With one week to go before the 2020 NBA draft, boards are being finalized and trade discussions are heating up.
A select handful of teams keep coming up as active in talks to make moves. And the top of the board remains fluid, as rival teams continue to dig and guess what the Minnesota Timberwolves are thinking.
Everyone around the league is expecting a busy, unpredictable night on Wednesday, with many trades unlikely to materialize until teams are on the clock.
LaMelo Ball too big a star to pass on?
Opinions on LaMelo Ball are all over the place. The opinion that matters most right now is that of the Timberwolves, who control the board at No. 1.
Some in NBA circles believe Minnesota will settle on Ball—a star-caliber talent whose passing seems guaranteed to translate—and put aside the questions about his fit with D'Angelo Russell.
Still, even those who see Ball going first question how it would work out for Minnesota. One scout pictured an AAU team trying to outscore everyone, while another questioned how the Wolves could ever escape the first round of the playoffs with a defense that plays Russell, Ball and Karl-Anthony Towns for 30-plus minutes.
From what I'm hearing, there are mixed opinions about Ball inside the Warriors front office. One source close to Golden State mentioned there could be pressure from ownership to draft Ball, while a second source believed there was fear about how he'd mesh personalitywise with the core veterans.
There doesn't seem to be much of any buzz regarding the Charlotte Hornets' feelings about Ball. They likely feel good about Devonte' Graham, both in terms of his breakout and the fact that the team drafted and developed him. Would the Hornets want to add another ball-dominant guard who (like Graham) shot below 40 percent last season?
Ball could ultimately have the best chance to go No. 1 but also the best chance to drop outside the top three. While a free-fall sounds unlikely, I've been told he won't get past the Detroit Pistons at No. 7.
James Wiseman the safer gamble?
As we mentioned last week, teams have been hearing that the Timberwolves sound willing to take Wiseman at No. 1, in spite of his clunky fit next to Towns.
If president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas wants to improve the team's defensive identity—which Ball and Anthony Edwards aren't likely to help with—he could convince himself that Towns can play power forward with his perimeter skill set, while Wiseman could add needed rim protection.
Talking with scouts, nobody sounds confident that Ball or Edwards are All-Stars, either. Wiseman could simply win Minnesota over with a best-player-available case at No. 1.
His fit is easier to picture in Golden State. The Warriors need a center, and Wiseman could play to his strengths cleaning up after the team's shooters and playing off their creators.
It's seeming unlikely he drops to the Hornets, whom everyone expects would draft him at No. 3.
Anthony Edwards the best fit?
Some believe Edwards is the pick at No. 1 because of his fit on paper with the roster. While Ball and Russell are somewhat repetitive in the backcourt, and Wiseman and Towns are centers, Edwards makes sense as a scoring wing between Minnesota's current cornerstones.
It sounds like Golden State would take Wiseman over Edwards if Minnesota takes Ball. Wiseman could go No. 1, either to Minnesota or a team trading up. While it's unclear what Warriors ownership and general manager Bob Myers think of Edwards, sources say there are voices in the front office that are against drafting Edwards.
The Hornets figure to be interested in Edwards' wing scoring, so it's tough to picture him falling outside the top three. But it does sound possible if the Hornets are really prioritizing defense and filling their hole at center. Onyeka Okongwu remains a sleeper option to crack the top three, as is Obi Toppin, who's top-two on boards for multiple scouts I've spoken to.
Hornets-Timberwolves potential trade
We reported last week that the Charlotte Hornets were interested in Wiseman, which may have something to do with scouts and executives hearing the Timberwolves could actually take him No. 1. For Minnesota, creating the perception it wants Wiseman would motivate Charlotte to make a bigger trade offer for the first pick. If Charlotte moves to No. 1 for Wiseman, Minnesota guarantees itself Ball or Edwards while being compensated for dropping two spots.
Picking third instead of first also takes pressure off the Wolves' front office. One rival executive told Bleacher Report: "I'd be scared to death to pick first this year."
