The New York Knicks get their man with the No. 6 pick, but how does the rest of the NBA Draft Lottery shake out?
Slowly but surely, the NBA is coming back.
Despite COVID-19 concerns in Florida, commissioner Adam Silver is committed to the Orlando bubble and a July 30 restart. Games are coming back and a champion will be crowned.
And in the thick of it all, on Aug. 25, the NBA Draft Lottery will take place. Even with the roller coaster that was the league stoppage, teams were still preparing for an eventual NBA Draft. This year’s talent pool isn’t necessarily deep, but the lottery teams still provide for plenty of speculation.
Which teams will reach? Who will be taken with the first overall pick? Will some teams be bold enough to either trade out of the lottery or make selections that are just plain nuts?
We’ve done this once before, folks, so let’s do it again. Here’s another mock lottery for the 2020 NBA Draft class.
1. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
The Warriors are going to be an interesting team to watch next season. Star point guard Stephen Curry will be healthy, as will shooter Klay Thompson. Andrew Wiggins will also be manning the wing and providing a boost in scoring, and Draymond Green can man the interior. Golden State also has some exciting youth, namely Eric Paschall and Damion Lee.
But there are still some question marks. Thompson will have missed a full season recovering from ACL surgery. Though Drew Shiller of NBCSports.com reported the team sees center Marquese Chriss as a “building block,” Golden State could use a more dominant body in the paint.
Enter James Wiseman, whose name has been regularly linked to the No. 1 pick even though he played just three college games. That’s a small sample size for NBA scouts, but Wiseman can clearly play. He averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and three blocks while shooting nearly 77% from the field. Wiseman also has an NBA body at 7-foot-1, 240 pounds.
It’s unclear how he would fit into the Warriors’ offense, but James Wiseman is easily one of the best players in the draft if not the best. If Golden State drafts him, Steve Kerr will find a way to make him useful.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
We’re going back-to-back with bigs with our top two picks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are staying local and picking Obi Toppin. The 6-foot-9, 220 pounder posted 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and made 63.3% of his attempts from the field. Toppin also shot 39% from long range.
But Toppin isn’t without flaws. His offense is one-sided to the point where he was practically a one-man Slam Dunk Contest from the flyers. Toppin also needs to develop both his low post and face-up game on top of diversifying his offense. He posted a box plus/minus (BPM) of 12.3 last season, of which 3.3 was on defense. There’s something to be said of his effectiveness even if he was playing in a college offense.
It’s also worth noting the young Cavaliers have an albatross of a contract they’d love to shed. Kevin Love has three years left of a $120.4 million deal after this season, and Cleveland would love to kickstart its rebuild by unloading him. Even if he isn’t moved after the season, Toppin can play behind him and develop until such a time comes that Love can be traded.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Anthony Edwards is a potentially great player who got stuck on a bad Georgia team in his lone college season. The Bulldogs were 16-16 on the year and just 5-13 in the SEC. Furthermore, though Edwards averaged 19.1 points and shot just 40.2% from the field, his true shooting percentage (TS%) was closer to 52%.
And though Edwards still has a ways to go in his development, particularly on defense, Minnesota is a prime spot for him. Yes, Malik Beasley broke out and averaged 20.7 points and shot 42.6% from three after joining the Timberwolves last year. But he is also an impending restricted free agent, and one or more teams may be willing to overpay him. Minnesota having the expensive D’Angelo Russell on the payroll also complicates that front.
Minnesota also has to consider star center Karl-Anthony Towns, who is reportedly unhappy with the team’s performance. If team management is able to draft Edwards and move on from Beasley, perhaps Towns could be convinced to stay. Either way, Edwards is a natural two-guard. Once he improves his three-point shooting, he will have elite scoring potential.
4. Atlanta Hawks: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
The NBA is now very much a scorer’s league, which means you can never have too many defensive wings. Isaac Okoro is a bit of a reach for Atlanta at No. 4, but provides the defense the team so desperately needs. The Hawks ranked dead last in 119.7 points allowed per game, so Okoro’s tenacity would mark an arrival sweeter than peach season in Georgia.
The former four-star recruit has a strong build at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, and posted a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 2.5 at Auburn last year. Okoro also held his own on offense, averaging 12.9 points and shooting 51.4% from the floor.
This would also be a homecoming, as Okoro grew up in nearby Powder Springs, Georgia and starred at McEachern High School. Even though Atlanta already has plenty of wings, namely rising second-year man Cam Reddish, Okoro’s intensity could be the first step to the Hawks climbing out of the cellar.
