NBA Draft 2020: Latest News, Rumors and Predictions on Top Prospects

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 31, 2020

NBA Draft 2020: Latest News, Rumors and Predictions on Top Prospects

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    An NBA offseason like no other will feature a virtual NBA draft on Nov. 18 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Normally, the NBA season is nearly one month old around Nov. 18, but the start date for the next campaign isn't even known.

    One thing that hasn't changed is the non-stop flow of pre-draft news and rumors, and this week has been no exception.

    With that in mind, here's a look at some reports on five of the draft's best prospects, all of whom could land in the top 10.

Memphis C James Wiseman

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    Memphis big man James Wiseman may not be waiting long to hear his name called in the NBA draft.

    Per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, the Charlotte Hornets, who select third in this year's draft, are interested in selecting the former Tiger, with the former writing:

    "The Hornets are highly interested in selecting former Memphis center James Wiseman in the Nov. 18 draft, two NBA sources with knowledge of the situation told The Observer. ...

    "Those sources said they believe the Hornets—who hold the third overall pick—would consider trading up if it would secure Wiseman, who played just three college games at Memphis before opting out of his freshman season and turning pro."

    O'Connor wrote in his latest mock draft that "rumblings around the league suggest Golden State and Charlotte covet Wiseman; to get him, the Hornets might need to leapfrog to trade up."

    On the Warriors front, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, citing colleague Marcus Thompson, referenced the Warriors' positive opinions on the 7-footer.

    "This isn't a great draft, but, as sources told Thompson last week, the Warriors almost certainly agree with the consensus that the top three guys are in a tier above the rest. That would be Wiseman, a big center who seems to fit the Warriors' personnel needs best, and Ball and Edwards, two very offensive-minded guards."

    There's always pre-draft smoke, but these reports seem trustworthy. The Warriors and Hornets simply have a need for a big man to build their frontcourts around.

    The Warriors are set with four-fifths of their starting lineup thanks to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, but they need a big to round it out.

    The Hornets are in full-on rebuilding mode. They have some young pieces to work with (e.g., point guard Devonte' Graham), but they don't have a frontcourt franchise cornerstone. Wiseman could be that player and supplant Cody Zeller, who will be a free agent after the forthcoming season.

    Regardless, unless trades shake up the order, don't expect Wiseman to fall below No. 3.

Illawarra Hawks PG LaMelo Ball

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    Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    There isn't a shortage of news and rumors on Ball.

    Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer went on Wilson & Parcell on WFNZ Radio on Wednesday and shared some notable news (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports):

    "Here is what I'm hearing from the league at large: LaMelo Ball is not performing very well at job interviews. I've heard that from multiple sources. He is not improving his perception via job interview. There are people drafting later in the top 10 who were not preparing for the possibility of Ball still being around. And I'm not saying that he will not be a top-three pick. I am saying that I know for a fact that there are teams later in the top 10 who are doing more research on him, because they no longer think it's a given he will."

    On Oct. 15, Ball told ESPN's Jalen Rose and David Jacoby that he had only talked with the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors on Zoom calls up until that point.

    ESPN's Jonathan Givony reported that Ball met with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday and that it "was the first meeting Ball had conducted."

    Perhaps one, two or all three of those teams spilled the beans, or maybe a mystery team (or teams) did. In addition, perhaps that news is just another draft smokescreen designed to sink Ball's draft stock to a team that covets him.

    Ultimately, Ball is too talented to slip far. Analysts love Ball's game, with Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, Jonathan Givony of ESPN and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic all ranking him first on their big boards.

    It's possible we see trades out of the top three and a new team entering the fray for Ball, but the guess is he doesn't fall further than No. 3. Regardless of whether there is truth to the interview rumors, the 6'7" guard has too much upside to look past in a draft with plenty of unknowns and a lack of sure-thing elite prospects.

USC C Onyeka Okongwu

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    USC's Onyeka Okongwu would appear to be in the driver's seat as the second center off the board behind Wiseman, and the Washington Wizards should be there to pick him up if he falls, per Wasserman: "A source suggests the Washington Wizards are hoping USC's Onyeka Okongwu falls to them at No. 9. If he isn't there, they'd be interested in trading the pick."

    A few teams in need of centers reside in the top 10 of this year's draft, including the Warriors, Hornets, Pistons, Hawks and Wizards.

    Washington will likely have to cross its fingers and hope Okongwu, whose remarkably efficient freshman season at USC included a 61.6 percent shooting rate (in addition to 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks), is still sitting there at No. 9. He would be an excellent fit down low next to power forward Rui Hachimura, who can help stretch the floor and offer a diverse frontcourt.

    Coupled with the veteran backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall, a Wizards team featuring Okongwu could lead Washington back to the playoffs. Look for the Wizards to take him if he's available.

Ratiopharm Ulm PG Killian Hayes

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    Getty Images

    Don't expect point guard Killian Hayes to be available for long. Furthermore, don't be surprised if a team that has an established franchise point guard looks to draft him anyway.

    Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has more: "Analytics departments like Killian Hayes, who's received interest from point guard-needy teams like the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks but also the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings."

    The Pistons and Knicks spun a roulette wheel at point guard last season. For Detroit, Bruce Brown, Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight primarily manned the position. In New York, Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina all took their shots.

    Detroit and New York, who draft fifth and eighth overall, respectively, would be wise to come away with a point guard in this year's draft. With that in mind, it's hard seeing Hayes slip past No. 8 to the Knicks.

    As for the Hawks and Kings, they have more pressing needs than point guard, although Hayes could hypothetically be part of a two-guard backcourt alongside Atlanta's Trae Young or Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox. Still, the Hawks need a big man and some wing help, and the Kings must find an identity and more frontcourt assistance.

Florida State F Patrick Williams

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    One of the fastest-risers up NBA draft boards could be busting through the top-10 door quickly, per Wasserman: "I reported weeks ago that Florida State's Patrick Williams was gaining steam as a top-10 pick. We're now hearing he's in play at No. 7 to the Detroit Pistons, though they're also interested in Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and Kira Lewis."

    Williams didn't post flashy stats during his one year at FSU, as he averaged 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game. However, scouts and analysts alike love the 6'8" freshman.

    Givony ranks him ninth on his big board. He noted that Williams is the "second-youngest player in this draft class and is something "of [a] late bloomer who appears to have considerable upside."

    Wasserman has him even higher at seventh, also citing his potential: "Ranking Patrick Williams in the top 10 means betting on significant improvement, but as the draft's youngest NCAA prospect, it's a bet worth taking when you consider his window to develop and potential versatility."

    Williams doesn't appear to be a primary franchise building block. Nor does he seem to be a player who can help a contending team anytime soon. He's likely a good fit on a team in the middle of a rebuild looking for more pieces to fit around young stars, like the Hawks, Kings or even the San Antonio Spurs, whose youth movement appeared to start in earnest by the end of the season.

    Look for Williams to land in the lottery but in the back end, no later than 12th to Sacramento.