2020 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting Landing Spots for LaMelo Ball and Top Prospects
With the NBA returning Thursday and the draft lottery set for Aug. 20, teams' basketball operations are resuming. Front offices have gotten back to working on their boards, discussing prospects and scenarios.
It continues to sound like the draft order will play a huge role in who is picked when, as rankings and needs vary from team to team.
We're also anticipating teams at the top interested in trading down, with the perception that there isn't a big difference between the No. 1 pick and Nos. 4-7.
This mock draft order is based on teams' records as of today.
1. Golden State Warriors: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)
The Golden State Warriors figure to line up phone calls with teams around the league if they win the lottery. The best fits for them are likely to be available after the top three picks are made, and there should be a couple of point guard-needy suitors eager for the chance to move up and draft LaMelo Ball.
But it's easiest to picture Golden State settling on Anthony Edwards if it stays put at No. 1. While James Wiseman would fill a positional need, the Warriors offense runs through its guards and wings, and the front office could likely sign a cheaper version of Wiseman, who's mostly a finisher at this stage.
Edwards is capable of being a plug-and-play athlete and shot-maker for the Warriors right away, and given his age (18), athleticism, body (6'5", 225 lbs) and skill to create and score, he also possesses the star potential worthy of a top selection in this draft.
Golden State could easily play Klay Thompson at the 3 and find ways to mix in Edwards with Andrew Wiggins.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)
After the Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland pick in 2019, the failed John Beilein experiment and the unusual Andre Drummond trade, you can feel the pressure mounting on general manager Koby Altman. He may want to play it safe this draft with National Player of the Year Obi Toppin—and skip James Wiseman's projected steep learning curve and avoid questions over what to do about LaMelo Ball with Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr.
Getting Ball to buy in could be a challenge in itself, and for Altman, drafting him would mean downgrading one of his previous two top-10 picks, either to the bench or trade block. And after the GM just acquired Drummond knowing he'd likely opt in for 2020-21, it's reasonable to assume he isn't sold on the idea of Wiseman.
Altman may not feel he has time to wait on Wiseman's development or make it work with Ball. Meanwhile, he'd likely get immediate results from the 22-year-old Toppin. He's viewed as one of the surer bets in the class based on his athleticism, production (20.0 PPG, 63.3 FG%) and improved shooting (32-of-82 3PT) to fit today's NBA.
Toppin would also make it easier for the team to deal Kevin Love, who's on a different timeline and likely to draw interest from contenders.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks, PG, 2001)
The Minnesota Timberwolves won't worry about fit if LaMelo Ball makes it to them at No. 3. They can't afford to pass on arguably the draft's best player and passer and biggest star, even though a D'Angelo Russell-Ball backcourt wouldn't be ideal defensively.
Together, Russell and Ball could apply unique pressure on opponents with their size, ball-handling for creation, playmaking and shot-making.
Coach Ryan Saunders would presumably use Ball as the table-setter and allow Russell to focus more on scoring. The Wolves would just need to prioritize filling in the gaps with role players who add defense and toughness.
4. Atlanta Hawks: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)
The Atlanta Hawks might not care about filling needs if James Wiseman is still on the board. Opinions vary from scout to scout on his game and fit, but at No. 4, it's easy to picture Atlanta being too enticed by his 7'1" size, 7'6" wingspan and athleticism to settle on a perceived lower-upside player such as Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton or Isaac Okoro.
And the Hawks' acquisition of Clint Capela, who has been injured, is limited offensively and has a tradable contract, shouldn't factor into the team's draft decision.
Wiseman would play behind Capela early on, but in Year 2 or 3, the Hawks could see more scoring ability around the block and mid-range touch from their 2020 first-rounder. In the meantime, he'll still give Trae Young a monster finishing/lob target and extra shot-blocking on defense.
5. Detroit Pistons: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)
NBA teams are high on Tyrese Haliburton, who'd be a sensible target for a franchise that's missing a long-term answer at point guard.
But his versatility would also allow the Detroit Pistons to remain flexible while they rebuild. Haliburton can work on and off the ball after averaging 6.5 assists per game and grading in the 99th percentile on spot-ups. He should help with creating extra open shots for teammates and more space with his catch-and-shoot range (49.3 3PT%).
The question with Haliburton concerns how his limited burst and pull-up game will affect his upside as a scorer. He does struggle to blow by and separate into dribble jumpers. However, Haliburton has the makeup of an impact-over-stats contributor.
6. New York Knicks: Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)
A point guard may be the target for the New York Knicks, but they won't reach to fill a need. President Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry will be focused on adding talent in the draft for new coach Tom Thibodeau. And since the Israeli BSL resumed last month, Deni Avdija's top-five case has only gotten stronger.
He was just named MVP of the Winner League after playing an integral role in Maccabi Tel Aviv's championship run.
