2020 NBA Mock Draft: How Should Top Teams View LaMelo Ball?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 9, 2020

2020 NBA Mock Draft: How Should Top Teams View LaMelo Ball?

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    Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    Since lottery night, we've had more time to get a feel for what teams are thinking in preparation for the 2020 NBA draft.

    Some changes have been made to the top of the mock board, where we're expecting to see the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors engage in trade discussions. While LaMelo Ball appears locked into the top three, it sounds as though it's possible he could go to a team that isn't the Timberwolves, Warriors or Charlotte Hornets.

    NBA teams are ultimately expecting this draft to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and opinions on prospects varying dramatically from one organization to another.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Projecting the draft means anticipating trades because they're surely coming. And the No. 1 pick figures to be in play with the Minnesota Timberwolves likely more interested in adding a veteran who fits cleaner than one of the teenage guards atop their board. 

    If the Wolves were to move down or out of the first round for an established star, their trade partner would figure to be most interested in LaMelo Ball, whose unmatched star power and bankable playmaking could immediately help transform a team's identity. 

    However, if Minnesota sticks at No. 1, I'm giving the early edge to Anthony Edwards. The Wolves just acquired an All-Star-caliber point guard in D'Angelo Russell. Months later, would they be willing to take the ball out of his hands and give it to a rookie to run the offense? Drafting LaMelo to play off the ball seems like a waste of his particular gifts and creativity. 

    In Edwards, the Wolves can add a wing scorer to play 2-guard next to Russell. And if they're watching the NBA playoffs, they're likely seeing the value of having a shot-creator and scoring guard like Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray to take over for stretches.

    Edwards, who just turned 19 in August, pumped in 19.1 points per game as a freshman, producing with 6'5", 225-pound size, advanced one-on-one moves and three-level shot-making.

    No. 1 Pick Odds: -200

2. Golden State Warriors: LaMelo Ball (The Hawks, PG, 2001)

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    Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors figure to remain active in trade talks for the No. 2 pick since the best fits for the roster should be available later in the lottery. While it's unknown what offers will be on the table, I'd bet on another team picking at No. 2 and trading up for Ball.

    The Chicago Bulls make sense as a suitor given their need for a passer and potential trade chips in Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. Even the New York Knicks can make an offer using Mitchell Robinson. And it will be interesting to see if the New Orleans Pelicans have any desire to move Jrue Holiday and pair the Ball brothers.

    Knowing there could be more interest and time to deal after the draft, the Warriors could take Ball and shop him later, or they could keep him and add a special passer between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who'd only make the incoming rookie a better player.

    LaMelo could ultimately be ready to take the keys full-time as he nears his second contract and Curry approaches his 35th birthday. While James Wiseman may make sense to fill their hole at center, a below-average shooter, passer and switch defender doesn't seem like a Warriors pick.  

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +210

3. Charlotte Hornets: James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets could be debating between James Wiseman and Obi Toppin. It wouldn't be surprising if they felt a little safer about drafting college basketball's Player of the Year, who's loaded with enough athleticism and skill for his offensive game to translate. 

    But they could have too much trouble resisting the upside tied to Wiseman's 7'1", 240-pound frame, 7'6" wingspan, quick leaping ability and flashes of open-floor dribbling, post moves and mid-range touch for a 19-year-old. 

    Toppin may have the better shot to win Rookie of the Year, but the Hornets won't be in a rush to see results. Wiseman fits the team's realistic timeline, and the track record of 22-year-olds going in the lottery isn't encouraging. 

    With Toppin more of a forward than a rim protector, Charlotte figures to favor Wiseman's fit, as well. 

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +380

4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF, 2001)

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bulls will likely explore the idea of trading up for LaMelo Ball, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors should have some interest in moving down.

    But with Ball, Edwards and Wiseman off the board in this mock, Chicago is left with a handful of prospects and no obvious best player available. Fit could play a role in who they choose, which could give Deni Avdija the edge over Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu.

    The Bulls would value Avdija's versatility at the forward spots, where he's shown willingness to work as an off-ball scorer by spotting up and cutting. But the upside kicks in with Avdija if the flashes of grab-and-go transition offense, pick-and-roll playmaking and dribble jumpers become more routine.

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +1600

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

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    If the Cleveland Cavaliers believe in their core and want to fill a hole, they won't pick Obi Toppin.

