The 2020 NBA Draft is about a week away, and there might be more unknowns going into this year’s draft than any year we’ve seen for a long time. There’s no consensus number 1 pick, there’s a contender in win-now mode drafting 2nd overall (Golden State), and several top 10 picks either did not play college ball (Killian Hayes, Lamelo Ball, Deni Avdija) or barely got a look (James Wiseman, who played 3 games at Memphis).
Additionally, there’s a uniquely short offseason due to the COVID-induced break on the season and bubble. Teams are awaiting the window to trade players and draft picks to open any day now, and several stars have already been dealt (Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday) with several more potentially on the move, including Blake Griffin, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and most importantly, James Harden.
This is considered a fairly weak draft at the top of the board, but there’s value aplenty outside of the lottery this year with a number of potential quality players likely to be drafted later in the first round. So who should you keep an eye on in this draft? Let’s take a look and answer some burning questions.
So who are the Minnesota Timberwolves taking at Number 1?
This is the first question that needs to be answered, because it will dictate how the Warriors handle their pick and who could potentially trade up to the top of the board. Per Jonathon Givony of ESPN, the belief around the league is Lamelo Ball is the choice for the T-Wolves at number 1, but the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and Oklahoma City Thunder are checking in on what it would take to trade into the No. 1 pick and take Ball.
Depending on who you ask, Lamelo Ball is either a potential superstar or a bust waiting to happen. What are his positive traits? Well for starters, he’s a 6’7 point guard that possesses a special ability to pass the ball and make plays for his teammates. Unlike his older brother Lonzo, Lamelo does not have a confidence problem shooting any shot, (which also works against him). If he’s locked in, there’s also belief that he can be a positive defender with his length, able to guard multiple positions and switch onto guards and wings alike defensively.
The negative? For starters, there’s questions about his work ethic and background. You know all about his father’s influence, and Melo has played in situations specifically catered to making him look good in high school, then Lithuania, and most recently, Australia.
He’s been able to shoot as many times as he likes, turn the ball over with reckless abandon, and has not played in a pressure-packed situation to prepare him for the league in the same way some point guards with college hoops or pro experience in Europe might have.
There’s also been questions about his less-than-stellar interviews, which could be real or could be a smokescreen. It’s so hard to tell just before the draft what is real criticism and what is being floated by other teams.
Whether it’s the Timberwolves, Bulls, Pistons, Thunder, or a mystery team, I’m going to predict Lamelo Ball goes number 1 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
What are the Warriors going to do with the No. 2 pick?
The Warriors are a rarity to be picking at the top of the draft. They tanked last season with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson missing virtually the entire season, and get both back, along with Draymond Green, to make another run in the West in 2020-2021. Their window to win is right now, which gives them a couple of likely options to do with their pick- trade down or trade the pick outright for a star.
Let’s start with option number 1: Trading down. They can move back a few spots and take a player like Obi Toppin, the reigning NCAA Player of the year out of Dayton. The multi-talented big man is ready to contribute immediately and would slot into the forward lineup alongside Draymond Green. I love this fit for both Toppin and the Warriors.
Or how about Tyrese Halliburton? More on him later, but the 6’5 point guard from Iowa State would give the Warriors another primary ballhandler and playmaker to ease the load on Steph Curry, now on the wrong side of 30. Golden State can also play Klay Thompson at the 3 and use all three together at the same time, if they’d like. Halliburton is younger than Obi Toppin but similarly ready to contribute immediately.
If they want to trade the pick, they could combine the number 2 pick with Andrew Wiggins’ money to trade for star and make the money work. Bradley Beal feels a little out of reach, but Jrue Holliday? He could be in play for the right deal. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are not enough for that pick, but other picks/players could be thrown in to even the deal out. Don’t be surprised if the Warriors move out of that number 2 pick with an eye on a player to help them compete for a title this year.
Who’s got the highest ceiling in this draft?
Lamelo Ball’s passing and playmaking, combined with his size, make him a strong candidate for the prospect with the highest ceiling in the draft. There’s also James Wiseman, the freshman center from Memphis that barely got to play before the NCAA ruled him ineligible after just a handful of games. Wiseman is built and plays a lot like DeAndre Ayton, the number 1 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, checking in at over 7’0 with a massive wingspan, ability to run the floor, protect the rim, and post up in the paint.
Another name all over the board is Anthony Edwards. The 6’5, 230 pound shooting guard from Georgia is built like James Harden and can get a bucket on anyone. He’s quick, powerful, and shows an advanced offensive game for his age (19). There’s questions about his effort as well, but Edwards’ ceiling is as a number 1 scorer on an NBA roster, which I’m not sure any other player in this draft can claim.
However, I’m going to go outside the box for this one with Onyeka Okongwu, the 6’9 freshman forward from USC. Okongwu averaged 16.2 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, and 2.7 blocks per game on 61.8% EFG. He’s got a 7’1 wingspan and he uses every bit of it with his versatility and athleticism on both ends of the floor.
Offensively Okongwu is a terrific finisher around the rim, but is not afraid to face up and take any big off the dribble.He can handle the rock, run the pick and roll, pass out of double teams, and pretty much do it all when given the chance.
I think he’s even better on the defensive side of the ball, with the ability to guard wings as well as bigs. We saw the effect Bam Adabayo had for the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and I think Okongwu can grow to be a similar kind of player in the coming years. Give me Okongwu as the highest ceiling in the draft.
Who’s going to bust?
