NBA Draft 2020: Analyzing Deni Avdija, Other Sleeper Candidates for No. 1 Pick

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 20, 2020

Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv's Deni Avdija controls the ball during the Euro League basketball match between Olimpia Milan and Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv, in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

This isn't your typical NBA draft, for reasons that extend well beyond all the uncertainty connected to the indefinite hiatus.

It's the middle of March. You would think there would be a consensus No. 1 prospect by now—or at least a couple of players in the mix. But this draft feels wide open from the very top, which could open the door for a sleeper prospect to ascend to No. 1.

Who might that prospect be? Well, it's funny you should ask, since after we lay out our latest mock draft, we'll examine three budding ballers who might quietly challenge for that top spot.


2020 NBA Mock Draft

1. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

4. Atlanta Hawks: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks

5. Detroit Pistons: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State

6. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina

7. Chicago Bulls: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn

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

9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC

10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm

11. San Antonio Spurs: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers

12. Sacramento Kings: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis

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

14. Portland Trail Blazers: Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington

15. Orlando Magic: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky

16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt

17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona

18. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green, SG/SF, Arizona

19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova

20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State

21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State

22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL

23. Miami Heat: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

24. Utah Jazz: Leandro Bolmaro, SG/SF, Barcelona

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Robert Woodard, SF, Mississippi State

26. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington

27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Tre Jones, PG, Duke

28. Toronto Raptors: Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona

29. Los Angeles Lakers: Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland

30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Jahmi'us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech


Sleeper Candidates for No. 1 Pick

Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

It's been a slow-but-steady climb up the draft board for the 6'9" Deni Avdija, who looks like he was designed for the modern game.

His skill set is all about multiples: multiple positions, multiple strengths, multiple paths to production. Defensively, he can handle multiple spots. Offensively, he takes on multiple roles on or off the ball.

"He has great size and a good feel for the game," former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams told ESPN's Mike Schmitz. "There are players all over the world who are talented, but what really sets Deni apart is his confidence and basketball IQ."

There might be a few players with higher ceilings in this draft, but Avdija may offer the best combination of upside and reliability. That versatility will allow him to handle multiple roles, even if he never pops in any certain area. But if he harnesses his on-ball ability and becomes a self-sufficient scorer, he might function like a massive scoring guard who's hard for any defender to handle.

When even the highest-ceiling players have question marks, Avdija's high floor could get him consideration at No. 1 if the right team lands that pick.


Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina

Whatever was supposed to happen with this season's Tar Heels never did, and Cole Anthony's stock might suffer because of that. Or maybe scouts will overlook their struggles—and his—given the lack of help and spacing issues around him.

Even if Anthony's efficiency wasn't great (38.0/34.8/75.0 shooting slash), he still put up 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists as the teenage leader of a marquee ACC program. He also maintained that production despite sandwiching his season around a near-two-month absence due to an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee.

There might be red flags with his stat sheet, but which prospect in this draft doesn't have them? Anthony's potential remains tremendous, and it isn't hard to imagine an NBA front office convincing itself that he'll play his best basketball at that level.

"In many ways, he is built for the modern NBA with his ability to play both guard spots, make shots off the catch or off the dribble and push in the open floor," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote. "Even his biggest detractors would say he is a near lock to put up major scoring numbers."

Since other scoring-driven prospects like Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball have their own inefficiency concerns, maybe Anthony's offensive potential gets him the nod on draft night.


Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton

The longer Obi Toppin produced at an elite level, the harder it became to dismiss what he was doing.

The numbers were too great to fret over his age (22), competition level (Atlantic-10) or defensive fit. Plus, his game started showing the advances that evaluators were hoping to see.

"At this stage, Toppin has become too compelling after finishing his last five games at Dayton averaging 23.4 points and 3.0 assists on 67.7 percent shooting and 7-of-13 from three," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "While known for his explosiveness around the basket, he's started to separate from the late-lottery pack with flashes of shooting, face-up moves and passes."

Will Toppin have the time and opportunity to keep climbing past his fellow prospects? That's debatable, but it seems there's at least a non-zero chance. If teams see too many red flags with other prospects, maybe they'll gravitate toward the relative safety of a player likened to "a Paul Millsap or Al Horford," as one Eastern Conference scout described Toppin to SI.com's Jeremy Woo.

Toppin may never be a No. 1 option in the NBA, but maybe that's true of this entire draft class. If that's how some teams see it, they might prefer the option of adding at least a solid starter and perhaps the third-best player on a really good team.


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