NBA Mock Draft 2020: Predictions for Isaac Okoro and Top Defensive Prospects
The cliche about defense winning championships is a little oversimplified—two-way balance is the real key—but good defense is a part of almost every NBA title.
For teams hoping to load up at basketball's less glamorous end of the floor, the upcoming draft offers several remedies for defensive leaks of all types.
From suffocating defensive stoppers to intimidating paint protectors, we'll break down the best defensive prospects in the 2020 draft pool.
Mock 1st Round
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: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
8. New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
10. Phoenix Suns: Devin Vassell, SF, Florida State
11. San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Williams, PF, Florida State
12. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
15. Orlando Magic: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Jalen Smith, PF/C, Maryland
18. Dallas Mavericks: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos II
19. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
20. Miami Heat: Josh Green, SG, Arizona
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: Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova
24. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Theo Maledon, PG/SG, ASVEL
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona
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: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
29. Toronto Raptors: Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Xavier Tillman, PF/C, Michigan State
James Wiseman, C, Memphis
While prospect evaluations need to dig deeper than the eye test, the easiest place to start with James Wiseman's defensive potential is his physical form.
The 19-year-old stands a towering 7'1" and sports a hawkish 7'6" wingspan. Add turbo-boosted athleticism to the mix, and you're talking about an impact defender around the basket.
While he spent just three games at Memphis, he still crammed in nightly averages of 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in just 23.0 minutes. That translates to per-40-minutes marks of 18.6 boards and 5.2 rejections.
With the league moving increasingly toward a more position-less style, centers don't simply man the middle anymore. But Wiseman has the agility to hold his own away from the basket.
"He moves and slides like a strong 6'0" guard," TrueHoop's David Thorpe observed. "He is just very comfortable in his stance. Chris Bosh had that ability, and advanced stats showed him, for a time, to be the best pick-and-roll defender in the league. Anthony Davis and David Robinson are icons of the genre. Athletically, Wiseman is very similar to all three."
While Wiseman's ceiling might be determined by his offensive development, the team drafting him can reasonably expect him to be a plus-anchor out of the gate and maybe an all-league stopper at some point.
Isaac Okoro, SF/PF, Auburn
Offense may seem a strange starting point for a defensive discussion, but bear with me.
Isaac Okoro didn't set the stat sheet ablaze at Auburn. He averaged 12.9 points and 2.0 assists in 31.5 minutes, while shooting worse than 30 percent from three and under 70 perfect at the foul line.
Yet, you'd be hard-pressed to locate a mock that doesn't mention the 19-year-old among the first 10 picks despite all of his offensive question marks. That's how promising his defense looks.
"He'll be able to hang his hat on defense immediately, with a great combination of strength, balance and agility that should enable him to keep up with the league’s top perimeter scorers," Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo wrote.
Teams need versatility from today's perimeter stoppers, and Okoro offers it in multiple areas. He's strong enough to bang with bigger players and quick enough to keep up with speedsters.
He is also a smart, instinctive team defender who rarely misses a rotation and reads the floor well enough to disrupt the opposition's sets.
Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, USC
While some coaches might cringe reading this, defense isn't all about effort. Everything from physical gifts to basketball intelligence plays a part in pestering point-producers.
Saying that, effort is undoubtedly a key part of the equation. A player won't emerge as a lockdown defender unless he really, really wants to. Onyeka Okongwu lives for it.
"I take a lot of pride in playing defense," the 19-year-old told HoopsHype's Bryan Kalbrosky. "I love defense. I've been playing elite defense since I was a little kid. I take a lot of pride in defense coming naturally for me."
Okongwu lacks some size (6'9" with a 7'2" wingspan), but he can change shots around the rim and really thrives away from it. His mobility and versatility is reminiscent of Miami Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo.