2020 NBA Draft: 3 Ideal Teams for Top 5 Prospects
The right fit for NBA draft prospects could jump-start their careers. The wrong one could delay their development.
This projected rookie class would exceed expectations if the top picks land in favorable situations.
For each of our top-five prospects, we pinpointed two optimal fits using only lottery teams and picked a third wild card/long shot franchise that would have to trade up.
1. LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)
Ideal fit: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls offer LaMelo Ball the most favorable mix of touches and surrounding talent to optimize his strengths.
In Chicago, he would likely start immediately for a lineup that features scorers and shot-makers in Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls did just draft Coby White, but Ball's playmaking would fill a bigger need for the lineup, while White's shot-making would be more useful in a bench-sparking sixth-man role.
As a team, Chicago ranks No. 28 in pick-and-roll ball-handling points per possession and No. 27 in offensive efficiency. Ball could help with his signature ability to create easier shots for teammates.
Next-best fit: Golden State Warriors
Ball's fit in Golden State may become clearer in a few seasons when Stephen Curry approaches 35 years old. In the meantime, coach Steve Kerr could still value his special passing.
LaMelo should be salivating at the thought of handling the ball between shooters Curry and Klay Thompson on the wings. And Kerr may like the idea of playing Curry more possessions off the ball as he ages.
After playing for the NBL's worst team, Ball landing in Golden State would be a pleasant change. Even if it means limited touches and stats early in his career, his development and approach should benefit from the Warriors' winning culture and veteran leadership.
Wild card/long shot: Miami Heat
Miami is already on the right path behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but Ball could raise the roster's ceiling. The question is what price it's worth paying to trade up for him.
The Heat's hypothetical offer could feature Tyler Herro and the projected 23rd pick. Ball possesses more star potential while filling a bigger need at point guard. In Miami, Ball would land in a spotlight destination with a playoff team, veterans and one of the league's top shooters in Duncan Robinson.
2. Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)
Ideal fit: Chicago Bulls
Chicago should appear desirable for the draft's passing point guards like Hayes. The Bulls would value his playmaking and setup ability for a lineup that already has scorers in LaVine, Porter and Markkanen, as well as White, whose streak shot-making seems suited for a sixth-man role.
With Hayes' ball-screen vision, he could make the game easier for the team's young bigs. And for the 18-year-old, there wouldn't be so much pressure to create for himself in Chicago.
Next-best fit: Phoenix Suns
A standout facilitator whose jumper still needs time, Hayes is fit for a lineup that could surround him with shooters in Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Kaminsky. In Phoenix, he could also take it slower behind Ricky Rubio, an ideal mentor who has overcome similar physical and perimeter-skill limitations.
But long term, Hayes' ceiling reaches another level based on last season's improved shot-creation and shot-making and impressive finishing touch/package in the paint.
A Hayes-Booker-Deandre Ayton trio would be a strong, balanced core to build around.
Wild card/long shot: Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets should at least explore the idea of trading up for Hayes. He'd give the starting lineup a more natural playmaker than Jamal Murray, who could then play to his strengths by focusing on scoring.
Landing in Denver would mean dodging a rebuild with a lottery team to gain immediate playoff experience.
3. Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
Ideal fit: Atlanta Hawks
Heavily reliant on Trae Young for generating offense, the Hawks could use another scorer like Edwards to take some pressure off the All-Star point guard. Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter have given Atlanta three-and-D, and John Collins is highly productive and efficient off the catch. But they don't offer the creation that Edwards can out of isolation or ball-screen situations.
A smaller workload for Young could mean fewer tough shots and more energy for defense. He also shot 46.0 percent off the catch, per Synergy Sports, a good sign for his potential to effectively share a backcourt with another creator.
Edwards will need to get more comfortable playing alongside a ball-dominator, but working on his spot-up game early should be beneficial for his long-term development.
Next-best fit: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves would make room for Edwards by sliding Jarrett Culver to small forward. The lineup is missing a shot-making wing like Georgia's star scorer who buried 2.3 threes per game as an 18-year-old freshman.
