing.

Nos. 21-30

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    21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)

    A draft-night slide could be coming for Mannion as questions swirl about his underwhelming tools, athleticism and 39.1 percent field-goal mark. He'd be a more appealing pickup in the teens or 20s as a second-unit guard who can facilitate for teammates and make both pull-ups and catch-and-shoot threes.


    22. Utah Jazz: Theo Maledon (ASVEL, PG, 2001)

    Maledon's game lacks flash, but he's done an admirable job executing as a shooter, finisher and passer for a teenager in Euroleague and France's Jeep Elite league. He lacks speed and explosion, so lottery teams may be hesitant to draft him. But in the 20s, there is steal potential tied to the possibility that he won't need burst or bounce and that his skill level, timing and coordination will help him overcome his athletic limitations. 


    23. Miami Heat: Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

    Averaging 18.1 points, 5.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds as an 18-year-old sophomore, Lewis has become worth thinking about in the 20s. Questions about his athletic ability when separating and finishing are fair, but his age and production create a compelling first-round argument, particularly given his NBA-level quickness off the dribble.


    24. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets): Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Green's explosiveness and defensive quickness should buy him time with scouts when it comes to his offensive skill. Flashes of runners, set threes and passes create hope for his development as a scorer and secondary playmaker, though his value will always revolve around his transition play, closeouts, pressure and energy.


    25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C, Freshman)

    Teams won't be itching to draft a big man who lacks offensive versatility and defensive switchability. Instead, Stewart should be viewed as a value pick in the late teens or 20s for his high-floor energizer potential around the basket. He should be able to contribute right away with physicality, low-post scoring and second-chance points.


    26. New York Knicks (via Clippers): Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)

    Even if teams view Jones as a best-case backup, he's still appealing in the 20s. The Knicks would value his passing and defensive pressure, but the improvement to his scoring skills and pull-up game has helped strengthen his case as a surefire NBA guard.


    27. Boston Celtics: Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Teams are beginning to take Smith more seriously now that he's physically stronger, making a three-pointer per game and averaging 2.3 blocks. Even if it's tough to picture significant upside, his three-and-D potential as a big is worth coveting this late.


    28. Toronto Raptors: Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF, Freshman)

    A perceived lower ceiling could turn Nnaji into a value pick. Teams won't have enough reasons to reach, but his 6'11" size, 16.2 points per game on 57.8 percent shooting, mid-range touch and effort level hint at a high-floor role player.


    29. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)

    Ramsey's shot-making (2.2 made threes per game, 42.3 three-point percentage) will earn him first-round looks, but he's also averaging 4.0 assists over his last six games. Adding passing and playmaking potential to his scouting report should make it easier for teams to look past his tough shot selection and defensive lapses. 


    30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks): Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

    The modern NBA devalues low-post bigs like Carey, but the Celtics could still find a use for his paint scoring and offensive rebounding. Coaches may want to immediately start developing his shooting range. He's shown some on eight three-point makes so far.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports Reference.


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