5. Detroit Pistons: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara Hawks, Australia
Even though Derrick Rose can still score, he’s 31 years old and not the future of the Detroit Pistons. He also has a year left on his contract, which makes LaMelo Ball the perfect pick for Detroit at No. 5.
First, Ball is still just 18 years old. In fact, he won’t turn 19 until three days before the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery. On top of that, as we saw when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted brother Lonzo, the Ball family comes with lots of loud publicity. Ever the showman, father LaVar will certainly follow the same path for his younger son.
More importantly, though, Ball needs time to develop. He has great size for his position at 6-foot-8, 180 pounds, though he could stand to bulk up a bit. Ball also averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in 12 games for Illawarra. Unfortunately, he made just 37.5% of his shots from the field and shot an awful 25% from beyond the arc.
One way or another, Ball should come off the bench for his rookie season, at least to start. He can learn from Rose, a former MVP, while also improving his game. If he can get it together and maintain a balanced game, the Pistons will be one step closer to making it back to the playoffs.
6. New York Knicks: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
With the sixth overall pick, the New York Knicks will get their man. New team president Leon Rose needs a scoring point guard who can enhance his team’s offense, and Anthony can score in bunches. It also helps that his father, Greg, played four of his 11 NBA seasons with the Knicks.
As for the numbers, they don’t tell Anthony’s complete story. He averaged 18.5 points and four assists per game as a freshman, but shot just 38% from the field. But remember, the Tar Heels were an awful 14-19 (6-14 ACC) last season, so awful that Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams called out the whole team as the “least-gifted” with which he has ever worked.
Now, taking into account Anthony was carrying a bad team, his TS% of 50.1% makes more sense. The fact of the matter is Cole Anthony and the New York Knicks are a better match an a bagel and cream cheese. He might need some time to get his wheels under him, but his energetic play would jumpstart the Knicks and be the first step of a proper rebuild.
7. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel
Even as a lottery pick, Deni Avdija may very well be the sleeper of the draft. He has a long and lean build for a wing at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, but is still just 19. Avdija has also been unable to rise above reserve minutes playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in his native Israel.
But don’t let Avdija’s meager output as a young pro fool you. When given the opportunity, the kid can play. Last summer, he led Israel to the gold medal at the FIBA U20 European Championship and averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 boards, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 2.1 steals. Naturally, he was named MVP of the tournament.
Avdija is also a perfect fit for Chicago, and not just because he kind of looks like former Bulls fan favorite Toni Kukoc. His game is a meld of Kukoc’s soft touch and the quiet confidence of Luka Doncic. Between his ability to defend the wing and in the paint and also score with a soft, smooth touch, he could be Chicago’s next step towards a proper post-Michael Jordan era.
8. Charlotte Hornets: Onyeka Okongwu, F/C, USC
Onyeka Okongwu is an explosive young big man with all the potential in the world to succeed in the NBA. He averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks for the Trojans in his freshman season. That’s not bad at all for USC coach Andy Enfield’s fast offense, and Okongwu should keep up with the NBA’s fast pace too.
Charlotte is a prime spot for Okongwu too, and that’s in spite of the fact that he’ll almost definitely come off the bench as a rookie. Talent aside, he’s a little small to play center at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds. Okongwu also has holes in his low post play and face-up game, which can be fixed with coaching. While he develops, seven-footer Cody Zeller can start at center and provide some more size.
But it’s also worth noting next season marks the last on Zeller’s contract, and Charlotte likely won’t re-sign him. This opens the door for a further developed Okongwu to step in as the starter and hold his own as he continues developing. If he can maintain his mid-range jumper while working on the rest of his game, he’ll be a threat on both sides of the court.
9. Washington Wizards: Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
Under normal circumstances, Devin Vassell probably wouldn’t be on the Wizards’ radar. Even with John Wall recovering from a myriad number of injuries, guard Bradley Beal was having a career season before the league suspended play. Beal is also 27 and has a year left on a $127 million contract.
But the Wizards may already be preparing for life without Beal, whose price tag won’t drop anytime soon. Back in May, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News reported the Brooklyn Nets were discussing the possibility of acquiring Beal. The former Florida Gator’s agent later dismissed the rumors, but the reality of Beal’s impending free agency remains.
This is where Vassel fits in. He led the Seminoles with 12.7 points per game last season, his first as a starter at FSU. He made 49% of his shot attempts and 41.5% of his threes. Even better is that in a college offense, Vassell didn’t rely on his long-range game. Only about 35% of his shots were from three-point land, and he posted a TS% of 58.5%.
