NBA Draft 2020: Latest Rumors on James Wiseman, Deni Avdija and More

Martin FennFeatured Columnist INovember 14, 2020

NBA Draft 2020: Latest Rumors on James Wiseman, Deni Avdija and More

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    The 2020 NBA draft is just four days away, and there is little clarity as to how teams will proceed, as well as whether a blockbuster trade is in the works.

    Some teams appear to be having a hard time measuring the talent pool in this draft when debating whether to trade back or attempt to move up the board. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who own the No. 1 pick, seem just as confused as to who they might select if they keep the pick.

    However, there are growing indications Minnesota—or whoever ends up with the top selection—could end up taking Memphis center James Wiseman.

    Wiseman played just three games for the Tigers before receiving a suspension from the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits and subsequently electing to leave school and prepare for the draft.

    Despite the absence of playing experience, the 19-year-old has stirred up a high level of interest within multiple front offices. Here are some of the latest rumors regarding Wiseman and Israeli teenager Deni Avdija, as well as the New York Knicks' efforts to trade up.

Wiseman a Legitimate Candidate to Go No. 1 Overall

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    There has been no shortage of chatter as to which player will be taken with the No. 1 pick.

    The early narrative suggested Georgia wing Anthony Edwards would be the top selection. But that talk gradually seemed to shift towards LaMelo Ball.

    While the youngest Ball brother might yet be the top overall pick, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman reported the Timberwolves "sound willing" to draft Wiseman. 

    Minnesota already has an All-Star center in Karl-Anthony Towns. But there are reasons why drafting Wiseman still makes plenty of sense.

    Towns quietly had a dominant season this past year, though injuries limited him to 35 games. The former No. 1 overall pick averaged a career-high 26.5 points to go along with 10.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. But the most important number, as far as drafting Wiseman is concerned, is Towns' three-point shooting percentage.

    The former Kentucky star shot a whopping 41.2 percent from deep on 7.9 attempts, a pretty astonishing mark given Towns is equally adept at breaking opponents down in the paint or taking them off the dribble.

    In fact, drafting Wiseman and moving Towns to power forward could be the best outcome. Towns' ability to stretch the floor would open up the paint for Wiseman to work inside and dive to the rim in pick-and-roll until he learns to expand his range. Meanwhile, Wiseman's shot-blocking and interior defense might make up for Towns' deficiencies on that end of the floor.

    Even if the T-Wolves trade back, Wiseman could still be the top choice. Wasserman reported the Charlotte Hornets have interest in Wiseman and might be tempted to trade with Minnesota so as to ensure they can draft him.

    Regardless, Wiseman is generating plenty of noise at the top of the draft.

Cavs Intrigued by Avdija

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Avdija might not go No. 1 overall, but he appears more and more likely to be off the board within the first five picks.

    Ethan Strauss of The Athletic reported last month the Golden State Warriors were "blown away" by Avdija in his individual workout for the team. Draft insider Chad Ford reported there is "significant buzz" about Avdija landing with the Chicago Bulls because of new team president Arturas Karnisovas' lengthy history as an international scout.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are also thought to have interest in Avdija. Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported the Cavs are "high" on the Maccabi Tel Aviv forward, adding league executives do not believe Avdija will fall out of the top five.

    Cleveland might prefer to draft a big man, given the uncertainty surrounding Tristan Thompson's free agency as well as the fact Andre Drummond will be a free agent after next season. But there is a very real possibility both Wiseman and USC center Onyeka Okongwu are both off the board by the time the Cavs are on the clock.

    Avdija's upside as a playmaker could make for a good fit in Cleveland.

    The Cavs lack quality facilitators in the backcourt, considering both Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are score-first guards. Avdija's size and handle might help make him successful, and the Cavs could have just enough shooting to offset some of his struggles from the perimeter.

    Or, perhaps Cleveland views Avdija as a guy who can be an improved and slightly more athletic version Kevin Love, if the youngster can improve his stroke.

    In any case, Avdija figures to hear his name called early Wednesday night. 

Knicks Having Difficulties Trading Up

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The Knicks might have interest in trading up from the No. 8 spot in order to have a chance at selecting Ball, but teams at the top of the board want quite a bit from New York in return.

    Ford reported teams in the top three have been asking for Knicks center Mitchell Robinson and either RJ Barrett or a future first-rounder in addition to the No. 8 pick.

    Leon Rose is likely to be wary of giving up so much value in his first year as team president, no matter how highly the Knicks might grade Ball. New York could just as easily stay put at No. 8 and select a wing, or even trade back to stack draft capital.

    Giving up Robinson would figure to be a non-starter. Even if there are questions about his offensive upside, the 22-year-old is one of the most dominant rim protectors in basketball. Robinson also might be one of just two bigs on the roster if the Knicks decline options on Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

    Barrett is probably considered just as untouchable. The former Duke star could be maddeningly inefficient with the ball last year, but the Knicks have yet to flesh out Barrett's full potential. Rose is likely hoping to surround his young core with strong vets and talented youngsters who fill voids, rather than trade them away simply to land a player in a questionable draft class, from a talent perspective.

    The Knicks could consider giving up this kind of value for a star player. But they appear unwilling to do so just to move a few spots in the draft.


    All stats obtained via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted. 


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