    Isaac Okoro and Devin Vassell make more sense for their perimeter defense between Collin Sexton and Kevin Love. But neither wing seems capable of elevating the current group far enough from the bottom of the standings. Between the Cavaliers' need for the best player available and possible pressure on general manager Koby Altman to see quick results, Toppin could be the pick.

    He's gained momentum among teams throughout the season, rising as high as No. 3 on some NBA scouts' boards. In a draft that's perceived to lack star power and sure things, teams don't sound as alarmed about Toppin's age (22) or defense. They're buying his explosiveness and expanding offensive skills translating to elite finishing, post scoring, threatening three-point shooting and plus passing ability. 

    Toppin would have to come off the bench in Cleveland to start his career, but there should still be 20-25 minutes per game for him to put up rookie numbers and make an impression. 

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +4000

6. Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    A young team like the Atlanta Hawks may be drawn to Tyrese Haliburton's IQ and maturity. But they should really like what he could add next to Trae Young with his secondary playmaking and spot-up shooting.

    While he could give the Hawks backup minutes at point guard, the 6'5" Haliburton possesses enough versatility to work from the 2 and take needed pressure off Young, who led the NBA in time of possession

    The Hawks could ultimately have two of the game's elite passers on the floor simultaneously, and John Collins and Clint Capela would benefit as a result. 

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +1000

7. Detroit Pistons: Onyeka Okongwu (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Only the best player available will matter to the Detroit Pistons, whose roster is loaded with uncertainty between young prospects, aging veterans and impending free agent Christian Wood.

    Onyeka Okongwu comes off as a player Detroit can't afford to pass on given his potential to anchor Detroit's defense for the foreseeable future and the impressive skill level he's developed offensively.

    While his finishing and shot-blocking point to a high floor, Okongwu surprised this season with advanced footwork and touch. The Pistons should feel optimistic about his potential to develop into a go-to scoring option who can create high-percentage looks for himself in the half court.

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +4000

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

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Unless the New York Knicks move up for LaMelo Ball, they may hesitate before taking one of the draft's second-tier point guards to run the team.

    Instead, they could be drawn to Devin Vassell, who they could feel more confident building around, knowing his shooting and defense should translate regardless of who they put around him.

    While Vassell's upside might not pop, his floor and purpose do. A bouncy 6'6" athlete who shot over 40 percent from three in consecutive seasons and routinely made advanced defensive play and reads, he projects as a low-risk three-and-D forward whose game will always be valued and fit.

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +1000

9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF, Freshman)

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    The Washington Wizards should see an easy fit with Isaac Okoro, who'd bring needed defense and toughness to the league's second-worst defensive team. 

    He'd give the lineup a wing stopper next to Rui Hachimura, as well as an efficient off-ball scorer who doesn't need dribbles, an appealing feature for a lineup that revolves around John Wall and Bradley Beal. 

    Shooting will be a swing skill for Okoro, but scouts sound optimistic that he can be threatening enough when paired with his slashing, cutting, passing, defense and intangibles. 

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +5000

10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2001)

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    This could be a trade-out spot for the Phoenix Suns, who may prefer a veteran after the team's encouraging performance in the bubble suggested they're closer to competing. With Killian Hayes on the board, it's also an appealing trade-up spot for a team looking to add a point guard.

    Regardless, the Suns could still take Hayes as the best player available and a ball-handler they could groom to eventually take over for Ricky Rubio.

    Rubio would seemingly be a strong mentor given how he similarly entered the league with athletic and shooting limitations. Hayes' signature NBA strengths should ultimately be his pick-and-roll play and passing, but he did make legitimate progress with his shot creation and shot-making this season.

    No. 1 Pick Odds: +2500

Late Lottery

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    11. San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Williams (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

    Williams has quietly gained steam within NBA front offices that have become intrigued by his power and flashes of skill versatility. He wasn't overly productive at Florida State, but teams are willing to be patient for the youngest NCAA prospect in the draft who can hit threes and pull-ups, live-dribble pass, finish through contact and play-make on defense.


    12. Sacramento Kings: Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Teams are eyeing Bey for his shooting, and there seems to be optimism about his IQ and tools translating to passing and defensive versatility. At the least, he's viewed as a high-floor stretch forward who Sacramento could use at the 3 or 4.


    13. New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Sophomore)

    The Pelicans should be interested in Smith's ability to space the floor and protect the rim next to Zion Williamson. He's drawing rave reviews for his character, work ethic and improvement, both physically and fundamentally. 