The question is what Minnesota would ask for in a deal with Charlotte, and what/whom the Hornets would be willing to trade to jump up two spots. Assuming Graham and P.J. Washington are untouchable, Miles Bridges comes off as a desirable target for Minnesota, though the Hornets would probably balk at adding him in a deal as well.
They could try to sell high on Malik Monk, whose stock may have spiked despite his suspension, which interrupted a streak that had him averaging 17.0 points over his final 13 games. Otherwise, Charlotte has No. 32 overall (via Cavaliers) to offer, as well as future picks.
Warriors-Spurs trade rumors
The Spurs sound active, and it doesn't appear like they're trying to be discreet. Multiple teams have mentioned they are hearing San Antonio is attempting to make some type of move.
A trade rumor involving the Warriors' No. 2 pick and the Spurs, who own the 11th selection, surfaced last week, reaching the media airwaves when ESPN's Zach Lowe was the first to bring it up.
Rival teams have been asking about a potential deal, trying to determine its details and legitimacy. A source told Bleacher Report that talks were believed to include Andrew Wiggins, who'd need to be involved to make a deal work moneywise if LaMarcus Aldridge would be going to Golden State, with the assumption Draymond Green is off the table. It's unclear whether the Spurs have any interest in taking back Wiggins and the three years remaining on his contract.
It's assumed if San Antonio remains interested in trying to move up, Wiseman would be the target. This could have been a trade idea that already died, if it had any legs at all, but it's worth noting that other teams are talking and looking into it.
Atlanta Hawks trade rumors, more Timberwolves
Teams believe the Hawks have made No. 6 available in hopes of landing an established player who could help them win this season. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported the Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics were interested in making a deal with Atlanta.
I've talked about Florida State's Patrick Williams gaining for months, and I've heard from multiple sources he's a target for the Detroit Pistons at No. 7. Could teams be looking to leapfrog Detroit for Williams?
There is an assumption that Minnesota is looking to add a second lottery pick and package it for a star. A source also suggests Minnesota wants Toppin, but they may be hesitant to take him No. 1.
Though I'm just speculating, I continue to think of Toppin as a desirable target for the Timberwolves, given his perceived NBA-readiness and offensive fit, questions about Ball, Edwards and Wiseman, and the shared love for college basketball's National Player of the Year by all.
Update on Florida State's Devin Vassell
A short clip recently surfaced of Vassell shooting jumpers while training for the draft, and it generated a loud reaction from many Twitter shot doctors alarmed by what they perceived as an altered shot form.
NBA evaluators aren't as worried. Some have even laughed at the fact that Vassell actually made the two shots that caused such an uproar. Needless to say, teams are not downgrading the three-and-D wing based on a 21-second workout video.
One scout told Bleacher Report he did investigate, reaching out to Vassell's coaches and trainers, who assured him no mechanical changes were made, and it was just two teammates messing around to end a workout, with Vassell playfully exaggerating an already-high release point.
In terms of Vassell's draft stock, sources tell Bleacher Report the Warriors have expressed legitimate interest, although it's presumed they wouldn't take him at No. 2. One scout admitted to ranking Vassell top-five on his board, citing his trajectory since high school and underrated shot creativity that was often masked in a Florida State offense that doesn't feature any one player. Vassell's camp has confidence he's going in the Nos. 8-12 range, suggesting he won't slip past the Sacramento Kings.
Other prospect notes
- Teams in the 20s aren't expecting to have a chance at drafting Memphis' Precious Achiuwa. He's expected to go somewhere in the No. 9 to No. 18 range.
- Multiple teams think Arizona's Josh Green will fall. Some consider him a fringe first-rounder, though I've heard the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 24 as a floor landing spot.
- Prospects with the widest draft ranges seem to be Jaden McDaniels, Tyrell Terry, Daniel Oturu, Tyrese Maxey and RJ Hampton.
- Teams are doing their homework on Josh Hall, whom they're having difficulty pinning down after he bypassed college to declare for the draft out of high school. He's being thought of as an interesting upside play in the second round.