Between Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Edwards, Minnesota would have three players capable of taking over games. The lineup's offensive upside would be exciting, though the front office would need to fill in gaps with more defenders.
Wild card/long shot: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have a chest full of draft picks following the Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades. But their only first-round selection this year comes from the Denver Nuggets (projected No. 25). Oklahoma City could create a package of future picks and young players to try to move up for Edwards, who'd give the Thunder a needed wing scorer.
The Thunder are in a favorable position to be competitive now—and prepared for a quick rebuild and turnaround following their current run with Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari. Right away, Edwards would bring creation and shot-making firepower where Terrance Ferguson can't. And he'd give the franchise a star backcourt to build with (next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) long term.
4. Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
Ideal fit: Golden State Warriors
Onyeka Okongwu should love the idea of joining a lineup with shooters and passers. In Golden State, he'd be routinely set up for easy baskets off rim runs, rolls and drives, and he'd have plenty of space to operate as a one-on-one scorer around the key.
With an offense built around three-balls and ball movement, Okongwu would still play to his strengths early. And the Warriors would value his athleticism around the basket to help balance out their perimeter-oriented shot selection.
Given his foot speed and mobility, he'd also be a useful defensive center for a switching defense that could use a rim protector.
Okongwu would figure to receive over 20 minutes per game immediately for one of the Western Conference's top teams.
Next-best fit: Washington Wizards
The Wizards likely feel good about the addition of Rui Hachimura, but he'll need a rim protector behind him. They should already have Okongwu highlighted on their board. And there are enough pros for Okongwu that come with landing in Washington, one of the few destinations where he'd be able to immediately start.
The Wizards will also get John Wall back to join Bradley Beal. The possibility of Washington re-signing Davis Bertans remains in the cards. Okongwu could be a puzzle-piece fit for a lineup that already has established weapons and developing young talent in Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. and Moritz Wagner.
Wild card/long shot: Boston Celtics
With potentially three first-round picks and a collection of young players who aren't solidified into the rotation, the Celtics should have enough assets to move up from No. 17. Okongwu stands out as a target. Boston could use his athleticism and energy in the paint for easy baskets and rim protection.
Though he'd mostly play to his strengths early as a finisher and shot-blocker, Okongwu could give the Celtics another scoring option in the half court, where he's developed into a skilled post scorer with touch using both hands.
5. Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C Sophomore)
Best fit: Golden State Warriors
With the Warriors looking to jump right back into contention, Obi Toppin is the optimal plug-and-play option from the draft. After leading the nation in dunks and shooting 39 percent from three, he'd give Golden State an easy-bucket finisher and big capable of stretching the floor with spot-up shooting.
Toppin's field-goal mark would likely near 60 percent in Golden State, where he'd be looking at mostly easy finishes, open jumpers and no pressure to create.
The Warriors could immediately play him at the 5 and have Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to help mask his defensive limitations guarding the perimeter.
Second-best fit: New York Knicks
After using lottery picks on teenagers in three consecutive drafts, the Knicks may want to change course and consider college basketball's National Player of the Year.
Toppin, 22, would offer New York an attractive mix of both NBA readiness and star power, potential outcomes fueled by explosive athleticism and budding scoring skills. He also has an improving jumper to make him ideally suited for today's game.
And with Mitchell Robinson at center, the Knicks could support Toppin, a suspect defender, with one of the league's promising rim protectors.
For the Knicks, it's worth thinking about whether they even have the proper roster/environment for another teenage point guard or wing to properly develop. Toppin isn't a project who'll need three years. He'll give them a sure thing and lock to produce, both immediately and long term.
Wild card/long shot: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets would have to decide who's expendable, but they have enough assets to use for a trade up into the lottery.
At full strength, Brooklyn is still missing an inside presence to lean on for high-percentage scoring. Toppin, who just averaged 20 points on 63.3 percent shooting, would fit right in at power forward for a win-now franchise with a short window once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can finally share the floor.
For Toppin, he'd have an immediate role for a spotlight team that has championship upside.