    14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

    Achiuwa's athleticism, defensive versatility, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game should grab the Celtics' attention. He'll be used mostly for his physical abilities early, but since high school, he has flashed a skill set that includes open-floor ball-handling and a capable set jump shot.

Nos. 15-20

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

    Even after Jonathan Isaac's torn ACL, the Magic could have a tough time passing on Lewis, who'd give them a new ball-handler with speed and shot-making ability. Defenses can have a difficult time containing him off the dribble, where he also made a notable jump with his skill execution as a scorer and passer.


    16. Portland Trail Blazers: Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)

    The Blazers could look to continue surrounding their core scorers with shooters by drafting Nesmith to join Gary Trent Jr. Though he only lasted 14 games, Nesmith's 52.2 percent three-point mark and off-ball shot-making versatility appeared highly convincing. 


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

    Maxey managed 14.0 points per game while shooting poorly, scoring from all three levels with pull-ups, floaters and tough finishes off drives. The eye test on his three-ball seems more encouraging than the 29.2 percent mark suggests.


    18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos II, PF, 2001)

    By No. 18, the potential reward with Pokusevski seems worth the risk tied to his skinny frame and inefficiency against suspect competition in Greece. He's just too skilled and fluid with his ball-handling, shooting and passing for a 7-footer turning 19 one day after Christmas.


    19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Josh Green (Arizona, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Role-player potential oozes off Green's spot-up shooting, defensive quickness and passing. He's not a creator, but he wouldn't need to be in Brooklyn. His athleticism, complementary skill set and mentality are suited for a supporting role.


    20. Miami Heat: Cole Anthony (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

    Teams have cooled on Anthony, but the Heat could have a tough time resisting at No. 20. It's a buy-low opportunity to add scoring firepower from a guard who can create and make shots from all over, even if he does struggle to run an offense and involve teammates.

Nos. 21-30

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

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

    The Sixers could use another ball-handler and shooter, which makes Terry a potential target. Though not athletic or strong, he compensates with special touch, deep range, sharp ball skills and finishing instincts. 


    22. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Jahmi'us Ramsey (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)

    Ramsey should draw late first-round interest in his scoring potential, which is fueled by self-creation skills, a confident jumper and the ability to heat up. The Nuggets could see a specialty shot-maker with promising defensive tools whose shot selection and concentration need work.


    23. Utah Jazz: Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

    McDaniels will require patience, but it may be worth waiting on a 6'9" forward with ball-handling skills to create and three-point range. Even if he continues to struggle with his motor and decision-making, his stretch-4 potential and shooting remain attractive. 


    24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)

    Hampton's stock isn't where it was to start the season, but the Bucks should see enough potential tied to his explosiveness and versatility. They'll hope he continues to build on his flashes of playmaking and spot-up shooting so he could be used to create in ball-screen situations and score off the ball.


    25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona, SG/SF, 2000)

    Scouts have been monitoring Bolmaro, who's been on the radar for years thanks to his unique ball-handling and playmaking skills for a 6'7" wing. He's in a good situation to develop with Barcelona if the Thunder choose to stash him overseas.


    26. Boston Celtics: Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)

    Nnaji earned fans due to his 6'11" size, inside scoring efficiency, mid-range touch and offensive rebounding. He projects as a role player without much versatility to his game, but his strengths—finishing, post play, putbacks—seem likely to translate. 


    27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Nico Mannion (Arizona, PG, Freshman)

    Passing on a point guard at No. 8 could mean the Knicks target one at No. 27, where Mannion may wind up falling. Despite underwhelming tools, he still possesses a balanced mix of shot versatility and playmaking skills. He was the only freshman in the country to average at least 14 points and five assists.


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

    Looking for an immediate contributor, the Lakers should be eyeing Winston, who's worth betting on to overcome athletic limitations based on his skill, production and intangibles.


    29. Toronto Raptors: Daniel Oturu (Minnesota, C, Sophomore)

    Oturu caught scouts' attention this year by expanding his shooting range, attacking closeouts from the arc and effectively working as a No. 1 scoring option around the key. There are still questions about his post-up-heavy game and defensive awareness, but his 6'10" frame, 20.1 points per game and 19 made threes could earn him a spot in the 20s.


    30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Sophomore)

    While teams are hesitant to buy Jones' improved scoring, it's easy to picture his passing IQ and defensive toughness translating. He can carve out a role that asks him to move the ball, pressure opposing guards and make enough open outside shots. 

    Stats courtesy of ESPN, Sports-Reference.com