In this particular draft, you can point to a number of guys in the Top 10 that could bust for a variety of reasons.
Lamelo Ball - concerns about his work ethic, shooting ability, shot selection, lack of leadership.
James Wiseman - barely played last year, can only play the 5.
Anthony Edwards - work ethic, defensive ability, tendency to drift in games.
Deni Avdija - questions about his jump shot, level of competition in Israel
I think Edwards, worst case scenario, is going to be a volume shooting scorer in the mold of a Dion Waiters, which can still provide value. I also see a high floor for James Wiseman, who at a minimum will be able to run the floor, protect the rim, and pick and pop. There’s going to be a place for him in this league for a long time.
I think the pick is Lamelo Ball. I see the passing and the length that has teams convinced he'll be the first name off the board, but we have never seen him compete at a high level in a pressure situation, and he’s a player that has to have the ball in his hands to succeed. Also, he's a high volume, low efficiency scorer who has never seen a shot he doesn't like. Did I mention he shot 25% from 3 on 7 attempts a game in Australia?
If he were to go number 1 to Minnesota, they already have a point guard who needs the ball in his hands in D’Angelo Russell, and I don’t know if he possesses the maturity and leadership to right that ship if it starts going south in a competitive Western conference. In the perfect situation, Ball could pop as an all-star. If he lands on a bad team, it could be trouble.
Who Should I Keep An Eye On?
I’m so glad you asked. While there't not the high end Zion WIlliamson/Ja Morant type of players available at the top of the board like the 2019 NBA Draft, there's quality to be found throughout the first round and even into the second round. I've labeled the players below as ones to watch who I think will provide value and prove to be productive for whoever takes them.
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
6’6 Freshman wing. I love this kid’s game. He’s a 6’6, 225 lb. guard with great size and athleticism, with a 6’9 wingspan. He’s going to come into the league and immediately contribute on the defensive end, with a high basketball IQ and the ability to compete with any guard or wing. He’s going to cause lots of problems on the defensive end.
Offensively, he has room to grow. He shot just 28.7% from 3 as a freshman, and his mechanics aren’t great. He does use his athleticism to get to the basket with frequency, and shows promise as a passer. His size and skillset remind me of Justise Winslow. He’s projected to go in the Top 10, and I feel confident that whoever drafts him will be getting a productive player for years to come. NBA Comp: Justise Winslow
Devon Dotson, Kansas
A 6’2 whirlwind at point guard, Dotson checks almost every box you’d like. He was the engine of the number 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks last year, running the show at point guard. He’s as quick as any guard in the draft, a very good passer, good enough 3 point shooter (31%), and fierce competitor.
The questions around him are mainly around his size (6’2, 185 lbs.) but I think his speed, playmaking, and IQ are going to translate into a productive point guard in the league. He’s likely to go late first round, which feels like a great value for a team in the 20’s to take Dotson. NBA Comp: Devonte Graham
Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Do you like watching Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? If so, you’re going to love Tyrese Haliburton. The lanky Cyclone point guard stands at 6’5 with a go-go-gadget arms and a 6’8 wingspan. Offensively, he’s a phenomenal point guard with high level passing abilities, a crafty game off the dribble, and a funky shot that works for him (61.1% EFG last year at Iowa State). What he lacks in pure explosiveness he more than makes up for in smarts and skill.
Defensively, Haliburton brings a ton of value with his versatility. He can guard 1-3 with his long arms, great instincts, and competitiveness that belies his slight frame. He will go toe to toe with anyone and takes pride in locking down the other team’s leading scorer. He’s slated to go in the Top 10, but I think he may have one of the highest floors of any player in the draft, along with Obi Toppin. He’s going to succeed at the NBA level, without question. NBA Comp: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky
The 6’3 Quickley out of Kentucky averaged 16.1 PPG last year as a sophomore at Kentucky, playing in an explosive backcount with Tyrese Maxey. Quickley is an off-ball scorer in the mold of a Tyler Herro- he shot a scorching 42.1% from 3 and can heat up fast. He’s not a great passer, but he is the perfect fit next to a playmaking point guard and possesses an enormous wingspan (6’10!) for a 6’3 guard.
Quickley’s ridiculous length and athleticism give him a high ceiling on the defensive end of the court, and he benefited from playing 2 years at Kentucky, an NBA prospect factory with John Calipari. NBA Draft.net has Quickley going at 36 to the Sixers, and I think the former Kentucky Wildcat has the ability to become a better pro than the majority of projected first rounders. NBA Comp: Tyler Herro
Paul Reed, Depaul
For my last sleeper in this draft, I'm going with the 6'9 Reed, a forward out of Depaul that will be ready to contribute right away at the NBA level. Reed averaged a double-double last year with 15.1 PPG and 10.7 RPG, showing an ability to score and crash the glass at an extremely high level on offense. Reed is an above average finisher in the post, able to push through contact, finish with either hand with authority, or drop off a pass in traffic. I believe Reed will be an effective rim runner at the next level, as well as a quality pick and roll big who can shoot from the midrange.
Defensively, Reed will bring additional value as a guy who can guard several positions at once. He's got impressive length and athleticism to be able to guard big wings and hold his own against some bigs, and he competes at a high level. As evidenced by his rebounding numbers, you can also count on Reed to hit the boards.
Reed is being mocked as an early second round pick, which would be a steal for this kid. I believe Reed will be a pro for many years to come and will outperform many of the players drafted before him. NBA Comp: Paul Millsap.