The Knicks would presumably consider him at No. 6 if LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton were gone. France's Killian Hayes will also be in the mix, though scouts seem split on whether he's worthy of going in the first half of the lottery, and it's unclear where the New York front office stands.
But most feel safe about Avdija, even if they question the height of his ceiling because of concerns over his shooting consistency and ability to create for himself. At 6'8", he's put on considerable muscle and possesses the skill versatility to grab and go, handle in pick-and-rolls, work from the post and spot up from three.
Instead of adding a rookie to run the offense, the Knicks could focus on building their wing with Avdija and RJ Barrett and try to sign a point guard and/or give more responsibility to Frank Ntilikina.
7. Chicago Bulls: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)
Team fit could move the needle on the Chicago Bulls' draft decision unless there is an obvious best player available.
Isaac Okoro would give the lineup a defensive-oriented, low-maintenance wing to play between Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. His shooting needs time, but the NBA's No. 27 offense would value Okoro's efficiency on drives, cuts and posts (60.7 2PT%).
With LaVine and Coby White bringing the shot-making, Okoro's physicality, high-percentage shot selection, passing and defense would work well in the lineup.
Assuming Otto Porter Jr. opts in for 2020-21, he could be playing his last season in Chicago.
Onyeka Okongwu could have a strong case, though Chicago may not want him to eat into Wendell Carter Jr.'s minutes after an injury-plagued second season.
8. Charlotte Hornets: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)
If Onyeka Okongwu falls to No. 8, it would be a dream scenario for the Charlotte Hornets, who'd value his athleticism and defensive upside at center.
Though No. 3 on Bleacher Report's big board, Okongwu still has some skeptics around the league who question a post player's upside in today's NBA. But he's just too skilled around the block in terms of creation and touch. And despite not shooting much from outside at USC, his 72.0 free-throw percentage and 15-of-35 shooting on half-court jump shots were encouraging.
With P.J. Washington showing three-point range as a rookie, he and Okongwu could work well together.
9. Washington Wizards: Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)
The Washington Wizards won't be thinking about filling holes for a lineup that doesn't have much of a ceiling. Even if John Wall gets back to full strength, he and Bradley Beal can be expected to take this team only so far. The Wizards need to stockpile young talent, and Killian Hayes has the most among players on the board.
The 6'5", 18-year-old ball-handler finished third in the EuroCup in assists, but he also made significant strides as a shot-creator and shot-maker, developments that hint at scoring potential that wasn't always evident.
Teams do question his lack of burst and three-point struggles, but athleticism hasn't been a make-or-break trait for recent point guard prospects, and given his age, 87.6 free-throw percentage and improvement from last year, his jumper seems worth betting on.
10. Phoenix Suns: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)
Cole Anthony has lost support in NBA front offices, but at some point, he will become a value pick in the late lottery for his scoring, even if concerns over his decision-making are legitimate.
Beginning his career as a sixth man, learning under Ricky Rubio would make sense for Anthony, who could play to his strengths early. It's still easy to buy his shot-creation and shot-making, and given how little help he had at North Carolina, questions about his playmaking and assist-to-turnover ratio are likely overblown.
Eventually, Anthony could replace Rubio and join Devin Booker to create problems for defenses with their scoring skill sets, confidence and aggression. But whether Anthony maxes his potential as a lead guard will come down to how he develops his floor game, balancing hunting for shots with facilitating.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)
Vassell is an athletic, 6'6" wing who drilled 41.7 percent of his career three-point attempts and is a tremendous defender. He should attract plenty of interest once the star names are off the board. He's an easy three-and-D fit, particularly for a Spurs young core largely comprised of guards and bigs.
12. Sacramento Kings: RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, PG/SG, 2001)
The Kings have specific needs, but they might be persuaded by the upside tied to Hampton's age (19), explosiveness and backcourt versatility. He lacks polish and one bankable skill, but he's flashed enough potential in each area—attacking, shot-making, playmaking—to justify betting on him with a late-lottery pick.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)
New Orleans could see a strong fit with Bey, who'd play small-ball 4 to create space next to Zion Williamson. Bey lacks explosiveness inside the arc and quickness defending the perimeter, but he'd be set up well in New Orleans, where he could focus on shooting off spot-ups and movement.
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, Sophomore, SF)
Nesmith's 23.0 points per game and 52.2 three-point percentage has earned him a spot in the discussion for top shot-maker in the draft. He isn't as effective creating on the ball, but he wouldn't need to in a lineup with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Nesmith ranked in the 95th percentile or better shooting out of spot-ups and off screens.
