The disappearance of the NBA center has been over-exaggerated.
Yes, the position was wiped off the All-Star ballot, and yes, the Houston Rockets have moved away from it entirely. But skilled 5s can still dominate in this league, as Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns can attest.
Big-men prospects might not be locks for the No. 1 spot anymore, but we'll examine the projected fit for three who fall within our top five mock selections.
2020 NBA Mock Draft
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks
4. Atlanta Hawks: Obi Toppin, PF/C, Dayton
5. Detroit Pistons: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
6. New York Knicks: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
7. Chicago Bulls: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
8. Charlotte Hornets: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
10. Phoenix Suns: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
11. San Antonio Spurs: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
12. Sacramento Kings: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova
15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
18. Dallas Mavericks: Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Leandro Bolmaro, SG/SF, Barcelona
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Robert Woodard II, SF, Mississippi State
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
23. Miami Heat: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
24. Utah Jazz: Josh Green, SG, Arizona
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Jahmi'us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
26. Boston Celtics: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos B
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
28. Toronto Raptors: Xavier Tillman, PF/C, Michigan State
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
James Wiseman: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers are early enough in their latest post-LeBron James rebuild that they shouldn't weigh positional needs too heavily on draft night. Saying that, this could be a scenario in which their highest-rated prospect also happens to scratch a long-term itch.
Cleveland can be patient with Wiseman, which is critical for someone loaded with physical tools who needs more on-court polish. He can specialize his skills to be a defensive anchor—the NBA's second-worst defense definitely needs one—and rim-runner now, while ideally growing more comfortable and capable as a shooter and in-space defender.
"Some of his strengths (rim-running, rebounding, shot-blocking) hold plenty of value," Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor wrote. "Combine that with graceful movement skills that belie his size along with the upside to become an elite defensive anchor and Wiseman seems a worthy—albeit risky—gamble."
The Cavs hope they have three foundational players in place with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. That's an optimistic view, but even if they hit on two, their backcourt should be in good shape. Wiseman can help balance the roster, and if he realizes his full potential, he could one day be the organization's centerpiece.
Obi Toppin: Atlanta Hawks
You wouldn't know it from their 20-47 record, but the Hawks don't have many roster holes.
Point guard Trae Young has already ascended to All-Star heights. Center Clint Capela just arrived at the trade deadline. Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish form an intriguing collection of up-and-comers on the wings. John Collins pumps in more than 20 points and 10 boards a night from the power forward spot.
This should free Atlanta to take the best-player-available route on draft night, and no player in this draft had a more productive 2019-20 season than Toppin. He swept college basketball's player of the year awards, while lifting Dayton to a 29-2 record with nightly contributions of 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 three and 1.2 blocks.
He has a similar game to Collins, but if they occupy the same frontcourt, that gives head coach Lloyd Pierce plenty of options to mix and match. And if Collins exits between now and his venture to 2021 restricted free agency, the Hawks already have his replacement on hand.
Onyeka Okongwu: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons can go any direction on draft night. That's one of the perks of being so early into the rebuilding process. There's little more than a blank canvas in the Motor City, so this draft pick can help the franchise establish its next identity.
With Okongwu, though, that's not really the case—and that's not a knock. He plays a glue-guy game built around modern versatility at the defensive end and a potent blend of athleticism and effort at the other.
"Okongwu has the tools to play a very specific, and very valuable, role at the next level: A ball-screen switching, shot-blocking, lob-catching center," NBC Sports' Rob Dauster wrote. "Put another way, he has all the warning signs of being the next Bam Adebayo."
Okongwu may never be the best player on a good team, but he can play with anyone. And if he really follows in Adebayo's footsteps, he could become the costar of a borderline contender.