NBA Draft 2020: 1st-Round Projections and Top Sleeper Lottery Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Alabama guard Kira Lewis Jr. plays against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Nashville, Tenn. Lewis Jr. was selected to the Associated Press All-SEC first team announced Tuesday, March 10, 2020.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The lottery portion of the NBA draft often seems fairly well cemented ahead of time, but there's still room for surprises.

No one mocked Cameron Johnson as a lottery prospect last year, but the Phoenix Suns snatched him up with the 11th overall pick. Considering how much mileage the Suns have already received from that pick (he contributed the fourth-most win shares among 2019 draftees), the second-guessing that immediately followed the selection has been all but silenced.

The 2020 talent grab could see even more lottery surprises since everyone from the top prospects on down has question marks. After updating our mock first round, we'll spotlight three players who aren't mocked in our lottery but could land there on draft night.


2020 NBA Mock Draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis

3. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, Illawarra Hawks

4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

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

6. Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State

7. Detroit Pistons: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC

8. New York Knicks: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State

9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn

10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm

11. San Antonio Spurs: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt

12. Sacramento Kings: Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State

13. New Orleans Pelicans: Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova

14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina

15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

16. Portland Trail Blazers: Josh Green, SG, Arizona

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky

18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos B

19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers

20. Miami Heat: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis

21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford

22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Grant Riller, PG/SG, Charleston

23. Utah Jazz: Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL

24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Leandro Bolmaro, SG/SF, Barcelona

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota

26. Boston Celtics: Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington

27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Jahmi'us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech

28. Los Angeles Lakers: Cassius Winston, PG, Michigan State

29. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland

30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona


Sleeper Prospects Who Could Jump Into Lottery

Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

There are just enough knocks on Lewis to bump him out of our lottery (non-elite acceleration, good-not-great decision-making, thin frame that presents challenges on defense), but it isn't hard to imagine some team falling in love with his strengths.

He might be the fastest player in this draft, and he put a ton of good film on tape over two seasons at Alabama. He also offers more growth potential than most sophomores, since his age (19 as of April 6) puts him closer to the freshman class.

"He's a young point guard with size, shooting and some pop as a leaper," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote. "He's blazing fast in transition, has a secure handle, generates a ton of space on step-backs, can make reads in pick and roll, and is more than capable of guarding the position."

Lewis closed his college career at a blistering rate (23.2 points on 49.0/46.3/75.5 shooting, 6.7 assists and 1.8 steals over his final nine outings), and that stretch could have convinced a lottery club he's worth a shot.


Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos B

The path between Pokusevski's present ability and his full potential is incredibly long and precariously littered with obstacles. But if he even approaches his towering ceiling, he'll be one of the best players to come out of this draft.

This comes down to the lottery teams' risk-reward calculations. There are myriad reasons why Pokusevski could fail, starting with a rail-thin frame that opponents in Greek's second division are already throwing around. Saying that, he's a 7-footer with fluid perimeter skills and impact rim protection. The rarity of that combo could be what gets him inside the top 14.

"There aren't many 18-year-old 7-footers around the globe—never mind in this draft—capable of initiating fast breaks, shooting off dribbles and screens, and flying around defensively like Pokusevski," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "A patient lottery team uninterested in settling for a non-star NCAA prospect may be willing to gamble this year."

Anyone needing any degree of immediate production will look elsewhere, but the forward-thinkers in this draft should be fascinated by Pokusevski.


Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford

The names Stephen Curry and Trae Young often surface in Terry's scouting reports. It's not that he offers that level of upside (few players do), but rather that they've shown how a player with Terry's physical limitations (160 pounds and lacking athleticism) can still find success in the Association.

Those two NBA stars are also fiery three-point shooters who can do damage off the dribble, and that comparison works for Terry, too. He is seemingly in shooting range as soon as he crosses the half-court line, and if gets a sliver of space, he's pulling. He buried two threes per game at a 40.8 percent clip, hit 89.1 percent of his free throws and showed the shooting touch needed to finish around the basket.

"His deep range and ability to shoot off the dribble are qualities that evoke Young," NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick wrote. "Terry's sharp relocations off the ball aren't yet in Curry's class, but he has impressive instincts as a mover, and as a passer as well."

Given the priority placed on shooting in the modern game and the strong gravitational pull Terry could put on NBA defenders, an offensively challenged lottery team might have a hard time passing him up.