Vassell can also keep up on defense, having posted a DBPM of 4.2. He has range, can dunk, and really just needs to work on creating his own shot. If he can get his game together, there’s no one better than Wizards coach Scott Brooks to get the best out of him.
10. Phoenix Suns: Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
Precious Achiuwa had one job when James Wiseman left school to turn pro: be the Tigers’ reliable man in the middle. Achiuwa answered the bell and led Memphis with 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Similarly, if Phoenix were to draft him, he would have one job: provide strong frontcourt defense alongside Deandre Ayton. The Suns ranked 21st in the league in points allowed and Dario Saric just isn’t worth bringing back as a restricted free agent. Pure, tough, blue-collar defense is needed in the desert and Achiuwa provides that in spades.
As for size, Achiuwa is on the slimmer side at 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, but don’t be fooled. His DBPM was 3.4 and he only allowed 82.5 points per 100 possessions. He alone won’t fix the Suns’ defense, but Precious Achiuwa is someone who instantly makes it better.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
Tyrese Haliburton is basketball’s version of MacGyver. With MacGyver, you could give him any set of random objects and he can find some use for them in the given moment. With Haliburton, he can be given a basketball and serve many roles on the court.
Now, why am I comparing an NBA draft prospect to the main character from a hit ’80s TV show? Well, because just what his role in the NBA will be is unclear. His future coach could very well have to “MacGyver” him into their respective system.
Which is why the San Antonio Spurs are the perfect team for Haliburton. He did literally everything at Iowa State. Haliburton led the Cyclones in scoring, passing, steals, and tied for the team lead in rebounding too. Between his long and lean build at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds, he could be anything from a scoring guard to a wing in the NBA.
Simply put, Haliburton needs a patient coach. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich’s bread and butter is developing youth and building strong, deep teams. Put these two together, and watch Tyrese Haliburton become a star.
Just how big a star, however, remains to be seen.
12. Sacramento Kings: Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
The Kings’ backcourt is set with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield running the offense. The frontcourt, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Coach Luke Walton could use a big who provides explosive play on both ends of the court. If Sacramento’s front office can get it together, drafting Oturu would be a rare good move for the team.
He has the size at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, and was beyond dominant for Minnesota as a sophomore. Oturu posted 20.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. His field goal percentage was light for a big at just 56.3%, but his TS% was a respectable 61.2%. Oturu also had a win shares per 40 minutes (WS/40) of .226 and a BPM of 11.1.
Oturu also has the ability to play power forward and has the range to space the floor. Once he develops his low post game, Sacramento might finally be a contender again.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm, Germany
With the 13th pick, the New Orleans Pelicans are potentially pulling off the steal of the draft. How big a steal? Well, let’s just say Danny Ocean and his crew might have been involved.
Okay, so George Clooney & company aren’t involved in the NBA Draft Lottery. Not that we know of, at least. Still, the Pelicans would be fools to not draft Hayes if he’s available to them at this position. He’s only 18, but recently averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 assists for Ulm in Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga. Hayes was also effective for Ulm in that he made 39% of his threes and also shot 45.5% from the field.
But what’s most exciting about Hayes is that he has been playing professionally since he was 15. Born to an American father and French mother, he helped France win the FIBA Europe Under-16 Tournament in 2017. Hayes was also named MVP of the tournament, having averaged 15 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and a jaw-dropping 3.2 steals in it.
As for New Orleans, the front office is putting together a solid young core. Zion Williamson is the real deal, and Brandon Ingram is living up to his potential too. In time, Jaxson Hayes will be a strong big. Lonzo Ball, however, is still struggling and the Pelicans need a vibrant young point guard who can be consistently good.
Even at such a young age, Hayes’ drive and lack of off-court distractions make him a prime pick for the Big Easy’s squad.
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL Basket, France
As every basketball fan knows, the Portland Trail Blazers’ backcourt is set. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are both effective scorers and leaders in the Rose City. However, both are nearing 30 and will hit free agency in 2021 and it’s hard to see Portland giving both new max deals.
In terms of picking Lillard’s successor, general manager Neil Olshey could certainly do worse than Theo Maledon. The 6-foot-4 Frenchman only just turned 19 and is an excellent slashing point man with strong court vision. He never averaged over 17.8 minutes per game playing in France, and subsequently only posted 7.4 points per contest as a career-high playing for ASVEL.
But the potential is there. Maledon was a teammate of the aforementioned Killian Hayes on the French Under-16 team that won the FIBA Europe tournament in 2017. On that squad, he averaged 14.6 points per game.
Maledon could work to improve his jump shot, though he can shoot the three and is an excellent backcourt defender. By learning behind Lillard in Portland, he can easily transform into an effective NBA guard.