2020 NBA Mock Draft: Rounding Up Experts' 1st-Round Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 20, 2020

LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks brings the ball up during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

The story of an NBA draft can often be told through its first five picks.

While superstars can (and do) emerge from any point on the draft board, great classes are almost always loaded at the top.

In 1984, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were among the first five selections. In 1996, it was Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Marcus Camby. In 2003, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all resided in that tier.

When a draft goes awry, it's no different—you can tell almost immediately. In 2006, for instance, Andrea Bargnani, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams comprised one of the shallowest top fives in recent memory.

Given the importance of that initial quintet, we'll examine how three different experts handled pick Nos. 1 through 5 in their respective mocks.


The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor

1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Wiseman, C, Memphis

4. Atlanta Hawks: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

5. Detroit Pistons: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn

No surprise seeing Edwards at the top. He takes that spot more often than not in the mock-draft world due to his potential as a three-level scorer and versatile defender.

Ball and Wiseman are also familiar faces atop early mocks, though the team fit is interesting with both here. 

Cleveland probably can't play many (if any) minutes with Ball, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland all on the floor, so one of the latter two is likely getting minimized or shipped out. Wiseman to Minnesota is interesting, too, with Karl-Anthony Towns around, though that isn't the only time that connection will be made.

If Avdija pans out, he could be just what the doctor ordered for the Hawks. The 6'9" combo forward plays more like a combo guard with his handles, vision, slashing and shooting. He needs to pick up his percentages on the perimeter, but if he does, he could be a great option to have alongside Trae Young and steering the offense when the All-Star takes a seat.

Okoro is least mocked as a top-five pick among this quintet, but he's worth it if you're buying his offensive potential. He's a brilliant, versatile defender; O'Connor likens him to Gerald Wallace and Justise Winslow. That said, shooting has always held Wallace and Winslow back, so that will prove a big swing skill for Okoro.


CBS Sports' Matt Norlander

1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton

3. Detroit Pistons: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks

4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC

5. Atlanta Hawks: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm

Toppin at No. 2 feels aggressive, even while acknowledging his stat sheet was as stuffed as anyone in this draft. If he's anything like he was last season (20 points on 63.3 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks), then he might be worth the price.

That said, his defensive fit in the modern NBA is questionable at best. He also might be closest to his ceiling of all the lottery prospects as a 22-year-old.

Okongwu continues the theme of adding another big alongside Towns, though he is easier to plug in at the 4 if the Wolves want to keep Towns at the 5. While Wiseman might be better known, Okongwu has a ton of fans in the hoops world due to his switchability on defense and comfort handling the basketball.

"Had Okongwu been given the benefit of workouts and a normal pre-draft cycle, it's not unthinkable that he could have cracked the top three," Norlander wrote. "Perhaps he still will."

This is among the highest mocked spots for Hayes, but that hardly means its undeserved. The 6'5" floor general actually leads O'Connor's big board. That said, O'Connor doesn't mock Hayes until the 11th overall pick, which is more in line with his commonly projected draft range.


NBC Sports' James Ham

1. New York Knicks: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks

2. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Wiseman, C, Memphis

4. Sacramento Kings: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

A twist at the top with a new team (courtesy of Tankathon's lottery simulator) and a new player at No. 1.

Ball would be all kinds of fun for the 'Bockers, and not only for the fact that the draft's best-known player would enter the league's best-known market. 

The Knicks have been hunting for a floor general forever, and they might view Edwards as a bit redundant with RJ Barrett. Playmaking is invaluable in the modern NBA, and Ball, arguably the draft's best passer, could be the missing piece who helps bring their puzzle together.

"Ball might have the best chance of becoming a leader and face-of-the-franchise-type player," Ham wrote. "He has some flash to his game and might be a perfect building block to go with Barrett, [Julius] Randle and [Mitchell] Robinson."

Moving on, it's interesting to find another Wiseman-to-Minnesota prediction. Ham's rationale is that Wiseman "would give the team the opportunity to move Towns to the power forward position where he can better utilize his perimeter shooting." That's a hard sentiment to get behind, since Towns the center is already splashing 3.3 threes per night at a 41.2 percent clip.

Lastly, the Toppin-Sacramento connection is interesting, as Ham works the Kings beat. Toppin is an offense-first combo big; how is that different from 2018's No. 2 pick—the one right before Luka Doncic—Marvin Bagley III?

Is there room on the roster for both Toppin and Bagley, or would the former's arrival signal the latter's departure? Add that to the list of fascinating things to think about with this draft.