2020 NBA Draft: Buying or Selling Latest Rumors

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 21, 2020

2020 NBA Draft: Buying or Selling Latest Rumors

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    It's officially rumor season now that the lottery is complete and the NBA draft has been set for November 18.

    Deciphering legitimate developments from smokescreens is always an important exercise during this time. There is a lot of buzz out there about risers, improving prospects and teams interested in trading.

    We addressed the latest rumors to figure out which sound legitimate and which are baseless talk.

Minnesota Timberwolves Trade Talk at No. 1

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Minnesota Timberwolves trading No. 1: Selling

    Without an obvious superstar in this draft class, the idea that Minnesota would trade the No. 1 overall pick became an immediate storyline following the lottery.

    The Wolves figure to show interest in swapping the first pick for an established star, similar to the way the Cleveland Cavaliers did (right after the 2014 draft) when they acquired Kevin Love in a deal for Andrew Wiggins. But as much as Minnesota will wants a player like Devin Booker or Bradley Beal—who'd give the lineup a third star and escape plan from the rebuild/lottery—this year's first pick doesn't hold the traditional value of previous No. 1 overall selections.

    Despite the excitement about the potential of LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, there isn't a ton of confidence around the league that they're surefire answers for struggling franchises.

    If the Wolves are intent on acquiring an established player over drafting a teenager, they could turn their attention to Jrue Holiday, a more realistic target. But at age 30, he's entering the final year of his contract with a player option for 2021-22. The risk of Holiday leaving after the season to join a more serious contender could be too great.

    Lower-caliber, potentially gettable targets include Victor Oladipo, John Collins and Lauri Markkanen. But questions about Oladipo's injury history, Collins' defensive fit and Markkanen's lack of progress may make it too difficult for Minnesota to part with a No. 1 overall selection.

    The other option for Minnesota is trading down. But offers to move down aren't likely to sound overly exciting, either. Drafting in the No. 4-10 range likely nets Minnesota a role player. And the additional asset the Wolves would receive for moving down—whether it's from the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks or Phoenix Suns—isn't likely to be a short-term needle-mover.

    Unless the Wolves have no real faith in Ball or Edwards, Minnesota will most likely stick at No. 1, draft one of those guards and hope he develops into the team's third franchise cornerstone.

RJ Hampton's Improving Jumper

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    Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    RJ Hampton's improving jumper: Buying

    One of the biggest challenges for evaluators in 2020 is assessing prospects' improvement since their final game, considering the extended length of this year's layoff. RJ Hampton hasn't played since January 12, over eight months ago. That's an enormous amount of time for a teenager to improve his jump shot, particularly during a pandemic, when social activities and other distractions are limited.

    SNY's Ian Begley spoke with former NBA shooting specialist Mike Miller, who spent last year as an assistant under Penny Hardaway at Memphis and is now training a potential lottery pick in Hampton. Miller made some noteworthy comments regarding Hampton's shooting, a giant swing skill for the 6'5" combo guard.

    "With him and the way he plays, if he shoots—which I'm pretty confident in—in the next two-three years he'll be a high-30s, low-40s percent three-point shooter, he'll be one of the best guards in the league," Miller told Begley.

    "The consistencies I've seen with him, the stuff that he's worked on, it's the same stuff that I've worked on with tons of shooters in the league and I've seen the transformation, so I'm not guessing."

    While all trainers tout their students, Miller's level of confidence is quite persuasive, particularly given his credibility and reputation for connecting with young players.

    In 19 NBL games (including exhibitions), Hampton shot 15-of-53 from three and a promising 76.2 percent from the free-throw line. To suggest that in a few years he could go from capable to proficient isn't far-fetched. From what we saw overseas, Hampton could make outside shots, just not consistently.

    Given his explosiveness attacking the basket and playmaking ability off the dribble, he doesn't need to shoot at Mike Miller levels. Even reaching the 35.0 percent three-point mark on average volume could go a long way for Hampton.

    While there are scouts who've cooled on him, it also wouldn't be surprising if Hampton were able to sway one lottery team that's willing to bet on his jump-shot development.

Golden State Warriors Smoke

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Golden State Warriors' leaked preferences: Selling

    Draft smoke has been pouring out of the Golden State Warriors front office for months, as if the team is openly revealing whom it's high on and whom it's not.

    According to reports, the Warriors aren't high on LaMelo Ball. They prefer to take a wing. They don't plan to trade the pick. Anthony Edwards is their No. 1 prospect. Onyeka Okongwu is higher on their board than James Wiseman.

    There are just too many rumors. The Warriors front office can't be this unintentionally leaky. But it also seems unrealistic to think they've established concrete preferences before the predraft process has even really started.

    It's certainly possible there are individuals within the organization who've expressed their personal opinions. But thinking the franchise has collectively agreed on its board and strategy this early sounds naive.

Patrick Williams, Jalen Smith Rising

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Florida State's Patrick Williams, Maryland's Jalen Smith rising: Buying

    Bleacher Report reported on Patrick Williams and Jalen Smith gaining steam a few weeks ago. Last week, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor echoed the notion that both players are rising.

    While neither player has been a regular in our lottery projections throughout the season, Williams and Smith worked their way in early in September.

    Without many obvious stars in the draft, teams sound enticed by the idea of a 6'8", 225-pound forward with the ability to hit threes, shoot off the dribble, live-dribble pass and blow up plays defensively. Being the youngest NCAA prospect eligible only creates the perception that there's more upside to unlock. Williams figures to draw looks from teams in the No. 8-14 range.

    It also sounds like teams feel they can't go wrong with Smith, who put on considerable muscle at 6'10" and made compelling improvement as a shooter. Though limited ball-handling skills lower his perceived ceiling, the San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics (picks Nos. 11-14) could all use a stretch big who still brings strong finishing, rebounding and shot-blocking inside.

Active Shoppers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Atlanta Hawks: Buying

    According to ESPN's Tim Bontemps, the Hawks are among the teams most expect will be active in trade talks with their pick. I'm buying Atlanta's willingness to make a move, given the front office's recent track record of draft-day swapping and the team's interest in moving up the standings.

    The Hawks will presumably try to acquire a veteran or an immediate contributor like Spencer Dinwiddie or Buddy Hield, players who may be available. The alternative would be trying to package their young wings and forwards like De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter to move up for a scorer like Anthony Edwards, though this admittedly sounds unrealistic.

    Regardless, I suspect the Hawks will try to move from the No. 6 spot.


    Detroit Pistons: Buying

    Sources tell Bleacher Report that the Pistons have made it known the No. 7 pick is on the table.

    It would make sense. None of the team's young players seem guaranteed to blow up, so Detroit may want multiple chances in this draft to make a splash, as opposed to putting its eggs in one basket at No. 7, particularly if the Pistons see the same caliber prospect available in the teens.

    Detroit could be compensated with an additional pick or player for moving down into the late lottery or teens, where it could take a ball-handler or scorer like Kira Lewis Jr., Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton or Tyrese Maxey.


    Phoenix Suns: Buying

    Bontemps also says league insiders expect Phoenix to shop its pick at No. 10. I'm buying as well. After going 8-0 in the bubble, the Suns figure to feel confident about their chances of moving up next season's standings, and chances are, the No. 10 pick won't help them.

    No. 10 is a spot that teams may look to trade up to for players like Killian Hayes, Patrick Williams, Isaac Okoro or Devin Vassell.