15. Orlando Magic: Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Maxey's draft range is wide, with teams all over the map on how his game will translate. The risk is worth the reward at No. 15 for the Magic, who could overlook his size/athletic limitations, inconsistent shooting and questionable playmaking feel, and instead put more stock into his shot-making, floater touch, finishing acrobatics and positive energy.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets): Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)
The youngest NCAA prospect in the draft, Williams is on the raw side, but his particular mix of size, power and versatility creates an exciting potential trajectory. For a 6'8", 225-pound forward, his age (18) and flashes of pull-up shooting, pick-and-roll passing and finishing make it easier to look past his pedestrian production of 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
17. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Josh Green (Arizona, SF, Freshman)
Athleticism and special defensive quickness are Green's selling points, while flashes of spot-up shooting, floater touch and passing should leave Boston feeling encouraged about his potential to add enough offensively in a supporting role.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacis II, PF/C, 2001)
Despite playing only 12 games, including 11 in Greece's second division, Pokusevski has fans in NBA front offices. His shooting versatility, fluidity and passing skills for a 7-footer are too rare and enticing.
19. Milwaukee Bucks: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)
Milwaukee would be a suitable landing spot for Achiuwa, who has a versatile skill set for a 6'9", 225-pound big, but not the polish to consistently execute as a creator or shooter. He could play to his strengths early in Milwaukee while his offensive game takes time to develop, though his value could show most on defense, where his size, mobility and athleticism should translate to switchability and playmaking.
20. Brooklyn Nets: Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona, SG/SF, 2000)
A unique ball-handler for a 6'7" wing, Bolmaro delivered enough flashes of his signature point-wing playmaking to generate first-round interest. Shooting will be a key swing skill for his scoring potential, though he's at a capable level now and just hit three triples in his last game for Barcelona on June 25.
21. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets): Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)
Speed and quickness separate Lewis from the other first-round point guards, but he did grow as a lead guard and playmaker while continuing to show encouraging shot-making versatility/touch with the pull-up, spot-up and floater. The Nuggets could use him to change the pace and put pressure on defenses, although Lewis will have to overcome his 165-pound frame, lack of explosion and limited vision.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Daniel Oturu (Minnesota, C, Sophomore)
Oturo has moved onto some scouts' first-round boards after averaging 20.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a sophomore. There is sense that he's rising, particularly for those willing to buy his 19 made threes and mid-range touch as shooting potential. But he also converted 16-of-22 drives to the basket from spot-ups. Though his decision-making isn't always sharp, the Sixers could look to Oturu for important depth behind Joel Embiid.
23. Miami Heat: Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)
McDaniels' inconsistency turned scouts off, but for a 6'9", 19-year-old, the flashes of ball-handling and three-point shooting should give him wiggle room. Miami's coaching and development staff have a good reputation for helping players maximize their potential, and McDaniels has enough of it to justify first-round interest.
24. Utah Jazz: Theo Maledon (ASVEL, PG/SG, 2001)
Quality experience and a comfort level in Euroleague and Jeep Elite league help paint the 19-year-old Maledon as a pro. A lack of burst and explosiveness raise questions over his ceiling, but for a 6'3" guard, he compensates with enough passing and shooting skill to look past the athletic limitations.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)
Smith jumped up boards by improving his body, shooting and reputation as a three-and-D big man. He's a limited ball-handler, passer and athlete, but he'd give Oklahoma City a needed stretch big with unique shot-making versatility for a center.
26. Boston Celtics: Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG, Freshman)
With signature touch, Terry shot 40.8 percent from three, 42.1 percent on spot-up jumpers, 11-of-19 off screens and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line. And despite 6'1", 160-pound size, he converted 61.5 percent of his attempts around the rim. He could be around for the Celtics this late, however, with teams hesitant about how well he'll be able to create separation and execute against NBA defenders.
27. New York Knicks (via Clippers): Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)
The Knicks would buy low on Mannion, who entered the season viewed as a potential top-10 pick. A few slumps ruined his shooting percentages, and questions about his physical tools got louder as the season went on. But Mannion still possesses a well-rounded skill set for a point guard, between his pull-up game, off-screen shooting and playmaking vision.
28. Toronto Raptors: Grant Riller (Charleston, PG/SG, Senior)
Though Riller checks in at No. 16 on Bleacher Report's big board, age (23) and strength of schedule will work against his draft stock. All it takes is one team, however, and given Fred VanVleet's upcoming free agency and the Raptors' need at backup point guard, they could view Riller—one of the draft's most advanced shot-creators and efficient three-level scorers—as a value-pick target.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)
The Lakers could look to Ramsey for bench scoring and shot-making. His strong frame and confident shooting were persuasive during games when he was on, though lapses in concentration, a tough shot selection and limited playmaking skills remain drawbacks.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks): Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)
Nnaji made an impression on NBA teams this season with his mobility at 6'11", scoring efficiency and nose for the ball. It's tough to picture any star-caliber upside given his lack of explosion or versatility. However, it isn't hard to envision him turning into a reliable role player who's capable of working from the post, making mid-range jumpers and earning second-chance points.