2020 NBA Mock Draft: Predictions for James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, Top Big MenMay 16, 2020
2020 NBA draft prospects LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards have been the talk of the town. That makes sense, they're fun prospects with franchise-altering potential.
But basketball teams are built on dirty work in the paint. And big men lead the way in that area, cleaning up the glass and bringing the physicality that championships are founded on.
Unlike some other drafts, this year's is incredibly sparse among the frontcourt, and only three players stand out as likely lottery picks: James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu and Precious Achiuwa—each a tier apart while still within the lottery.
2020 NBA Mock Draft
1. Golden State: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
2. Cleveland: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
3. Minnesota: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
4. Atlanta: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
5. Detroit: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
6. New York: Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
7. Chicago: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
8. Charlotte: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
9. Washington: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
10. Phoenix: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
11. San Antonio: Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
12. Sacramento: Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
13. New Orleans: Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
14. Portland: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
15. Orlando: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
16. Minnesota (via Brooklyn): Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
17. Boston (via Memphis): Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
18. Dallas: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
19. Milwaukee (via Indiana): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
20. Brooklyn (via Philadelphia): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
21. Denver (via Houston): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
22. Philadelphia (via Oklahoma City): Jahmi'us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
23. Miami: Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
24. Utah: Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
25. Oklahoma City (via Denver): Vernon Carey Jr., PF/C, Duke
26. Boston: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos
27. New York (via L.A. Clippers): Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
28. Toronto: Leandro Bolmaro, SF, FC Barcelona
29. L.A. Lakers: Xavier Tillman, PF, Michigan State
30. Boston (via Milwaukee): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Wiseman Offers Golden State's Clearest Return to Contention
Wiseman played just three games for Memphis this season before leaving the school after being handed a 12-game suspension by the NCAA over improper benefits.
The sample size is small, but his numbers were not. At an imposing 7'1", Wiseman averaged 19.7 points (on 76.9 percent shooting), 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game while averaging just 23 minutes of action.
Although he didn't show off any range from three in the NCAA, that's not what Golden State needs him for, and he could still develop that aspect of his game.
Wiseman's high school tape is reminiscent of a larger, healthier Harry Giles—routinely showing comfort handling the rock and knocking in jumpers, even off the stepback.
A 70.4 percent rate from the line at Memphis is also enough to provide some confidence in Wiseman's shooting upside. His charity-stripe clip was well within striking distance of highly esteemed gunners like LaMelo Ball (72.3 percent) and Cole Anthony (75.0 percent).
For 2020-21, Golden State's core group figures to be Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. What they're missing is a complementary big man who provides more size and athleticism than Kevon Looney. Wiseman is that and more, a perfect pick for a team with title hopes.
San Antonio Prioritizes BPA in Okongwu
It's a weird spot for a Spurs team in limbo at 27-36 this season. They have a group of young guards and a couple of bigs but don't have much impressive depth at the wing—even if rookie Keldon Johnson intrigues long-term.
San Antonio could gamble on a wing, but Okongwu simply possesses a higher floor than the prospects surrounding him. The 6'9" big plays larger than his height, understandably given his 7'1" wingspan.
In one season at USC, he averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. With a 61.6 percent clip from the field and 72.0 percent from the line, he seems poised to provide immediate rotation contributions at the next level.
LaMarcus Aldridge is 34 years old, and Jakob Poeltl didn't quite progress as some hoped he would—his field-goal and free-throw percentages have dropped for a third consecutive season, the latter to an abysmal 48.6 percent. Okongwu is a tough, useful basketball player, and San Antonio could use some stability in the paint during this forward-looking pivot.
Adding Achiuwa Cements New Orleans' Frontcourt
Both of New Orleans' more established big men, Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor, are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Neither engendered much faith during the season.
Their rookie, Jaxson Hayes, has eye-popping potential but is unreliable. The Pelicans have a young roster, and their window should fit Hayes' road to development, but they could use added depth in the frontcourt as they build.
Like Okongwu, Achiuwa is 6'9" but boasts a 7'2" wingspan and a record of dominance in just one college season. He averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. That paint presence is there, but he's a less traditional big with the shooting percentages to prove it.
Bold shot selection left Achiuwa with a 49.3 percent rate from the field, 32.5 percent from deep (on 1.3 attempts per game) and 59.9 percent from the line. He can look lost out there, but the talent and instincts are still evident.
Given his upside and the uncertainty surrounding everyone else in his range, New Orleans could benefit from taking another shot on a big man with potential this offseason.